How to Sharpen a Chainsaw with a File in 2022? A Guide

Hey handyman! Why is your handy so slow? Didn’t you try sharpening methods to boost your chainsaw functionality?

Hearing this from your co-workers or neighbors, you know it’s time to do critical work. Using a chainsaw with reduced power could only lead you to apply more effort.

While it should be the opposite, right? Imagine putting your machine on the tree, and it cuts like butter. Okay, wake up, wake up…..

We know it was comforting, but now it’s time to gather your tools to get to work. In this article, we’ll lead you to know how to sharpen a chainsaw with a file in 2022.

But before going into the sharpening process, let’s take a quick test if your handy needs sharpening.

Checking the Chainsaw for Sharpening

You can test if the chainsaw requires sharpening or not by cutting waste. If the waste material is dust rather than chips, your chainsaw is taking its last breath. Jokes apart.

The dust waste clearly indicates danger. You might know that a dull machine operates differently and propels toward the worker, which can be life-threatening.

Therefore, if your chainsaw is doing something similar, get your hands on the machine and collect the following things.

Things You Need to Sharpen Your Chainsaw

Place all the below-mentioned materials on the table before starting the sharpening process.

  • Flat File (standard)
  • File Holder/Guide (to hold the file during sharpening of each cutter side)
  • Round File (similar to your chainsaw cutter, either 7 by 32, 5 by 32, or 3 by 16 inches)
  • Wrench/Screwdriver (to tighten the chain)
  • Depth Gauge Guide (for repositioning the cutter depths)
  • Gloves (for safety purposes)

Now let’s move to the actual working part.

How to Sharpen Chainsaw by Hand with a File

Sharpening a chainsaw with a file doesn’t seem difficult but requires more time. However, if your chainsaw gets in contact with rocks and other hard objects, you probably need to consult a professional for its sharpening.

How to Sharpen Chainsaw Chain with a File: Easy Steps to Power Your Chainsaw

While explaining every step to sharpen your chainsaw, we’ll also discuss tips to sharpen the chainsaw with a file. So, shall we start sharpening?

Step 1: Set-up before Sharpening

Wear your gloves and start sharpening by clamping the chain bar in the respective vice. Afterward, using a guide in between chain rivets, to hold your chain. Then identify the angle to proceed with sharpening.

Tip:  Use a guide/ holder that prevents you from reaching the deep cutter areas.

Step 2: Identify the Right Angle

You can identify the exact angle by fixing the round file in the file holder. Check between 30° to 35° angles to find the exact angle degree.

Tip: Compare the saw’s cutter horizontally and vertically to find the right angle concerning the bar quickly.

Step 3: Sharpening the Cutter

To actually start filing, make a cut in the log about two to three inches and place the chainsaw over it. Now put both file and holder on the cutter top—Mark the starting point to remember where you’ll end the sharpening. Now maintain a 30° to 35° angle and give only five to six strokes over each cutting edge.

Tip: Always stroke away from you, and if the cutter gives you a burr feel, it’s more likely because the chainsaw is sharp now.

Step 4: Considering File Guide

Thoroughly assess the file gap within the cutter, keep moving the cuts and file, respectively.

Tip: Off the chain brake for every section to see more cuts within the chain for sharpening.

Step 5: Finalizing the Sharpening Practice

After repeated releasing of the chain brake and filing of cuts, change the chainsaw side. And repeat the whole procedure for the opposite side.

Tip: Use a depth gauge guide to find the depth gauge height. If any gauge reaches above the standard height, file them using a flat file.

Chainsaw Sharpening Mistakes

It’s common doing wrong things, but to help you avoid all the mistakes, we have gathered a list of chainsaw sharpening tricks and mistakes.

  1. Wrong-sized File: Using a file that is either small or large compared to the cutter leads to poor sharpening of the chainsaw.
  2. Worn out File: If the file is dull, it causes skates as you exert pressure. Thus, keep rotating the file every day or two to prevent the file from wear and tear.
  3. No Saw Support: When cutting the log, poor support or bracing leads to the chainsaw’s reduced functionality. Thus, maintain an equal number of strokes with uniform pressure on each cutting edge.
  4. No Depth Gauge Filing: Only filing the upper edges of the chainsaw produces reduced chips. Thus, lower the depth gauge during the filing process to thoroughly sharpen the chain.

Your Frequently Asked Questions

How do I know what size file to use to sharpen a chainsaw?

The file size for sharpening a chainsaw depends on its chain pitch. Therefore, if your chainsaw cutting pitch is larger (meaning a higher cutting edge), the file size will also be larger. For instance, for a 5/32 or 7/32 chain pitch, the file size will be 5/32, and so on.

What is an LP chainsaw chain, and should I use it?

Handyman uses an LP (low profile) chainsaw chain against the small cutters on the traditional chainsaw to get shallow cuts. Consequently, LP chains have reduced weight compared to fitted chainsaw chains and are suitable for electric and low-horsepower saws. If you think it might fit your need, you can opt for it.

What angle should a chainsaw chain be sharpened at?

Usually, the handyman believes in setting the file at a right angle to the rail while sharpening. However, the exact and secure angle for chainsaw sharpening depends on the chainsaw chain and the wood you cut. Therefore, a general estimated angle range is 25° to 35° (the more hardwood you cut, the more angle will increase).

How do I get the sharpest chainsaw chain?

You can manually and professionally sharpen your chainsaw chains. If your chainsaw takes years to cut a single log, you can try sharpening your chainsaw with a file. Otherwise, seek professional help for better and sharpest results.

Final Words

Hopefully, you have got a hand full of information on how to sharpen a chainsaw with a file. Try the above-mentioned sharpening process to make your machine a real ‘handy.’

However, if you still have queries, you can write them in the comment section below. And our team will help you solve your problems.


Richard McMann

Richard lives out in the wild with his other half, Diana Richard. He tests chainsaws based on his personal experience and loves to share their nitty gritty details with his audience. Although Richard does focus on other home improvement tools, his focus remains on cutting fallen trees or maintaining his backyard via chainsaw tools. He pledges to come up with new knowledge about chainsaws every once in a while.