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How to Sharpen a Chainsaw

A man saws a tree stump with chainsaw.

It may seem counterintuitive, but a dull chainsaw can be very dangerous to use. If it’s not sharp enough, the chain is more likely to catch in the material it’s trying to cut, sending the bar hurtling off-target, potentially endangering the user or those around them.

Many opt to replace a dull chain, but there’s a second option to consider: sharpening the chain’s teeth to extend the life of this useful yard tool.

If you go this route, you’ll need to know how to sharpen a chainsaw blade. Here are the steps to follow.

Step 1: Select a Round File Sized to Fit Your Chainsaw

Chainsaws are sharpened with special round files, which come in different sizes. Check your owner’s manual or research your chainsaw online to find the right file size for your chainsaw. You’ll also need a file handle and guide sized to fit your file. Sometimes these are sold together in one set.

Step 2: Disconnect the Power Source

For safety purposes, your chainsaw shouldn’t have access to power while it’s being sharpened. Disconnect the saw’s spark plug, electric cord or battery before you begin.

Now is a good time to check if the teeth contain dirt or debris. This residue could hinder the sharpening process, so use a wire brush to get rid of it before going further.

Step 3: Set Up Your File, File Handle and Guide

You’ll need to attach your file to a file handle and guide. The guide will help you drag the file along the links at the correct depth and will indicate the best angle at which to grind to put the ideal edge on the teeth. Follow the product instructions for assembly.

Step 4: Tighten the Chain

Your chainsaw has a screw that’s used to adjust the tension of the chain. It’s usually oriented perpendicular to the chain’s movement direction. Use a screwdriver to tighten this screw and prevent the chain from moving around while it’s being sharpened.

Step 5: Secure the Chainsaw for Sharpening

You’ll need to make sure the chainsaw’s bar is held firmly in place while the chain is being sharpened. Use a vise or a tabletop clamp to lock the saw into position on your work surface.

Step 6: Mark the First Tooth

Your saw’s chain has teeth that handle the job of cutting, and you’re going to sharpen them one by one. Mark each tooth as it’s being sharpened to avoid sharpening the same tooth twice. You can use a marker or a lumber crayon to do so, and the marks you make will disappear with time as the chainsaw is used.

Step 7: Don Heavy-Duty Work Gloves and Safety Goggles

Work gloves and safety goggles will protect you from injury as you’re sharpening the saw. Even a seemingly dull chain can catch you off guard and have you running for the first aid kit.

Step 8: Sharpen the TeethLearning how to sharpen a chainsaw allows you to keep your saw working in a way that's safe and effective.

To file, hold the file parallel to the ground, forming a T shape with the cross-section of the bar. Sharpen the teeth at a 30-degree bevel — the guide should have a line indicating the angle at which you should grind. File every other tooth from your current position, as teeth are angled to the left and right in an alternating fashion. When you’re finished, reverse the saw in the vise or clamp to file the remaining teeth. You’ll know the tooth is properly sharpened when there’s a burr that can be seen or felt with your fingernails.

The chainsaw is a valuable lawn care tool, and now that yours is as sharp as new, it’s ready for action once again. Just be sure to always wear protective gear such as safety goggles and work gloves to avoid injury when you’re using your chainsaw. Happy sawing!

Check out all the tools and equipment available on NAPA Online, or trust one of our 17,000 NAPA AutoCare locations for routine maintenance and repairs. For more information on chainsaws, chat with a knowledgeable expert at your local NAPA AUTO PARTS store.

Photo courtesy of Pexels.


Warren Clarke View All

I'm a writer and editor who's a regular contributor with the New York Daily News and Carfax, and my content has appeared in over 20 publications. I've written content that covers industries such as automotive, medical, insurance, healthcare, real estate, plumbing, pest control, dental and hospitality.

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