2941 Pretty Branch Dr. West terry@supersharpshop.com 251-583-5955

Super Sharp Shop

Sharpening Service Mobile Alabama Area

Local Chainsaw Sharpening

Chainsaw Chain Nomenclature

Chainsaw Sharpening Service


Call 251-583-5955

Local Chainsaw Sharpening

I would not attempt to guess at the number of chainsaw users there are in Mobile County or even in my area—Semmes, Georgetown, Fairview and Wilmer, but there are plenty and I see a lot of them. I have just finished sharpening two chainsaws for a client on Howells Ferry Road and I was happy he was able to spend a few minutes with me so we could discuss ways he can sharpen his chainsaws himself and other ways he could save money by avoiding unnecessary purchase of additional chains. Let me discuss sharpening your chain with a hand file.

Quick and Easy Chainsaw Sharpening

There are plenty of articles on the internet claiming to show you how to do a quick and easy chainsaw sharpening. I guess in a lot of cases it is possible to sharpen your chainsaw in a quick and easy manner but I personally feel we all should be looking for “efficient and effective” chainsaw sharpening methods. After all, that is why most people purchase a chainsaw in the first place—for efficient and effective wood cutting. Although I have several electric powered machines for sharpening chainsaw chains, and some pretty expensive specialized tools, I promise you the most efficient and effective way to sharpen your chainsaw is with a hand file. Only extreme wear or some unusual condition would make this statement untrue.

I do want your business but I feel that if I can help you to help yourself, you can decide for yourself what sharpening jobs you might decide to not do yourself; like maybe your kitchen knives. They are actually much more time consuming and aggravating to sharpen than a chainsaw chain.

Sharpen Your Chain With a Hand File

Let’s get started. If you look closely at the saw chain from the chain’s side profile, you will see a series of teeth that have a semi-circular cutting edge. The diameter of these semi-circles will vary by saw type and intended chain use but on your chain they will all be the same diameter. The diameter will be 5/32 inch, 3/16 inch or 7/32 inch. Commercial and special-use chains can be different but most consumer use, that’s you and me, chainsaw chains will be one of the three.

Before you begin your sharpening, you will need two pieces of information: the diameter of the semi-circular cutting edges on the saw chain ( 5/32 inch, 3/16 inch or 7/32 inch), and the pitch (normally 30 degrees)—or rake angle—of those cutting edges. Both pieces of information are normally available in your chainsaw owner’s manual or by the manufacturer of the saw chain. And, you can just about always get the information by a little Google research.

Select a round file that matches the diameter of the semi-circular edges on the cutting teeth and make absolutely certain to use the proper size round file, not a rat-tail file, which tapers across its length.

You should also notice that the teeth are ground at alternating angles—one tooth angles to the right and the next to the left. Between each of the cutting teeth is a raker. It looks like a shark fin and they are just a bit shorter in height than the cutting teeth. You do not sharpen rakers. They act as a depth gauge which controls how deep the cutting teeth will cut into the wood.

Chainsaw Chain Sharpening Guide

Chainsaw Chain Sharpening Guide

You may attempt to sharpen the cutting teeth freehand, but I recommend you use a chainsaw file guide. I buy at mine at Ace Hardware in Semmes but you can find them at most hardware and construction stores. If you are in the Semmes area, please buy at Ace Hardware on Moffett Road—support our local businesses. You can buy the guide kit which comes with a file and handle. Each kit is for a particular size file  ( 5/32 inch, 3/16 inch or 7/32 inch) and you should need only one of the three unless you have different chainsaws with a different chain.

The guide helps you in two ways:

  • It gives you a flat surface you can use to rest the file on the top of the chain, and
  • it prevents you from cutting too deep into the cutting edge.

You will notice there are two angled lines stamped into the top surface of the guide. These lines are placed 30 degrees from the length of the guide. Thirty degrees is the proper pitch, or cutting angle, for the teeth on your chain ( in most cases.) If not, adjust the angle accordingly but in most cases you will not need to change from 30 degrees.

Be safe, wear heavy gloves, and place the file against the cutting edge and push the file along the edge while maintaining the 30 degree angle. You will see the cutting edge starting to shine and hopefully two or three strokes per tooth will be all that is necessary. Remember that every tooth is followed by another with the 30 degree angle measured from the opposite side. This means you can either:

  • sharpen every other tooth and then turn the chain around to the other side for sharpening the skipped teeth, or
  • alternate your sharpening angle for every tooth—30 degrees to the right and then 30 degrees to the left.

Good Luck,

Terry, Super Sharp Shop
Semmes Alabama
ph: 251-583-5955