Skip to content Skip to navigation menu

How-to Sharpen a Chainsaw Chain

Overview


It is important to keep your chain sharp, since dull chain increases the chainsaw bar launching upward after chain gets caught in the wood. This occurrence is commonly known as kickback and it is one of the most common causes of chainsaw injury. Increased fuel consumption and excessive damage are two more reasons to avoid cutting with a dull chain. Read on to learn the basics of sharpening your chain with a file or electric grinder, and check out our support videos. There are two main methods you can use for sharpening chainsaw chain by hand with using a round chainsaw file or an electric chainsaw grinder. A third method, square filing, is only meant for square chain used to cut large trees. These instructions are meant to be general guidelines. Refer to your grinder manual for set-up use and instructions. Grind your chain so that it meets the recommendations of the manufacturer. Use a quick tapping motion to minimize overheating of the ground surface.

 

Topics

Chain Anatomy - Parts of Cutter

Step by Step: What You Should Do Before Sharpening a Chainsaw Chain

Step by Step: How to Sharpen with a Round File

Step by Step: How to Sharpen a Chainsaw Chain with an Oregon Electric Sharpener

Step by Step: What You Should Do After Sharpening a Chainsaw

Want to know about Square-Ground Filing? Learn more.

 whitebox 


 

How to Sharpen a Chainsaw Chain Video

 

 whitebox 


 

TOOL TIP

When to sharpen your chainsaw chain

Inspect the chainsaw chain to see if its broken, needs repair or replaced. Your chain should be sharpened every time you fill your chainsaw with fuel. If the wood debris from your chain looks like dust (as opposed to chips), this is an indicator that your chain is dull and needs to be sharpened. Having to force your chain to get it to cut is another sign of dull chain.

 

 whitebox 


 

Component Image
  1. Top Plate
  2. Cutting Corner
  3. Slide Plate
  4. Depth Gauge
  5. Gullet
  6. Toe
  7. Heel
  8. Rivet Hole
  9. Clearance Angle
  10. Depth Gauge

 whitebox 


 

Component Image

Step by Step: What You Should Do Before Sharpening a Chainsaw Chain

 

What You Will Need


Step 1

If you have any questions about sharpening your Oregon chain, call our technical services department at 800-223-5168, Monday through Friday between 7:30 a.m. 4 p.m. PDT.


Step 2

Before you sharpen your chainsaw, you need to know the type of chain and sharpening angle specifications. You can find this information in your chain saw owner’s manual or on the chain pack. The chain identification code is usually written on the driving link.

If you don’t know your chain’s type or number, ask your Oregon chain dealer or call our technical services department 800-223-5168. Refer to specifications for sharpening chain with an Electric Grinder or by hand with a Round File.

Component Image

Step 3

Put on your protective gear, including gloves and eye wear.


Step 4

If you are sharpening chain while it is attached to the chain saw bar, make sure it’s tensioned properly first.


Step 5

Make sure your chain saw is turned off before you perform any maintenance.


Step 6

Wipe oil and grease off the chain. This step will prevent build-up from occurring on the file’s teeth or the wheel when grinding.


Step 7

Inspect the chainsaw chain for damage.

Here’s what you should look out for:

  • Proper installation of tie straps and drive links
  • Cracked or broken cutters, cutter top plates or tie straps
  • Bent, cracked or burned drive links
  • Severe abrasive damage
  • Abnormally worn chain
  • Wear patterns that may indicate a worn bar or sprocket. Refer to the Oregon Saw Chain Safety & Maintenance Manual for more information.
  • Loose rivets (Try rotating the rivets with your fingers – if you can do this, they are too loose.)
Component Image

Step 8

If you are filing your chainsaw chain by hand, select and use the correct file guide and file for your saw chain.  This is the easiest way to file saw chain.

  
Step 9

If the chain is broken, repair or replace it.


Step 10

Check and adjust depth gauges.


Step 11

Sharpen your chain to manufacturer’s recommendations, keeping it balanced.

 whitebox 


 

Component Image

Step by Step: How to Sharpen with a Round File 

The goal of filing is to remove all damage, while keeping the chainsaw chain balanced.

 

What You Will Need

 

Component Image

Step 1

Engage the chain brake, then lightly clamp the chainsaw bar in bench vice. Then release the chain brake to be able to rotate the chain by hand (be sure to wear gloves when you do this).

 

Step 2

If you are using a file guide, place it over the cutter with the file in the gullet (between the cutter and the depth gauge). Make sure the file guide has two points of contact, one point of contact on the cutter top plate and two on the depth gauge.

Component Image

Step 3

Hold the file in the correct location so that 1/5", or 20%, of the file’s diameter is positioned above the cutter’s top plate. Using an Oregon File Guide is the easiest way to hold the file in this position. 


Step 4

Check to see if the top plate filing angle should be parallel to chainsaw chain centerline.

Component Image

Step 5

Locate the cutter with the most damage. Sharpen using steady, even strokes (the "full file length") to remove the damage while counting the number of file strokes.

You’ll know the damage is removed when the cutter has a shiny, silver face. File all of the cutters with the same number of strokes per cutter from the inside to the outside so that the cutter lengths are equal. 


Step 6

Complete all the cutters on one side of the chain, before turning your chain to switch sides.

File from the inside of each cutter to the outside. Complete all the cutters on one side of the chain. Once you are done, turn your saw around to repeat the process for the other side of the chain. Remember, keep all cutter lengths equal.


Step 7

File back to remove damage and keep top plates equal in length.

 

Step 8

Recheck depth gauges.

 whitebox 


 

Component Image

Step by Step: How to Sharpen a Chainsaw Chain with an Oregon Electric Sharpener

These instructions are meant to be general guidelines. Refer to your grinder manual for set-up use and instructions.

Grind your chain so that it meets the recommendations of the manufacturer. Use a quick tapping motion to minimize over heating of the ground surface.
 


Step 1

Check the grinder wheel shape.

Component Image

Step 2

Set vise assembly to the correct top plate filing angle.

Refer to your grinder’s manual to learn the best way to do this.

Component Image

Step 3

Use the recommended top-plate cutting angle to set the proper grinder head angle.

Component Image

Step 4

Check that the vise blocking handle is screwed in tight and that the chain is blocked.


Step 5

Turn on the electric sharpener.

 

Step 6

Sharpen the cutter by lowering the arm-motor unit.

Component Image

Step 7

When you are done sharpening the cutter, raise the arm and loosen the handle.


Step 8

Run the chain forward to position the next cutter to be sharpened.

Component Image

Step 9

Block again with the handle and sharpen.  


Step 10

When all the cutters are sharpened, turn the machine off and unplug the power cable.  


Step 11

Dress vitrified grinding wheels often to maintain correct shape.

Use either a rotary dresser or a dressing brick.

 whitebox 


 

Component Image

Step by Step: What You Should Do After Sharpening a Chainsaw Chain


Step 1

Check and adjust depth gauges using instructions found here.

 

Component Image

Step 2

Clean off any debris, then lubricate the chain thoroughly with bar and chain oil. For the best results, soak the chain overnight.

Component Image

Step 3

Store the sharpened saw chain in a container with lubricant so that it’s ready for its next use.

 whitebox 


 

Oregon strongly encourages safe work practices and always recommends the use of appropriate safety apparel. Persons demonstrating technical product information in videos or photography do not necessarily represent proper safety habits for any given task.