How to Use a Chain Saw Sharpener

Hand File and Power/Rotary Sharpener image by BeelineBuzz


A sharp saw makes cutting faster and easier, and it prolongs the life of the bar. The chain will run cooler when it cuts well, which can reduce wear on the bar and sprocket. If your saw sends out small sawdust pieces instead of larger chips of wood as you cut, you need to sharpen your chain saw.

Stabilize the Saw

Step 1

Anchor your chain saw on a workbench or in a frame. It must be held firmly and safely in place. You will be working on the bar on the sharp cutters, and you do not need to worry about the saw tipping or slipping.

Step 2

Adjust the chain tension so it will not wobble on the bar as you use your sharpener or file.

Step 3

Wear protective goggles and gloves.

Using a Power/Rotary Sharpener

Step 1

Standing on one side of the saw, hold the chain with one hand, and the rotating sharpener in the other. Locate the scribed angles marked on the chain and on the sharpener guide. Line these up. The rotating file will slip into the cutter tooth. Use the power sharpener to hone the edge of the tooth. It takes only a few seconds.

Step 2

Sharpen all the teeth facing this direction all the way around the chain.

Step 3

Move to the other side of the saw. Slide the chain to the next cutter tooth. Notice that there are two marks on the guide. One is for lining up the right-facing cutting teeth, and the other is for the left-facing cutting teeth. The next set of teeth will use the opposite facing guideline from the first set.

Step 4

Continue sharpening all the teeth facing this direction all the way around the chain.

Using a Hand File Sharpener

Step 1

Hold the chain with one hand. Line up the angle guidelines on the hand file sharpener with the guidelines on the saw chain tooth. Use firm, straight strokes in the direction of the cut, and hone the edge of the tooth. Four or five strokes should restore the edge to the tooth.

Step 2

File all of the cutters facing the same direction all the way around the chain.

Step 3

Begin with an alternate, opposite-facing cutter tooth. Line up the opposite-facing guidelines, and draw the file as in Step 1. File all of these alternate cutters all the way around the chain.

Step 4

Clean metal dust off the file between teeth by brushing it across your pant leg or a cloth. Wrap your file in a cloth to protect it from damage in your toolbox.

Things You'll Need

  • Power/rotary sharpener with guide
  • OR
  • Hand file sharpener with guide
  • Gloves
  • Protective goggles


  • Keep your chain saw sharp
  • How to sharpen a chain saw
  • Tips for sharpening chain saws

Who Can Help

  • Guide to Chain Saw Sharpening
Keywords: power chain saw sharpener, rotary chain saw sharpener, hand file chain saw sharpener

About this Author

Fern Fischer is a freelance writer with more than 35 years' experience. Her work has been published in various print and online publications. She specializes in organic gardening, health, rural lifestyle, home and family articles. Fischer also writes about quilting and sewing, and she professionally restores antique quilts to preserve these historical pieces of women's art.

Photo by: BeelineBuzz