Sharpen Your Chainsaw So It Cuts Like Crazy

Reader Contribution by Staff
article image

 Autumn is the best time of year for cutting firewood in my book. The air is cool, bugs are gone and impending winter makes it easy to get excited about the need to stock up on homemade heating fuel, even if what you cut now will still take a year to dry before it’s ready to burn.

But despite all the reasons for getting excited about making your own firewood, the exercise depends entirely on having a sharp chain on your saw. This is key. A dull chain is as useless as it is dangerous, and relying on some professional shop somewhere to sharpen your saw for you is about as practical as relying on your parents to tie your work boots.

Unless you happen to cut wood within a few hundred yard of a saw shop, you really need to develop the skills to do the work yourself. After sharpening my own saws for 25 years with a file and guide, I graduated to using an electric chain sharpener a couple of years ago, and I certainly can recommend the Oregon unit I use. The results are outstanding – better than a new chain – though I still consider hand filing to be an essential self-reliance skill. Hand filing makes the most sense for casual chainsaw users because the tools you need are inexpensive and the skills required translate into greater competence no matter what how you sharpen your saw. To learn more about sharpening saws by hand with a file, check out my online tutorial on the subject at

Pay special attention to the section that covers adjusting the height of depth gauges. This is often overlooked and is the leading cause of an otherwise sharp chain not cutting up to its potential.

Contributing Editor Steve Maxwell has been helping people renovate, build and maintain their homes for more than two decades. “Canada’s Handiest Man” is an award-winning home improvement authority and woodworking expert. Contact him by visiting his website and the blog, Maxwell’s House. You also can follow him on Twitter and Facebook.