How to Sharpen a Chainsaw

Use a chainsaw sharpening kit to keep your chainsaw in peak condition

1-2 hours
Sharpen a Chainsaw

Over time, the cutting blades of your chainsaw will dull, making cutting wood more difficult and it will cause your saw to work harder. If your saw is jumping and chattering while cutting, or it creates saw dust rather than chips, it needs to be sharpened.

The easiest and best way to sharpen a chainsaw is with a kit, which contains everything you need in one place. This guide will walk you through the steps of sharpening your chainsaw using a kit, as well as teach you how to replace the chain once it’s become too worn to sharpen.

What You Need

Secure the chainsaw

• Start by securing the saw in a vice to stabilize it.
• Engage the chain brake by pressing the front hand guard forward.

Safety: Double-check that the chainsaw is secure and the chain brake is engaged before sharpening.

Sharpen one side of the chain

• Position the kit’s file depth gauge on the chain with the arrows pointed toward the nose of the guide bar.
• File every other cutting blade holding a rounded file at a ninety-degree angle to the chainsaw rollers.
• Use smooth, even, forward strokes as you do.
• Release the chain brake to advance the chain as needed and re-engage it when the chain has been repositioned.

Safety: Always wear heavy duty gloves when sharpening the chain to prevent injury.

Sharpen other side

When done on one side, turn the saw around and sharpen the remaining cutting blades the same way.

Sharpen the chainsaw depth gauges

• Every third time you sharpen the cutting blades on the chain, you should also sharpen the depth gauges. These gauges control how deeply the saw cuts.
• Place your file gauge over the chainsaw depth gauge and select “hard” (for hard woods like oak) or “soft” (for soft woods like pine,) depending on the types of wood you typically cut.
• File the depth gauges with the kit’s flat file using the same stroke you used when sharpening the cutting blades.
• File the depth gauge until the file comes in contact with the file gauge.
• As before, file every other depth gauge then turn the saw in the other direction and repeat.

How to replace a chainsaw chain

You can only file a chain so many times before the cutting blades wear down. If the cutting blades become too small to file, the chain will need to be replaced with a matching one.

• Release the chain brake and remove the nuts or screws holding the guide bar plate on the side of the saw.
• With the plate removed, slide the bar forward to release it from the tensioner. This will create slack in the chain and allow you to easily remove it.
• There’s a tension screw on the inside edge of the guide bar – loosen this screw a bit to make installing the new chain easier.
• Thread the new matching chain onto the chainsaw’s clutch drum, making sure the drive links engage with the sprocket.
• Check that the chainsaw chain direction matches what you just removed.
• Carefully thread the remainder of the chain onto the bar and around the nose.
• Pull the guide bar away from the chainsaw to create some tension in the chain and replace the plate.
• Don’t tighten the nuts or screws all the way yet as the bar will need to be allowed to move a little as the chain is adjusted to the correct tension.
• Tighten the tension screw until the chain can be lifted about a half-inch off the bar in the middle, then tighten the guide bar plate.

Tip: To make the chain removal process easier, most saws come with a screwdriver/wrench combo tool, sometimes called a “scrench.”