You can do a good job of sharpening your chainsaw by using just a simple hand file. This is a great way to keep your chainsaw sharp in the field.
Yes, there are wonderful tools you can buy to do the job of sharpening a chainsaw quicker, easier – and maybe even better than sharpening by hand. We’ll discuss those in future articles on this website. But for now, be assured that you can do a quality job of chainsaw sharpening with just a hand file, and optionally, a couple of additional inexpensive tools.
What You’ll Need
To sharpen a chainsaw by hand, there’s only one ‘gotta have’ tool – a round file. You’ll need only one, but it’s got to be the right size. How do you know what size you’ll need? You’ll need to consult your chainsaw manual; it will likely contain that information. Or you could check the instruction sheet that came with your saw chain.
File sizes for the most commonly used chains are 5/32 inch, 3/16 inch and 7/32 inch. Odds are good that your chain saw will use one of those sizes. But if you’re not sure, call the manufacturer of the saw or chain and ask them. You must have the proper sized file for this job.
In addition to the file, there’s a couple of ‘really nice to have’ tools. These aren’t absolutely essential, but I’d highly recommend them. And they’re both inexpensive tools.
The first is a chainsaw file guide (sometimes called a file holder). A file guide helps you to keep the file aligned at the correct angle as you sharpen the cutters. With a lot of time and practice, you could reach a point where you develop a good eye for the process, but it really takes a lot of practice. Using a file guide will eliminate the guesswork. Just like the file, you need to be sure that your file guide is the proper size for your saw chain.
The second ‘really nice to have’ tool is called a depth gauge tool. You’ll use this along with a flat file to adjust the chainsaw depth gauges to the proper height. This is just as important as sharpening the cutters, and you should do it whenever you’re sharpening the saw chain.
Now that you’ve got your tools, you’ll need just one more item before you start sharpening – a good pair of leather work gloves. And this is just common sense. You’ll be working on sharp cutting edges, and working to make them even sharper. Just a slip of the hand could result in a nasty gash. So be sure to put the gloves on before you start!