Home » How to Sharpen a Chainsaw? Step-by-Step Guide

How to Sharpen a Chainsaw? Step-by-Step Guide

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In a typical woodworker’s shed, you’ll find this piece of equipment with a noticeable handle, covered area, and chain around the guide bar. This equipment is known as a chainsaw and helps to cut wood. The chainsaw is important because it can work with different wood sizes, including large trees. However, a seamless cut is only possible if it is sharp enough.

This cutting equipment is usually powered by electricity or gas and works by rotating the chain with sharp corners fast enough to cut through any wood you put in its way. Over time, the sharp edges on the chainsaw that does the cutting become dull. When this happens, cutting is no more effortless as it’ll now require more pressure to cut a small piece of wood.

It may seem like a long time ago when chainsaws replaced the laborious ax in cutting down trees and chopping them into bits. However, you can easily slip back into those difficult times when working with a dull chainsaw.

The good thing about a chainsaw is that you can sharpen it when it gets dull and take it close to a new chainsaw, depending on your technical experience. Do not get discouraged if this is your first time sharpening a chainsaw and you do not have this technical know-how. That is what we’ll be tackling in this guide to show you how you can effortlessly and safely sharpen your chainsaw.

Before we get into that, many chainsaw users, especially newer operators, do not know when is the right time to sharpen their saws. Here is what you need to know.

When to Sharpen Your Chainsaw?

When to Sharpen Your Chainsaw

You use a chainsaw for woodworking, have probably heard of chainsaw sharpening before, but have no idea when you should consider this; fret not, here’s how to know.

  • Sawdust is too fine: If you notice the sawdust from your cutting is too fine, this is an indication that your chainsaw needs sharpening. Typically, a sharp chainsaw will produce more coarse sawdust.
  • Requires more Pressure than Usual: One of the reasons chainsaws were able to dislodge axes from tree cutting quickly is because it promises ease. Your cutting should require little to no extra pressure, but this is not the case when it gets dull. If you notice you now have to put in a lot of pressure before you can cut wood, your chainsaw might need sharpening.
  • Takes a long time to cut: A sharp chainsaw will cut quickly, but as it gets dull, its cutting speed reduces as it spends more time cutting an area. When you notice it takes you more time than usual to cut the same piece of wood, you know it is time to sharpen.
  • Once a year when rarely used: If your chainsaw is rarely used, you should sharpen its teeth at least once every year to keep it in good condition for whenever you want.

Typically, the sharpness of a chainsaw can last for up to 3 hours of continuous cutting before its teeth start to dull out. With this estimate in mind, you can make a more informed guess of when to Sharpen your chainsaw depending on how frequently you use it.

Tools and Equipment Needed

To get that chainsaw back to cutting smoothly, here are some tools and equipment you will need:

  1. A filling gauge
  2. A flat file for depth gauge
  3. A round file to sharpen dull teeth
  4. A file holder which is especially important for beginners
  5. A sharpening grid to guide your angle
  6. Gloves to protect your hands from cut

8 Steps Guide to Sharp Your Chainsaw

8 Steps Guide to Sharp Your Chainsaw

You know when you should sharpen your chainsaw and have the tools needed to do the work; now, you can move into more details on how to sharpen this cutting equipment. You’ll find a simple guide to follow that wouldn’t confuse you even if this is your first time.

It doesn’t matter if you’re using a high-end chainsaw or went for a budget chainsaw option under $200; over time, they’ll all need sharpening. This is how to do it.

Step 1: Check the Size of the Teeth and Select the Suitable File Size

Check the Size of the Teeth and Select the Suitable File Size

Chainsaw teeth come in different sizes, which require different round file diameters. You can find the size of your chainsaw teeth from your owner’s manual or even on the side of the teeth themselves. Most manufacturers make it easier by printing the size on the teeth.

Armed with the information, you can choose the round and flat files dimension that’ll match to get the right angle. If you’re still not sure about the teeth size and angle specification you need, take the chainsaw to the nearest machinery store.

Step 2: Wear Protective Gloves

Even though the teeth may be too dull for wood, it is never too dull to cut you, and this is why you need to protect yourself. Before handling the chainsaw, you should put in your protective gloves to avoid injuries.

Step 3: Clean the Chainsaw

You want to remove dirt, debris, and oil from the chainsaw before you start sharpening. Use a screwdriver and a piece of clothing to clean up oil and dirt from the equipment.

Step 4: Prepare the Chainsaw

The best place to sharpen a chainsaw is on the guide bar. First, lock the chain brake to prevent any accidental spin, which can be dangerous. Next, you want to place the chainsaw on a vice and secure it properly. This will provide a platform to work on and ensure you can safely sharpen without the chainsaw falling on you.

It would be best if you also examined the chain tension. A loose chain is a recipe for disaster, as the chain can come loose when sharpening its teeth. Make the tension too tight, and you run the risk of building up too much tension, which leads to wear and tear and even fire. Finding just the right amount of tension that is tight enough to prevent any kickbacks but not too tight that it can degrade the material is vital.

Also Read: Stihl vs Husqvarna: Chainsaw Comparison & Results

Step 5: Start Cutting Using the Correct Angles

Using the file guide will ensure you’re cutting at the correct angles, especially when you’re still new to chainsaw sharpening. So fit your round file into the file guide and slowly cut the angles on the teeth.

It is best to start with the shortest tooth so you know when you’ve gone round. Where it seems all the teeth are of the same height, you can mark the first tooth you’re sharpening with a pencil.

Step 6: Sharpen Both Sides of the Chain with the Right Angular Position

Hold your file in a 90-degree position vertically and 30 degrees horizontal to the bar, this way, you can get a clean swipe across the tooth. You want to slide through the tooth with your file in a way that creates fiction and sharpens the area.

Go one tooth at a time in a particular direction before turning the cutting direction so you can sharpen the other side of the chain.

Step 7: Adjust the Depth Gauges

The depth gauge is a curved link in-between the cutters. Typically, this part should be lower than the adjacent cutter, but in some cases, this is not so, especially after you have filed the cutter and reduced its height. Check the depth gauge against the cutter and ensure all depth gauges are lower than the corresponding cutter.

Adjust the depth gauges that are higher or equal in height with their cutters by filing the top of the depth gauge.

Step 8: Prepare Chainsaw for Use Again

After sharpening both sides of the chain and adjusting the depth gauge, you should then prepare it for use. Use compressed air and brush to remove any metal chip from filing on the chain. Oil the chain properly and tighten loose screws.

Should You Sharpen or Get a New Chain?

This is a popular question among chainsaw users as they seek to know when they should be sharpening their chainsaw teeth or simply getting a new chain.

There are some factors to consider that’ll guide you on the best option to choose.

Replace your chain when the cutter height has gotten to the filing mark. This is a mark where you shouldn’t file below. So if you’ve filed your cutter to this point, you should be getting a new chain instead of sharpening the blade.

Check the chain carefully for worn-out cutters, links, bent or broken teeth. You should replace the chain if you discover any of these, as sharpening the chain with these defects wouldn’t help.

You can sharpen your chain up to 10 times before it’ll need to be replaced. Remember that this is just an estimate, and you may have to replace the chain before sharpening it ten times.

Read More: Husqvarna 435 vs 440: Which One Should You Buy?


With the right tools and a little patience, you can learn how to sharpen your dull chain teeth and get your chainsaw cut as new again. Sometimes, sharpening may not be the solution, and you may need to replace the chain.