How To Sharpen a Chainsaw

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Are you a chainsaw user and your chainsaw has become dull but you don’t know how to sharpen it? If yes, then this is definitely the right place for you to be.

Sharpening chainsaw is quite simple and a basic thing to know whether you’re a seasoned veteran or a beginner. You can sharpen your chainsaw by examining the chain, determining the angle, filing the chainsaw teeth, filing the depth gauges, and testing the chainsaw. There are multiple ways to sharpen your chainsaws such as by using a file, using a file grinder, using an electric sharpener, using a sharpening kit, and more. Regardless of the method you go for, remember to wear the safety gear and follow the safety protocols, as a chainsaw is a dangerous machine.

In this article, you will get to know all about sharpening chainsaws, how to sharpen chainsaw, different methods of sharpening chainsaws, when to know that your chainsaw needs sharpening, tips to maintain a sharpened chainsaw, and more. Continue reading to get all the answers that you are looking for.

A Sharp Chainsaw Offers Sharp Cuts

If you live in a house with a yard or property that has trees and heavy bushes, you’ll know how tough it can be to keep all of this foliage at bay. Loppers, hedge clippers, and pruners work well for smaller-diameter limbs. However, for stumps, trees, and larger limbs, you will require a chainsaw. 

Electric and gas-powered chainsaws cut large items like a piece of cake. When the cutting gets tough, it might be time to sharpen the chainsaw chain. New chains can be expensive, but fortunately for you, you’ll be able to sharpen your chainsaw with a few simple, low-cost tools.

Keeping the chain sharp is one of the most effective ways of ensuring that your chainsaw continues operating at peak performance. You may even find it helpful to have a spare replacement chain on hand such that you can sharpen your chainsaw at your leisure while continuing work with sharp cutters.

Before starting to know how to sharpen chainsaw, it is important to know the basics of chainsaw sharpening so that you can carry it out safely.

Basics of Sharpening a Dull Chainsaw

A chainsaw’s chain rotates clockwise if the chainsaw is viewed from the right side. Meanwhile, when it is viewed from above, it moves forward (away from you) along the top of the chainsaw bar. Under the bar, the cutting teeth of your chainsaw will bite into and smoothly cut the wood.-

Due to heavy wear and tear, the chain will dull out quickly. It’s important to sharpen the chainsaw, as a dull chainsaw will force you to press harder on the chainsaw. This can be a dangerous move. Sharpening the chainsaw needs to be incorporated into the routine. There are multiple ways you can go about it.

Electric sharpener

If you’re using the chainsaw several times each year, it might be worth it to purchase an electric chainsaw sharpener. This can cost you between $50 and $100. Electric chainsaw sharpeners come with built-in angle guides to situate the sharpener in the correct position automatically.


You can also use a file. To achieve this, you should determine the angle with a Speed Square and estimate how far to file down the depth gauges.

Guide and file

Metal files having matching guides will help you manually file the chainsaw teeth and the depth gauges of the chain.

When to Sharpen a Chainsaw

Take a visual check of your chain while it is in place. If the leading edges of your chainsaw teeth are rounded or not in the correct angle, they’ll have to be sharpened. When the depth gauges on the chainsaw chain are too high, this is also an indicator that it’s the right time to sharpen the chainsaw. 

You can lightly run your fingers slowly down the length of the chainsaw chain toward the edges of the teeth. A sharp chainsaw feels similar to the dull point of a paring knife, sharp but not sharp enough that it can cut your finger. A dull chainsaw chain’s teeth will feel smooth.

A dull chainsaw chain will be the last thing that you will want when you’re about to start work. At worst, it can be incredibly dangerous, which makes your chainsaw more prone to kickback. Even if this doesn’t happen, it’ll still affect the performance of the chainsaw. 

Here are the signs that will let you know it’s time to sharpen your chainsaw – 

  1. The chain doesn’t pull itself into the wood. If you’re having to apply pressure to the chainsaw to force it through the wood, then it means the chain is certainly not sharp enough.
  2. When you’re cross-cutting, a dull chainsaw chain results in fine sawdust instead of coarse strands.
  3. The chainsaw produces smoke even when the chain is oiled and the chain tension is appropriate.
  4. Your chainsaw is producing uneven cuts. This basically means your chainsaw chain has dull cutting teeth on one of the sides. Alternatively, the cutting teeth must be uneven in length.

If you are noticing these signs while working with the chainsaw, it’s time to sharpen it or replace it entirely. 

How to Sharpen a Chainsaw

A chainsaw blade can be easily sharpened using an appropriate tool like a file or grinder. There are multiple ways to sharpen the chainsaw, but hand sharpening is usually the quickest and easiest method. Learning to sharpen a chainsaw might feel like a daunting task, but once you know how to sharpen it, the process will definitely be rewarding.

With enough knowledge and practice, you will find the process of sharpening the chainsaw very satisfying. There are specific steps that must be addressed and executed for achieving a properly sharpened chainsaw blade. Here are the steps that you’ll need to follow.

1. Safety considerations to take

When you are working on an electric chainsaw, you should always do this with the chainsaw unplugged. With a gas-powered chainsaw, ensure that the chain brake is engaged. Further, you should wear heavy gloves when you are handling the chain. Moreover, follow the necessary safety protocols when sharpening the chainsaw.

2. Gather the necessary tools and equipment

Here are the tools that you will need to gather – 

  • Chainsaw 
  • A metal file 
  • Speed square 
  • Protective gloves 
  • Eye protection 
  • Vise
  • Owner’s manual 

3. Examine the chainsaw chain

Before sharpening the chainsaw chain, first, remove it from the chainsaw and examine all the parts of it. If some parts of the chainsaw chain are in bad shape, it can be dangerous to continue using the chain.

The rivets that connect the cutting links must be in place and tight enough that the chain doesn’t bend from side to side.

Intermediate tie straps responsible for connecting cutting links must be in place and should be loose enough for moving.

The piece at the bottom of every drive link (called the tang) should have a crescent shape to properly mesh with the sprocket driver.

If only the cutting teeth require sharpening, it will be safe to sharpen the chainsaw chain. If any other parts of the chainsaw chain are defective, you should discard the chain and buy a new chain altogether.

4. Determine the angle

Your chainsaw’s owner manual will mention the proper filing angle for the teeth. Some chainsaw chains also have hashmarks on top displaying the angle. A Speed Square will help you file the chain at the proper angle. You should hold the square against the chain directly to ensure you are getting the proper angle.

5. File the chain teeth

Clamp the chainsaw bar into a vise if you have one. Then, file the leading edges of the chainsaw teeth. As the chainsaw teeth are alternate, so you’ll have to turn the file in opposite directions as you’re moving through the chain.

6. File the depth gauges

File the depth gauges on your chainsaw chain to the level that is indicated for your chainsaw, mentioned in the owner’s manual.

Different Ways to Sharpen a Chainsaw

1. Filing the chainsaw chain manually

Using a handheld metal file, you can sharpen each cutter on the chainsaw chain and file down the depth gauges. The latter is a part of the chain that determines how deep the chainsaw cuts. Both the cutters and depth gauges must be filed each time you sharpen. 

Use a round file for sharpening the cutters and a flat file for reducing the depth gauges. With a quality bar-mount filing guide, you’ll be able to get accurate and consistent results across each cutter without actually needing to disassemble the chainsaw.

Often, you could find good advice and hand-filing instructions from the manufacturers directly. Regardless of whose instructions you’re following, there are some tips that you should keep in mind, as they’ll be helpful.

  • First, you should find either the shortest cutter or the most damaged one and file it so that all the other cutters can be filed to match it
  • Try and remember the number of strokes you must use for filing each cutter to file each one evenly 
  • Begin at the inside of the cutter and move the file toward the outside 

Sharpening with a chainsaw file will be the most labor-intensive option. Further, it is also the most cost-effective option.

How to Sharpen a Chainsaw by hand with a file

2. Sharpening the chain with a grinder

For professional-quality chainsaw chain sharpening that doesn’t end up leaving your arm limp with exhaustion, you should use a heavy-duty chain grinder.

A chainsaw grinder features a clamp holding the chain in place while the grinding wheel is being lowered down to smoothen the teeth to a razor-sharp finish. Most chain grinders can be easily mounted to a bench for better comfort and stability.

Grinders will be helpful for professionals and homeowners alike who have to sharpen the chainsaw chains frequently.

3. Sharpening the chain using sharpening kits

If convenience is the factor that stops you from maintaining a sharp chain, you may benefit from having a PowerSharp Sharpening Kit.

Each kit features four parts that work as a system –

  • Guide bar
  • Chainsaw chain
  • Sharpener mount 
  • Sharpening stone 

The chainsaw bar is specially made such that it can be attached to the sharpener mount. While the chain is moving around the bar, the cutters will pass along the sharpening stone and get honed to fine edges.

Each replacement chain will come with a new sharpening stone. PowerSharp Kits are widely available in different sizes, so you should be sure that you’re checking that the kit is compatible with your chainsaw before making the purchase.

How Often Should You Be Sharpening the Chainsaw

There are many signs during use that your chainsaw needs sharpening –

  • Requiring extra pressure to cut – If you’re having to apply more pressure to cut through wood, this is a sign that the blade has become dull 
  • Smoke – If the chainsaw is properly oiled and has the correct chainsaw chain but is still producing smoke, then it is a sign that your chainsaw needs to be sharpened.
  • Fine sawdust – To test the chainsaw’s sharpness, you should check the sawdust produced from cuts. A sharp chainsaw produces coarse wood chips, whereas a dulled model produces much finer dust.
  • Uneven cuts – This is a sign that your chainsaw has dull teeth on one side or that the teeth are unevenly sharpened.

The frequency with which you’ll need to sharpen a chainsaw blade will rely heavily on the amount you use it and the care with which you’re treating your chainsaw. A chainsaw blade can last for almost 5 years of regular use, or much longer if you use it occasionally. A good rule of thumb will be that the chain can be sharpened ten times before it has to be replaced.

Each time you’re sharpening a chainsaw blade, you’ll be filing away some of the metal. This means that eventually, you will run out of usable metal to sharpen. For that reason, you must avoid sharpening until you get finer sawdust from cuts or a dip in performance. You must check the chainsaw blade after use, so make sure it’s in proper condition and doesn’t have any damaged teeth.

You’ll see the chainsaw teeth decrease in length gradually, which will give you a visual estimation of how many more times you’ll be able to sharpen them before having to purchase a replacement.

Can Electric Chainsaws Be Sharpened?

Yes, electric chainsaws can be easily sharpened with the same tools that you’d use for sharpening a gas-powered chainsaw. The most important feature on a chainsaw that helps in getting a clean and sharp chain will be the chain brake and tension screw. You should ensure that you’re consulting your chainsaw’s owner’s manual to determine what size of sharpener you require.

Keeping the chain tight while sharpening ensures that the cutting tooth stays vertical when sharpening.  If the tool starts wiggling or leaning to the side as you’re running the sharpening file through it, the tension may be too low. You’ll also notice if the tension is too high, as you won’t be able to move the chain to get to the next month.

The chain brake will be important as it’ll prevent the chain from moving back and forth. This will allow you to sharpen multiple teeth on your chainsaw before having to disengage the brake and move the chain.

What Sized File to Use for Sharpening the Chainsaw?

You should make sure that you’re choosing the correct sharpening size. The Stihl 2-in-1 chainsaw will be available for .325 inch and 3/8 inch, and they aren’t interchangeable. Consult the owner’s manual for finding out the exact size. This style of sharpener will also be available in a 5/32-inch size. This is better suited for smaller cutting blades like the Earthwise 4-in-1 chainsaw and hedge trimmer.

person sharpening a chainsaw using a file

There is another important tool that you’ll need for efficiently sharpening the chainsaw. You’ll have to keep the chainsaw steady, and you can do so with a stump vice. You can find a stump of a large, heavy log for driving the teeth into the log, preferably using a 3lb hammer. After that, you should insert the bar of the chainsaw into the vice and then tighten the set screw until your chainsaw is fastened securely.

Make sure that you’re keeping some space below such that the chainsaw teeth can move easily as you’re pulling the chain to sharpen the next set of chainsaw teeth. You should also consider a decent pair of working gloves, as those chainsaw teeth will be razor-sharp. 


Do electric chainsaws require sharpening?

Yes, electric chainsaws are similar to gas-powered chainsaws and require you to sharpen them regularly. The chainsaw chain has teeth on it similar to a gas-powered chainsaw. However, there are a few distinct differences that make sharpening an electric chainsaw easier.

Why does my chainsaw chain get dull so quickly?

There are numerous reasons why your chainsaw chain might be getting dull quickly. One of the most common issues is coming in contact with the ground. With a single contact with the ground when cutting, a chainsaw can end up becoming quite dull. This is because the ground has dust, sand, and tiny rocks. To avoid such things, you need to avoid cutting wood by placing it on the ground.

Will it be worth sharpening the chainsaw blade?

If your chainsaw becomes dull after a while, it’ll struggle to cut through the wood with the same efficiency that it once had. This is why, whenever possible, you must be looking to keep the chainsaw chain sharp. Sharpening the chain will be a better source of action than replacing the entire chainsaw chain.

How to maintain an electric chainsaw?

There are a few things that you’ll need to carry out for maintaining an electric chainsaw. This includes adding bar and chain oil, tightening the chainsaw blade, sharpening the chainsaw blades, and keeping the chainsaw blade.

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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.