How To Sharpen Chainsaw Blade

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Are you a chainsaw user who is in need to sharpen the chainsaw blade but doesn’t know the right way to do it? If yes, then this is certainly the right place for you to be.

Sharpening chainsaw blade is incredibly easy if you know the right method. The appropriate method to sharpen the chainsaw blade includes checking the chainsaw to see it needs to be sharpened, gathering the appropriate tools for the job, getting ready to sharpen, filing at the right angles, stroking away from your body, looking through the file guide, advancing the chain, sharpening the other side of the chain, and checking the depth gauge heights. You must know that cutting with a dull chain can lead to higher fuel consumption and excessive wear and tear. However, you can avoid this by filing the chain regularly and sharpening it properly.

In this article, you will get to learn all about sharpening the chainsaw, how to sharpen chainsaw blade, sharpening tips to keep in mind, how often should a chain be filed, and more. Stick around to get all the answers that you are looking for.

Sharpen the Chainsaw Chain To Avoid Dull Performance

A dull chainsaw chain can cause burning and buckling when you’re sawing through the wood, while it is also a slow and dangerous way to cut. Cutting with a dull chain can lead to excessive wear, fine sawdust, and higher fuel consumption. However, you can easily avoid all that by filing your chainsaw chain regularly and correctly. To achieve that, you need to know how to sharpen chainsaw blade.

A chainsaw’s nasty-looking cutters can easily scare you into thinking that you cannot sharpen the chainsaw blade yourself, especially if you’re a beginner. However, in 10–15 minutes, with the help of a few inexpensive files and guides, you’ll be able to transform your dull chainsaw into a firewood-cutting monster. You can sharpen the chainsaw chain right on the chainsaw and right by the wood you are cutting. If you do it regularly, you will be able to get years of sharpening from your chainsaw chain.  

How To Sharpen Chainsaw Blade

Step 1: Inspect the chainsaw blade

Firstly, you need to find out what your chainsaw actually needs sharpening. You need to check the waste material coming out of your chainsaw cuts. Fine sawdust means that it is time to sharpen the chainsaw. Meanwhile, chips will indicate that the cutters are sharp.

A dull chainsaw is quite dangerous as it’ll greatly increase the chances of kickback. The chain will be more likely to catch in the material and even propel the guide bar toward the operator. Sharpening will be easy if the cutters have become dull after normal use. If the cutters are nicked badly after accidental contact with dirt, rocks, or objects embedded in trees, you might be needed to have the chain professionally sharpened or purchase a new one entirely.

Step 2: Assemble the right tools

You will have to assemble the appropriate tool if you want to sharpen the chainsaw blade –

  • Round file – Arrange for a round file that matches the cutter diameter. This needs to be sharp, match the size of the chain, and fit into the filing guide. The most common sizes of round files are 3/16, 5/32, and 7/32 inch in diameter. If you aren’t certain, you shouldn’t think twice before checking the owner’s manual, or you can use the chain identification number that is stamped on the drive link. Hardware stores and small-engine dealers have charts for matching this number with the right file diameter. It’ll be best to replace the round file after every 5 sharpenings. For ensuring sharpness after use, you should coat it in lightweight machine oil and keep it in a cloth such that they don’t hit other objects and end up becoming dull.
  • A file guide – A file guide should be arranged for holding the round file at a uniform depth as you’re sharpening each cutter.
  • A vise – This will be helpful in holding the blade of the chainsaw in place on a solid surface.
  • Depth-gauge guide – The depth gauges are rounded parts in front of every cutter that goes upward and almost reach the top of the cutter edge. Ideally, the raker should be almost 1/10 of an inch lower than the blade cutters. In case it is closer than that, then you’ll need to file it down. You should not use a standard rattail file as the chainsaw sharpener. Its tapered diameter and coarse teeth could end up ruining the chain’s cutters.

Step 3: Know your chainsaw

Inspect the cutters (chainsaw teeth) on the chainsaw chain. The semi-circular cutting teeth can be sharpened and reshaped quickly using a round file.

A depth-gauge fin in front of the cutters will control how deep the chainsaw cutter bites into the wood.  The angles will then ground on the cutters, alternating between the left and right to keep your chainsaw cutting straight.

The cutters come with semi-circular cutting edges in specific diameters. For sharpening them, you’ll need to use a round file of the same diameter. In front of the cutters will be a “depth gauge”, a piece of metal that is shaped like a shark fin. The depth gauge’s tip is almost a hair shorter than the tip of the cutter, and it’ll control how deep the cutter can bite. After multiple sharpenings, the cutters could become level with the depth gauges and keep the chainsaw from cutting. It will be easy to lower the depth gauges to the right height using a flat file and file guide.

Step 4: Prepare to sharpen

  • Engage the chain brake and then clamp the bar in a vice lightly 
  • Now, place the guide between the rivets on the chainsaw chain, with the arrows on the guide bar pointing toward the nose of the bar
  • After that, follow the angel of the top plate of the cutter 
  • The rollers on the guide will prevent you from going too deep into the side plate of the cutter 

Step 5: File at the right angles

You need to mount the round file in the file guide. Remember to hold the file at a 30 or 35° angle to the bar horizontally and at the right angle vertically. The cutters need to file according to these angles –

  • Top plate filing angle
  • Side plate cutting angle
  • Depth gauge setting
  • File down angle 

The angles might vary depending on the type of chainsaw chain you have. A great way of restoring the cutter to the correct angles will be to use a filing gauge. By doing this, you won’t have to think about the different angles to get a great result. All you have to do is follow the simple route, and you will get the right angles on the cutting tooth.

person sharpening a chainsaw blade with a file

Step 6: Stroke away from your body

  • You need to cut a 2-inch deep kerf in a log and then rest the chainsaw bar in it to secure it while sharpening.
  • Then, place the file and file guide into a cutter on the top and near the end of the guide bar.
  • You should be marking the top of this cutter with a felt-tipped pen for indicating where you started using a chainsaw sharpener.
  • Line up the file using the factory-ground angle on the cutter. This is usually 30 or 35°. Most file guides come with 30 and 35° angles etched on their upper side for helping you preserve the angle as you’re filing.
  • Make a stroke parallel to the ground and away from your body, while maintaining the proper angle on the cutter.
  • You should be feeling the guide riding on top of the depth gauge and cutter. The first few strokes on a dull cutter might vibrate your hand slightly.
  • Use steady, even strokes with the file 
  • You should give each cutter 5–6 strokes until the face of the cutter becomes shiny silver 
  • When you get a feeling of a burr along the cutter’s outer edge, this means that the cutter is sharp 
  • Remember to count the strokes and use the same number of strokes on every cutter

Step 7: Look through the file guide

You need to look through the file guide for lining up the cutter with the file. Remember, you will feel the file nesting into the cutter. You need to file every other cutter before moving to the other side of the bar for sharpening the rest.

Step 8: Advance the chain

  • After you have sharpened a couple of the cutters, you should release the chain brake
  • Now, rotate the chain forward for exposing more cutters to sharpen
  • Remember to reset the brake and then sharpen the new section
  • Continue repeating this until you have sharpened one side of the bar

Remember to wear gloves when you are advancing the chain. Although, while you are filing the cutters, you might notice that you have a better “feel” for the contact between the cutter and the file if you are working barehanded.

Step 9: Sharpen the other side

  • Continue to sharpen the cutters until you reach the one that you marked
  • Move to the other side of the chainsaw bar and sharpen the opposite-angled cutters using the same number of strokes for each cutter 

Step 10: Check the depth gauge heights

As you’re moving from tooth to tooth, you should keep the one that you’re filing on top of the blade. Once you have sharpened all the teeth, and they all look a similar height, it’ll be time to move onto the depth gauge, which are hook-shaped links present in between the cutters. If they aren’t lower than the cutters by a tenth of an inch, they need to be filed with a flat tool. 

Check the height of the depth gauge with the filing guide every time you are sharpening. When it protrudes above the guide, you need to file it flush with the flat file.

The depth gauge setting will determine how deep the cutting tool can cut. If the depth gauge setting is very low, the plane will take a very small amount of wood. Meanwhile, if the depth gauge is set too high, the cutting tool will cut too deeply. This can create more aggressive cuts, resulting in high vibration. This will also increase the risk of kickback and expose the chainsaw to unnecessary stress.

You must check the depth gauge every 3–5 times that you’re sharpening the chain during normal wear and often during excess wear. Make use of a depth gauge tool and flat file for checking and setting the correct height. The “Soft” and “Hard” stamped onto the gauge will refer to soft wood and frozen or hard wood. Lastly, you will have to check the chainsaw chain’s tension and oil, and you’ll be good to go.

Technical Tips- How To Sharpen Chainsaw Chain

Sharpening Tips To Keep in Mind

  • If your chainsaw pulls to the side when cutting, it is likely because the cutters on that side are sharper compared to the ones on the other side. To keep your chainsaw cutting in a straight line, you should be filing each cutter with the same number of strokes and the same amount of pressure.
  • Cutters on a chainsaw can be sharpened up to 10 times before the entire chain needs replacing. If the cutters are worn unevenly after a few sharpenings, a professional could regrind them to a uniform shape.
  •  If you have been using the same chain for a few years and then buy a new one, the new chain might not mesh smoothly with the bar and sprocket. Further, it can give rougher cutting and faster wear on the chainsaw. 
  • It is recommended that you should buy two extra chains and switch between the three occasionally. This way, the components of the cutting train – bar, chains, and sprockets fit together and prolong the life of the chainsaw.
  • File guides that clamp to the bar will make sure that you are filing at the same angle on each cutter. They may take a bit longer to use, but they will restore the cutting edge to the factory-ground angle. This means that there will be less change that you’ll need to get the chain reground by a professional.
  • When in doubt, you shouldn’t hesitate in taking your chain to a professional. A pro will make use of a power chainsaw sharpener resembling a mini-compound miter saw to regrind each cutter to a uniform depth and cutting angle.

How Often Should You File a Chainsaw

A chainsaw chain’s sharpness diminishes over time, even if you have tried your best to avoid cutting into objects that reduce its sharpness (dirt, rocks, etc.). The chain eventually becomes blunt. If the chain accidentally cuts against stone, it will become useless and have to be sharpened immediately. If you’re using a chainsaw for most of the day, it’ll be appropriate to sharpen the chainsaw with a file each time you’re refueling. It will be easier to sharpen a bit but often instead of waiting a long time between files. You will also get better precision and be able to work more effectively.

It is recommended that you should use a Husqvarna file gauge to get the best filing results. Try and file away as little material as possible.

  • Start off by finding the shortest cutter. All the cutters must be filed to match the length of the shortest cutter.
  • Then, place the filing gauge on the chainsaw chain. The arrows on the filing gauge must point in the chain’s direction of rotation (towards the nose wheel). You should ensure that the gauge has contact with the chain.
  • Make use of a round file. Place the round file at a 90° angle to the rollers on the filing gauge. You should be filing with both hands. The file must rest on both rollers. File the cutting tooth away from you while having smooth strokes.
  • Then, you should proceed to file each tooth. Each cutting tooth needs to be filed such that it is sharp. It’ll be important that all the cutting teeth are of equal lengths.
  • Once you’ve finished filing all the teeth on one side, you should loosen the vice and attach the guide bar from the other direction. After that, sharpen the cutting teeth the same way from the opposite direction.


Are chainsaw blades worth sharpening?

If your chainsaw chain becomes dull after a while, it’ll struggle to cut through the wood at the same efficiency that it once had. This is why you need to look to keep the chainsaw blade sharp, as sharpening will be a better course of action than replacing the chainsaw blade.

Can I sharpen my own chainsaw?

Yes, you can sharpen the chainsaw chain by yourself if you know the right method. If you do it regularly, you’ll be able to get years of sharp cutting life out of the chain.

When sharpening a chainsaw, should I push or pull?

You should push the file either way, although most people prefer going toward the cutter’s point. Twisting while filing will allow you to get rid of small metal bits while giving you a smoother cutting surface. This is the cutter, and this is the part you’ll want to sharpen. As you’re moving from tooth to tooth, you must keep the one that you’re filing on top of the blade.

When to replace the chainsaw chain?

It’ll be time to replace your chainsaw chain if the longest part of the cutting tooth is less than 4mm or if you find any cracks.

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Hi, I'm Mike - but my friends call me Backyard Mike. I'm the founder of this website, and I'm addicted to outdoor power tools. I love to work with wood and share my knowledge here on this website with you. You can find more about me here.