How to Sharpen a Chainsaw Chain

How to Sharpen a Chainsaw

Chainsaw chain

Cutting trees, limbs, and pruning is so much easier to do with the best chainsaw available.

The saw blade will dull over time. It’s best to sharpen it a bit each time you use it.

Don’t depend on saw dust to tell you when it’s time because that’s a myth. Using the precise tools will have your saw blade teeth back in working order.

Chainsaw Terms:

Bucking: Process of cutting a felled tree or log into lengths.

Felling: Process of cutting down a tree.

Limbing: Process of cutting limb(s) from a felled tree.

Front Handle: Located at front of saw body.

Front Hand Guard: Shield between front handle and guide bar. Protects left hand while using saw when right-handed.

Guide Bar: Metal bar that extends from saw body. The guide bar supports and guides the chain.

Guide Bar Nose: Tip or end of guide bar.Guide bar tip

Rakers: Control how deep a cut each tooth can take and having them properly set is important.

Rotational Kickback: Quick backward and upward motion of guide bar. Kickback might occur when tip of guide bar touches an object while chain is moving. The guide bar will kick up and back towards the operator.

Linear Kickback: Happens when the wood on either side of a cut closes in and pinches the moving saw chain along the top of the guide bar. This can cause the chain to stop instantly. The force of the chain is then reversed causing the saw to move in the opposite direction sending the saw straight back towards the operator.

Linear Kickback

Get yourself a chainsaw file guide so that you don’t use a free file system where you lose the angle of the tooth.

Chainsaw Sharpening

Three Chainsaw Sharpening Myths video.

1. Set the File

For chainsaws without an automatic sharpener, use a vise or clamp for a tabletop to hold the chainsaw in place. You will get a more consistent sharp this way without the saw shifting. You can also turn the saw upside down. If you don’t have a vice or table clamp like me, be sure to hold the chainsaw steady as you file away. I’m a girl and have my electric chainsaw in tip-top shape at all times.

2. Saw Chain Tension Adjustment Technique

If your chainsaw is electric-powered, unplug it. If yours is battery-powered, remove the battery. If it’s gas-powered, remove the gasoline.

  • Loosen guide bar nuts until they are finger-tight. Be sure that the adjusting block is in the possibly oval adjusting hole of the guide bar.
  • Turn adjusting screw clockwise while lifting up on the tip of the guide bar until all slack is out of the chain.
  • Wear gloves and move the chain around the guide bar. The chain should move freely, and if it doesn’t, loosen the chain by turning the adjusting screw counterclockwise.
  • You want to tighten the chain tension so that the chain is taut but does not wobble.
  • Use the correct diameter file that will be stated in your User’s Manual for the brand of chainsaw you bought. Chainsaw file sizes for the chain are 3/16-inch (4.8 mm), 5/32-inch (4.0 mm), and 7/32-inch (5.6 mm) in diameter.
  • With a permanent marker, nail polish, or paint, mark the first tooth you start sharpening. You want to keep track of where you start so you don’t sharpen that tooth twice.
  • File the saw chain at the midpoint of the guide bar.
  • Keep the file level with the top plate not letting it dip or rock and use light but firm pressure.
  • File toward the front corner of the cutter lifting the file away from the cutter at the end of the forward stroke. Only file on the forward stroke.

Never pull the file backward through the cutter; this will damage both your file and the cutter.

  • Use a depth gauge tool to measure the depth gauge clearance known as rakers. This tool is not usually included with a chainsaw.
  • Use a wire brush to move the filings away.
  • Check your Owner’s Manual for the correct angle to file each cutter. You can find the manual online if you’ve lost yours. Some chainsaws will show the lines etched at the top of each cutter to guide your file at the right angle. Some chainsaws will use this angle, but be sure you know the angle before you start to file.

Chainsaw Chain

  • After chain tension is right, tighten the guide bar nuts firmly.

3. Fill the Oil Tank

Remove the oil cap. Use SAE 30 motor oil. If your temperature goes below 32-degrees F., use SAE 10. For temperatures above 75-degrees F., use SAE 40 motor oil.

Replace the oil cap immediately and tighten firmly for a good seal. This will keep the oil from leaking from the tank. Laying the chainsaw on its side will stop seepage as well.

Turn it on and start cutting.

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