How to Sharpen Your Saw Chain Like a Pro

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Your chainsaw is a loyal companion for cutting firewood and other activities. It’s becoming more difficult to wield, however, and the cutting action is below par. Your saw chain is ready for a sharpening session. Take your time with this step-by-step process so that you have a cutting edge that rivals a brand-new chain. These parts can be sharpened many times to save on costs over time.

1. Finding the Master Cutter

Chainsaw sharpening isn’t a haphazard process. It requires a close look at the cutters that make up the chain. Use a vernier caliper to initially find the master cutter. This single cutter is essentially the shortest one on the chain. It’s referred to as the master because all of the other cutters must match its size, cautions STIHL.

Go ahead and mark this cutter when you find it with the calipers. It guides your filing process as you sharpen the chain.

2. Securing the Saw

Place more tension on the chain than you would for everyday use. You want each drive link to be securely pressed against the bar, which forces every cutter to remain in place. They won’t move as you file them now.

Make sure to engage the chain brake too. Head over to your trusty vice. Clamp the bar into the vice with these parameters in mind, including:

  • Face the bar nose to the left if the master cutter is in the right-hand row
  • Reverse the bar nose’s direction for a master cutter located in the left-hand row

3. Pick a File

As you learn how to sharpen a chainsaw, you realize that fine details make a difference. Every chain has a specific round file for its sharpening needs. For STIHL chains, a reference number is on each cutter. For example, you might see a large “3” stamped on the metal.

Use this number as a cross reference for the right file. Applying the wrong file to the chain will result in damage and poor cutting action.

4. Know Your Angle

The Family Handyman emphasizes that the proper angle with the file must be used against the chain. Ideally, sharpen the chain with the file held at a 30-degree angle. Carefully move around the cutter’s inside edge for uniform coverage.

Always file in one direction. Start at the master cutter, and move in one direction afterward. You’ll know you’re done when you reach the master cutter again. Remember that only a few strokes are necessary for each cutter. You might take off too much material from the chain with a heavy hand.

5. Complete the Opposite Side

You’ve worked you way around the chain by now. It’s time to turn the chainsaw 180 degrees so that you can access the opposite side.

Follow the same filing technique as the first side. When you learn how to sharpen a chainsaw, you must remember to constantly reference the master cutter. Both sides of the chain must match it.

6. Check Your Work

It takes observation skills to determine when you’re done with chainsaw sharpening. Take a close look at each cutter. The cutting edge should have a bright and shiny appearance, which means that it’s filed just right. A quick glance at the cutters should verify that they’re all flush with the master cutter.

The ultimate test of your sharpening skills is trying the chainsaw out on a piece of wood. Examine the cutting action as you operate the chainsaw. Excellent cuts translate into a job well done!