Hey hey!

     I’m going to tell you how I adjust the depth gauges on my chainsaw chains. First, a couple thoughts and tips though. To skip straight to my instructional video, clickey here!


     -Consistency! This is a biggie. You want to be consistent with all you do concerning chainsaw chain sharpening. You will want each tooth to be as close to the same as all the other teeth as possible. If you take 3 swipes on your first tooth, take 3 from all the teeth. Push down with the same pressure on all the teeth. Keep the angles the same on all teeth. Be a machine! The closer you can keep all the teeth to being the same, the smoother the chain will cut. It may be tricky at first, but hang in there, you’ll soon have the hang of it!

Depth gauge sticking up thru the depth gauge
The little bit poking up thru the guide is what needs removed.

     -Find a comfortable place to do your work, if possible. Your spouse might not approve if you try to sharpen your saw on the kitchen table or on the couch in front of the TV… What I mean by finding a comfortable spot to work from, is like a nice level bench or truck bed. Somewhere that puts the saw at a comfortable height for you to do your thing! Tree stumps can work just fine if you level them off first. There is even a vise made to set in a tree stump. I prefer the back of the work truck, all my tools are there, as well as the gas and oil.

     -Wear some leather gloves. This is optional, but let me tell ya, if you aren’t paying attention you can really gash your hand if you don’t have a set of gloves on. Ask me how I know! Those cutting teeth are quite sharp even when dull, especially on fleshy bits.

Two styles of depth gauge
Here are two different style depth gauges. They will each do a fine job.

     -Have patience. If this is your first time working on a chainsaw chain have some patience. It is not a difficult task, but it will take time to learn what’s going on. Take your time and have patience and persistence and you will surely learn how to make a chainsaw chain nice and sharp!

Another style of depth gauge
Another gauge, same idea. Take off the bit that sticks up!

     -Make sure you have the right file for the job. If you use the wrong file for the job, you will not achieve the results you want. Here is a list to guide you, hopefully in the right direction! Page 4 has a great chart detailing which file for which chain you will need.

File size chart
Here is a rough version of a file chart.


     When your saw isn’t quite cutting how you think it should, and the teeth are nice and sharp, you will probably want to address the depth gauges. However, I have found most of the time you wont have to do too much to them, if anything at all. If the chain has only had light sharpenings, you will notice that the depth gauge comes down enough on its own. By this I mean, using the chain cutting wood, the depth gauges will be worn down naturally. If you are a heavy handed sharpener, or have cut lots of rocks, you will probably have more to do to the depth gauges than me. Sometimes I like to cut rocks though, so don’t feel bad! And fences…

Chainsaw Depth Guide
The hole on the depth gauge is highlighting the depth gauge on the chain. Notice the size of the cutting tooth, this chain is toast!

     So, here we go! For adjusting the depth gauges on a chain, you will want a depth gauge. This sounds a bit odd, but it’s not really as confusing as it sounds. The depth gauge on a chain is the little “shark fin” in front of the cutter tooth. A depth gauge from the file section of the hardware store is just a piece of metal that rests on the chain and allows you to set each “shark fin” to the same height, relative to each cutter tooth. A depth gauge to set your depth gauges!

     You will also need a flat file, sometimes called a Bastard file. I like a small file, as a larger file is easier to rub into the cutting tooth. This will either mess up your previous sharpening or make it harder to get sharp the next time around. I have heard to only adjust your depth gauges before sharpening, for just this reason. I prefer to adjust them after sharpening, because this will give you a more accurate depth gauge height. You do have to be careful to keep the flat file off the cutter tooth, but if you use the guide that will keep it from messing up those nice shiny teeth!

Depth gauge sitting on the chain
Ready to file this one down! Too bad my file is backwards…

     If you have been sharpening your chain in a consistent manner, your teeth should all be very similar in height and length. If this is the case then your depth gauges should all be similar also, meaning the same amount of material will need to be removed from each depth gauge.

     There are a couple things that could go wrong with adjusting the depth gauges. If you take more material from one side than the other your chain will not cut straight, it will cut in a gradual arch. (Meaning, for example, all the rakers on the right have been taken down half way and all the teeth on the left have been taken down one quarter of the way.) If you have taken each depth gauge to a different height (relative to each cutting tooth) the chain will not cut smooth, it will bounce, vibrate, and chatter. If you take too much depth gauge off, the chain will try to cut too deep, stalling the chain in the cut viagra generique 100mg. Use your gauge on each tooth to ensure consistent filing.

     A quick way to check the depth gauge height is to lay a straight tool, like a screwdriver, on the teeth and look at the space between the depth gauge and the shaft of the screwdriver. To get this correctly set up you will lay the shaft of the screwdriver from the point of one cutter tooth, to the point of the closest adjacent tooth. Bending down so you can see from the side, you should be able to see about a 1/16″ gap between the screwdriver and the top of the depth gauge. If there is no gap, it’s time to grab your depth gauge and file.

This depth gauge needs taken down a bit
I personally like about a 1/16″ gap here. I’m looking at the depth gauge to the left of the shiny bit.

     With your depth gauge, you will want to file until the depth gauge does not rise above the depth gauge. LOL. One other reason to use the depth gauge while filing is to keep the file from messing up your cutting tooth, kind of like a shield for the cutting tooth. You can use the gauge to only check your height, but be careful while filing to not cut into the cutting tooth.

This depth gauge is good to go
This one looks good to me! We are looking to the right of the shiny bit.

     When filing, you will want to file in a certain direction. The easiest way to do this is to file the depth gauge so that you are pushing the chain into the bar on the same side as the tooth is on. In other words, if you set the bar and chain perpendicular to you, the teeth on your side of the chain will need to be filed towards you. The teeth on the opposite side, filed away from you. If you hear a funny squeaking sound coming from the tooth when you file, then you will know you are filing the wrong direction. This happens when the file makes the depth gauge vibrate, making the file skip across the surface. The sound reminds me of nails on a chalkboard.

The direction to push the file for this tooth
Pushing the file in this direction on the teeth on that side will prevent chatter, and allow you to easily remove material from the depth gauges.



     Now, hopefully, you can see that this is not a difficult task, but it will take some attention to detail and patience, as well as having the correct tools. It’s better to take “not enough” from the depth gauges, rather than “too much”. You can always go back and file a bit more, it’s really hard to add material back to a depth gauge! It’s pretty much a one way road. Like I said, you will know you need to check the depth gauges if you have a nice sharp chain that doesn’t cut. That or your chain is on backwards! Don’t laugh, it happens…

     Remember, this is the way I do this. It may or may not be the easiest way for you. Play around with it and get your own “style” that works well for you. There is no one right way to do this, I would say, as long as your end results are consistent and good!

Pulling the file thru the cut
I give it a try, pulling the file instead of turning the saw around. It would be easier to turn the saw around, I think.

     Thanks for reading along with me, and watching my video! Any questions or comments, feel free to drop them in the comment section below. Also, thanks for liking, sharing, and subscribing! You may also contact me via email in that little box on the right side of the page, or, at cass@cuttingwithcronkito.com.

Stay safe, Cass “Cronkito”

To check out my intro to sharpening chains, click this!

To learn how to sharpen a chain with a file alone, check this out!

To read about sharpening with a file guide, look here!

To get the low down on precision filing jigs, push this!























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4 thoughts on “How To Adjust The Depth Gauges On A Chainsaw Chain

  1. Great info bud, thanks for the good tips and for explaining what makes them arch oddly after a depth gauge adjustment. Took four of my chains to a “professional” sharpener and paid $40 for four chains being sharpened. All but one came back cutting with that strange arch which never happened when I sharpened them myself (my sharpener had broken). He had adjusted the depth gauges and know I can confirm that he actually had done this incorrectly which resulted in three basically unusable chains for $10 a piece to ruin them (until I fixed em myself). Doing it myself from now on. Thanks again for the great article and video! Safe and happy cutting.
    (Wear your chaps, helmet, and steel toes kids… your continued health will thank you)

    1. Hi George! Sorry for the long pause for response, I’ve been away from the internet for a bit… Makes it interesting to run a website and answer people! LOL.

      One thing I didn’t mention is that your cut may also arch from the cutter teeth being different lengths on the left and right. It seems when doing it by hand I always end up with a side being a tad longer than the other, even though I take the same amount of strokes from each tooth. Apparently I am not taking the same amount of material! Consistency is very important when sharpening chains, whether by hand or otherwise.

      I remember reading somewhere that the chainsaw is the most dangerous hand tool in the US, so absolutely wear your safety gear! (ear plugs too 😉 George!)

      I have made this series for just the reasons you have started! I’m glad I could help you out. 🙂 Chain maintenance is not such a bad thing once you have the correct tools, and a bit of patience and direction. I could not afford to take my chains in, either in time lost, or in wages lost! I am sure there are many people in that boat with me too… I think if I had a carbide chain I would have to bite the bullet and have it taken in for sharpening though. I hear those are a bear to sharpen…

      Thanks again, stay safe, cass “cronkito”

  2. Hi, with filing down the depth gauges on a low kick back chain, do you also file down the extra metal piece that is beside the depth gauges? (I guess that part would be called the tie strap). If not, then I’m not sure how I could really adjust the depth gauges much. For example a 95vp chain has the extra metal piece I’m referring to. Thanks so much!

    1. Hi T! Thanks for your comment!

      When I work on the depth gauges on a safety chain I also take down the little “raker” next to the depth gauge. You are exactly correct to do so! As you noticed, if you don’t take them both down then you will not get much adjustment. Safety chains are a bit more of a pain due to having twice the amount of material to remove on the depth gauges, but acceptable results are possible with some patience. File away! 🙂

      I will try to remember to get a shot of a safety chain and ad the image to the article. Thanks for the good catch!

      Stay safe, cass “cronkito”

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