Keeping your chainsaw blade sharp is one of the most important maintenance tasks for any chainsaw owner. A dull chainsaw can be dangerous to operate and makes cutting wood difficult and tedious. As a chainsaw user, it’s critical to understand when and how to properly sharpen your saw chain to maximize performance and safety.
In this comprehensive guide, I’ll walk you through the various options available for sharpening chainsaws, provide tips on how to sharpen them yourself at home, and share important maintenance and safety recommendations when operating your chainsaw. Having a finely honed cutting chain is essential for smooth, efficient operation, so read on to learn where you can get your saw sharpened!
The dangers of using a dull chainsaw simply cannot be overstated. Attempting to cut wood with a dull chain results in more force and pressure required, which can cause the saw to kick back unexpectedly. Chainsaw kickback is one of the most common causes of injury from chainsaw use. A sharp chain allows the saw to glide through wood smoothly, exerting less force on the blade and allowing you to retain maximum control. Don’t put yourself at unnecessary risk – keep your chain sharpened!
When it comes to sharpening your chain, you have a few different options. Professional sharpening services specialize in expertly sharpening chainsaw teeth and are a great option if you want to ensure optimal performance. However, you can also sharpen chainsaws yourself using files, grinders and other tools. I’ll walk through the pros and cons of each method to help you decide what’s best for your needs. Let’s get started!
Where Can I Get My Chainsaw Sharpened?
Finding a place to get your chainsaw sharpened can be a daunting task, but there are several options available to you.
Professional Sharpening Services
If you want guarantee your chainsaw blade is sharpened to factory specifications, professional sharpening services are often the best bet. The experts at these establishments use specialized equipment to uniformly sharpen every tooth and maintain all angles and measurements to optimize cutting efficiency.
Here are some of the top professional chainsaw sharpening options:
- Razzorsharp is a nationwide chainsaw blade sharpening company that offers precision sharpening of all saw chain types. Their trained technicians carefully inspect and sharpen each individual cutting tooth using advanced equipment. They also provide mail-in sharpening services if you can’t visit one of their locations in person.
- For those in the Pacific Northwest, Gardenland Power Equipment is a great option. This Portland-based small engine repair shop has specially designed grinders to evenly sharpen every tooth along the chain. They also inspect guide bars, replace damaged parts and ensure ideal chain tension.
- RCPW is a robust online directory listing local saw chain sharpening shops by zip code. It’s a great resource to conveniently find sharpening services in your specific area. The database includes detailed information on each shop’s sharpening capabilities, pricing and reviews.
Local Hardware Stores
Many local hardware stores and home improvement centers offer on-site chainsaw sharpening services that provide a nice middle ground between DIY and professional options. Stores like Home Depot have staff members specifically trained to properly sharpen chains using specialty shop equipment. The benefit over professional sharpening services is convenience, since you can get your chain sharpened while picking up other items at the hardware store. Just call ahead to confirm sharpening services are available at your local branch.
Sharpening Chainsaw at Home
With the right tools and know-how, you can absolutely sharpen your chainsaw teeth yourself at home. While it takes some practice to master, sharpening your own chain allows you to save money and take care of basic maintenance when needed. Here are some of the most common DIY chainsaw sharpening methods:
The traditional way to sharpen a chainsaw by hand is using a round file and holder. This method requires a steady hand and attention to detail, as you must file each tooth to the same length and at the proper filing angle. A file guide can help assist with the correct angles. Be sure to use a file of the proper diameter for your saw chain.
Portable power sharpeners are a popular step-up from hand filing. These electric tools use abrasive stones to grind each tooth to a sharp edge. They are faster than manual filing and ensure an even sharpening on every tooth. Just be cautious not to over-sharpen, as they remove material quickly.
Benchtop or wall-mounted grinders are fixed sharpening stations that use an electric motor to spin abrasive sharpening wheels. They require mounting the guide bar and running the chain over the spinning wheel to sharpen. Benchtop models are the ultimate for precision and convenience but also the most expensive.
How to Sharpen a Chainsaw at Home
Now that you know where to get your saw sharpened, let’s look at step-by-step instructions for the common DIY chainsaw sharpening methods.
Using a File
Hand filing is the classic way to touch up dull chainsaw teeth. Follow these steps for proper filing:
- Use a round file of the correct diameter – matching the chain you are sharpening. Most are between 5/32″ to 7/32″. Using the wrong size file can damage teeth.
- Maintain the proper filing angle, usually 30°. Many files have built in angle guides. Don’t “eyeball” the angle.
- Firmly insert the file into the gullet and use smooth, even strokes outward to sharpen the cutting edge. Apply light pressure.
- Sharpen all left-hand cutters in one direction, then switch filing direction for right-hand cutters. This maintains the sharp angles.
- File each tooth equally – 2 to 4 firm strokes per tooth is usually sufficient to establish a keen edge.
- Use a depth gauge tool to ensure each raker depth is adjusted appropriately so wood chips and sawdust eject. This helps optimize cutting performance.
- Wear gloves! Files are sharp. Also wear safety glasses to prevent metal filings in your eyes.
Using a Portable Power Sharpener
Electric sharpeners make the process faster and easier. Here are some tips for proper use:
- Refer to manufacturer instructions for the appropriate grinding wheel size, angle guide settings, and chain types compatible with your model.
- Lightly lubricating the chain helps sharpening go smoothly and reduces dust.
- Apply light and steady pressure as you guide the spinning stone evenly across each cutter. Let the tool do the work.
- Make 2 or 3 gradual passes over all teeth to establish an even bevel on each cutter. Don’t over-grind or you’ll shorten tooth length excessively.
- Check your owner’s manual for optimal chain tension and adjust as needed after sharpening is complete.
While electric sharpeners certainly save elbow grease compared to hand filing, they do remove more material than a file. Take care not to over-grind and maintain proper guide settings.
Using a Benchtop Sharpener
Stationary benchtop sharpeners are the ultimate in convenience, if you can justify the sizeable investment. Here are some pointers if using one:
- Mount the guide bar securely in the clamp and ensure the chain rides centered on the grinding wheel.
- Set the sharpening angle according to your chain manufacturer’s specs – usually 30°.
- Set the grinding depth to ensure you’re sharpening enough of the cutting tooth to establish a keen edge.
- Turn on coolant flow to reduce heating and dissipate sparked metal particles.
- Feed the chain steadily and smoothly over the spinning stone to sharpen each consecutive cutter to a precise and consistent bevel.
- Examine each tooth after a few passes. Make light additional passes to fine-tune as needed.
The fixed angles, coolant flow and smooth operation of a bench grinder make it easy to achieve expert results. But they are expensive and require space.
Chainsaw Maintenance Tips
Keeping your chainsaw properly maintained ensures it’s ready to work when you are. Follow these key maintenance practices:
Cleaning Your Chainsaw
Regular cleaning keeps your saw running smoothly and prevents buildup of sawdust, sap and dirt:
- Use compressed air or a pressure washer to clean dust and debris from the exterior, guide bar, chainbrake and oiler ports.
- Soak the bar and chain in solvent periodically to dissolve accumulated sap and grime.
- Clean the air filter weekly – tap it or use compressed air to remove sawdust. Replace yearly or as needed.
- Inspect the spark arrestor and clean built up carbon deposits monthly to prevent performance issues.
Lubricating Your Chainsaw
Proper lubrication prevents wear, helps the chain glide smoothly around the bar and extends the life of your saw:
- Check chain oil level before each use and top off as needed. Running low will rapidly wear the bar and chain.
- Use only quality bar and chain oil designed for chainsaw lubrication. Do not use substitutes like motor oil.
- Ensure oil ports and passages are clear of debris so oil can freely reach the chain.
- Inspect the chain after each use for adequate lubrication. Links should be shiny, not dry.
Using New Gas and Oil
Using fresh, clean fuel also keeps your saw working optimally:
- Use clean, new unleaded gasoline and a quality 2-stroke engine oil, mixed to the ratios specified by your saw manufacturer (often 40:1 or 50:1).
- Don’t use old gas that’s been sitting. Always start each season with fresh fuel. Stale gas can cause hard starting and performance issues.
- Inspect the air filter and replace yearly or if dirty. This optimizes airflow to the carburetor.
- Clean spark plugs as needed and replace after 100 hours of run time. This ensures proper ignition and starting.
Chainsaw Safety Tips
Operating a powerful cutting tool like a chainsaw always warrants caution. Follow these tips to maximize safety:
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
- ALWAYS wear safety glasses or a face shield when operating your chainsaw. Airborne chips and debris are dangerous.
- Use thick, protective leather gloves with chainsaw guards. This protects hands and gives better grip control.
- Steel toe, non-slip boots provide critical foot protection and traction when working and avoid dangerous slips.
- Wear chainsaw chaps over your pants. The layered fabrics stop the chain instantly upon contact.
- For overhead work, a hard hat is crucial protection from potential falling debris.
Chainsaw Handling and Operation
Safe chainsaw operation requires full focus and two steady hands on the saw:
- Keep your hands on the wrapped front and rear handles anytime the saw is running. Proper grip is key for control.
- Maintain solid, stable footing and only cut at waist height or below for best control. Don’t cut above shoulder height.
- Inspect saw function and safety features before each use. Ensure the chainbrake and stop switch operate properly.
- Allow the saw to reach full speed before contacting wood. Don’t force the saw when cutting. Apply light pressure and let the chain do the work.
- Shut off the saw or engage the chain brake when not actively cutting. Don’t walk around with an idling chainsaw.
How often should I sharpen my chainsaw?
As soon as you notice clean cuts requiring extra effort or sawdust output decreasing, it’s time to sharpen. This is typically after 10-20 hours of use.
What are the signs of a dull chainsaw?
Difficulty starting cuts, sagging/loose chain, discolored metal filings instead of wood chips, or the need for extra physical exertion when cutting are clear signs your chain is dull.
How do I know the correct file size for my chainsaw?
Consult your owner’s manual or check the chain itself for the proper filing gauge. Match this to an equal or slightly smaller file diameter for the best fit in the tooth gullet.
Can I use a regular file to sharpen my chainsaw?
No. Chainsaw cutters require a round file specifically designed for sharpening cutter teeth. The shape and hardness of regular files are incompatible for proper chainsaw sharpening.
How do I maintain the chain tension on my chainsaw?
Use the tensioning screw to adjust slack in cool chain to about .3″ deflection at mid-span on the bar. Tighten the bar nuts securely, then recheck tension.
How do I clean the air filter on my chainsaw?
Remove the filter cover and use compressed air or a soft brush to remove dust and debris from the filter. For foam filters, wash in warm soapy water then allow to fully air dry before reinstalling.
What type of oil should I use for my chainsaw?
Use only new, high-quality bar and chain oil designed specifically for chainsaw lubrication. Never attempt to substitute cheaper oils not developed for chainsaw use.
There are ample options for keeping your chainsaw chain sharpened and performing optimally, whether using professional services or doing it yourself. Following proper maintenance and safety practices ensures you’ll get years of reliable service from your chainsaw. The most important takeaway is to never operate a chainsaw with a dull chain. Stay safe out there, and happy cutting!
Michael Boyle is the founder and main author of Chainsaws Finder, boasting over 20 years of experience in the chainsaw industry. Hailing from Texas, Michael combines his extensive knowledge and hands-on expertise to provide reliable advice and top-notch service. His vision is to empower chainsaw users to tackle any project with confidence, making Chainsaws Finder a trusted resource in the field.