Well-designed, quality broadheads will be easy to sharpen. Take a close look at the factory grind. This is the angle of the grind on the broadhead right out of the package. It should be a smooth, straight, gradual grind terminating to a nice ‘almost sharp enough’ factory edge. Broadheads with grinds like this will be easier to put the final edge on. As we mentioned in the last column, another key to good broadheads is having the steel tempered hard enough to give you strength, but soft enough to allow you to sharpen them with a file. We recommend giving your broadheads the file test. Make a pass or two along the bevel of your broadhead with a good quality file. If the file skips off the broadhead and doesn’t bite into the steel, the steel is too hard for file sharpening. This is not necessarily the end of the road for that broadhead as there are diamond hones on the market that can sharpen nearly any steel no matter how hard it is. Still, for the bowhunter who wants to be able to re-sharpen broadheads in the field, they must pass the file test.
Two and four blade broadheads first. For smooth stock removal, we recommend a bastard file. For home sharpening a 10-12″ file is suggested. For ‘in the field’ sharpening get a 6-8″ model. Buy only high quality files, this is not the time to scrimp. Right-handed bowhunters will normally hold the arrow in their left hand and sharpen the broadhead with a file held in the right hand. Some people chuck them up in a padded vise and there is even a tool on the market called the Arrow Grabber that you hold in your hand and it supports the arrow and broadhead while you work
We always file from the back of the broadhead toward the tip. You can sharpen from either direction and there are arguments that defend both schools of thought. Still, sharp is sharp, so file in whichever direction you prefer.
The object is to follow the primary angle of the main bevel, removing the same amount of steel from both sides until you have a very thin, razor sharp edge. Before you see the final razor edge, you will see what is called a ‘wire edge’. This is the result of removing stock evenly from both sides of the broadhead. The wire edge is a sign that you’re doing a good job and you’re almost there. When the wire edge is removed properly, a sharp edge is left behind. It’s a good idea to count the number of strokes you make on each side. Push firmly but not too hard. You’ll be able to feel when the file is removing steel. You may want to take a marker and color in the factory bevel. Then when you start making passes with the file you’ll be able to where you have removed material and you can adjust your angle as needed as you go to match the factory angle. Once all of the ink is removed, go to the other side and repeat the process. Many bowhunters believe in and use the coarse, ‘file sharpened’ edge that you’ll have at this point and this is as far as they go. To really finish the edge though, some sort of stropping is still necessary. You can use a piece of tooling leather, a hard Arkansas stone, or even ceramic crock sticks for this. Smooth, steady light pressure is the key here. The closer the edge gets to final sharpness, the lighter your strokes need to be. When you’re finished stropping, test for sharpness. If they pass inspection, they’re ready to hunt.
Three-blade broadheads like the Woodsman are actually quite simple to sharpen if you follow some basic guidelines. The nice thing about three blade broadheads is you always work on two blades at a time so the blades themselves act as guides helping you maintain the all important, consistent angle. For these 3-blade broadheads it’s best to first mount them to your arrows and use the shaft as a handle to pull the broadheads across your sharpening tool. Start with a 12″, quality single cut bastard file. This file will be wider than the two blades of your broadheads so you can remove material from both blades at the same time. Don’t press too hard! This is the mistake most people make when sharpening broad heads. Light, steady pressure consistent throughout the stroke is the key. As mentioned before, you may want to use a marker to cover the factory bevel and help you gauge how much material you have removed. If you mark over the bevels and only remove enough material to remove the ink, then go to the next two blades, then to the third set, you should have removed almost the exact same amount of material from each blade. This leaves you ready for polishing. The polishing step is best done on a fine diamond sharpening surface like the JewelStick® Diamond Bench Stone. Remember light controlled strokes. Now your three-blade broadheads should be ready for hunting, but you may also want to strop them lightly on a piece of tooling leather at this point. This final stropping action will align the microscopic steel particles taking your edge from sharp to ‘scary’ sharp.