How to Sharpen a Chainsaw

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Knowing how to sharpen a chain saw at home can save a lot of time and money versus taking a chainsaw to a shop for maintenance. However, sharpening a chainsaw requires the owner to have a keen eye for detail and patience for the task. Proper care of a chainsaw can keep the tool sharp and ready for years to come.

Allowing a chainsaw to become dull will result in the tool needing replacement far sooner than would otherwise be expected.  Get a good-quality chainsaw sharpener for your home improvement work.

Items Needed:

  • Round files
  • 6-inch flat file
  • Filing gauge
  • Depth gauge guide
  • Lubricant (a light machine oil)
  • Heavy-duty gloves

Before You Start To Sharpening! ­

Learning how to sharpen a chainsaw blade is a process that may take some time to completely master, but the effort put into honing the skill is worth the performance wrought from the chainsaw.


Before working on a chainsaw, an owner should take the time to look over and become familiar with the parts that make up the chainsaw. This is especially true of the pieces of the chain. Each chain has cutters and depth gauges in an alternating pattern. Owners should be aware of how these components should appear before the chainsaw is ever used to determine when something is amiss.

For example, broken or damaged cutters, or depth gauges that are uneven. Read the manual that comes with a new chainsaw to get to know the particular brand of chainsaw’s specific setup and maintenance requirements. Knowing what to look for is the best way to start.


One of the best methods to learn how to sharpen a chainsaw is to practice on a new chainsaw to get the feel of what to do and how to do it. A chainsaw that has been used and dulled makes the task of sharpening much more difficult. This can make a novice chainsaw owner attempting to sharpen a chainsaw for the first time face a daunting task. New chainsaws are still factory sharp and allow the owner to sharpen with ease, allowing the proper motion, and angle and routine to be learned faster and easier. Sharpening a chainsaw early also gives that chainsaw a head start on its maintenance and care.

Inspect the Chain

Before sharpening, inspect the chain for broken cutters or other damage. Clean out any debris like bits of wood, dirt, oil build-up, and anything else that may affect performance. A chain that is badly damaged should be replaced, but still sharpened.

Steps To Sharpen Your Chain Saw

  1. Be sure the chainsaw is stable and properly secured to a solid surface to prevent the saw from slipping and breaking, or causing an injury.
  2. Slacken the chain so there is ample room to work on the chain. Chains that are too tight can snap.
  3. Begin by attaching the filing guide to the saw and make any necessary adjustments.
  4. Using the round file, sharpen the cutters with strokes that go from the inside of the cutter to the outside in broad strokes. Start with the shortest cutter on the chain, marking the cutter as a reminder of where the sharpening began.
  5. Alternate every other cutter until back to the original mark, then work the cutters that were skipped. The size of the file used should correlate to the size of the cutter being filed.

Double Check Your Work with Depth Gauges

The depth gauge on your chain is very important as its job is to determine how much wood is cut as it goes through the wood.  Whenever you sharpen the chain, you must ensure that the depth gage is lowered as well or you will start to see more sawdust than wood chips.

  • Attach the depth gauge guide to ensure proper sharpening lengths are followed.
  • Depth gauges should always be shorter than their cutter partner. Long-depth gauges need to be filed down.
  • Using the flat file, file the depth gauge from inside to outside.
  • File just until the file glides smoothly over the gauge and the depth gauge is at an appropriate height.

Proper File Storage

Proper lubrication is essential to the maintenance of files. Be sure to always:

  • Keep the files oiled when sharpening a chainsaw? This will make the job smoother and create better results.
  • Store files individually wrapped in a cloth to avoid damage while they are not in use.
  • Coat the files lightly in lubricant before storage.


Taking appropriate steps and learning how to sharpen a chain saw properly can extend the life of the chain. Take care of your chain saw and it will take care of you.

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