Why should you learn how to sharpen a chainsaw?
If you use a chainsaw on a regular basis then you know that the sharpness of your chain makes a big difference on the speed and effectiveness on how your chainsaw cuts through wood. A dull chain wastes time because it requires more effort from you and greatly increases the time it takes to cut through wood.
More importantly, a dull chain increases the likelihood of injuring yourself because the chain is more likely to stick or get caught up in the wood, causing jerky behavior and an increase in the risk of kickback. In other words you want to avoid cutting with a dull chain at all times. Safety first!
A dull chain puts more stress and strain on the engine, bar, sprocket and you, the operator. More importantly, a dull chain is a safety risk as it increases the likelihood of the chain binding on the log thus increasing the chance of a broken chain. Taking the time to learn how to sharpen your chain is a good investment and will save you time and money, as well as make it safer for you to operate your chainsaw.
If you’re looking to learn more about chainsaws then I suggest you start with these links to get you started:
- How to Buy a Chainsaw
- Chainsaw Links: Manufacturers, parts, manuals, models & dealers.
- Electric Chainsaw Guide
- Battery Operated Chainsaws
- Cheap Chainsaws for Homeowners
- Best Chainsaw for the Money
- Gas Powered Chainsaws
How do you know when it’s time to sharpen your chain?
A dull chain creates hot dust. A sharp chain will make large wood chips. When your chainsaw spewing sawdust and you find yourself applying extra force to push down of the saw in order to cut then you know it’s time to sharpen your chain. But, rather than wait until your chain is dull I recommend you do maintenance sharpening every time you fill up you fill your tank with gas. Remember, this is for maintenance so I suggest 2 or 3 strokes with the round file to ensure you’re always cutting with a sharp blade. If you see hot dust coming from your chainsaw you’ve waited too long.
What’s the best method to sharpen a chainsaw?
We’ll get into the step-by-step methods to sharpen your chain but let’s go over the different ways to sharpen your chain. In short, your can sharpen your chain either manually or with a powered system. As far as motorized systems go, there are a variety of devices that fit into the ‘powered’ category, including: 12V portable system that runs off your vehicle, battery powered or one that plugs into a wall.
The powered sharpeners can be as simple as a handheld tool with a cylindrical sharpening stone and as elaborate as a bench mounted system. As with all tools there is a diverse variety within each category so before we get into the nuts and bolts of this guide let me give you my recommendations for sharpening tools and then I’ll walk you through how to sharpen a chainsaw.
Before I continue, if you’re a casual user of chainsaws it’s not essential that you learn how to sharpen a chainsaw. You can take it into a shop and have someone sharpen it for you at around 25 cents per tooth, or if you can afford it, you can just continue to buy new chains — which is wasteful, but to each their own. I will add that if you use a chainsaw on a regular basis then it’s essential you learn how to sharpen your chainsaw but before I explain to you the steps on how to sharpen a chainsaw, I think it’s important to give you my recommendations for the various powered and manual chainsaw sharpeners so you can compare the options available to you and to determine which route is best for you.
As with many things, there are some people love to do things manually and others much prefer an automated way to do things. It just depends on who you are and how you like to spend your time. Personally, in a case such as this, I prefer to know my options as I’m learning to help me contextualize the process and ultimately make a decision that makes the most sense to me.
In the end, you may decide that sharpening your own chainsaw is a waste of your time and you’d rather pay someone else to sharpen it for you. Or, you’ll recruit someone in your family to do it. Or, you’ll just stock up on chains and just toss them out when they’re dull (or donate them). Either way, you have to decide what works best for you. Unfortunately, most people think that sharpening their own chainsaw is too complicated, so if nothing else, I hope to show you that anybody can sharpen their own chainsaw — if they want to.
Let’s start by looking at a few good quality powered and manual chainsaw sharpeners that I can confidently recommend.
The Buffalo Tools ECSS chainsaw sharpener is perfect for the average homeowner who doesn’t want to spend a lot of money on a chain sharpening system but wants an efficient and effective sharpener to get the job done. This isn’t the most durable sharpener you can buy, but if you treat it with care and don’t abuse it, you’ll find it money well spent. It costs less than $50 so it won’t break your bank account.
I would suggest that if you plan on sharpening a lot of chains you should spend the extra money and buy the OREGON 511AX Bench Chain Grinder, which happens to be next on my list.
- Keep your chain in top condition and save money by sharpening your own saw.
- Mounts to bench, wall or vise for easy access and stability.
- 4200 RPM grinding speed, 60 Hz, 85 watts.
- Plugs into a standard 12-Volt wall outlet.
- Uses a 4-1/4 in. x 1/8 in. grinding wheel with 7/8 in. arbor.
The OREGON 511AX is built-to-last with high quality materials that will endure the test of time and usage. Built for high- volume sharpening so if you’re just a casual user of chainsaws this would be overkill for you, so buy one of the less expensive sharpeners on this list. But if you spend a lot of time cutting with a chainsaw then this is an excellent choice and worthwhile long term investment. This isn’t cheap at over $300 but it is a professional grade sharpener which means you’re getting a high-quality machine for your money.
Here’s a video from OREGON on how to setup and use the 511AX:
You can even go one step up and buy and even higher-quality sharpener: Oregon 551462 Hydraulic Assist Chain Grinder. So what’s so special about this model? Well, it has a built-in hydraulic assist that closes the chain vise automatically each time the motor and wheel are lowered, which eliminates manual locking and unlocking of the vise. This is one of the best chainsaw sharpeners you can buy and well-suited for high-volume sharpening for a professional.
The manual for both of these sharpeners are lousy so you might experience frustration when assembling it for the first time. I don’t understand why companies don’t spend the extra money to create easy to understand manuals for their customers.
Read the manual for the OREGON 511AX so you can see for yourself.
If you want to learn more about the Oregon 551462 Hydraulic Assist Chain Grinder, watch this video:
Features (OREGON 511AX):
- Sharpens 1/4″, .325″, 3/8″, 1/2″, and 3/4″ pitch chains.
- Comes with three grinding wheel with the thickness of 1/4″, 1/8″, and 3/16″
- Includes a wheel-dressing brick and a template for: depth-gauge setting, and wheel contour
- Template for: pitch, depth gauge setting and wheel contour.
- Easy-to-use controls. Comes with a built-in light.
The Timber Tuff-CS- BWM is a good power chain sharpener that’s fits somewhere between the Buffalo Tools ECSS and the OREGON 511AX, in terms of quality and price. This is a quality sharpener with a convenient built-in light, a powerful motor, quiet, and overall very well balanced with no noticeable vibration. As with the other chainsaw sharpeners on this list it also has a terrible instruction manual so expect to spend a little extra time setting it up correctly.
Not as good as the OREGON models but a nice compromise that won’t break the bank.
- Motor: 110 V/60 Hz.
- Maximum speed: 3600 rpm.
- Thermo overload protection.
- Built-in 15W light.
- Three grinding wheels: 1/8″ : 3/16″ : 1/4″
- Noise level: 70 db
The Timber Tuff CS-12V is an ultra-portable chainsaw sharpener that you can take anywhere you go. It’s designed to run off your vehicle’s battery so it’s perfect when you’re out in the field away from home. Or, if you have a farm you can use your tractor’s battery.
It’s a highly effective tool that will save you a lot of time and money. It’s very inexpensive and a great option for anyone who uses a chainsaw on a regular basis. It comes with three stones (5/32″, 3/16″, 7/32″) but they won’t last you very long so I highly recommend you purchase the diamond burrs as they will last much longer and will save you time later when the included stones are worn out.
- Anytime Tools 3/16″ Diamond Chainsaw Sharpener
- Anytime Tools 5/32″ Diamond Chainsaw Sharpener
- Anytime Tools 7/32″ Diamond Chainsaw Sharpener
- 12V motor
- Maximum speed: 20000±1000 RPM
- PC Material Cover: High impact polypropylene: 20°/25°/30° angle guide
- Includes: 3 Grinding stones sizes: 3/16″, 5/32″, 7/32″
The Dremel A679-02 Sharpening Kit was designed to keep your tools around the home sharp for effective cutting 365 days of the year. This product contains three tools, and they are as follows: lawn mower sharpener, garden tool sharpener for tools such as shovels, shears, hoes and axes enabling you to cut with greater efficiency, and the Dremel chainsaw sharpener which ensures your chains are as sharp as new.
In order to use this sharpening kit you need a rotary tool to attach the different components to. Or, you can buy a complete kit like the Dremel 7700-1/15 MultiPro.
How to sharpen a chainsaw? There are many ways to do so. This Dremel kit is a nice little package that’s easy to use and carry with you wherever you go.Get ready because the next sharpening system on our list is very impressive. Read on to learn about how to sharpen a chainsaw with the OREGON PowerSharp system.
- Lawn mower guide enables the best sharpening angle for a wide variety of lawn mower blades.
- Built to sharpen dull chainsaw blades with ease.
- Capable of sharpening tools such as shears, hoes, and shovels.
- Fits seamlessly on to your rotary tool in place of the tool’s housing cap.
If you haven’t heard about the OREGON PowerSharp sharpening system then you’re in for a real treat. This is a fantastic product that comprises of three parts: the chain, bar and the bar-mount sharpener.
The starter kit includes all three components. The beauty of the PowerSharp system is in how easy it is to sharpen your chain. Just fit the chainsaw into the bar mount sharpener, lock it in place, lightly push the spring-loaded sharpener foot against a solid object for 3 to 5 seconds and that’s it. After that you’ll have a precision sharp chain.You’ll wonder why you ever wasted time and energy on a dull chainsaw.
I should also mention that you only buy the bar and sharpener once, and after that you can just replace the PowerSharp chain: 14-inch, 16-inch or 18-inch. As you can see in the images, inside the bar-mount sharpener is a cutting stone that the chain comes in contact with. It’s an ingenious system. Highly effective and efficient. Saving you lots of time and drastically the effort you put into sharpening.
The PowerSharp StarterKit has everything you need, including: PowerSharp chain, bar-mount sharpener, sharpening stone, and the PowerSharp guide bar.
- Oregon PowerSharp Starter Kit: 14″
- Oregon PowerSharp Starter Kit: 16″
- Oregon PowerSharp Starter Kit: 18″
If you want to learn more about the PowerSharp system straight from the manufacturer go to their website: OREGON PowerSharp
How to sharpen a Chainsaw — The OREGON way
- Bar-mount sharpener is small, lightweight, and portable. Clamps easily to bar tip.
- PowerSharp guide bar has the alignment and latch pin holes required for use with the bar-mount sharpener.
- Top-sharpening cutter design that can be sharpened in seconds using the bar-mount sharpener.
- Low-kickback chain.
This is a standard kit from OREGON for hand sharpening chainsaw chains. This kit contains everything you need to maintain your chain. Many chainsaw owners actually love to manually sharpen their chain. This kit gives operators total control over the sharpness of their chain, with the right tools to ensure sharpening along the correct angle. It’s an inexpensive product requiring more time to use than a power sharpener but for people who love to get their hands dirty this is a fantastic product dedicated to chain sharpening from OREGON.
Here’s a quick overview on the uses of each tool:
- Round file is dedicated to sharpening the curved section of each cutting tooth.
- Flat file is applied to sharpening depth gauges.
- Filing guide ensures the round file sharpens at the correct angles.
- Depth gauge sets the height of the depth gauge that you will file.
Make sure you choose the correct kit to match your chain:
- 38277 Chain sharpening kit: 3/16″
- 38278 Chain sharpening kit: 4.5 mm
- 38276 Chain sharpening kit: 5/32″
- 38275 Chain sharpening kit: 7/32″
Perfect for homeowners, enabling them with an inexpensive way to keep their chainsaws cutting efficiently. Let’s face it, there’s no excuse for not having a sharp chain.
This kit contains:
- 1x Swiss made round file with file frame.
- 1x Swiss made depth gauge raker file.
- 1x .025″ drop center depth gauge tool.
- 2x wooden file handles. File frame has multiple guides to help align your file to the proper angle and depth.
This Husqvarna sharpening kit is specifically for Husqvarna chainsaw chains. So, if you want to sharpen your chainsaw manually and you own a Husqvarna then buy this kit, just make sure you buy the correct size.
See below for your particular model. I don’t have much more to add to this product as it’s similar to the standard kit from OREGON.
This Husqvarna sharpening system includes: File handle, combination filing gauge, 2 round files, and 1 flat file for depth gauges. Here are the different version of this kit:
- Husqvarna Chain Sharpener | .325-Inch (531300082) | Models: 340, 345, 346XP, 350, 351, 353
- Husqvarna Chain Sharpener | 3/8-Inch (531300081) | Models: 55 Rancher, 257, 261, 362XP, 357XP, 359, 365, 372XP, 385XP, 395XP, 3120XP, 455 Rancher, 570 and 575XP
- Husqvarna Chain Sharpener | 3/8-Inch Low Profile (531300080) | Models: 36, 41, 136, 137, 141 and 142
How To Sharpen A Chainsaw
- Check your chain’s depth gauge to ensure they are consistent and not too high.
- It’s essential that all the cutting teeth on the chain are equal in length.
- The first tooth is your template to which every other tooth is measured against.
- Use a caliper as you work to ensure consistency.
- After you sharpen a cutter, move the chain forward to the next cutter and follow the same sharpening procedure.
- When you find yourself back at the originally marked cutter, loosen the vise and attach the guide bar in the opposite direction.
- File the cutting tooth away from your body with smooth strokes. Only apply pressure on the forward stroke. Typically you should use between two to five strokes for optimal sharpening.
- Hold the file guide 90 degrees to the flat face of the chainsaw bar.
- In order to determine the proper filing angle check your owner’s manual or check online at the manufacturers website. Typically it’s 25, 30 or 35 degrees. Align the mark on the filing gauge so it’s parallel with your guide bar and chain.
- Place the found file in the filing gauge.
- Mark one of the chain cutters with a marker or chalk, or anything that will be clearly visible on the chain. This marker defines your starting point so you know when you’re done.
- Secure your chainsaw with a vise such as the OREGON 26368A logger filing vise so you have access to the chain and it still moves.
- Make sure your chain is free from dust and debris. Use a bristle brush to clean your chain thoroughly. Rotate the chain as you go.
- In order to use the gauge tool correctly, place it over two cutting teeth and ensure the depth gauge slots into the depth gauge tool. If the depth gauge sticks out then it needs to be filed down. Use the flat file and file the depth gauge down until it’s flush with the depth gauge tool. Make sure you use flat strokes.
- Round out the depth gauge. Continue using the depth gauge tool to keep the sharpened cutting teeth protected and then you can get in there and round off the depth gauge corner while using a flat file. Do this for all the depth gauges. Yup, it’s a lot of work but with a little practice you’ll get faster at it.
Husqvarna states the following when it comes to depth gauge:
The height difference between the position of the depth gauge and the tip of the tooth (depth gauge clearance) determines how much the cutting tooth will cut. It works much like a plane. When the plane is set up with minimal cutting blades, the plane takes a very little amount of wood. The same thing happens with the saw chain if the distance between the depth gauge clearance lip and the tip of the tooth is too small. It is also not good if the depth gauge clearance lip has been filed down too much. The cutting tooth will then cut too deeply into the wood. The cut is more aggressive with high vibrations as a result. The risk of kickback increases and the chainsaw is exposed to unnecessary stress.
How To Sharpen A Chainsaw — Watch and learn
If you own a chainsaw you want to know how to sharpen a chainsaw, and I’m assuming is the reason why you’re reading this article. But sharpening a chainsaw is something that is best understood visually so I’m including a few excellent videos that will help you to learn how to sharpen a chainsaw without having to guess. Here’s an excellent step-by-step video on how to sharpen a chainsaw:
Another informative video that specifically talks about how to sharpen a chainsaw using a STIHL saw:
And lastly, a detailed video on how to sharpen a chainsaw from Wranglestar:
Knowing how to sharpen a chainsaw and being good at chainsaw sharpening are two different things. Some people take great pride in taking good care of their tools while other people don’t really care and just want to use it and not be bothered with maintenance.
Having a sharp chain is absolutely essential when using a chainsaw so whether you do it yourself or get someone else to do it for you, doesn’t matter. Just make sure your chain is sharp when cutting because it’s safer and far more efficient. You wouldn’t try to cut a steak with a spoon, would you?
It’s good to know how to sharpen a chainsaw to determine if it’s a skill you want to learn. It’s not that difficult once you’ve done it a few times.
Another option is buy a chainsaw that sharpen itself. No sharpening skill required. It’s called the —
18″ bar & chain / 15 Amp Motor
Read our full review on the Oregon PowerNow CS1500. Honestly, if you don’t like to manually sharpen a chainsaw and your cutting needs are relatively light then this might be the perfect chainsaw for you.
- Robust 15 Amp for fast cutting with a 18″ (45 cm) reduced-kickback guide bar and chain.
- Tool-less chain tensioning system along with PowerSharp chain sharpening system.
- Ergonomic design. Lightweight, balanced, low vibration, over-molded handles.
- Integrated chain brake for safety.
- 2-year consumer and 1-year professional warranty.
More Images of the PowerNow CS1500