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How to sharpen a chainsaw with a file

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A DIYer sharpening a chainsaw with a file Sharpening a chainsaw follows a similar principle to sharpening a crosscut hand saw, although it’s easier to see the lateral angles (fleam) as the blades are much bigger than saw teeth.

Choosing the right size chainsaw file

Diagram to show how gauge is measured on a chainsaw blade Before you start to sharpen your chainsaw, you will need to determine the gauge of the blade. This is the distance from the bottom of the curve of one of the cutters to the top.
A chainsaw tooth with the gauge engraved onto it The most common gauges are 4mm (5/32“), 5mm (3/16“) and 6mm (7/32“).
Image illustrating that the diameter of a chainsaw file should match the gauge of the chainsaw tooth it is sharpening The diameter of your chainsaw file (widest point when measuring through the middle) should match the gauge of your chainsaw blade.
Warning sign showing the importance of making sure your chainsaw file is the same size as the teeth you will be sharpening

This is the only occasion where the precise measurement of your file is very important

Wonkee Donkee reiterates that the file you choose must be the right size for your chainsaw blades

Sharpening the saw blade

Image showing a chainsaw secured in a vice by the blade

Step 1 – Secure chainsaw blade

Clamp your chainsaw firmly into a vice. In this case, it is less important to use a file block, as the chainsaw blade needs to be able to rotate.

A DIYer marking a chainsaw with some white paint to show which link they started sharpening first

Step 2 – Mark starting point

Using a marker, or any other available means, mark the link that you will be sharpening first.

Image to show which teeth you should be sharpening with your chainsaw file You will be sharpening only the teeth that point towards you each time, so make sure it’s one of those that you are marking.
Image showing that the white mark you made will tell you when you have finished filing the whole of the chain on your saw This will help you to work out when you’re finished, as the mark will come back around the chain as it is fed through the saw.
Image of a DIYer checking his chainsaw file is in the correct position before starting the sharpening process

Step 3 – Sharpen blades

Holding your chainsaw file’s handle with your dominant hand and gripping the point of the file with your non-dominant hand, locate the file against the blade of your starting link, making sure you tilt it so that it is fully in contact with the face of the blade.

Twist the chainsaw file as you push it forward to make best use of the teeth Push the file forwards as you would for a normal file stroke, but twist it slightly as you do. This will help to release the material you are removing from the file’s teeth, and prevent it from becoming clogged.
Repeat the process Repeat this process with every other tooth, moving the chain each time so that you don’t have to unclamp the saw. Once your starting link comes back around, it’s time to change sides!
Image of a chainsaw that has been secured in a vice facing the opposite way to how it was set up during the original sharpening

Step 4 – Repeat on opposite side

Turn the chainsaw around so that the opposite side is facing you, then clamp it once again.

Image to show the DIYer marking their starting link on the second side of the chainsaw Mark the starting link and repeat the sharpening process one more time.
A labelled chainsaw blade showing where the rakers can be found

Step 5 – Check rakers

Now that your blades are sharp, it’s time to check to see if the rakers are the right height. These are the fin-shaped parts of the chainsaw blade that act as a depth gauge when cutting.

Image showing a chainsaw link where the blade is lower than the raker Look carefully at your rakers and check to see if any of them are sitting higher than the blade behind them.
Image of a mill file to show the shape of the outline If they are, you will need to grind them down with a mill file so that they do not prevent the blade from engaging with the wood.
Image of a chainsaw that has been sharpened and is now ready to be oiled and used Your blade is now ready to be oiled and used.

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