Sharpening a Chainsaw – Do’s and Don’ts

If you are a professional or a beginner in cutting woods, a well-sharpened chainsaw is a must. You cannot work with a dull saw and also, it is important to use and maintain it in a good way. While doing so, you must have a professional attitude.

There are cutter teeth on the chainsaw chain which work in cutting the wood and thus, they are bound to become dull. As a result of this, the effectiveness of the tool reduces. With the help of regular sharpening and filing, the efficiency of the chainsaw increases.

While sharpening the chainsaw, the user must follow some precautions that can increase the saw’s life. The Do’s and Don’ts of this are –

Sharpening a Chainsaw – Do’s and Don’ts

Do’s – Things to be done

1. Study the Sawchain

Each chainsaw is provided with a manual for the owner in which details of the chainsaw are mentioned. As a user, you must familiarize yourself with the parts of the chainsaw.

A chainsaw has links, straps, and many cutters, which should be focused on while sharpening it. There are two sharp edges on each cutter, one is on the side of the top plate, and the other is on an outer plate where it meets the top plate.

A notch called ‘gullet’ is present in the middle of the cutter, while a hook-like protrusion called a ‘raker’ is present on the other end, which is a depth gauge. With the help of the raker, the amount of wood taken out by the cutters during the working of the chainsaw is determined.

In almost all the chainsaws, the shape and size of the cutters are nearly similar to each other.

2. Stabilize the chainsaw

While sharpening the cutters of the chainsaw, the saw must be held steady on a mounted vise. If you are going to cut the woods for the whole day, a tailgate-mounted vise should be carried, which would provide stability to the saw while you sharpen it on-site. This provides ease in sharpening the tool.

3. Make use of a file with the correct diameter

To sharpen the cutters of the chainsaw, the most common tool used is a round file. Most of the files used are of standard diameter and it ranges between 4mm to 6mm. But to be on the safe side, it is good to check the owner’s manual to know about the optimal file diameter that can be used.

4. Ensure to file in one direction

During the sharpening process, it is advised to file in a particular direction and that is to file from the inside to outside of the cutter. There are two sides of the chainsaw and each side has cutters. So, there are left and right cutters and these alternate from one side of the saw to the other.

While filing the individual cutters, ensure you are standing on one side of the chainsaw bar and then file the cutters on the opposite side. Like, you will file the right-side cutters if you are standing on the left side of the chainsaw. Once, sharpening of one side is done, you have to move to the other side of the chainsaw and file the other cutters.

5. Use a chainsaw sharpening guide

While sharpening a chainsaw with a file, it is important to maintain a specific angle. Normally it is around 30-35 degrees, but you should check in the owner’s manual. If you are not confident in maintaining this angle, it is beneficial to use a sharpening guide.

It is not an expensive tool and has a bracket on the lower side in which a round file can be held. There are pre-marked lines on the guide, which helps in aligning the file at the correct angle during sharpening.

Also Read: Top Best Chainsaw Sharpeners Review and Buyer’s Guide for 2021

Don’ts – Things that should be avoided

1. Don’t wait for dust

A chainsaw is said to be dull when instead of wood chips, it is producing wood dust during operation. When this sign is observed, the user must sharpen it. But, if you sharpen your chainsaw after every second or third time refilling it with fuel, the chainsaw will be more efficient. Also, the chainsaw will never become dull.

2. Don’t forget to wear protective gears

There are many sharp cutters on a chainsaw and while sharpening it, the cutters can scratch the skin. It is advised to wear heavy-duty work gloves before starting the process. Also, eyes should be protected and for this, safety goggles should be used.

Check: Chainsaw Safety Equipment on Amazon

3. Don’t forget to make use of the file

Most of the time, the user takes the chainsaw to cut woods away from home and so, don’t forget to carry your sharpening tools with you. Failure to do so will keep you in the middle of your wood cutting task as you would not be able to sharpen the chainsaw if required.

4. Don’t pull the file

There is only one direction in which a round file works and the stroke is always away from the user. During the sharpening of the chainsaw, the file must be held horizontally and maintain the angle.

When this is done, the file is pushed outward and then it is lifted to bring the file back to the starting position, where again a push on the file is made. This process is repeated until the cutter is sharpened.

Every cutter should be filed with the same number of strokes and with the same degree of pressure.

5. Don’t forget to use the depth gauges

Just as the cutters are required to be sharpened, it is essential to sharpen the depth gauges. The depth gauges are present on the front of each cutter. If these are too high as compared to the cutters, they will be blocked and the chainsaw will not work effectively. A flat file can be used to file with a free hand, or a depth gauge guide can be used that fits in between the cutters. With this, even the top of the depth gauges can be filed. As compared to the top of the cutting corner of the cutter, the depth gauge should be at a lower position, but it should not be very low; just 0.025 inches lower is the right position.

6. Don’t over file the depth gauge

If the depth gauge is over-filed, the saw will take a bigger chip. Due to this, there will be overworking of the saw, and it will bog down. Also, the chances of kickback will be more.

9 thoughts on “Sharpening a Chainsaw – Do’s and Don’ts”

  1. All these days I was finding much difficulty in sharpening a chainsaw but after reading this article, I realized my mistake. I was not using the file with the correct diameter. This detail was not mentioned in the manual and so did not paid attention to this. But this article helped me in correcting my mistake. Now, I could get perfectly sharpened chainsaw chain. Thanks a lot.

  2. While sharpening the chainsaw, I was not able to sharpen the chainsaw perfectly as I was making a mistake of over filing the file gauge. This I came to know after going through this article. It saved a lot of time and money of mine. I thanks a lot to this website for providing me with the correct information.

  3. Thanks for the wonderful article on the things which we must do and avoid while sharpening a chainsaw. This article must be read by all those who are interested in sharpening the chainsaw at home by himself. This is a self-explanatory article and all points are given in a detailed manner.

  4. Very well written article about the things which we should avoid while sharpening the chainsaw. I am sure this will help many of us from getting injured. It is rightly written that use of protective gears is compulsory while sharpening the chainsaw as. Also the precautions taken while using a file are completely correct and useful.

  5. It is true that while using a chainsaw sharpener, one must be extra careful. The do’s and don’ts mentioned here should be followed properly. I ensure that every time I use a sharpener for my chainsaw, I take all the precautions. It helps to prevent me from any kind of injury.

  6. The do’s and dont’s while sharpening chainsaw mentioned in this post are very true and good. I read these all and are following this while sharpening. These have helped me to get better results and my chainsaw is sharpened better than before. I am really thankful to this site for providing us with the best information.

  7. I ensure that after every 2-3 times of using my chainsaw, I sharp it. I literally don’t wait for the saw dust to appear and this has helped me to increase the life of the chainsaw. The same thing is mentioned in this page and I think this is very much correct. Every one should practice this.

  8. While sharpening a chainsaw, everyone should take some precautions. The do and don’ts mentioned in this page are very correct. Following these can make your chainsaw sharpened perfectly. I got to know that every file is not good for any chainsaw. A file with correct diameter should be used. This is a very useful tip for me.

  9. While sharpening a chainsaw, one must be careful and should follow the safety precautions properly. All the points mentioned over here are good and reasonable. I totally agree with the point that depth gauge should not be filed more. This will result in overworking of the chainsaw as big wood chips will be cut. To avoid this, depth gauge should be filed optimal only.


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