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How to Sharpen a Chainsaw With a Chainsaw Sharpener

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a chainsaw grinder sharpener

The most dangerous cutting edge is a dull cutting edge. That’s as true of a butcher’s knife as it is to a hatchet. It’s especially true for chainsaws. A dulled cutting edge increases the chance of the blade slipping or bouncing off what you’re trying to cut. Using a chainsaw with a dull blade increases the chances of the blade kicking back into you, which is every chainsaw operator’s nightmare.

Identifying a dull blade

Identifying a dull blade

Image credit: Frettie, Wikimedia

The first step to sharpening a chainsaw blade with anything is identifying when the blade is dull. Sharpening the blade isn’t an everyday task, so it’s best to know what to look for in your chainsaw’s performance to know when it’s time to take the time.

What you might notice first is that when using it, your chainsaw creates a lot more dust than chips. A second good indicator is that the saw gets progressively more difficult to use. This might be a bit tough to notice because the wear happens gradually. At some point, however, it becomes evident. Anyway, it’s always a good idea to pay attention to how your chainsaw is operating. Finally, if the blade starts forcing itself in one direction, it’s a sign that at least part of the blade is dull.

First steps

The first step is setting up your chainsaw sharpener on a stable, firm surface. That’s both for safety and to make sure you’re getting consistent results. All your blades need to be shaped uniformly to get the best results from your chainsaw, so you’ll want to work in an environment where variables are minimized.

You’ll also want to familiarize yourself with the specifications of your blade. That information is included in the owner’s manual. If you lost yours, it’s a good bet you can find it on the manufacturer’s website. This will tell you not only what adjustments you need to make to your sharpener to start work, but also what kind of sharpening stone you’ll need to use.

Finally, look at the chain itself. Find the tooth that is the most worn. By necessity, you’ll have to grind the others down to its size.

1. Adjust the sharpener

a chainsaw chain in a nice position

Image credit: Oregon, Amazon

Using that information, adjust the angle at which the sharpening stone will meet the blade. There’s a knob that will allow you to set it according to the specifications in your owner’s manual.

You’ll also need to set the depth to which the grinding wheel will go into the chain. Take off as little as necessary to make the entire blade uniform. The more you take off, the faster you’ll have to replace the entire thing.

There is a stopper that will hold the chain in place, and it has a knob behind it so that you can adjust the chain’s position. A lever on the front of the machine will hold the chain fast. One final knob on the bottom allows you to adjust the degree at which the grinding stone meets the face of the chain. It also has positive and negative values.

Do a dry run where you position the chain and lock it into place, and bring the grinding stone down onto a blade to make sure it’s at the right angle and right depth and stays in place.

2. Sharpen

Once everything is set up, mark your chain so you know where you’re starting and start sharpening. Lay the chain down the jig, set it in place, lock it in, and bring down the grinding wheel slowly but consistently. You’ll see sparks where the wheel starts taking off the metal.

Skip every other tooth. That is, go from the first tooth to the third, the fifth, and so on. Continue until you have sharpened every other tooth on the blade at the first setting.

Now, you’ll sharpen the rest of the teeth. Turn the knob on the bottom of the sharpener to the negative value opposite what you just used. This isn’t the angle at which the grinding wheel sharpens the blade, mind you, but the degree to which the wheel sharpens the entire face of the blade. If the value on the bottom of the machine was 10 degrees, then set it to negative 10 degrees.

Sharpen the remaining teeth. Remember to skip one in between, so you’ll be going from the second one to the fourth to the sixth and so on. Once you’ve gone through, you’ve sharpened the entire blade.


Safe use of your chainsaw starts with keeping the blade sharp. If you notice that your saw is throwing up a lot of dust, is hard to use, or starts pulling in one direction, it’s a sign that you need to sharpen your blade.

Using an electric sharpener is a fast, efficient way of doing that. Make sure you consult your owner’s manual or visit the manufacturer’s website to get the specifications for your blade. Set the grinding angle and depth based on those and on which tooth is in the worst shape. Use the positioning knob to get your blade to where it needs to be, and then set the angle at which the wheel hits the face of the blade.

Sharpen every other tooth, and then reverse the face angle to the negative of the value that you just sharpened to. Go back through the blade and sharpen the rest of the teeth, starting with the second and skipping every other one. Once you’re done, you are ready to get back to cutting.

Header image credit: Oregon on