How to Sharpen Chainsaw Chain in 2019

Dull chainsaws are both slow and dangerous.

If the chain on your chainsaw has become dull, you will end up spending longer than usual to complete the tasks and at the same time, the chainsaw will be prone to what’s known as a kickback, which is extremely dangerous.

A kickback essentially means that the chainsaw gets caught in the wood, while you’re cutting it, and jumps up towards you. In fact, kickbacks are one of the primary reasons for chainsaw injury.

However, potential injuries aren’t the only reason why you shouldn’t be using a chainsaw with a dull chain, even though this reason should be enough.

Dull chains also lead to excessive fuel/power consumption and increased damage. These two consequences of a dull chain can also be used to determine when you need to sharpen your chainsaw.

So, if you notice that fuel or battery power is getting used up quicker than usual, then you know that the chain needs to be sharpened.


When to Sharpen

It’s understandable that sharpening a chainsaw chain may seem a daunting task. The jagged edges of the chain can even seem scary at times.

But you can do it on your own, with a few simple tools, without much trouble. Firstly, you need to determine if the chain has become dull and if it needs to be sharpened.

Since, electric chainsaws and battery-powered chainsaws are more in use now than those powered by gas, the excessive fuel consumption check for identifying if the chain has become dull doesn’t work.

Instead, you can check the waste material left behind after you’re done the cutting.

If the chain is sharp and cutting fine, the majority of the waste material will be in the form of chips of wood. On the other hand, if the chain has indeed become dull, then the waste material will essentially be wood dust.

In addition, remember that a sharp chain will slice through the wood smoothly, while a dull chain will require more effort on your part.

So, if you are pushing the chainsaw into the wood in order to cut it, then it’s time to sharpen the chain.


What to Sharpen

The chain loop on a chainsaw is made up of alternating left and right cutters or saw teeth, with a depth gauge between them.

The reason the cutters alternate between left and right is to ensure that the chainsaw cuts in straight lines.

The depth gauge, which looks like a mini shark fin, essentially determines the depth till which the cutters can bite into the wood while cutting it.

The depth gauge is a sliver shorter than the cutters. Over time, the cutters become dull with usage, while the cutters and depth gauge end up being at the same level.

This disrupts the functioning of the chainsaw.

Use a round file of the diameter identical to the diameter of the cutters, in combination with a file guide, to file the cutters and sharpen them.

And use a flat file, along with a depth gauge guide, to shorten the depth gauge to the ideal level.

It’s important that the diameter of the round file matches that of the cutter. Usually, you should find the chain identification number stamped right on the chain, which will help you get the right round file.

Alternatively, check the instructions manual or get in touch with a customer care representative.

This Is Important: 

Note that the do-it-yourself sharpening only works if the dullness has come about as a result of regular, normal usage.

If the cutters are seriously damaged as a result of striking say a rock or nail, then you will have to seek professional help in sharpening the chain.

Electric chainsaw chain sharpeners are available in the market, which makes the job of sharpening a dull chain much simpler. You can buy these at hardware stores or online.


How to Sharpen

It would be great if you have a tabletop clamp to hold the chainsaw bar steady while you’re filing the cutters. In case you don’t have it, use a fairly large log of wood.

Cut a deep groove in it and stick the chainsaw bar in it to hold it in place.


Now, place the round file in the file guide. The file guide ensures that each cutter is filed to the identical depth and shape. Hold the file at about a thirty-degree angle to the bar and stroke away from the body.

Make sure you stroke in one direction only. Also, count the number of strokes and use the same number for each cutter.

Typically, after half a dozen strokes stop to check and then resume filing if required. As mentioned earlier, the cutters alternate between left and right on the chain loop.

So, if the first cutter you file is a right cutter, then continue sharpening all the right cutters. Then reverse the chainsaw bar and sharpen the left cutters.

Use a marker to identify the first cutter that you file so that you know where to stop.

Depth Gauge

Use the depth gauge guide to check the height of the depth gauge fins. If any of them are higher than the corresponding cutters, then file with a flat file to lower the height.


Checks and Balances

Now that you learned some helpful tips to help you sharpen your chainsaw chain, let’s look at some checklist to keep in mind when doing it:

  • Protective gear such as gloves and eyewear is essential while sharpening a dull chain. Yes, you might feel that you can get a better grip barehanded, but ideally, gloves are a must. Try out a few gloves to find the one that you’re most comfortable with.
  • After sharpening the chain, if the chainsaw starts pulling to one side that means one set of cutters are a little sharper than the others. In order to prevent this from happening, make sure you that the number of strokes on each cutter is identical.
  • Ideally, the file guide you use should have a clamp. This will ensure that the angle at which you file each cutter remains identical as well. This too will reduce the chances of uneven sharpening and help the chain last longer.
  • There’s a limit to the number of times you can sharpen the chain. After about five to six times, you should consider getting a new chain. It’s possible to push it to ten times, but half a dozen times is a safe limit.

Hope these tips keep aid you in the maintenance of your chainsaw and you’re able to keep them running efficiently for longer.

Safe cutting!

Scroll to Top