Nothing more annoying than trying to cut some timber, but the chainsaw TAKES A LIFETIME to go through.
That’s a clear sign of a dull blade. And apart from not cutting, it could also buck and kick back – making it dangerous.
The solution? Learn how to sharpen a chainsaw.
It’s not a complicated process. And it saves you a lot of TIME, EFFORT, and RISK.
But there are several methods to consider. Below, we go over the simplest and easiest ones:
Is it Time to Sharpen the Chainsaw?
Before you get to the nitty-gritty, learn whether you TRULY need to sharpen the chainsaw.
Why is this important?
Well, imagine sharpening an already sharp knife. Does that sound like a great idea? Probably not.
You’ll be wearing down the knife and wasting time.
The same happens with a chainsaw.
Also, consider other problems the chainsaw may have. This includes loosen chains and stuck blades due to lack of oiling. You won’t like to sharpen when it isn’t helpful.
Have you already checked all those issues? Then you probably need to sharpen.
But first, make the last check.
Here, go and cut a piece of wood (log or stump).
See whether it’s sawdust (thin residues) or chips (large ones). For dust, that’s a clear sign the chain needs sharpening, as the cuts are happening slower due to the chain not having that much edge. If there are chips, then don’t worry.
A final check could be kickback and bucking chainsaws. These are almost always a sign the saw needs some honing.
How to Sharpen a Chainsaw with a File?
The simplest method you’ll find to give some edge to your chainsaw would be the file-guide method.
It’s exactly how it sounds. You use a file guide to clamp the chainsaw and make sure it doesn’t work. Then, you start filing down the chain as needed.
Here are the items you’ll need:
- A file guide (this one from Creative Man is exceptional)
- A round file
- A screwdriver
- A worktable or desk
As you can see, there’s not much you’ll need.
Once you’ve gathered these items, you can proceed with these steps:
- Clamp the Chainsaw Bar
Start by clamping the bar right on the file guide.
Try to be on an already stable surface, preferably a worktable. But a desk or table also works.
If you don’t have a file guide or want to clamp the bar more firmly, add a vise or workshop clamp into the mix. This will keep the chainsaw even more strongly attach so you can file it perfectly.
- Tighten Up the Chain
With the chainsaw clamped, you can proceed to tighten the chain.
This is easy. Most chainsaws come with an adjusting screw close to the blade bottom.
Using a Phillips screwdriver should get the job done. A few seconds until you see the chain clamped fiercely to the bar should be enough.
By the way, this adjusting screw could be anywhere. Check your chainsaw’s manual beforehand.
- Identify the Cutters
These are the tiny edges that cut in the chain. You should identify them with a marker or something.
Make sure you know exactly where you’re starting before you start filing.
The focus is to keep you from sharpening cutters twice unnecessarily. Once you start turning the chain and reach the first cutter, you know it’s finished.
- Grab the File and Prepare
With the cutters identified, you can grab the round file and proceed to check HOW you’re going to sharpen.
Here, we recommend using a file with a diameter of the same or slightly bigger size than the cutters. If you pick a file too large or too small, the sharpening will be uncomfortable.
- Start Filing the Cutters
Before you start, check the chainsaw’s manual. It should tell you WHICH angle and direction you should file. Proceed accordingly.
Generally, you’ll have to move the file back and forth in the face of each cutter at a 30 or 20-degree angle. In rare cases, you will also need to file the top of the cutters.
- Keep Sharpening
Sharpening each cutter should take between 10 and 60 seconds. We recommend taking the time to make sure they all look and feel sharp before proceeding with the next.
As a general rule, file each cuter at least 10 times. That means sliding the file back and forth in the edges until the sharpness appears.
- Rotate the Chain
Now you need to loosen up the bar a bit and rotate it.
Ensure to cover every single tooth from the chain as you start sharpening the rest of the piece.
Be aware that some chains have cutters pointing to different sides. If you want to sharpen everything well, you should be mindful of these angles.
- Finish the Sharpening
To finish, recheck every cutter and make sure they all have a sharp edge.
Resharpen if necessary and finish up.
You can now get the clamp or file guide off.
Go and test the chainsaw now. It should cut right off any log
How To Sharpen A Chainsaw With Dremel Tool?
While it could feel a bit problematic to be considered a “simple” sharpening method, it actually is.
Of course, you’ll need several items for that to happen, which is probably a bit too much. But if you are willing to spend a bit of money and time sharpening your chainsaw (out of necessity), this is worth a try.
Here are the tools you should get:
- A Dremel tool (we recommend the Dremel 4300 with complete kit)
- A Dremel accessory kit for sharpening
- A file guide
You may think these are way too many items for a simple chain-sharpening job. But that many tools help to get the job done much faster (no more than 10 minutes).
- Set Up the Dremel
Start by making sure the Dremel is totally operative and with all the necessary accessories attached.
Hooking up the accessories shouldn’t be much work. In case of doubts, always go back to the user’s manual. Most accessory kits should tell you how to use them.
By the way, you may need to check the Dremel tool table for accessories. It must tell you which sharpening bit you should go for (depending on your chainsaw).
- Clamp the Chainsaw Bar
With the Dremel ready, you should proceed to secure the chainsaw.
Once again, use the file guide to secure it. A clamp or vise should also help.
Remember to work on a stable surface like a worktable or desk for everything to go smoothly.
- Start Sharpening
Now you can use a marker or something to select the cutter you want to sharpen first.
Turn the Dremel on and start sharpening.
It’s crucial to find out which angle and part of the cutters to sharpen. For that, follow the chainsaw’s instructions. Otherwise, follow the general rule (20 to 30 degrees angles and focus on the front of each cutter).
- Don’t Sharpen too Much.
While sharpening by hand is generally safe, doing so with a Dremel could cause problems. The main issue would be sharpening the cutters too much and wearing them down.
You should not leave the sharpening bit turned on for more than 10 seconds in the cutter to prevent that. That means, stay below 10 seconds as the Dremel sharpens the chain.
- Turn the Chainsaw Chain
Now keep moving the chain and keep sharpening the cutters. Remember to follow the same pattern, so every cutter gets the ideal amount of edge.
Once you reach the initial cutter, it’s time to finish.
Check that all the cutters look and feel sharp. Then test the chainsaw. Make sure it cuts right through wood as it should.
If not, resharpen as necessary.
How to Sharpen a Chainsaw with Electric Grinder?
If you’re willing to go the extra mile, an electric grinder would be the perfect tool to sharpen a chainsaw.
We recommend this to professionals who use chainsaws almost every day and don’t want to waste time with old-time filing methods
Here’s what you’ll need:
- A quality chainsaw grinder (like this Oregon chain grinder which reeks of quality)
- The chainsaw
The process is as straightforward as you may guess, given the grinder is a piece of cake to use.
What sets it apart is that you can use it almost like you would a miter saw, making it extra practical in many ways.
Without much further ado, here’s how to use it:
- Prepare the Sharpener
The grinder is not a preparation-free tool. You’ll need to check whether it has the grinding wheel mounted and tightened.
Get familiar with the grinder before using it. As always, read the owner’s manual before getting it to work.
Make sure to know at least the BASICS before setting up the chain to sharpen.
Then, proceed to clamp the sharpener to your worktable (or any other similar stable surface).
- Set up the Chain
In contrast with the other methods, this one requires you to remove the chain off the chainsaw.
This is done by loosening it entirely from the bar and slowly taking it out. Be aware that this method may differ depending on the chainsaw you have, so be careful.
Once it’s off the chainsaw, you can secure it into the grinder’s clamp. It should fit right in (primarily if your chainsaw uses an Oregon chain).
- Adjust The Grinder
Now proceed to place the grinder’s wheel to the right angle. Generally, it should operate at about 35 degrees, but this may differ if you have a different grinder (not Oregon).
Also, you should get the wheel closer to the chain so the sharpening can start. This is done by squeezing the trigger and lowering the blade using the handle above.
Remember to go back to the manual if you feel stuck.
- Start Sharpening
Once you achieve the position where the grinding wheel is close to the chain, you can turn the grinder on.
It should take no more than 5 seconds to sharpen each cutter. As you finish, start moving the chain to sharpen the other cutters as needed.
You may need to release the clamp that holds the chain for that. Thus, you will also need to turn the grinder off when adjusting. Then, just keep grinding.
- Don’t Sharpen Much
Like with a Dremel, you should be aware of not sharpening way too much to wear down the cutters.
The best way to avoid that is to stay within 5 seconds and not to sharpen the same cutter twice.
Consider marking the cutters you’re sharpening as you go so you know which ones you’ve already sharpened.
You should be done in 10 minutes. Once you get accustomed, 5 minutes should be enough to sharpen any chainsaw with this method.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Q1. Why does a chainsaw blade get dull?
There are many reasons a chainsaw blade gets blunt. The main one would be wearing. Metal parts with an edge tend to wear down over time as they’re being used. But there are a few additional aspects to consider which could tell you WHY the chainsaw is dulling out so quickly:
- The bar is bent, so the cutters wear out differently
- Dirt and sand can also cause cutters to dull out fast
- Dirty wood tends to put extra friction, which causes faster wearing
- Cutting more than wood (plastics or similar materials) may also cause cutters to wear out too quickly
But as you know, it’s normal. In case you aren’t experiencing any of these things, you’re likely looking to a dull chainsaw from mere use.
Q1. Does wet wood dull the blade faster?
There shouldn’t be any difference between cutting dry or wet wood. In fact, many types of wood are somewhat wet naturally, so chainsaws are designed to withstand that.
Q2. How many times should you sharpen a chainsaw?
Most chainsaws have sturdy blades that withstand up to 10 sharpening jobs. More than that would likely wear the chain down to the point of becoming a nuisance. Also, the amount of time you’re saving is not worth it, so it’s better to buy a new chain by then.
Q3. How much to sharpen a chainsaw?
Sharpening your chainsaw with an expert can cost you anywhere from $10 to $20. This depends on the quality of the sharpening, the speed, and obviously, the tools used.
Q4. How often to sharpen a chainsaw?
You should sharpen your chainsaw whenever the blade is not cutting as it used to. If you’re using the chainsaw daily, this could be anywhere from every time you refuel to once a month.
But for occasional use, we recommend filing down the cutters every 5 uses or so. But of course, sharpening when the edges dull out is always the best advice.
Get that Chainsaw Some Edge NOW!
Was that a great guide or what?
You should be well-aware of how to sharpen a chainsaw, whether you’re a beginner or not.
So, what are you waiting to get that chainsaw working again? START GRINDING!