How To Sharpen A Chainsaw Blade With A File?

In the history of tools, the invention of the chainsaw is an evolutionary addition. The extraordinarily laborious and time-consuming task of felling or cutting trees or large wooden logs has become quite effortless. Both DIYers and arborists are using this tool nowadays.

But if the chainsaw blade is blunt or dull, then the most vigorous chainsaw will fail to cut woods. On top of that, it may endanger the user. So to cut wood smoothly and adequately and avoid trouble and damage to your chainsaw, it needs to be sharpened when it gets dull if you don’t want to buy a new chain every time it gets blunt. For this sharpening task, there is no alternative to a chainsaw sharpener.

Types of chainsaw sharpeners

You need to know the types of chainsaw sharpeners available in the market if you are a regular or occasional saw user. The common types of sharpeners are as follows.

Electric sharpener:

Electric sharpeners are vise, workbench, or wall-mounted, and they need a power source to run. Most of them are powered by an alternating current of 120 volts. A generator can be used during a blackout. You can use electric sharpeners in the field also by consuming power from vehicle batteries. These are designed to do the sharpening task faster, more precisely, and uniformly.


While using an electric sharpener, you need to clamp the chain in a guide bar to feed it to the grinding wheel. Then the sharpener will do the rest.


These sharpening machines are expensive and suitable for professionals who sharpen many chains of different sizes in less time. However, beginners may face difficulty with it and ruin the whole chain.

Manual cutter:

This sharpening tool needs to clamp over the saw chain bar. There is a manual handle that you need to turn using your hand to sharpen the saw teeth. It feeds the chain through the tool, and the teeth are sharpened as you turn the handle.

Dremel attachments:

The Dremel tool is handy and portable and can be used with chainsaw accessories or attachments to do a wide variety of jobs. Some sharpeners are compatible with Dremel accessories for easy setup and sharpening small chains. The accessories are an alignment guide to clamp on the saw and grinding stone. Dremel tools are power tools and are found in corded electric or cordless versions.

Bar mounted:

This sharpener is clamped to the chainsaw bar. There are adjustable knobs to provide specific filing angles and measurements. Then you have to apply pressure with the handle to sharpen the teeth one by one. This sharpener needs a flat and stable platform like a worktable or workbench to effectively and adequately do the sharpening task. You will have control over the machine and will get efficient and faster results.

Manual file:

It’s the most common, handy, and cheaper option. It does not have any electrical components, and it gets power from your hands and movement. To sharpen your chainsaw with a manual file, you have to move it through a guide in the forward direction. It points only one tooth at a time.

You need to switch from one tooth to the next until the whole chain is sharpened. It is a cheaper but time-consuming option. You can consider it as a good option if you do not over sharpen or damage the chain.


Another advantage of the manual file is you can take it to the field easily. Since this is a small and lightweight tool, you can take it into your pack or in your tool belt. You can keep a manual sharpener even if you already have an electric one. You can use it when you work outside; it saves time and let you file your saw anywhere so that you can get back to your job quickly.

How To Sharpen A Chainsaw Blade With A File?

With a good chainsaw blade sharpener, you can sharpen your chainsaw chain like a new one within a few minutes if you know how to use a sharpener. You will find a complete guide below to learn how to sharpen your chainsaw.

Required things to sharpen your chainsaw

To sharp your chainsaw blade, you need to know which tools are required and how to use them. Inappropriate tools may damage your saw chain, and you may experience dangerous situations. However, these tools are pretty easy to use and available in the market.

• Protective gloves and eyewear: Before starting, you need safety equipment like heavy-duty leather gloves and eyewear. After wearing these, you can proceed to sharpen your saw chain.

• Round file: A round file is required to sharpen the blade. The diameter of the file should match the diameter of the semicircular cutting edge of the saw teeth. Please do not take a rat-tailed file as its coarse teeth and tapered dia can cause damage to your chain’s teeth or permanently ruin it. Then you might have to change the whole chain or even the chainsaw.

• File guide: A file guide fits the round file and helps avoid excess filing.

• Flat file: It’s required to reset the depth gauge or raker. It doesn’t have a particular size like the round file.

• Depth gauge guide: It’s required with the flat file to lower the height of the raker.

When you need to sharpen your chainsaw

It is essential to understand when you need to sharpen your chainsaw. It will save your time and energy.


When it takes more time to cut wood with your saw, or you need to apply more force, or the kickback ratio is more significant than usual, you must understand that these are the signs of a blunt or dull chain.


Moreover, while cutting wood, you have to keep an eye on waste materials produced by the saw. If the chain is sharp, then the waster products made while cutting wood will be in chips. But if you find powdered sawdust as the waste product, it is another sign of a blunt chain. So if you get any of the symptoms mentioned above during cutting with your saw, you need to sharpen the saw chain immediately.

Parts of the saw chain required to be sharpened

A saw chain has many parts, but among those, only cutters or saw teeth and depth gauge need to be sharpened.

• Chain saw teeth: Cutters or teeth present on both sides of the saw chain perform the task of cutting wood. Both side teeth do the cutting job simultaneously. As they complete the cutting job, they need to be sharpened mainly. As a result, they become blunt after cutting woods few times.

• Depth gauge: Beside each cutter, a piece of metal that looks like a shark fin is called the depth gauge or raker. It controls the depth that the tooth can bite into the wood. The tip of the depth gauge is minutely shorter than that of the saw tooth.

After sharpening repeatedly, the height of both the cutter or tooth and raker can be level, or the cutter height can be less than the raker height that will refrain the chainsaw from cutting. So you need to check the raker height every time you sharpen the saw teeth, and if required, you have to lower the raker height with a flat-file and depth gauge guide.

Step by step saw chain sharpening procedure is below:

Step 1: Clamp the chainsaw bar


• Start with engaging the chain brake if there is any.
• Clamp the saw bar by using a tabletop clamp or a vise to ensure it is not moving. As a result, the saw will not shift when you sharpen it, and the result will be consistent.
• If a tabletop clamp is not available, you can remove the chain from the saw, place the chain in your vice instead, and sharpen it.
• If you don’t have a vise also, make a kerf on a wood log and place the chainsaw in the kerf. Then sharpen it.

Step 2: Tighten the saw chain by using the tension adjustment knob


• Now you need to tighten the saw chain with the tension adjustment knob. You have to find the knob on the chainsaw, usually situated perpendicular to the chain’s direction. Use a screwdriver to tighten the knob. So the chain cannot move when you sharpen it.
• The location of the adjustment knob varies from model to model and brand to brand. So consult the user manual if you are unable to find it.

Step 3: Detect left and right cutters


• There are left and right cutters on the chain so that the chain can cut straight. The left and right teeth are located alternatively.
• You have to select either left or right cutters to sharpen all of them before moving to another one.

Step 4: Mark the first cutter with a marker


• Pick the first cutter that you are going to sharpen first. You can mark this cutter with color or a permanent marker to keep track of where you started. In addition, it will prevent you from sharpening a single tooth twice.
• Though this color will disappear when the saw is used, you can avoid using a color or marker and find a unique link to keep track.

Step 5: Set the round file in the notch of the cutter


• Now set the correct diameter round file equal to the diameter of the semicircular cutting edge of the saw teeth inside the notch on the marked tooth. Around 20% of the round file’s diameter should remain on the top of the tooth.

Step 6: Set the file guide over the cutter at the appropriate angle


• It would be better if you have a file guide as it helps keep the round file at a particular angle in which you need to sharpen the chain. By using the guide, you can file all the cutters at the same angle. The guide roller prevents you from going much deeper into the side plate of the saw tooth.
• Now fit the file into the guide and place these over the cutter with the arrows on the file guide pointing towards the saw bar nose.
• You have to follow the top plate angle of the tooth. The filing angle usually is 25 to 35 degrees. Search online or read the user manual to find the correct angle for your chain.
• Most file guides are etched at 25 to 35 degrees angle on the upper site to preserve the filing angle.
• If you do not have a file guide, carry on the job without it.

Step 7: Slide the file away from your body 3 to 10 times until the cutter is properly sharpen


• Hold the file and push it through the cutter, maintaining the proper angle in one smooth motion. The stroke must be in the outward direction, and you need not apply a lot of pressure; you will feel that the file guide is riding over the raker and cutter. Your hand may vibrate a bit at the first 5/6 strokes over the blunt tooth.
• Reset the guide again after lifting it out of the cutter at the same place and same angle. Keep repeating the stroke in the same way and same force until the cutter becomes silver color, shiny, and looks sharp.
• To ensure consistent sharpness of all cutters, count the number of strokes made on the first cutter and do the same for the rest of the cutters.
• It is forbidden to pull the file backward as it will damage both the cutter and the file.

Step 8: Turn then saw in 180 degrees angle


• Now you have to loosen the clamp or vise to lift the saw and rotate it 180 degrees.
• Sharpen the alternative cutters in the same way. Make sure all the teeth have been sharpened equally.

Step 9: Check raker height


• Check the raker height with the depth gauge filing guide. So place it over the chain near the marked tooth. Then push it in the forward direction until a raker protrudes above the filing guide. If you find one, file it down.
• In the same way, gradually check all the rakers and do the same if found any raker that extrudes above the guide.

Step 10: File down the rakers using a flat file:


• Hold the depth gauge filing guide on the raker and sharpen the top of the raker with a flat-file until it becomes level with the filing guide.
• This guide protects the other cutters from being filed, but it fails to be filed down itself. Be careful regarding this as this will lead to inconsistent raker height.
• To prevent filing the guide, slide it a little back during filing over the raker. Then, check the raker height constantly and continue filing it down as long as it becomes level with the top of the guide.
• After filing the raker, it might get a square top. Smoothen off the edges without filing the top with the flat file.
• Finally, loosen the chain and remove the chainsaw from the vise or clamp.

Few sharpening tips:

• You can sharpen the cutters without a file guide which will take less time. But using a file guide, you will experience more uniform sharpening.
• If your chainsaw pulls to a side, it indicates that the teeth on that side have been sharpened more than the teeth on the opposite side. If you want your chainsaw to cut straight, file each tooth with the same force and the same number of strokes. Then, it would be better to reset both sides of the chain with a professional sharpener.
• After few sharpening, if your chain is worn unevenly, take it to a pro. A pro will regrind the cutters with a powerful electric sharpener to even shape

Sharpening a chainsaw chain with a manual file may feel awkward initially, but with time as you get habituated with it, you will be more interested in the filing task. Once you have learned to do it perfectly, it will take 10 to 15 minutes.

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