How To Sharpen A Chainsaw Chain By Hand

If you use a chainsaw regularly, it's important to know how to sharpen a chainsaw chain by hand. A sharp chainsaw chain will do all the work for you. A dull chainsaw chain will not cut straight and will just create more work. A sharp chainsaw chain is much safer as well; it's less likely to kick back on you when hitting knots. A sharp chainsaw chain will easily pull large shavings from the wood while a dull chain will spit out a lot of saw dust.

To sharpen a chainsaw chain by hand, you will need:

  • A bench or stump clamp
  • A sharpening guide
  • A 5/32" or 3/16" round file
  • Safety glasses
  • Gloves 
  1. Wear your safety glasses and gloves to protect yourself . Metal shavings in your fingers or eyes can cause catastrophic medical issues. Keep safety in mind at all times when you handle a chainsaw, whether sharpening the chain or changing it.
  2. The blades, or teeth, of a chainsaw chain cut the wood, and alternate on each side of the chain. They look similar to a number seven in shape. First, glance at each blade to ensure it's not chipped badly or broken. If you find bad blades, scrap it and replace it with a new chain.
  3. Lock down the chainsaw with a clamp to hold it while sharpening. This is an important step as the accuracy of the angles is a key element to properly sharpening the chain. A saw that moves around will not be sharp and could easily be dangerous to use.
  4. Attach the sharpening guide to the bar. Chainsaw bars are designed with set holes to attach a guide. If you have a 3/8" or 1/4" pitch on the blades, then use the 5/32" round file. If the pitch is 0.325" then use a 3/16" round file. Insert the file into the guide.
  5. The file only cuts and sharpens on the forward stroke. Apply pressure pushing and release pressure when pulling back. Sharpen the blades on the left or right first, then go to the other side. The sides alternate and it's important to set the guide for one side first.
  6. You should be able to sharpen the chain several times before it just simply needs replacing. The frequency of use will determine how often you will need to sharpen the chainsaw chain and when you will need to replace it. Again, the chainsaw, when properly sharpened, will do all the work.
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