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Correct chain sharpening

It is useful to think of the chain on a chainsaw as a precision cutting tool. Anyone can sharpen a chain to cut wood. Few can sharpen a chain so it will cut wood to its maximum efficiency.

Hand sharpening

The simplest and for some still the best way of sharpening a chain is by hand file. Most people usually get a hand filing kit which has a round file in a round file holder, flat file, depth gauge measure and bar groove cleaner. Oregon, Stihl, Husqvarna and Vallorbe all do sharpening kits for chainsaws.

Vallorbe’s guide to chainsaw sharpening

Regularly change your files

Files wear out so get yourself packs of replacements to change them regularly. You can’t cut with a dull chain and you can’t sharpen with a worn file. Slacken the chain so it is easy enough to pull round but not so it’s too loose.

Oregon file holder file 732


What size file do I need for my chain?

As a rule of thumb use the following:

What angle do I need to file the top plate of the chain to?

The box the chain comes in should tell you this.
Usually crosscut chain will be 30 degrees and ripping chain 10 degrees.

Pay attention to what the tooth looks like

Top angle

Pretty straight forward – this is the angle across the top of the cutter.

Stihl ripping 46RCX 10 degree

Oregon 75DP 35 degree

Side plate angle

Harder to explain as it’s curved. But this is the side plate angle. Let’s call this the ‘hook’ angle. Too much hook and you’ll get a beak – fast aggressive cutting but will dull fast. Too little hook and the chain will cut like it is dull even though you just sharpened it.


Too little hook

Get the cutters the same length

Cutter length is critical. Measure and examine them. Why is this so important? If you have longer cutters they will hit the wood harder and dull quicker causing drag on the chain

Cutters uneven length

Cutters even length

Depth gauges / rakers

This is the little ramped bit in front of the tooth. Filing depth gauges is really tedious but again crucial to how the chain works. Lower too much and the chain will be ‘grabby’ in the wood, aggressive, will dull fast and is hard on the saw.

Depth gauge too long

Depth gauge correct height

The Stihl Easy File has a built in flat file to take the depth gauges down as you file the teeth. If you are going to hand file buy these and you’ll save time and gain accuracy.


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