How to Sharpen a Chainsaw Chain

Just like any other work tool you own, if you have a chainsaw, then you must take good care of it. It may look like something difficult to handle but it can be sharpened with just a few steps. If you’re someone who normally works with timber or cuts your firewood, then you must take both maintenance and use of your chainsaw with utmost concern.

With continuous use, your saw is sure to become dull and this reduces the efficiency of the tool making it even more difficult to use. Some people would rather not sharpen their chainsaw; they would prefer to throw it away and purchase a new one.

If done the right way, following set guidelines, and making use of the right sharpening tools, sharpening a chainsaw chain can be carried out successfully.  Before you set out to sharpen your chainsaw, you should be well informed on the right way to get it done to avoid doing a poor job.

Great news! This article will help with that. You don’t have to get rid of your chainsaw each time it goes blunt. Read on to learn how to get your chain saw back to its perfect working state.

When Should You Sharpen Your Chainsaw?

As earlier mentioned, with continuous use of the saw’s cutter teeth, its chain will surely turn dull. You can know it’s dull if it requires more force to cut than normal. If it becomes a bit more difficult to use the saw to cut through the wood or tree you’re felling, then it’s a sign that your tool needs sharpening.



Before now, it was popularly said that if your chainsaw produced more wood dust when you’re using it than wood chips, it was a sign that you need to sharpen your cutter. Now, you should sharpen your cutters before it gets to that stage where it produces more dust.

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The smart thing to do is to start a routine of sharpening your chainsaw every second or third time you pour fuel into the chainsaw. It’s called being proactive. This way, you’ll never have to deal with a dull chainsaw.

Chainsaw Sharpening Tools

There are two main methods for sharpening your chainsaw by hand. You can either use a round chainsaw file or an electric chainsaw grinder. The other method which is square filing is only suitable for square chains used in cutting large trees. There are also a lot of sharpening tools you can use to sharpen your chainsaw chain. 

First is a flat-file which is a handy tool for doing most of the work. The second one is a depth gauge for measuring depth while the last tool is the round file used for sharpening the cutters.

Things to do before Sharpening a Chainsaw Chain

You should have all your tools ready before you commence. These include your gloves, your protective eyewear, and a chainsaw filing kit which includes a round file, file guide, flat file, and a depth gauge measuring tool.

After gathering your tools together, you can’t proceed unless you know the chain type you’re dealing with and the sharpening angle specifications. If you’re having difficulty with this, you can easily find this information in the chain saw owner’s manual or chain pack.


Why are Chainsaws So Difficult to Start?


Put on both protective wears, that is, the hand gloves and eyewear and if the chain you’re working on is not detached from the saw bar, ensure you do so before you continue. You can proceed with maintenance now after ensuring the chainsaw is switched off.

Also, make sure the chain is wiped clean of oil and debris. This will prevent oil/grease build-up on the file’s teeth or the wheel while grinding. After you’ve completed the preliminaries, the next thing to do is to inspect the chain for any damages. You should also look out for the following:

  • A chain that’s abnormally worn
  • Rivets that are loose. This can be ascertained by rotating them with your finger. If it works, then they are loose and should be taken note of.
  • Severe abrasive damage
  • Proper installation of tie straps and drive links.
  • Cracked or broken cutters, cutter top plates, or tie straps
  • Wear patterns that may indicate a worn bar or sprocket
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If you’d be filing your chainsaw chain with your hand then you need to make use of the correct file guide and file for your chainsaw chain. This is the easiest way to file the saw chain. However, the chain is already broken, promptly repair or replace it.

You can as well check and adjust depth gauges when you’re done. Ensure you follow the manufacturer’s guidance when sharpening the chain.

Steps to Sharpen a Chainsaw Chain

  • Clean the chain

This is the first step in getting a sharp chainsaw chain. Gently wipe out any oil, grease, dirt, or debris that may be on the chain. Look closely at the chain while cleaning it. If you observe that any of the teeth are damaged, the chain may be unsafe to use in which case you would have to repair it. This is to prevent unnecessary accidents from happening.

  • Steady the saw

For the best results, you need to firmly stabilize the saw, i.e., ensure it is steady before you attempt to file the chain. The easiest way to get this done is to have someone help you hold the tool steady while you work. If you don’t, the better way is to place the chainsaw in a vice. After that, clamp the guide bar of the chainsaw in such a way that the chain can freely rotate.

  • Start with the cutter’s inside

The cutters are the main piece in the chainsaw so you have to pay good attention to them. To get started, find the cutter that is a fraction smaller than others. This is the lead cutter on the chain.


Why are Chainsaws So Difficult to Start?


So, to begin this step, start filing the inside of the cutter (the curved edge) with the round file. Be firm when performing this action holding the file at a 25, 30-degree angle. Continue to repeat the filing motion until the chain is sharp.

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To have a visual reminder so you know where you started sharpening from, you can make use of an indelible marker to mark the first cutting tooth you sharpened.

  • File the cutter’s outside

When done with the inside, make a twisting motion and file the face of the saw. This is to make the surface of the cutter smoother. When you are done with the lead cutter, you can proceed to the second cutter.

Continue with this until you’re done with the entire chain. This should take about ten minutes. Turn the chainsaw around and repeat the action for the cutters that face the opposite direction. Ensure the depth of each hooked curve is the same.  This is very critical, especially if you want your chainsaw to work as swiftly as possible.

  • Check it over

This signifies the end of the filing process. You can now use your chain but before doing that, you need to check it over once more. You also need to oil the chain to make it ready for use.

final note 

To ensure you get accurate results when hand filing a saw chain, you must mount the file in a sharpening guide. What this does is that it serves two purposes.

First is that it serves as a flat surface for placing the file on the saw chain and it also controls how deep the file can cut. Also, stamped into the top surfaces of the guide are angle lines that correspond to the cutting angle of the saw chain teeth.

At first, file sharpening may be a bit awkward but with time, you’ll get used to it and feel comfortable. Immediately you get a hang of how to do this, don’t be surprised when you see yourself sharpening chainsaws in 15minutes or less.

After sharpening, what is next?

1. The first thing is to check and adjust the depth gauges.

2. Clean up any debris or dirt on the chain and lubricate with bar and chain oil. To get the best results, simply soak the chain overnight.

3. Finally, store the sharpened chain in a container with lubricant so it’s ready for its next use.