Tree Hugger
Mar 6, 2005
Oxford, Connecticut
I have to admit...I am horrible at sharpening chainsaw chains. Is there any tool to help me get it right, then phase away from the tool eventually? I have read somewhere about "pferd" or something like that.

I have never really gave any interest in the saw, as long as it's been sharp, clean air filter, and gassed up, that's all I have every cared. I recently got a new chain and realized I can never get it to cut as good from out of the box. That new chain ripped ass too, I'd like to get them like that.

Tips, tricks, advice.


When I was starting out, I couldn't sharpen chain very well either. At first I was paying the saw shop to sharpen my chains but they usually burnt the crap out of them and ground off too much. Of course that had nothing to do with the fact that I'd run them until they couldn't cut any more.

So then I bought one of those $35 dremel type grinders that clips to your truck battery. Then I was Da Chit because I could grind my own chains on the job! 8) I used that for about a year and a half to two years. But the stones were expensive compared to files and I was getting better at keeping my angles right. Then once I started using files I realized that a sharp file could file as fast as the electric grinder.

Been using files for the past 15+ years and never used any type of guide other than the scribe mark on the top of the chain tooth (Stihl chains) and my eyeballs. Read the literature from Oregon and Stihl on chain sharpening. Focus on the 3 angles and identify them on your chains, both new and used. Once you can 'see' what a sharp chain should look like then it's simply a matter of using the file to make the dull tooth look correct.

And as an old tree guy told me many years ago, it's like masturbating. Just get the right stroke and keep repeating it until the job is done! :lol:
There is nothing better than a sharp chain.

keep practicing.:D Some of those guides are good but really your eye is the best judge. The only thing I use a gauge for is setting the rakers. and the most important thing to remember is that a well used chain should out cut a new chain every time.:D
And make sure you use a SHARP file.

good tip. I'm sure we've all tried to sharpen with a file that was found at the bottom of the toolbox, covered in chips and bar oil;)

Advice I once got from an oldtimer: "It's much easier to file a chain correctly when you're in the shop with a proper vice and have a nice coctail to sip on" "It really sux to file a chain on the jobsite"....
Biggest thing I can recommend for learning to file and for safety is never use a dull saw. Stop and file as soon as you've lost your razor edge, do not use it until it can't barely cut anymore. A dull saw is extremely dangerous, extremely!

I have a strange way of filing but it works for me I hold the saw on my lap and hunker down right over it, then I flip the saw backwards so my stroke/angle is the same and same hand running the file. This works for me although I've never seen anyone else do it. Find what works for you and don't be afraid to expirement a little.

I never used gauges/guides hell I don't even use a handle on the file. For rakers(which are very important to keep your saw biting well) I just lay the flat file across the tooth I'm checking and the tooth in front of it(on the same side of the chain) and visually check the 'gap' looking for abouts a dime's thickness of light between the file and raker.

Evenness all around is key to cutting straight and smooth.
Here's a pic of my backasswards filing. I file one side like that and then flip the saw 180 to do the other side. I know bloody Canadians.:D

Damn it almost makes me cry seeing my old Chevy in the background. Atleast I still got the beautiful kiddo though.


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I learned to file free hand from my gramps and other old loggers... I have gotten decent at freehand over the years... no guide or jig needed.

There is a small file guide you can use called a File-O-Plate.

They are made by Carlton... Bailey's sells them. Super cheap and EZ-PZ to use. It not olny helps you get the angles right, it helps in filing on the riders at the proper depth. However they don't work on skiptooth chains... so I have no use for them...

Here is a link to the ones at Bailey's store... Carlton File-O-Plates at Bailey's online. Just pick the one for the size of chain you have. They are pretty slick.

Or there is the Filemate... Sold at Bailey's online as well...

like squishy said, find your own comfort. i like to sit indian style with the rear handle tucked in and the bar on top of my legs. i find the worst tooth and count how many strokes it takes to clean it up, then every other tooth gets the same amount of strokes. i file with out a handle also but switch left hand, right hand, left hand. brians angle pics are good, the file tang shoul be a little lower than the end.
I've found that putting the chainsaw onto a vice and being able to use both hands to sharpen makes a huge difference. A friend showed me how to use the roller file guides and it helps a lot as it forces the file to sharpen the upper portion of the tooth rather than digging into the side and bottom part when doing it by hand.

Half way down on this page they sell them:

vice is key for me, been "getting by" doing it for a couple of years and then it just clicked - my groundie said stuff was sharper than new all of a sudden. Just gotta learn to feel when the angle is right with equal abrasion on both sides of the tooth.
I gotta have a vise if I'm gonna be accurate with the longer bars. I'm sure ya'll have seen my set-up.


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Ready made vice

In the woods I just cut down into a round ,sit behind that thing and file both directions ,over the top .It seems to work better for me .


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I try real hard to only file in the shop, on the bench with a vise and GOOD light. I much prefer to carry a couple of spare chains for all three saws all ready to go and change them as needed, so I can avoid field filing. Trying to do it quickly under pressure to get back to cutting always ends up being likely to produce poorer results for me.

I hand file, and it might be that I'm the only guy here running chisel tooth chain and filing with a six-sided flat file. Few are dumb enough to even try. :|:

Now this takes a whole 'nother level of learning to do worth a toot over round filing. In fact, I can't really recommend it unless you already are quite good with a round file. Three different angles to hit precisely, simultaneously, and continously through every stroke.

I don't even know that I can say doing so gives you measurably better cutting chain for day-in day-out saw work over round filing a chisel cutter. But I figured that there had to be a reason the chain manufacturers built 'em that way, so I try to keep 'em the same.
It's just a matter of preference I guess . I know trimmers that prefer to carry extra chains and have them resharpened by a shop .Doesn't make sense to me but to each his own .

In the overall scheme of things the secret is sharp,no matter how it's done .
I just try and get them right in the vice in the workshop, using a roller guide as mentioned above. Then if they need a light touch-up in the field, then I know the angles are going to be pretty spot on. I also use the dremel type device for longer bars to get the worst nicks out, then finish with a file, rather than burn too much into the cutters.Also I always check the depth gauges in the workshop, I hate to do them in the field!!
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How many sharpenings are you guys getting from a file? Seem like I can never get more than 3 or 4 with a 20" chain.
I have no idea how many .I buy them two dozen at a time and they just end up in a drawer or coffee can when they get dull,for whatever dumb reason I save them .:?
How many sharpenings are you guys getting from a file? Seem like I can never get more than 3 or 4 with a 20" chain.

Sounds about only saw with SUCH SHORT bars is the 200T :P:lol:, but I guess I get about the same, maybe a little files certainly make the job soooo much easier.

If you keep the files stored where they don't get banged up, and blow/brush the filings out of them you'll get some bit more life from them.
I only get about 3 - 5 sharpeings too... I keep my files seperated in the box by sliding them in drinking straws. Saves them from gettin' banged around in the tool box. Not sure if it really helps... but I do it anyways.

I've had this little gizmo for years 'n' years. Sticks on your bar with 2 magnets and the criss cross lines are all 35* on one side and 30* on the other side. Keep your sharp, clean file in line with the lines on the voila, all your top plate angles are sharpened to exactly 30 or 35 degrees. I was taught to start with the most knackered tooth first, no more than half a dozen strokes on each tooth and to tap the file periodically to lose the filings out of the rasp. In the top photo you can just make out the number 35* in the top left corner of the gizmo.


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