What is a Chain Saw Sharpener?

Sheri Cyprus

A chain saw sharpener keeps the cutting edge of a chainsaw's chain at its maximum sharpness. Sharpeners may be either electric or hand held. Whatever type of chain saw sharpener is used, the maintenance of a perfectly sharpened blade is absolutely crucial. Both the safety of the chain saw user and the quality of the cut wood depends on a perfectly sharpened chain that is filed at the correct angle.

A man using a chain saw.
A man using a chain saw.

Although a chainsaw is powered by a high speed electric or gasoline motor, the saw's chain teeth bite into the wood and do all the work. The hard chrome plating on the chain's cutting teeth must be filed with a chain saw sharpener often. If not, the hard edge will become dull and the user will have to exert force on the chain saw to cut and the saw could potentially produce poor quality cuts.

A chain saw sharpener keeps the cutting edge of a chainsaw's chain at its maximum sharpness.
A chain saw sharpener keeps the cutting edge of a chainsaw's chain at its maximum sharpness.

Forced exertion by the chain saw user can easily lead to faster fatigue. Research shows that many chainsaw accidents occur when users are tired. The exact moment a chain saw needs to be pushed to get it to cut is when the chain saw user should stop and use a chain saw sharpener on the chain. The cutting edge of dull chains can still look sharp, so a visual check of the chain is not an accurate way of assessing the sharpness of chain saw blades. A chain saw sharpener should be kept near the chainsaw at all times.

Dull chains can cause the chain saw to produce sawdust rather than the large wood chips that properly sharpened blades should be producing. Crooked cuts or the smell of burning wood are other signs that the chainsaw blade needs sharpening. The time between each use of a chain saw sharpener varies widely depending on the condition of the wood being cut. Moreover, chains are designed for cutting wood only, so if the blade touches dirt, metal, or stone, the cutting edge may be dulled within seconds.

Non-wood materials often grind the cutter down, but the sharp edge can usually be ground back with a chain saw sharpener. If the edge is less than 1/32 of an inch (1 millimeter), however, the chain will probably need to be replaced.

A chain saw sharpener is also called a jig. Electric sharpeners are fast, but hand held jigs are inexpensive and convenient. Hand held chain saw sharpeners are often round files with chiseled edges. Many chainsaw users use both types of jigs. Many beginners also like to use a rolling tool called a file guide that attaches to the chain, as it takes a lot of the guesswork out of chain saw sharpening.

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Discussion Comments


A chainsaw is such a delicate machine considering how destructive the tool can be. I have only just gotten up enough courage to use one at all. My sister has an electric one she said I could use to cut back some trees in our yard. I would have said no thanks to her offer, but she said she uses the machine quite often. I did not want her to know I was afraid of it. Besides, I figured if she can do it then so can I.

Now that I have used the chainsaw -- quite a bit. I want to go a step further and sharpen it before I return it to her. She usually has someone else sharpen the blade. She does not even own a chainsaw sharpener.


Drentel - The reason your father didn't sharpen his own chain saw is probably because he knew that if you don't have a clue as to what you are doing then you are better off paying someone else to do the job. Like any job, sharpening a chain saw blade is not difficult once you have done it a few times, but you don't want to go at it when you have no experience at all.

One of the hardest parts of the task is choosing the right tool. I can remember my father ruining more than a couple of chainsaw chains because he filed them the wrong way and then he couldn't get them to cut evenly.


My father cut a lot of wood when I was growing up and I was the one who helped load and unload it from the truck. Wood was our primary heating source in the house. All of the years he used a chainsaw, my father would never sharpen it himself. He never felt comfortable doing the job.

He would always take the saw to a chain saw sharpener and pay to have the chain edge up. For this reason, I always assumed the job was really difficult and took a lot of experience and skill.

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