How to Sharpen a Chainsaw

There are several areas of upkeep to consider with chainsaws, and unless you go cordless, there are bound to be plenty of trips to the repair shop as well.

Some tools can be time-consuming to maintain, and others require additional financial support when it’s time to buy refills, oil or a new blade. With chainsaws, you can quickly learn how to sharpen a chainsaw chain, which cuts down your costs considerably.

How do you know when it’s time to sharpen your chainsaw blade

When you put saw to log, do you have to apply an excessive amount of force to get through the stock?

Is there a burning smell or does it bog down more often than not?

If you answered yes to either of those questions, it’s probably time to buy a replacement or learn how to sharpen chainsaw blades.

A saw with a dull blade can increase your cutting time considerably, and they hinder your safety while working with the chainsaw.  Never try to use your saw with a dull blade, and you’ll feel silly for even attempting it once you learn how to sharpen a chainsaw.

What’s required

Unless you buy an all-in-one sharpening system, you will need a few tools to get the job done. A vice is a requirement, and you’ll also want a pair of gloves unless your hands are tougher than a piece leather. Even then, a sharp chainsaw blade can slice you open in an instant so proceed with caution at all times.

You can’t sharpen anything without files, so you’ll need to pick up a kit of the best chainsaw sharpeners if you don’t have a proper set of files already on hand. There are kits with a number of files available, but your best bet is to simply check the gauge of the chain to find what you need when in doubt.

Step-by-step guide to sharpening the chain

When you have all your tools ready, it’s time to inspect and clean the chain.

Clean the chain first. You can use degreasers or other safe cleaning agents for the metal, but you want to ensure you remove any excess dirt or grime before putting a file on those teeth. This process also allows you to check the chain for damage.

No matter how tough the chain, links can become worn and teeth can crack or break.

If it’s too worn down or damaged, pick up a new chain and save yourself some time. You should have at least 1/4” available to work with, or it’s all for naught.

Once you have properly cleaned and inspected your chain, it’s time to get down to business.

You’ll want to ensure your saw is on a solid surface and place the bar gently, but firmly in a vise to keep it steady. Engage the chain break if it has one.

Each chainsaw blade has a special link, and that’s where you’ll want to start. It could have a slightly different finish or be labeled, but this allows you to find your starting point quickly, so you’ll know when it’s time to flip the chain. It may be a leading cutter on some chains. 

With slow, even strokes you will want to follow the angle of the top plate with your file. You want to match the angle the cutter was originally ground at, which can vary from chain to chain.

Within 2-4 solid strokes, you will see a shiny face emerge, and you know it is time to rotate the chain and move on to the next tooth. When you find your starting point, it’s time to flip the saw over and finish the chain out.

You can use a depth gauge to check the clearance of the rakers, and when in doubt, less is more when sharpening a chainsaw.

When you are happy with the results, you should oil your chain up properly and check the tension. Both steps are critical if you want your newly sharpened blade to cut properly.


Chainsaw blades can cost you anywhere from a Jackson to over a grand if you need something large and built for forestry use. While there are some chains that need a professional touch, most can be sharpened with ordinary tools from your shop.

Just remember to take things slow and keep your strokes steady as you shouldn’t have to “force” the file through the teeth if you have the right file and are hitting the right angle. You can always go back and hit a tooth again, but you cannot replace metal once you’ve taken it off.


I'm the guy you call to get the job done.

We will be happy to hear your thoughts

Leave a reply

5 images maximum / 31.25MB per image / jpeg, pjpeg, png, gif

Enable registration in settings - general
Shopping cart