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How to Maintain and Care for Your Best Chainsaw - Sharpening Chainsaw Chain (Blades)

Updated on March 27, 2015

If there’s one outdoor tool that screams “POWER”, it’s the chainsaw. They are powerful tools that come in handy for a variety of cutting jobs. These tools are designed to be tough, durable and to pull off some incredible cutting jobs.

However, there are times when you have to baby your saw and perform some maintenance to keep your chainsaw in safety and good operating condition. This can be a little intimidating until you know all the facts and give it a try for yourself. It’s almost a paradox that such a powerful tool often has to be cared for like a fine violin, but taking the time to perform much needed maintenance will keep your prized chainsaw in “tune” for many more performances in the future.

Keep it Clean

The best thing you can do to maintain your chainsaw is to keep the chain, and the entire saw for that matter, clean. This is often easier said than done, given the type of work you have to do with your chainsaw. Do your best, though. A clean saw is a happy saw, so take the time to clean your chainsaw regularly, especially after tough, dirty jobs.

Test the Oil System

You need to check to make sure the oil system is doing its job and keeping your saw lubricated. The easiest way to do this is to fill the oil reservoir, star the saw and hold it a few inches away from a piece of white paper, or cloth. Once you have the saw in this position, rev the motor a few times. You should see a light mist of oil collecting on the paper or cloth. If you don’t you may need to have the saw looked at to fix any problems with the oil mechanism.


Sharpen the Chain

There will come a time when you go to cut through some lumber and notice that the old saw is not quite up to the job. You will probably need to sharpen the blade at this point. Sharpening the blade involves getting the right size file for your blade, stabilizing the saw and filing the cutters on the chain in a uniform manner. If you don’t feel up to the task, take the saw into a professional shop for sharpening.

Here are the steps you should take to sharpen your chainsaw blades:

  1. Clean the chain. Veteran chainsaw owners often use mineral spirits to clean their chains. You can also buy specialized cleaning products for this job.
  2. Set the saw on a stable workbench or use a vice to keep it stable. If possible use a vice, as you will want to keep the blade stationary while you file the chain.
  3. Put a chainsaw file guide on the blade. This isn’t required, but a guide will help you to file at the same angle on each cutter.
  4. Slide the file across the cutter with a slight twisting motion, carefully following the angle of the file guide.
  5. File each tooth on the loop the same way you did to the first. Then switch sides and do the same on the teeth facing the opposite direction.
  6. Saturate the chain with oil, make sure the tension of the blade is correct and get back to work.

After you’ve sharpened the chain the first time, you will want to do all you can to keep the chain clean while you are cutting. The cleaner you keep the chain, the less you will have to sharpen it. In fact, it’s not the cutting you do that dulls the chain’s teeth, so much as it is the dirt that the chain comes in contact with. When you’re on the job with your chainsaw, try to wipe off any wood that you will be cutting and avoid cutting straight through to the ground. Taking steps to keep your chain clean will prevent unnecessary sharpening sessions.


You probably depend on your chainsaw holding up for many years to come. To get the longest life, and best performance from your chainsaw, take the time to perform these routine maintenance steps. By staying on top of the required maintenance, you’ll be adding years to the life of your saw.

There are more advanced maintenance & care steps and techniques that you should learn over the lifetime of your chainsaw ownership. For the most part, though, following the steps listed above should get your chainsaw back into cutting condition once again.


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