How to Sharpen a Chainsaw with a File – Specialized Guidelines

how to sharpen a chainsaw with a file

Blunt chainsaw to work with? Looking for the right way to sharpen the dull chainsaw?

Then, you’ve come to the right place.

Sharpening a chainsaw isn’t difficult if you know when to do, what to do and how to do. You may sharpen your chainsaw with sharpening tool or with a file.

This article will help you to learn the right way about how to sharpen a chainsaw with a file.

Is it Important to Sharpen a Chainsaw?

Like any other cutting tool, a chainsaw gets blunt with the usage and time. So, what will be if you don’t regularly sharpen it?


  • Its efficiency will decline, and at one stage it’ll stop cutting.
  • You may get injured if you force it to work.
  • It’ll consume lots of fuel but do less cutting.
  • It may create kickback that will cause accidents
  • So, it’s important to sharpen your chainsaw.

How Will You Know That Your Chainsaw Needs To Get Sharp?

Few top signs will indicate your chainsaw need to get sharp. Some of these are –

  • If you find that your chainsaw is no longer chewing through wood like it used to
  • If you find difficulties and need to apply pressure for pushing down on the saw to cut with it, and your saw isn’t drawing itself.
  • If your chainsaw produces waste while cutting wood that appears more like sawdust than small wood chips. Note that a sharp chainsaw will make regular, square-ish wood chips.
  • If you face any of the above-mentioned situations, the chain has probably become blunt, and you need to sharpen it.

How to Sharpen a Chainsaw with a File-Step by Step

Sharpening a chainsaw with a file guide is a manual task. It’s somewhat different than using a filing machine. A file guide can reach the exact angle of the blades and sharpen the blade too deep. The marking on the file guide shows the guide angle when you’re sharpening. Certainly, it’s a very easy process.

Generally, you can apply this guide to all chainsaws. However, you should read the chainsaw user manual for any recommendation from the manufacturer.

Things you’ll need

  1. A round file- to sharpen the curved hollow part of the cutting link
  2. A filing guide- to get the right chainsaw sharpening angles when using the round file and to determine the proper cutting depth to which you’ll file the cutting link
  3. Screwdriver
  4. Clamp
  5. Vise
  6. Safety equipment (Hand-gloves, goggles)
  7. Cleaner and rag

Chainsaw Sharpening Process

For your easy understanding, we’ve divide this guideline into three PARTS.

Part 1: Pre-steps

Step 1:  Find the size of the pitch or chainsaw link

Different chainsaws come with different size pitches or teeth.

In general, there is code (depth gauge marking) etched in the side of the pitch. You can find its size on the outer side of the depth gauge.

Find the size of the pitch or chainsaw link

Step 2: Buy the correct sized file

Different chainsaw will need different sized files to sharpen. Using the incorrect sized file will damage your file and of course your chainsaw. So, buy the round file that matches the diameter with the chainsaw’s teeth.

From this conversion table, get the matching rounded file. Try to buy the files from the tool shops or suppliers recommended by manufacturers.

Chainsaw Sharpening Angle Chart
Depth Gauge MarkingAlternative Depth Gauge markingChain PitchRound File
11/4     ¼”4.0mm
6P, PM3/8” Picco4.0mm
7¼” Picco3.2mm

Step 3: Thoroughly clean your chain

Remove the dirt, debris and sawdust from the chain. For removing oil, you can use less aggressive detergents and mineral spirits.

Step 4: Check to find out the damaged cutting link

If you find any excessively damaged, bent or chipped pitch, you should replace it with new ones. Also, measure the upper plate of the pitch. Note that, it should be a minimum ¼” long. If you find it shorter, replace it.


Step 1: Clamp the chainsaw and bar to the work surface

Use a vise or tabletop clamp to keep the bar and chainsaw in the most stable position so that it won’t move when filling. Position the bar in the vise such that the bar can spin freely.

Isn’t the clamp Available? No worry!

Remove the chain from the chainsaw bar and secure it in the vise. Though you may need to make a little more adjustment, it’s an easy alternative.

If a clamp or vise isn’t available, you can go without it. Just be careful enough to hold the chainsaw steadily when you file it.

Step 2: Tighten the chain

Tightening the chain in advance will make it easier to sharpen each tooth. It’ll also help the chain to stop from moving as you sharpen the teeth.

Tighten the tension adjusting screw on your chainsaw by using a screwdriver. Don’t tighten too much. Make sure that you can move around the chain with a little effort.

Step 3: Put a mark on the first tooth you’re going to start sharpening

It’s a good idea to mark on the first tooth that you start on sharpening. It’ll help you to keep track of your starting point and know where to stop. You can use a bright permanent marker to mark the starting tooth.

If you don’t like to mark the chainsaw or no marker is available you, look for a unique link in the chain.

Step 4: Set the round file in the curve on the front of the flat surface of the chain link

Place the tip of the round file inside the curve on the marked tooth. To maintain the correct shape of the cutting surface, make sure that you hold approximate 20% of the height of the file above the top of the cutting tooth.

Step 5: Use a file holder to hold your file at the same angle the cutter was initially ground

If you use a file guide for sharpening, to find the correct angle for each tooth, check your chainsaw’s manual or look online.

Keep the file in line with the file holder across the bar at an angle needed for your saw and keep the file very very level too.

Part 3: Sharpening the Cutters

Step 1: Move the file smoothly across the face of the cutter

Slide the file through the cutter so that you feel the file grinding against the cutter. You should slide the file only on the forward motion.

Don’t move the file on the backward motion through the cutter while sharpening.

To restore a sharp edge to a tooth that has been lightly worn, two or three strokes should be enough.

  • More strokes may be required if the tooth is heavily worn.
  • Count and remember how many strokes you have applied to sharpen the first tooth so that you can do the process consistently.
  • Generally, the chain features two types of cutter that are facing alternate directions. First, focus on one type of cutter, before sharpening the other type.

Step 2: File every second tooth from the marked tooth

Once you’ve filed one type of tooth, spin the chain to bring the second tooth closer. File every other cutter at the same angle, using the same motion.

Use the same number of the stroke to file the second tooth. You should stay consistent while filing across all the chainsaw cutters.

Step 3: Turn the chainsaw at 180-degree angle

When you are done sharpening one side, to sharpen the teeth for the other side that you’ve skipped sharpening at the first loop around the chain, turn the chainsaw 180-degree and follow the same process.

Step 4: File each tooth that has not been sharpened yet

Sharpen each other tooth using the same motion and stroke to keep every cutter level and consistent.

Step 5: Loosen the chain

Loosen the chain and back to a proper tension by using the adjustment screws. Also, loosen the vise or clamp and take your chainsaw out.

That makes a nice job and your chainsaw is now ready to use.

Instead of using a file to sharpen a chainsaw, you can use a circular electric chainsaw sharpener.

How often does a Chainsaw chain need to be sharpened?

Some people recommend sharping the chainsaw after sawing a certain number of trees. Some others also recommend sharping after 10 uses. Some users say to do it after a certain number of hours of use.

In fact, how often you should sharpen the chain cutting links or pitches depends on several situations.

It’s a thumb rule that you should sharpen it before it becomes blunt and risky to use. Experts recommend sharping it after 40 hours of use. Also, when you hit soil, rock, or cut a hardwood tree, your chain becomes dull easily. So, you should sharp it after each use.

To sum up, you must keep a watchful eye on the sharpness of your chainsaw.

Chainsaw Sharpening Tips and Warning

Don’t wait for the pitch to be totally blunt before you sharpen it. Whenever you notice any sign of wear or bluntness of the cutting edge, take steps to sharp the chain.

  • Make it a practice of regular sharpening your chain. It’ll help you to avoid spending much energy and time sharpening the chain.
  • Check the chain link periodically for worn or damaged. It’ll help you to identify the defects early enough.
  • Worn chains, when operated, may cause injury or even death.
  • It’s advisable that after the chain has been manually sharpened five-times, examine it by a professional to ensure that each tooth is at the correct cutting angle.
  • Correct any variations in chain link that may occur during filing.
  • Leave the chain to cool before you start sharpening it. Also, adjust the chain when it’s cool.
  • Never apply pressure on the file while sharpening.
  • Don’t forget to wear safety goggles and gloves during the sharpening the chain.
  • You should check your chainsaw owner’s manual before deciding on sharpening the unit.


Hope, this guide on how to sharpen a chainsaw with a file and the chainsaw sharpening tricks has been helpful, and you’ll find it hassle-free to sharpen your chain now.


Sharpening your chainsaw regularly is an essential part of your chainsaw maintenance program.

About Sam Maxi

Hi, this is Sam Maxi. I love talking about woodwork tools and my reviews are mostly based on the experience I have from my work. Apart from reviewing, I am a huge fan of surfing. Also, I love watching horror genre movies.

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1 thought on “How to Sharpen a Chainsaw with a File – Specialized Guidelines”

  1. Hi Sam,
    Great post on sharpening a chain. I spend a lot of time sharpening my Stihl chain while I’m slabbing various woods. My current project is a pile of Elm that the neighbor took down. So far I’ve slabbed a couple of hundred board feet into 8/4 boards.

    I’ve never been a big fan of the electric grinders unless I’ve done a job on the cutting edges with dirt or rocks stuck in the bark. Mostly I use a Grandberg G-160B jig with a file. I find that this works well to give my chains a touch up in the field and allow me to continue slabbing without a trip back to the shop.


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