Answering an email from a reader on chainsaw sharpening

Posted By on November 25, 2017

A reader wrote me a long email last week after noticing my chainsaw post and had a couple questions regarding how I sharpen the chain/blade on my chainsaws. I really had not giving it that much though since my sharpening McCullochChainsawtechnique is probably not expert or appropriate advice. So reader be warned.

Over the years I’ve pondered buying a cheap electric chainsaw grinder, but always suspected the low cost ones were "janky" (Ha! I’ve been looking for the appropriate post to incorporate that word!). The other downside is in heating up the tooth and losing hardness … besides how often do most of us really need to sharpen the chainsaw?

So I do it the way most homeowners have for years … a round chainsaw file (kit on Amazon). My dad had a special guide tool that I sort of which I would have inherited, but then again I’ve always taken the chain off the saw and filed it in a bench vise.


So here’s the method in 5 short steps:

  1. Remove the chain and put the guides in the vise. Measure the angle of the grind and add a couple guide marks on your vise (see photo below).
  2. Mark your starting tooth and use a "flat file" to knock down the depth tooth using the gauge (see Amazon link above) or so that the "bite" of the chisel tooth is about 1/32-1/16 inch (more for bigger saws … less for lightweight trimming or smaller CC saws as well as electric saws).
  3. Use the round file to stroke the gullet keeping the file level and in alignment with the marks on the vise. I don’t sharpen often, so I may file more than most just to be sure each tooth is equally sharpened (if not, the saw will not cut straight).
  4. Flip the chain and do the other  side the same.
  5. I use my finger to check "hook" sharpness and often use the non-knurl part of the file to bend back the burr on the sharpen edge, then take a couple more light strokes to clean up the edge.



Desultory - des-uhl-tawr-ee, -tohr-ee

  1. lacking in consistency, constancy, or visible order, disconnected; fitful: desultory conversation.
  2. digressing from or unconnected with the main subject; random: a desultory remark.
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