How To Sharpen a Chain Saw Chain With a File | Complete Guide

If you have a chain saw, then you know that the Saw chain is an important part of the machine. It needs to be kept sharp so that it can cut through wood easily. That’s why we’ve put together this guide on how to sharpen a chain saw chain with a file.

To sharpen a chain saw with a file, you will need to get the right size file for your chain. You will also need a guide, which can be purchased at most hardware stores. Once you have these two items, follow our simple instructions, you can keep your chain saw running like new and avoid any dangerous accidents.

How To Sharpen a Chain Saw Chain With a File Step By Step:

Chainsaw chain maintenance is important for the life of your chainsaw. One way to keep your chain sharp is by using a chainsaw file to sharpen the chain. 

There are some steps you can take to sharpen a chain saw: 

Step 1: Clean off the chain

You can remove any oil or dirt from the chain with a rag. If there is an excessive amount of oil, you may want to use some kerosene to break up and loosen the dirt and grime.

Step 2: Mount the file in a vise

Make sure that it is tightly secured in the vise so that it will not move during the sharpening process.

Step 3: File down one side of the cutter teeth

The side you file should be opposite to the direction of rotation – if the saw is moving clockwise, file counterclockwise, and vice versa. Use long, even strokes to ensure an even edge on all of your cutters. You should check after every few strokes with a straightedge to make sure the edge is flat against your guide (if you’re using one). 

Step 4: Repeat step three for each row of cutters

It may take several sessions before you finish sharpening them all. Be patient; don’t try to go too fast or press very hard on the chain.

Step 5: Clean off the chain

Again with a rag to remove any filings that may have accumulated on it. Once you are finished, check all of the teeth with your straightedge to make sure they are all even. You can now replace your chain or put an edge back on one that is already damaged if you used kerosene in step one. 

Tips for keeping your chain saw chain sharpened correctly

  • Make sure to wear the proper safety equipment when using a chain saw. This includes both protective eyewear and heavy footwear/protective leg covering as well as a hard hat, long-sleeved shirt, jeans, and thick gloves for your hands. 
  • Always place a guide bar between your chainsaw’s engine chamber and rear handle when sharpening the cutting teeth of your blade to ensure that nothing slips out of place.
  • Make sure you can provide proof of having received safety training if using a chain saw to cut up fallen trees or branches for firewood during times when fire bans are enforced in your area. 
  • Always remove all jewelry prior to using a chainsaw and be sure to follow all regulations set forth by your local authorities regarding the use of chain saws. 
  • Always hold a chainsaw’s engine chamber from behind when filing its cutting teeth down to avoid damaging this component.
  • Be sure you have a firm grip on both sides of your chain saw’s bar before starting up its engine and while you are sharpening its cutting teeth.
  • Use a file gauge and instructions provided by your chain saw’s manufacturer to ensure that your cutting teeth are properly maintained at the correct angles of 22 and 30 degrees for most models of chain saws.
  • Be sure never to use an electric or hand-crank chainsaw grinder on any part of your chain saw that is made of high-speed steel whenever possible because these grinders can cause serious damage to your saw’s drive links, bar, and engine chamber if not used with the utmost care.
  • It is considered best practice for you to file down each cutting tooth from both sides in order to ensure your blade will remain sharpened correctly when it comes time to sharpen it again.
  • Only use a single cut mill bastard file when sharpening your chainsaw’s cutting teeth because using a different type of file will cause inconsistent results and potentially damage one or more components of your saw. 

Final Thoughts

So there you have it, your complete guide on how to sharpen a chain saw chain with a file. It’s not the simplest process in the world, but it’s definitely doable with a little bit of practice and patience.

Be sure to take your time and go slow when sharpening your chainsaw chain rushing through the steps can easily lead to mistakes and an improperly sharpened chain. As long as you follow these instructions and take your time, you should be able to get that old chain back into working condition in no time at all. 


Why it’s important to sharpen your chain saw chain regularly? 

When a chain saw chain is sharp, it allows you to make clean cuts and do the job quickly. A sharp chain also reduces the risk of kickback because it will not bind up as easily.

What’s the difference between a round file and a chainsaw file?

A round file is smaller and has finer teeth than a chainsaw file. 

What kinds of files are used to sharpen a chain saw? 

There are special files made for this purpose, which you can find at the hardware store or online.

How to identify if the chain needs sharpening? 

Take a moment to inspect your chain. Look down the row of cutters and make sure that they are straight and not ragged or curled, which means you’ll need to sharpen your saw. If there is any damage, such as broken teeth or chips, you should replace the chain before continuing. 

Do you need a file gauge if you use a chainsaw file? 

A lot of people recommend using a file gauge, but it’s not necessary as long as you use a chainsaw file.