One of my favorite elements of ice fishing is prospecting around with a sled in tow, trying to find fish, generally turning the surface of a frozen lake into Swiss cheese. Punch a hole, drop the sonar transducer, drop the jig, jig the jig, move on, repeat. Do it enough times and you’ll eventually, hopefully, find fish. This a pleasure with sharp auger blades—and a real pain in the ass with a dull ones.
I won’t act like I haven’t accidentally run my blades into the muck. I have; it happens. And while you can often squeak through the rest of the day with banged-up cutters, you’ll exert yourself more and run through your battery or gas faster. It might not be wise to dissemble the business end of your auger out on the ice, but it would be unwise to not touch up your blades at home after running aground or drilling a thousand holes in a lake.
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of sandpaper. Your auger came with a blade protector cup—use it. Any time you’re not actively drilling you should strap that cup on there to keep from dinging your blades as everything rattles around in the sled, and keep from slicing up your gear on those sharp blades. Drill carefully anywhere you suspect the bottom might be very shallow. A good blade edge will last a good long while if you allow it to.
A variety of tools and methods can be employed to sharpen ice auger blades. A blade that has been badly damaged or rusted might first need some attention with a wood or metal file. You can use a whetstone or knife sharpener for precise honing. But likely the easiest way to do it is with a sheet of fine-grit sandpaper set on a table as I demonstrate in this video.
First remove the bolts holding the blades to the auger. Take note of positioning so you can replace everything correctly. Next, lay down a sheet of 600- to 1,000-grit sandpaper on a flat, sturdy tabletop and set the blade bottom-side down on top. With your fingertips, press down on the cutting edge and firmly drag the blade backward in an arc to touch up the full length of the edge. The goal is to press down to match the exact angle of the bevel and then polish the cutting edge back to true.
After a few swipes against the sandpaper the blade should start making less noise as any folded-over metal is removed. At this point you’ll want to flip the blade over to polish the top bevel. Repeat the same motion, pushing down on the cutting edge with fingertips, then dragging in an arc to polish the whole edge. Only do this a few times to remove any burr you created. Then give one or two more light passes on the bottom bevel and check for sharpness by running your fingernail over the cutting edge with the direction it cuts, not against. If your fingernail catches or the edge feels folded over or dull, repeat the process. Once it’s smooth and razor sharp, you can reattach the blade to the auger and then sharpen the other one.
Make sure to watch the latest episode of The Fur Hat Ice Tour as Janis Putelis and Mark Norquist spear pike and whitefish in Minnesota.