How to Sharpen a Chainsaw

With a well-sharpened and well-maintained chainsaw, you can expect good service for a long period of many years. Any tool, when used, gets worn out, and a chainsaw is not an exception to it. It also gets worn out, but it can be kept in good working condition if maintained regularly.

A chainsaw that is well-sharpened is efficient and safe to use. It does its work in less time and makes the precise cut in the wood.

In a chainsaw, cutters are present, making it capable of cutting, whereas the depth of the cut is controlled and determined by depth gauges. Whenever the cutters and depth gauges wear out and become dull, they should be appropriately sharpened, making the tool effective.

It may be frustrating for the user when the chainsaw becomes dull. It makes the user fatigued, and thus, he is not able to focus on the task of cutting. At the same time, kickbacks are common with dull chainsaws and can lead to injury to the user as well.

When the Chainsaw Should be Sharpened?

In a chainsaw, the rankers or the depth gauges should be at a lower height compared to the cutters, which makes the chainsaw work efficiently.

The difference between their heights is little but still very important. If it is very less, the cutting will not be precise as the cutters will slide over the wood without actually cutting it. On the other hand, if the difference in their height is more, there will be instability in the chainsaw, and it will become jumpy. Due to this, the user may get injured.

Thus, it is essential to avoid using a dull chainsaw and sharpened it when you see any one of the below-mentioned signs–

Sawdust becomes fine

When a sharp chainsaw cuts the wood, wood chips are produced. But if the chainsaw is dull, there will be fine sawdust. This indicates that the chainsaw needs to be sharpened.

Chainsaw vibrates and jumps erratically and gives irregular cuts

If in a chainsaw, the working of the rankers and cutters is not proper, the chainsaw can be said to be blunt. In this case, while cutting, the chainsaw will jump erratically as the chainsaw will bounce over the wood and not cut it. Also, there will be irregular cuts. If you see such a sign, you should immediately stop the work of the chainsaw and sharpen it properly. If this is not done and cutting is continued, accidents can be caused.

Much pressure is required to apply on it to cut

There should be no force on the chainsaw while cutting the woods, and this is possible only when the chainsaw is appropriately sharpened. In case you are applying a lot of energy and pressure while using the chainsaw, it indicates the saw has become dull. To get a fast, safe, efficient, and precise cutting, the chainsaw should be sharp.

Check: The Best Chainsaw Sharpeners for 2021

How to Sharpen a Chainsaw?

Sharpening is a significant part while using a chainsaw. A well-sharpened chainsaw is capable of saving time, energy, and chainsaw. In this article, the process of sharpening a chainsaw is described in detail. You can follow it and do sharpening at home itself. With this, you would be able to cut and trim woods faster and easier.

Making Arrangement of the Right Tools

There are certain tools that you should have as an owner of a chainsaw. These are – chainsaw file, a sturdy work area, and a saw wrench.

These tools are important, just like the chainsaw itself, and are not at all expensive. Even an electric chainsaw sharpener or any other special product can also make the sharpening process easy, but the products mentioned above are required for the basic task of sharpening. These can be said as the minimum essential requirements for the sharpening process.

1. The file

A chainsaw file is a round file and can fit in the teeth of the chainsaw chain. Files of various sizes are available in the market, but you need to select the one which is compatible with your chainsaw. It should be noted that the gauge file for your chain should be correct.

If you are unsure which file to use or buy, you can refer to your chainsaw model number, which is mentioned in the manual provided, or you can even look online.

It is very important to select the right size of the file for your chainsaw. Failure to do so will result in the improper sharpening of the saw, and thus, selecting the right file is considered the most difficult part in the process of sharpening.

It should be noted that a file should be able to fit into the chain properly, and a quarter of its diameter should be above the chain.

2. Saw Wrench

In a chainsaw wrench, two size wrenches and a flat head screwdriver are present. You can save much time while sharpening if there is anyone wrench that fits into the saw.

In some recent versions of chainsaws, there is no more requirement of saw wrench as they have bar adjustment systems. But still, in most of the chainsaws, there is a requirement of bar adjustment, and for this, some tools are required.

3. Sturdy Work Area

While sharpening the chainsaw, the user must have a sturdy table, a tailgate, or any other dry solid surface. Ideally, the height of the work area should be at your waist, or it can be at any other comfortable level. With this, your legs and back will be protected from getting sore.

Steps of Sharpening a Chainsaw

1. Tightening the chain

As the chainsaw becomes dull, the chain on it will be loosened as well. The chain needs to be tightened before starting the sharpening process, which can be done by using the saw wrench. The saw wrench adjusts the chain and loosens the chainsaw bar. The chainsaw bar is that part of the saw which is in the shape of a blade, and the chain runs on it.

The bar can rest on the saw with the help of two nuts which can be accessed easily from outside. Once it is loosened, the tension in the chain has to be adjusted, and this can be done with the help of a screw present on the side of the bar. This screw has to be tightened to take the slack out of the chain. This will ensure stability to the saw, and thus, sharpening will become easier.

2. Find a starting point on the chain

The point at which two cutting corners face in the same direction is the correct starting point for sharpening.

To find the cutting corner, you need to look for a spot on the chain where two cutting corners are present and are facing in the same direction. While working on the saw chain, it must be ensured that the chain on the bar can be spined safely by hand, and while doing so, you need to look at the links so that the correct starting point can be selected.

The link from where you have started the process of sharpening must be the ending link as well. This will ensure a consistent cutting edge on the whole chain. The starting tooth should be marked with a felt tip marker as a reference.

3. Filing the cutting corners

The file used for sharpening should fit into the chain snugly while the cutting corners are filed.

For each link, you should be sure about certain things –

  • While running through the chain, the file level should be kept constant. The angle should not be more or less.
  • While filing each link, the number of strokes should be the same. For each link to be sharpened perfectly, usually 10 strokes are required.
  • For each cutting corner, the file should be pointed at an angle of 30 degrees.
  • On each stroke, the file should be twisted a half-turn. This will ensure that there is filing as well as grinding of the link.
  • As compared to the last cutting corner, a new one should face in the opposite direction. While sharpening, you have to either switch directions for every link or sharpen every other link and then change the directions.

There are some other special tools with which you can lessen the time for sharpening. These are –

Depth gauge tool – With this tool, there is no uneven wear out of the cutting corners as it ensures consistent depth of the chain cutting. This tool is used to check the depth of the chainsaw, and then the teeth are filled with a flat file.

File guide – It is a guide to the sharpening process with which filing can be done at a perfect 30 degrees angle. This tool is not expensive at all.

Sharpening vise – A vise is required to hold the chainsaw by the bar so that while working on the chain, the saw is steady. Thus, while sharpening, you do not have to lean over the saw or hold it steadily.

Electric sharpener – It is a great alternative to a manual sharpener, and with this, there will be no need for manual filing. An electric sharpener can be plugged into the car battery or on the wall socket and thus, the process of sharpening can be carried out smoothly.

The Best Method to Sharpen a Chainsaw

It is dangerous to use a dull chainsaw as the chances of kickback is more. The dull saw leads to wastage of a lot of time and is inefficient as well.

Some chainsaws have a self-sharpening system, but sharpening is required when they become dull to keep them in the best conditions.

The process of sharpening a chainsaw is considered a complicated task by some people but actually, it is an easy thing that can be completed in some time only. Learning the process of sharpening can avoid your frequent visits to the chainsaw service center. It even saves lots of money.

To sharpen a chainsaw, several methods are available, like a dull chainsaw can be sharpened either by using a hand file or it can be sharpened by using machines.

In the section below, various methods of sharpening the chainsaw are mentioned.

1. Sharpening at a chainsaw service center

It is observed that some chainsaws become dull frequently and they need to be sharpened more often to keep them efficient in cutting wood.

A chainsaw can be sharpened at a professional chainsaw service dealer and after sharpening over here, it becomes like a new chainsaw. However, this depends on the experience of the operator and its capability in the sharpening process.


In most cases, even the dullest chainsaw chain is sharpened effectively by a professional. The cutter length can become uneven if the sharpening is improper. Based on the manufacturer’s specifications, the chainsaw is sharpened by the professional.


If the professional does not know the machine properly, there are chances that a lot of metal is removed from the saw chain during the sharpening process. This may lead to early wear out of the chain.

This is an expensive option and also, the owner has to spend much time talking to the professional every time the chainsaw becomes dull. For completing the process, the professional may take a few days as well.

This service can be available by only those owners who use chainsaws occasionally or only 2-3 times a year.

2. Using a Dremel tool

The owner should understand the sizes of the stones and the specific size suitable for his chainsaw while using a Dremel tool for sharpening the tool. To do the sharpening correctly, sizing is an important thing.


If the chainsaw is very dull, a Dremel tool can be helpful. It sharpens the chainsaw in a better way as compared to the handheld file. With this tool, the chainsaw can be sharpened within 5 minutes. The chain from the chainsaw is not required to be removed if you have a cordless Dremel attachment.


Sharpening the chainsaw with a Dremel tool is an expensive affair. Also, this tool is not durable.

While using it, there may be excessive heating of the tooth leading to its damage.

3. Using a handheld file

A handheld file is a manual tool that can sharpen a chainsaw and depth gauge with efficiency. In this, a vise is used on which the guide bar is held. With this, the angle can be kept consistent while sharpening all the time.


Apart from buying the handheld file, no other expense is expected in this method of sharpening. It is a fast method of sharpening a chainsaw and is done within 1 hour.

It removes only the desired amount of metal from the chainsaw, due to which the chainsaw lasts for a long time.


One has to develop the skill to use this sharpening tool. Sometimes, a beginner finds difficulty in maintaining the angle throughout the sharpening process and thus, the chainsaw may suffer from uneven sharpening.

It is best for those who are experienced in the sharpening process.

4. Using an electric chainsaw sharpener

Various types of electric chainsaw sharpeners are available in the market, and these can be either cordless or corded.

Mainly professionals use this chainsaw sharpener.


An electric chainsaw sharpener is easy to use and gives fast results. With this, the accurate angle can be maintained easily throughout the sharpening process.


When an electric chainsaw sharpener is used, the chain teeth may lose too much metal, and therefore, their life can be reduced.

Also, the teeth may get heated more due to which the teeth may be damaged.

All the methods have some advantages and disadvantages. The selection of one among these should be made according to the requirement and preferences of the user.

Safety Tips During Sharpening a Chainsaw

Some users are not able to sharpen their dull chainsaws perfectly. A dull chainsaw is not able to cut the woods precisely and it poses a danger to the user as well.

Sharpening a chainsaw looks like a difficult task but actually, it is simple and can be completed in less than 2 minutes. While doing it, you must take some precautions and safety measures. These are indicated below-

1. Use a stable mount

There is mostly human error that leads to accidents while sharpening a chainsaw. The user must ensure that the chainsaw is mounted on a stable surface. Failing to do so may cause the chainsaw to slip and you can get injured.

2. Use protective gear

During the sharpening of a chainsaw, the user must wear eye protectors, gloves, chaps, and other recommended protective gear. With the usage of these, you can be protected from cuts and injury.

3. Go through the chainsaw manual properly

A manual is present with every chainsaw in which all the information about the chainsaw is given. This information is useful for the user in properly maintaining the chainsaw. It is observed that some new owners of chainsaws buy a new chain, everyone, their chainsaw becomes blunt. If they read the manual carefully, they would know about the sharpening method and so, can do it themselves.

4. Clean the chainsaw

The chainsaw should be observed and cleaned with a resin solvent to free it from sawdust, grease, and other particles. Also, the chainsaw should be checked for any damage to the cutters or depth gauge before sharpening. In case any damaged part is found, it should be replaced.

5. Proper tensioning of the chain

The chainsaw chain should have proper tension and should be tightened while sharpening, which prevents the slanting of the chain. With this, the user will be able to maintain the correct angles. After the sharpening is completed, the chain tension must be restored to normal.

6. Make use of the suitable size of files

A chainsaw can be sharpened with the help of a specific file, and the correct file must be used. The sharpening is not correct if the file used is either too small or too large.

7. Place the file guide in the proper position

The file guide is placed above the cutter. It should be in line with the witness marks. Both the hands should be used to hold the file and then full strokes are given from inside to outside. A very little pressure should be applied to the file guide while sharpening. Along with this, a file gauge should also be used to tune each of the gauges to the corresponding cutter tooth. While sharpening, it must be ensured that 20 percent of the file diameter should be above the top plate at all times. With this, the angles will be appropriately maintained.


A well-sharpened chainsaw is useful in cutting wood efficiently and quickly. This ensures the safety of the user as well. If you learn to sharpen your chainsaw, it will be economical and will save you time.

When you decide to sharpen the chainsaw yourself, you need to buy a sharpening tool and don’t forget to follow all the safety measures.

I hope this article will help you in sharpening your chainsaw properly.

9 thoughts on “How to Sharpen a Chainsaw”

  1. Thanks for the informative post about the method to sharpen a chainsaw. In this, various methods by which a chainsaw can be sharpened are mentioned and I could know the advantages and disadvantages of each one of these. After going through the post, I found that electric sharpeners are the best. Hope this will make my chainsaw sharp like a new one.

  2. It is important to take some safety measures while sharpening a chainsaw and I am sure if the safety measures mentioned in this article, are followed by those who are sharpening their chainsaws at home, then they won’t get injured at all. The information given is perfect for all the new owners of chainsaw like me.

  3. After reading this post, I came to know about the importance of maintain tensioning of the chain. Earlier I was making this mistake and could not get the properly sharpened chainsaw. From the next time, I will take care of this. Thanks for guiding us in the right manner. I would recommend all my friends to go through this website.

  4. It is correctly said in this article that a well-sharpened chainsaw can provide the best service for long period of time. With this the woods can be cut perfectly. I agree with this and so I ensure that after every use, I sharpen my chainsaw properly with a good sharpener.

  5. Thanks for a wonderful article regarding the correct method to sharpen a chainsaw. Various tools by which a chainsaw can be sharpened are also mentioned which seems to be useful to all who wants to get their chainsaw get sharpened at home only. I find it very interesting while reading. It enhanced my knowledge.

  6. knowing the right time to sharpen your chainsaw is very important. When you get fine wood chips, it is the time when you need to sharpen your chainsaw. This information I got from this post and it helped me a lot to the time when it is essential to sharpen the chainsaw. Earlier I used to delay the sharpening process due to which my earlier chainsaw was damaged.

  7. There are various methods to sharpen a chainsaw and I came to know the details of these from this post. I am so impressed by the writing style of this and would like to read all the remaining posts soon. This will enhance my knowledge about the chainsaw and I would like to recommend this to all my friends as well.

  8. There are various methods to sharpen a chainsaw but for me sharpening with an electric sharpener is working good. It is very easy to do but one should take enough precautions while doing it to avoid any kind of injury. I think, if electric sharpener is not possible then a handheld file can also be used.

  9. Chainsaw is an important tool to cut woods. It needs regular sharpening due to which it is always good to do at home. This saves a lot of money and time. But sharpening is a skill which everyone has to learn. This can be learnt with practice and proper guidance. The information on this post is very accurate and perfect.


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