Chainsaw Maintenance

Top 8 Chainsaw Sharpening Mistakes and How to Fix Them

Chainsaw sharpening mistakes are all too common and can lead to a host of problems, including reduced cutting efficiency, increased wear and tear, and even potential safety hazards.

In this article, we will shed light on these often-overlooked pitfalls and share valuable insights to help you avoid them, ensuring your chainsaw remains in top condition.

Imagine this scenario: You’re in the middle of a crucial task, and suddenly your chainsaw’s performance takes a nosedive. You realize that improper sharpening is the culprit, and now you’re left with a half-finished job and a dull, inefficient tool.

This frustrating situation can be avoided by being aware of the most common chainsaw sharpening mistakes and taking the necessary precautions.

All you’ve to do is understand these pitfalls and learn how to avoid them. You can ensure your chainsaw remains in top working condition.

Chainsaw Sharpening Mistakes – Key Takeaway


  • Use the correct file size for your chainsaw’s specific chain to ensure even sharpening.
  • Follow the manufacturer’s recommended angle for optimal cutting performance.
  • Apply consistent pressure when sharpening to avoid uneven teeth.
  • Inspect your chainsaw’s chain for damage or wear before sharpening.
  • Count the number of file strokes for each tooth for even sharpening.
  • Set the depth gauge correctly according to the manufacturer’s specifications.
  • Clean the chain before sharpening to remove dirt and debris.

Mistake #1: Using the Incorrect File Size

Using the incorrect file size is a widespread mistake that can lead to uneven teeth and poor cutting performance. Each chainsaw chain has a specific size and type of file that should be used for sharpening. Using a file that is too large or too small can result in improperly sharpened teeth and reduced efficiency.


Note: Always refer to your chainsaw’s manual for the recommended file size. If you are unsure, consult an expert or contact the manufacturer for guidance.

Mistake #2: Deviating from the Manufacturer’s Recommended Filing Angle

Another common mistake is failing to maintain the correct filing angle. Each chainsaw chain has a specific angle at which it should be sharpened, as recommended by the manufacturer. Deviating from this angle can significantly impact the efficiency of your chainsaw and may even cause damage to the chain.

Mistake #3: Applying Inconsistent Pressure While Sharpening

Inconsistent pressure during the sharpening process can lead to unevenly sharpened teeth, resulting in reduced cutting effectiveness. Maintaining consistent pressure throughout the process is crucial for achieving a uniformly sharp chain.

Practice applying even pressure while sharpening. If you find this challenging, consider using a sharpening jig or guide that can help maintain a consistent pressure and angle.

Mistake #4: Overlooking Chain Damage or Wear

Before sharpening your chainsaw, it’s essential to inspect the chain for damage or wear. Attempting to sharpen a damaged or excessively worn chain can result in further complications and poor performance.

Regularly inspect your chainsaw’s chain for signs of damage or wear, such as broken or missing teeth, cracked links, or excessive stretching. If you notice any of these issues, it’s time to replace the chain.

Mistake #5: Ignoring Raker Height

The rakers, or depth gauges, on your chainsaw chain, control the depth of each cut. Over time, the rakers can become worn and require adjustment. Failing to maintain proper raker height can lead to inefficient cutting and increased wear on your chainsaw.

Note: Periodically check and adjust the height of your rakers according to the manufacturer’s recommendations. Use a raker gauge or a flat file to ensure that the rakers are set at the correct height for optimal cutting performance.

Mistake #6: Neglecting to Clean the Chain Before Sharpening

A dirty chain can make it challenging to sharpen your chainsaw effectively. Dirt, debris, and oil residue can interfere with the sharpening process, resulting in a less-than-perfect result. Failing to clean the chain before sharpening is a mistake that can easily be avoided.

Before you begin sharpening, clean your chainsaw’s chain thoroughly using a brush and a suitable cleaning solution. This will help ensure a more effective and accurate sharpening process.

Mistake #7: Rushing Through the Sharpening Process

Rushing through the sharpening process can lead to mistakes and uneven sharpening. Taking your time and paying attention to detail is essential for achieving the best possible results.

Note: Be patient and focus on maintaining a consistent angle and pressure while sharpening. Remember that practice makes perfect, and over time, you will become more proficient at sharpening your chainsaw.

Mistake #8: Over-Sharpening the Chain

While it’s crucial to maintain a sharp chain, over-sharpening can lead to premature wear and a shortened chain lifespan. Removing too much material from the chain can weaken it, making it more susceptible to damage and breakage.

How to Sharpen a Chainsaw Chain Correctly?

Before we dive into the step-by-step process, gather the necessary tools and materials for chainsaw sharpening:

  • Chainsaw file (correct size for your chain)
  • File guide
  • Depth gauge tool
  • Flat file
  • Sturdy workbench or vise
  • Gloves and safety goggles

With your tools and materials ready, follow these steps to sharpen your chainsaw effectively:

1. Secure the chainsaw

  • Place the chainsaw on a sturdy workbench or secure it in a vise.
  • Engage the chain brake to prevent the chain from moving while you work.

2. Identify the starting point

  • Locate the most damaged or shortest tooth on the chain. This will be your starting point for sharpening.
  • If all teeth are in similar condition, choose any tooth as your starting point and mark it with a marker or a piece of tape.

3. Select the correct file size and guide

  • Consult your chainsaw’s user manual to determine the correct file size for your specific chain.
  • Attach the file to a file guide, ensuring it matches the recommended sharpening angle for your chain.

4. Sharpen the cutting teeth

  • Hold the file guide at the recommended angle, and position the file in the tooth’s gullet (the curved section between the cutting edge and the tooth’s base).
  • Apply steady, even pressure as you push the file through the gullet.
  • Use the same number of file strokes for each tooth to ensure even sharpening.
  • Repeat the process for all teeth with the same orientation (e.g., all left-facing teeth).

5. Rotate the chainsaw and sharpen the remaining teeth

  • Once you’ve sharpened all teeth with the same orientation, disengage the chain brake and rotate the chainsaw.
  • Engage the chain brake again and sharpen the remaining teeth, following the same process as before.

6. Adjust the depth gauges

  • Use a depth gauge tool to measure the height difference between the cutting teeth and the depth gauges (also known as rakers) on your chain.
  • Consult your chainsaw’s user manual for the correct depth gauge setting.
  • If the depth gauges are too high, use a flat file to file them down to the correct height.

7. Reassemble and test the chainsaw

  • Once you’ve sharpened all teeth and adjusted the depth gauges, disengage the chain brake.
  • Start your chainsaw and test its cutting performance on a piece of wood. If necessary, make any adjustments and re-sharpen the chain as needed.

Troubleshooting Common Issues in Chainsaw Sharpening


In the realm of chainsaw maintenance, troubleshooting common issues related to sharpening is a critical skill. Users seeking this information are typically looking to solve specific problems they encounter during the sharpening process. Let’s explore some of these common issues and their solutions.

The Chainsaw Cuts Unevenly or Pulls to One Side

  • Cause: This often occurs due to uneven sharpening where one side of the chain is sharper than the other.
  • Solution: Sharpen each tooth on the chain to the same angle and depth. Use a guide if necessary to maintain consistency.

Chain Becomes Dull Quickly After Sharpening

  • Cause: This can result from using a dull file or incorrect sharpening technique.
  • Solution: Ensure you’re using a sharp file and the correct sharpening angle. Replace files as needed.

Difficulty in Sharpening the Chain

  • Cause: This issue may arise from using the wrong file size or type for your chainsaw.
  • Solution: Check your chainsaw’s manual for the recommended file size and type. Using the correct tools is crucial for effective sharpening.

Excessive Chain Vibration During Use

  • Cause: A common reason for this is an improperly tensioned or damaged chain.
  • Solution: Adjust the chain tension according to the manufacturer’s specifications. Replace the chain if it is damaged.

Chainsaw Produces Rough Cuts

  • Cause: This can be due to dull or incorrectly sharpened teeth.
  • Solution: Sharpen the chain teeth properly, ensuring each tooth is sharpened at the correct angle and depth.

Chain Gets Stuck or Doesn’t Move Smoothly

  • Cause: This could be due to a lack of lubrication or a problem with the bar.
  • Solution: Ensure the chain is adequately lubricated and the bar is not bent or damaged. Clean and lubricate the bar and chain regularly.

Sawdust Instead of Chips While Cutting

  • Cause: Producing fine sawdust instead of chips usually indicates a dull chain.
  • Solution: Sharpen the chain properly, focusing on achieving the right angle and depth for each tooth.

Increased Fuel Consumption and Reduced Cutting Speed

  • Cause: This could be due to a blunt chain requiring the engine to work harder.
  • Solution: Regularly sharpen your chain to maintain optimal cutting efficiency and reduce the strain on the engine.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why does my chainsaw cut crooked after sharpening?

After sharpening, if your chainsaw cuts crookedly, it’s likely because the teeth were sharpened unevenly. Ensuring each tooth is filed at the same angle and depth is crucial for a straight cut.

Why is my chainsaw chain not cutting after sharpening?

If your chainsaw isn’t cutting post-sharpening, the teeth may be too dull or have an incorrect angle. Double-check the sharpness and the manufacturer’s angle specifications.

Why is it so hard to sharpen a chainsaw?

Sharpening a chainsaw can be tough due to the precision required in filing the teeth evenly at the correct angle, which is essential for effective cutting.

What are the tips on sharpening a chainsaw?

For sharpening a chainsaw, use a consistent angle, apply equal pressure, sharpen all teeth equally, and follow the manufacturer’s guidelines. Regular maintenance is key.

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