How To Sharpen A Chainsaw At Home Like A Pro

Ian Mutuli
Updated on
Ian Mutuli

Ian Mutuli

Founder and Managing Editor of Archute. He is also a graduate architect from The University of Nairobi, Kenya.
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If you are a professional timber worker or not, and you have your own chainsaw, you must learn how to use and take care of your cutter. Sharp cutters will work at full power and will reduce any safety risks as you use a chainsaw. You will need to learn how to sharpen a chainsaw to maintain your chainsaw properly.

What is a Chainsaw?

A chainsaw is a portable cutting tool that is gasoline, electric, or battery-powered. The chain saw cuts with a set of teeth at the edge of a hardened steel alloy blade and rotates around in intervals. The chainsaw is used for cutting firebreaks, pruning, bucking, tree felling, climbing, and cutting firewood.

With frequent use, these tools will become blunt and will need to be sharpened. Chainsaw sharpening may seem difficult, but you can learn how to sharpen them quickly and effortlessly in this write-up. There are a few steps you could follow to help obtain a correctly sharpened chainsaw.

1. Understand your Chainsaw Blade

There are different types of chainsaws available today. Each cutter will have different chain sizes, lengths, and angles of the cutting teeth. Also, the depth gauges and the way to sharpen them will be different.

Therefore, before you file or sharpen your cutter, you will have to read and understand the owner’s manual that comes with the cutter to know the type of blade your saw has. In addition, you will need to understand the tooth diameter and cutting angle of the blade. Remember that the tooth diameter is the same size you will need for your file.

2. Get Equipped to File

You will need to assemble the right tools that you will be used to file and sharpen the cutter and also have to wear protective gear. One of the things you should have is the stump vise, which will hold the saw bar in position as you sharpen the chain. You will also need the correct file that matches the cutting teeth, and you could also have a depth gauge to help position the file perfectly while sharpening.

Moreso, you will need to wear protective gear like a pair of heavy-duty gloves since you are handling sharp objects. You will also need glasses for eye protection purposes.

3. Set the Cutter

You will then need to set your chainsaws in the right position. You will have to place the saw in a firm and tight position not to move around while filling. Nevertheless, you want to have the chain brake a little loose to move it around the chain bar during the sharpening process.

4. File at the Right Angles

When you have your cutter set, you can mark the chain on the first tooth that you will file or sharpen to help prevent sharpening twice. Then, hold your file at a 20 to 35-degree angle to the saw bar horizontally and at a right angle vertically and place the file and the file guide into the chain bar.

Remember it is important that you use the same degree to sharpen all the cutting teeth, and as you file, you should look at the file to ensure it alines with the angles. You could also opt to use a file guide and a piece of paper to help make an angle guide. Adding proper angle lines on the vise clamping will help.

5. File strokes direction

While filing, you must place the file properly, maintaining the proper angle, and you will need to hold the file with two hands and then stroke away from your body across the cutting tooth. Remember, as you make a stroke, you will have to maintain the correct angles on the cutting tooth, and you will have to apply pressure on the base of each tooth.

Additionally, it is important to note that you will observe the angle and file guide moving on the cutter and the depth gauge, which may cause some vibration. You can stroke the cutting tooth 5 to 6 times until the cutter has a shiny silver look for each tooth.

6. Consistent Filling

It is important to ensure that you pay attention to the bluntest teeth first. For example, note that if you used six stokes for the first tooth, you would need to use the same number of strokes for the rest of the cutting teeth and ensure that all the teeth are sharp as you rotate the chain forward. This will help keep the teeth is consistent and similar in shape and size, which will help maintain a smooth and balanced chain.

7. File the Opposite Side

When you are done with one side and the teeth are sharp enough, you will have to file and repeat the sharpening process. You will need to sharpen the opposite teeth in one direction and remember using the same degree angle for these cutting teeth. In addition, remember to mark to avoid repeating or skipping a tooth.

8. Check Raker Depth Gauge Heights

When you are done sharpening, and each tooth is sharp, you will have to check at the height of the raker depth gauges, and this will help control how much timber the cutting tooth is allowed to cut. Checking the raker depth gauge height will also help maintain the same spacing between the depth guides and the teeth.

The Right Tools for Sharpening your Chainsaw

If you are wondering how to sharpen a chainsaw at home, the first important factor that you will have to consider is getting the right tools for sharpening your chain saw. There is a couple of tools you can use to sharpen your chainsaw.

To sharpen your chainsaw correctly, quickly, and with ease, you will need the following tools.

1. Round file

A round file is a tool that is cheap and is super easy to use. When choosing a round file, the important thing to check out for is the diameter. You have to make sure that the file you choose has the right diameter compatible with your chain saw.

2. Flat file

The flat file functions mostly like the round file, and the main difference is the shape. This flat file is also cheap, and the main factor to consider while choosing one is the dimensions. You will have to ensure that you get the flat file with the right dimensions to fit the cutters perfectly.

3. Depth Gauge

A depth gauge is an important tool to own if you own a cutter. The depth gauge will measure the height or length of the raker and match it with the cutter. Additionally, the depth gauge will help adjust the depth gauge distance.

4. Sharpening grid

A sharpening grid is also a helpful tool when you want to sharpen the cutting tooth of your chainsaws. The sharpening grid will help when it comes to getting the right angle. In addition, you can easily attach it to the chain guide with the magnet.

When does the Chain Need to be Sharpened?

A saw chain’s sharpness decreases over time, even though you take proper care of it and avoid cutting into objects like rocks and soil that will reduce sharpness. Therefore, it is important t learn how to sharpen a chainsaw. However, if you know and wonder how often you should sharpen your chain, this will mostly be determined by your working method, the saw type, and the chain; therefore, it can be hard to give a definite answer about it.

There are a few signs that will indicate if your chainsaw needs sharpening:

a) The chain is not penetrating through the wood

You could easily tell that a chainsaw is blunt if it no longer eats into the timber, and you have to apply some pressure on the chainsaws whenever you are cutting.

b) The chain saw jumps

When raking through the wood and the chain saw keeps jumping, the blade must be sharpened. By jumping, we mean that if you placed it correctly on the timber, it moves to cut on another position on the timber.

c) Smoke emissions

A dull chainsaw will produce smoke; however, it is important to note that it does not necessarily mean that you need to sharpen it. Each time there are smoke emissions, some other reasons that could cause smoke emissions would be lack of chain lubrication, wrong chain tension, and wrongly adjusted carburetor.

d) Only cutting in one side

If you notice that the cutters are cutting on one side, the cutting teeth on the other side may be blunt and need sharpening.

e) Produce sawdust instead of wood pieces

When cutting through wood and notice that the cutters produce fine sawdust and not timber pieces, this is another indication that it is time to sharpen the chain.

Tips on How to Sharpen a Chainsaw

Whether you are a professional timber worker or just cutting firewood for home uses, you must take proper care of the chain saw. Each saw will become blunt even though it does not cut through dense wood, reducing the cutters’ effectiveness.

To sharpen the saw effectively and at ease, we have prepared a list of the tips that will help while you sharpen the cutter.

  1. You will need to understand the different parts of your chain saw.
  2. If you notice that the saw produces more timber dust than wood chips while raking, you should sharpen it.
  3. You should always wear protective gear when you use a chainsaw or even while you sharpen it.
  4. Remember to use the right diameter of the chainsaw sharpener.
  5. To get a perfect cutting edge, do not sharpen your saw in one direction.
  6. Do not pull or push the file; rather, use filing strokes with an equal degree of pressure to file every other cutter.
  7. Remember to file the depth gauges as well, but not as regularly as the cutters.

Frequently Asked Questions on Chainsaw Sharpening

1. How do depth gauges work?

A depth gauge is a tool used for estimating and measuring the depth below a surface. It has a bar that looks like a steel rule and a vernier scale which has a base to hold the depth gauge on the surface. Then the bar is stretched down to contact and measure the lower surface.

2. How much does it cost to sharpen a chain saw?

Sharpening a chainsaw is relatively cheap, and if you have the best sharpening tools at home, it’s way cheap. However, if you want your chain to be sharpened in a shop, you will have to pay a few dollars each time, making it expensive if your blade keeps getting blunt.

3. Is it worth sharpening a chain saw with a file?

If the chainsaw you are using is dull, it will make your job super tedious and difficult. This makes sharpening the cutting teeth of the chainsaw worth it and very important. Remember that sharpening the chain will restore the angle of the blade.

4. Why does my chainsaw chain get dull so fast?

There are different reasons as to why your chainsaw chain gets dull. However, if your chain gets dull so first, then it could be that the cutters keep hitting the ground or the tree or wood you are cutting is bent. Additionally, if you are cutting through a tree that has dirt or is filled with dirt, then it is likely that your cutters will get dull faster.

5. Is it easy to sharpen a chain saw?

There are different methods for sharpening a chainsaw, and finding the perfect and easiest, and easiest way will depend mostly on the type of blade and chainsaw sharpener you are using. Note that even the best and most powerful chainsaws will get dull at some point; however, you will be able to sharpen the tool in a few minutes with much ease.

Image credit:

Ian Mutuli

About the author

Ian Mutuli

Founder and Managing Editor of Archute. He is also a graduate architect from The University of Nairobi, Kenya.
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