How Often Should You Sharpen a Chainsaw Chain?

Updated February 21, 2017

A chainsaw chain needs regular and frequent sharpening to keep it moving through the wood. A properly sharpened chain should gently pull the chain and bar through the wood, making the operator's work less strenuous. Dull or damaged teeth will force the operator to push down on the bar to get it to cut through the wood.

Sharpening the Teeth

The amount you'll need to sharpen the chainsaw chain will depend on several factors. If you regular cut in dirty conditions, hit the chain against the dirt, rocks or the ground, or if you cut harder woods, the chain will need to be sharpened much more frequently. In general, sharpen the chain before you saw, during each refuelling stop and after each use. This will decrease the time of each sharpening, as the teeth won't be as dull if you wait until after each use.

Sharpening Depth Gauges

Sitting in front of each cutter, the depth gauges measure out the depth each cutter will dig into the wood. This will measure the size of the wood chip taken out. These depth gauges require filing after about five to seven times of sharpening the cutting teeth. However, only a small amount of metal needs to be filed off the depth gauges each time. Filing too much will cause the chain to pull too hard through the wood, and may even pull the operator into a moving chain.

Fixing Damaged Teeth

Every now and then, one or two teeth will get heavily damaged. Whether you rocked the chain or cut a lot of hard woods, these teeth will need to be fixed before using the chain again. The cutters must be equal in size, length and filing angle for the chain to cut properly. If the teeth are off, even a little, the chain will cut to the left, right or require added downward force to cut through the wood. Fixing these damaged teeth will take a lot of extra time, as you need to file every other tooth to the same length, angle and size.

Sharpening Tips

Sharpen your chainsaw's chain regularly to save time in the long run. If you wait until the teeth are heavily chipped, bent or damaged, it will take a lot of sharpening to get the teeth back in line. Sharpen as frequently as possible and take off as little metal as possible with each file stroke. This will help keep the teeth sharpened and strong. Always start with the tooth that has the heaviest damage; file that tooth until it's sharp. Count the number of strokes you used on the first tooth and apply that number to all of the teeth.

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About the Author

Currently based in Minneapolis, Minn., Eric Blankenburg has been a freelance journalist since 2000. His articles have appeared in "Outside Missoula, Outside Bozeman," "Hello Chengdu" and online at and various other websites. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in creative writing from the University of Montana.