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Chain Sharpening - 101

Over the years, I've tried various gadgets and techniques when sharpening chains.  The best - affordable results that I get are from grinding my own chain.  I've about a dozen chainsaw saws and even more chains, so grinding assembly line (for me) makes good sense.  I will say that if you're planning on fire mitigating, and/ or you cut your own firewood, I highly recommend a chain grinder.  If you're on a budget then follow these basic instructions below (practice makes perfect).  I also posted a chain grinding video - this is the model that I recommend.  Follow the slide-show and written regimen below to learn more about chain sharpening, and preventative maintenance.  For professional chain sharpening services or instruction, please contact me directly.



When should you sharpen your chain?  When your saw fails to cut properly (blowing dust instead of throwing chips).  If your chainsaw's guide bar is smoking during operations STOP!  Operating with a dull chain places added stress on the saw and its operator.  Keeping your chain sharp is crucial for safe and efficient operations.  Good sharpening skills will increase operational tempo.


The quickest and most affordable way to sharpen your chain is hand filing.  You will need to understand and properly execute this maintenance action, in order to keep your sanity.  The basic list of equipment that you'll need to file your chain are: correct size round file (see data on guide bar), file handle, permanent marker (Sharpie®), depth gauge tool and fine- flat file.  Follow the list of instructions for field maintenance - hand filing.

  1. Perform chainsaw guide bar maintenance and ensure proper chain tension (proper guide bar - maintenance intervals will increase your bars life).  Locate the most damaged cutting tooth on your chain.  Mark the tooth with a permanent marker (See Image 2), and begin sharpening the tooth with parallel - flat strokes with the round file (See Image 3).  Begin filing from tip to heel - even strokes at the recommended filing angle (i.e. 30° for Stihl & Husqvarna and 25° for Oregon chain).  Most chains have a factory - filing guide mark (See Image 1).  Count your file strokes and proceed (while rotating your chain), with the same amount of strokes until you reach your marked start tooth.  Your cutter tooth should be flat and sharp (See Image 6).  Rotate saw and file opposite side of chain. 

  2. Every few sharpens will require depth gauge filing.  Rest the depth gauge along the chains cutters until its slot is resting firmly on the depth gauge (See Image 4).  If the depth gauge tooth is higher than the gauge slot, file the tooth flat with your flat file (See Image 5).  You do not need to rotate the saw for this action.  Continue until all depth gauge's are flat filed.  Tip: if your saw grabs or pulls the wood after sharpening, your depth gauge's may be too low.  Conversely, if your is bouncing on the wood, your gauge's may be too high.

  3. Adjust your chain tension properly (See Image 7), and cut a test piece of wood.  Getting the proper file angle will take practice (slow wins the race).  For more information and chain sharpening or my other professional services, please contact me directly.

To learn more about chain grinding, please see video below.

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