How to sharpen your chain saw

In order for your chainsaw to perform at its best proper maintenance is a must. Aside from maintaining your motor and moving parts you will eventually have to maintain the cutting chain itself.  Proper chain sharpening can be done in a variety of ways depending on your ability, budget, and requirements. We will explore some basic sharpening techniques of both electric and bar mounted sharpeners.

The cheapest and most primitive form of sharpening is by simply filing the individual teeth down by eye. You can probably guess that this technique is not at all precise. You run the risk of filing off too much material and creating an incorrect angled cutting edge. Filing your chain by eye should be a last resort option. For better results try using the techniques of the bar mounted or electric grinder sharpeners bellow for a more precise finish.

Bar Mounted Sharpener

A bar mounted sharpener will do a fantastic job. I will clamp onto the chainsaw bar. Once clamped on you will adjust the dept and the angle according to your chains factory specifications.  This may take some getting used to since setup and fine tuning can differ from jig to jig and manufacturer to manufacturer. Once all is aligned according to depth and angle you will be ready to begin sharpening. Typically a file will be used with a back and forth motion. Teeth will be sharpened one by one. Be careful to verify your filing to ensure you are not distorting a tooth’s shape. You should continuously monitor that your adjustments remain true. 

Timberline Chainsaw Sharpener

Bar Mounted Sharpener

To give you an idea of how bar mounted sharpeners work, here’s a video of the Timberline Chainsaw Sharpener.


Electric Sharpener

Electric sharpeners function by way of a grinding wheel that is lowered down onto the chain itself. These tools are for the more advanced user since factory specific adjustments will be necessary and these adjustments (depending on the sharpener) are not for the faint of heart. Ensure that the sharpener is securely and firmly attached to a workbench.  You will have to remove the chain from the saw. Once the chain has been removed place it on the sharpeners vice, you will then set the sharpening angle according to your desired result. While the grinder is turned off, lower the grinding wheel down into gullet of the cutter without allowing any contact with any other parts of your chain. Once this is achieved you can set the depth stop. Next adjust the length of the cutter so that the cutter just grazes the grinding wheel. Lock in your chain, turn the sharpener on, and gently lower the grinding wheel using several gentle strokes as to not burn the cutter. You will rotate the chain and repeat the grinding exercise.

Oregon 510A Bench Chain Grinder

An Electric Sharpener

Here’s a video showing you how to use an electric sharpener :

These instructions are designed solely to provide you with basic information on how to sharpen your chainsaw using the different options that are out there. You must always consult the instruction manual regardless of how complex it may seem. It’s also a great idea to use YouTube to get tips on how to use your preferred sharpening method as well.

If you don’t know how sharpening a chain actually works, there is a great article on Wikihow.

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