Home generalSharpening saw chains - make the chain saw really sharp!

Sharpening saw chains - make the chain saw really sharp!

Sharpen saw chains properly

  • When to sharpen your saw chain
  • How to prepare your saw chain
    • 1. Check the degree of wear
    • 2. Determine damage
    • 3. Clean the saw chain
    • 4. Tension the saw chain
    • 5. Define the right-angled tooth
    • 6. Clamp the guide rail
    • 7. Select the appropriate round file
  • How to sharpen your saw chain
    • Practical tips for filing
  • Conclusion

Sooner or later, the best saw chain will wear out as well, which unfortunately can not be avoided. In a dull state, of course, it is in no way to use. So what to do ">

Harvesting is hard work - everyone knows who has done it before. Luckily, there are modern motorized chainsaws that will greatly facilitate your physically and mentally demanding work - but only if the machines are well maintained. This applies in particular to the chain: when sharp, the saw can implement its power optimally in cutting performance. The work is faster and more comfortable by the hand. In addition, wear and fuel consumption as well as the risk of injury are reduced.

Chainsaw Stihl

In short: A sharpened saw chain is indispensable. Conversely, means: A blunt model must be dealt with immediately. Find out how best to tackle this guide!

When to sharpen your saw chain

If you notice any of the following alarms, it is high time to sharpen the saw chain:

  • The saw chain no longer pulls itself into the wood, but must be forced to cut with pressure on the motor unit.
  • In the cutting section, the saw chain produces fine sawdust instead of coarse chips.
  • Despite intact chain lubrication and correct chain tension, smoke development occurs on average.
  • The incision apparently runs in one direction (indicating unilaterally truncated and / or unevenly long incisors).
  • When sawing, the chainsaw "rattles" or "jumps" (in this case, you first have to check the depth gauge distances - details will be provided at the end of our DIY guide).
When using the chainsaw, pay attention to warnings

How to prepare your saw chain

Before you really go to the collar of the saw chain, you should make some preparations:

1. Check the degree of wear

First and foremost, you should check how high the degree of wear is. Take a look at our picture: Once the marked wear marks have been achieved, all follow-up actions are of no use whatsoever. There is nothing left for you but to replace the old saw chain with a new one.

Check wear level

2. Determine damage

Even if the saw chain passes the wear level check, you are not quite on the safe side yet. There may be other damages. Take a close look at the device. If worn or damaged parts are present, they must be replaced. Make no compromises here.

3. Clean the saw chain

As far as everything is roger ">

4. Tension the saw chain

For sharpening, tighten the saw chain firmer than normal. In this way you prevent tipping of the incisors. In addition, the more pronounced tension makes it easier for you to maintain the correct angles (we'll talk more about the angles later).

Clamp the chainsaw

Tip: Do not forget to adjust the usual chain tension again after sharpening!

5. Define the right-angled tooth

Search for the shortest incisor and mark it as a true tooth (using a felt tip pen, for example). Its length acts as a model for all other incisors of the chain during the actual act of sharpening. When filing you will start with it accordingly and then prune the other incisors to the length of the sharpened tusk.

Set and mark the directional tooth

6. Clamp the guide rail

Depending on the position of the right-angled tooth, you can now clamp the guide rail in a vise or jib:

  • If the right-angled tooth is in the right-hand row of teeth, then clamp the guide bar with the tip of the guide to the left.
  • If, on the other hand, the right-hand tooth belongs to the left-hand row of teeth, clamp the guide rail with the tip of the rail to the right.
Clamp the chainsaw

First, pull the straightening tooth into the filing area. Then insert the chain brake. To advance the chain saw after sharpening the first teeth, release the chain brake and reinsert it before filing the next incisors.

7. Select the appropriate round file

The correct diameter of the round file, with which you sharpen your saw chain, depends on the division of the chain. Simply read the appropriate marking on the outside of the depth gauge.

We have created a small table in which each chain pitch is assigned a specific round-arrow diameter. This way you can see at a glance which diameter the round file has to have for your saw chain.

at the depth limiter
chain divisionround file
11.41/4 "4.0 mm
2325.325 "4.8 mm
33.83/8 "5.2 mm
4404.404 "5.5 mm
6P, PM3/8 "Picco4.0 mm
71/4 "Picco3.2 mm

Attention: Only use files specially designed for saw chains!

Now you are finished with all the preparations. In summary, we would like to list again which tools and aids you need for the maintenance of your saw chain:

  • Brush, rag or paper towel and resin remover
  • felt-tip pen
  • Vise or file
  • round file

Not mentioned yet, but also important:

  • file gauge
  • flat file
file gauge

How to sharpen your saw chain

The art of sharpening the saw chain is to properly guide the round file. That's how it's done:

Tip: The file only works in the forward stroke. Always lift it off when returning.

  1. With one hand you hold the handle of the file, with the other you pass the file in the forward stroke past the incisor.
  2. Place the file on the incisor so that you can guide it along the tooth from inside to outside.
  3. Always file at a 90 ° angle to the guide rail.
  4. Pay attention to the correct sharpening angle of the main cutting edge. It should generally be no less than 25 °, but not more than 35 °.
  5. Turn the file a little bit at regular intervals. To avoid one-sided wear of the tool.
  6. Guide the saw chain file so that approximately one quarter of the file diameter protrudes beyond the incisal roof.
  7. Start with the tusk and file it until a perfect cutting edge is present. Then do the same with all the other teeth

Tip: For better adherence to the optimal sharpening angle, many chains on the roof of the tooth have a marking stamped on them that allows them to orient themselves.

Files with guide

Practical tips for filing

  • Whether an incisor is well sharpened can be recognized by the (no longer existing) light reflections. More precisely: After filing the first incisor, you can see if you still notice light reflections at the cutting edge. If this is the case, you must continue to file - and until so long, no more light reflections occur. Only then should you move on to the next tooth.
  • First, file all the teeth on the right-tooth side in the same pattern. Then turn the saw 180 ° and sharpen all the incisors on the other side. Important (which is why we would like to say it again): Orient yourself with each individual incisor on the right-angled tooth!
  • Mark your top tooth with a felt-tip pen at the top. After two or three file strokes, check the material removal. If it shows up evenly, work properly. If, on the other hand, you notice that the paint is only partially worn away, there is probably a problem. Make sure that you are using the correct file, and be careful not to run the file too high or too low.
  • Count the file strokes and apply the same number of strokes on each individual incisor. This will give you a consistent result.
  • If the incisors of one row of teeth become shorter than the others, you will most likely have used more pressure on the shorter side. Align the tooth lengths to each other by performing one or two file strokes on the longer incisors once again.

After you have completely sharpened your saw chain, you must check the depth gauge distance and adjust if necessary. Why ">

To check the depth gauge distance, use the appropriate file gauge for the respective chain pitch. Put it on the saw chain. If the depth limiter projects beyond the file gauge, you must work it flush with the file gauge.

depth gauge

Note: If you are dealing with a saw chain with a hump drive member, you will also work on the hump in addition to the depth limiter.

Last but not least, it is still necessary to postedge the depth gauge roof at an angle using a suitable flat file. Orient yourself to the (commonly available) service mark and work in parallel with it. You should not lower the highest point of the depth limiter, because: too low depth limiters increase the kickback tendency of your chainsaw.

Tip: The file gauge also serves as a random check of the tooth angles during the sharpening process. With its help, you can achieve an even more accurate result.

flat file

Caution: Avoid touching the freshly sharpened incisors with the flat file. Careful and quiet work is therefore very important.

Finally, a general note that can save you (in the future) from major maintenance: Never work with your saw chain until it is completely dull. To put it another way: In between, you should always put in short sessions with just a few file strokes. Thus, every sharpening act takes only a tiny fraction of the time you need for an extended action.


Anyone who can handle a chain saw - ie cut wood - also manages to maintain the saw chain. However, people who used to handle chainsaws with little or no knowledge of the equipment are not prepared to tackle this relatively difficult task. In any case, the steps described must be followed and of course the right materials used. In addition, it is important to take the necessary rest and time to make mistakes and achieve a completely satisfactory result. All tools and aids that are required for sharpening the saw chain can be obtained from the online hardware store or local specialist shop. We wish you good luck filing - may your chainsaw cut again razor sharp!

Tips for quick readers

  • Check the wear rate of the saw chain
  • Check saw chain for other damage
  • In case of severe damage, replacement is unavoidable
  • Clean saw chain with a resin remover and tighten tightly
  • Determine and mark the directional tooth (that is the shortest tooth)
  • Clamp the guide rail to the right-angled tooth in a vise or flare block
  • Select suitable round file (depends on the chain pitch)
  • Pass the file forward along the incisor (observe the correct angles)
  • Count filing strokes and always perform the same number
  • Turn the file regularly (this prevents unilateral wear)
  • Start with the righting tooth and adjust other teeth to the same
  • Check the depth gauge distance and correct if necessary
  • Trim the depth gauge roof at an angle using a flat file
  • From then on, file your teeth at shorter intervals (saves the big act)
  • Materials: brush, paper towel, resin remover, felt pen, vise or file, round file, flat file, file gauge
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