How to sharpen a chainsaw

leighton shearer
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How to sharpen a chainsaw

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Project Overview

Having a sharp blade on a chainsaw makes it safer to use, saves effort when you’re cutting and reduces wear and tear. Sharpening the blade doesn’t take long, and you’ll certainly notice the difference when you next use your chainsaw. Continue to step-by-step instructions

Step by Step Instructions

1 Remove the spark plug cap
2 Clean the chain
3 Choose the right file for the job
4 Mark the chain
5 Align the file
6 File the chain
7 Sharpen the other side of the chain
8 File the rakers
9 Final checks and maintenance
10 Ready to go
  • Step 1. Remove the spark plug cap

    When working with a chainsaw, it’s always about safety first. So before you start any maintenance, it’s important to remove the spark plug cap, so the chainsaw can’t start.
  • Step 2. Clean the chain

    Now that the chainsaw is safe to work with, it’s time to clean it. You may need to release the chain brake, so that the chain can be slid along. Clean the chain thoroughly, getting rid of any debris and dirt. Also, inspect the chain for any damaged or badly worn links and teeth. Some may become bent chipped or broken. Any damaged, weakened, or overly worn chains should be replaced.
  • Step 3. Choose the right file for the job

    The chain sharpening kit has got a range of file sizes. The correct sized file should sit almost perfectly in the curve of the blade, and about 20 per cent of the file should be positioned above the blade. Once you’ve found the right file place the handle on it and place the file in the file guide.
  • Step 4. Mark the chain

    You can start cleaning the chain anywhere you like but use a marker pen to mark the first link that you clean, then you’ll know when you’re back to where you started.
  • Step 5. Align the file

    Place the multifunction gauge over the chain and line it up with the first link you are going to sharpen. You want to file each blade the same amount so that the flat edge on top of each cutter is pretty much the same length. This will help with the speed of your cut and help keep it straight.
  • Step 6. File the chain

    Using a file with a guide will make this job so much easier and also prevent burrs on the chain, which can lead to kick back. Make sure that the file is kept at right angles to the bar, and file on the forward stroke only.
  • Step 7. Sharpen the other side of the chain

    The cutting edge on the chain blades face both ways. So once you’ve finished a revolution, rotate the chainsaw and sharpen the blades in the opposite direction.
  • Step 8. File the rakers

    The rakers sit in front of the cutting edge of the blade and help to clear the wood out of the cut. Check the height of each raker, and ensure the tip of each raker is a little lower than the top surface of a cutting blade. If the rakers are too high, file them down a little, using a flat file, instead of the file you have used to sharpen the blades. You can do this by eye or put the multi-purpose gauge on top of the raker.
  • Step 9. Final checks and maintenance

    Now that the chain is sharpened, carry out some other maintenance and checks. Loosen off the chain that you tightened up earlier. Top up your chain bar oil and put the spark plug cap back on.
  • Step 10. Ready to go

    Finally, give the chainsaw a good wipe over with a rag to remove any dirt. Put the chain cover back on, and your chainsaw will be ready to go when you need it next.

Tools and Materials


  • Clamp
  • File
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Health & Safety

Please make sure you use all equipment appropriately and safely when following the advice in these D.I.Y. videos. You need to be familiar with how to use equipment safely and follow the instructions that came with the equipment. If you are unsure, you may feel it is safest to consult an expert, such as the manufacturer or an expert Bunnings Team Member.

Grave health hazards are linked to asbestos, which may be in homes built up to 1990. Health hazards may result from exposure to lead-based paints in older materials and copper chromium arsenic (CCA) treated timber. For information on the dangers of asbestos, lead-based paint and CCA treated timber and tips for dealing with these materials contact your local council's Environmental Health Officer or visit our Health & Safety page. You can also use a simple test kit from Bunnings to indicate the presence of lead-based paint.
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