This go round I’m going to show you how I use a file guide to sharpen a chainsaw chain. I am a bit unconventional in my use of it, but I get consistent results. Using a file guide is by far my least favorite method of sharpening a chainsaw chain, but it does have a couple of advantages. To skip straight to the instructional video, click this!


     -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! LOL.

     -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.

     -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!

     -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
A file size chart I found on the back of a box!


     A couple of things to note when using a file guide… Firstly, you can balance the guide on the tooth to set your 90° angle on the top of the tooth. You can feel it ride flat on the top of the cutter tooth while taking swipes off said tooth. The Boss says he can tell when it goes off of 90° and adjust accordingly on the fly. He can feel the guide riding on the top of the tooth. I don’t use a guide enough to have that sense, but I can test my angle while resting. Secondly, be sure to have the right guide for the file you need. The groove in the guide lets the file sink to the correct depth in the cutting tooth, within reason. It will ride on the top of the tooth, and also on the top of the depth gauge, thereby setting the file to the depth it should be cutting the tooth at.

File guide angle markings
This is the top of the guide. You can see the four angled lines. The two outside lines are 10 degrees, which is mainly used for ripping. The inner two lines are 30 degrees, which seems to be a good happy medium for every day cutting. In the middle you can see which file size should be used in the guide, 3/8.

     I keep my body and saw positions the same as if I was sharpening with just a file. I situate myself and the chainsaw so that I can look directly down on the tooth that I am sharpening. This lets me watch the angle on the cutting tooth in relation to the bar. I always tend to shoot for 30° as it seems to offer the best balance of edge longevity and cutting ability. It works well in the wood we cut here, you might want a bit different of an angle for your wood.

File guide back side
This is the side that rides on the chain’s teeth. You will be looking at the other side while sharpening.

     The file should not be pushed or pulled under a load in the wrong direction. The cutting direction on a chainsaw file is towards the flat end, away from the pointy end, where you probably have the handle attached. I like to pull my file thru the tooth, on my return stroke I take all pressure off of the file and let it glide back to the beginning.

Leveling the guide on the tooth
Here I am balancing the guide on the teeth to find the 90 degrees that I want to sharpen at. You can feel the guide “click” faintly when passing 90 degrees.

     When using a guide I like to hold it the same way the whole time. This lets me use my finger as a “feeler gauge”. When my finger bumps back into the bar on the return stroke I know that I am at the beginning and that my angle is correct. I still check the angle on the guide and compare it with the bar quite often, however.

Front of cut
Here I am at the beginning of the swipe. See my right finger resting at the bar? This lets me hit the same angle every time without looking too much at the angle marks, since I hold the file the same way the entire time. Yes, I do hold the file backwards! 🙂

     Depending on the guide you have, you should see a couple of lines on the top of it. The lines will have a number beside them, those are the guide lines you will want to follow while sharpening your chain. Like I said, we tend to keep all our chains at 30°, but another angle might be better for your conditions/chains.

End of cut
Here I am at the end of the swipe. I will now relieve the pressure on the file and move it back to the beginning.



     Thanks for reading my little article about using file guides. It is definitely not my preferred method for sharpening chainsaw chains, but I can do it in a pinch! My favorite way to sharpen is with a precision file guide, more on that later. If you have any questions, comments, or sharpening stories, be sure to share them in the comments below. Thanks for liking, sharing, and subscribing too!

Safety first, Cass “Cronkito”

 To learn about chain nomenclature, check this 2 part article out!

To learn how I adjust my depth gauges, look at this!

To see me sharpen my chain with just a file, clickey!

Watch me tackle chain sharpening with a precision file guide!













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6 thoughts on “How To Sharpen A Chain, With A File Guide

  1. Hi Cass. Chainsaws aren’t exactly my field, but I’ve browsed your website and Google + presence because of your WA membership. I just wanted to comment that you have a good clear style of explaining technical matters in your field. The test of any instructional piece is how confident would you feel in trying those instructions live? The answer in my case is pretty confident. The advice and procedures you give are logical and methodical, with a nice attention to detail and insight into the sort of things people need to consider. You also have a clear and unambiguous style of writing, which always helps in any technical instruction. I hope your online work gets a wider readership because it merits that. Best wishes.

    1. Thanks a bunch, David! I’m glad that my writing didn’t put you right to sleep! I try to touch all points involved in each procedure in a manner that isn’t completely boring to the reader. Sometimes I even number them, if that is warranted. I still want one or two of your pictures. Maybe I could even get you to do one of me! Some day, my friend!

      Safety first, cass “cronkito”

      1. Thanks Cass, and thanks for the mention you gave me on Google +. That’s always useful for curmudgeonly people like me who don’t do a lot of social networking. Might be able to do something with an image of you if you can supply a good quality original to use as raw material. PM me via WA about it if you like. Take care.

        1. Sure thing, David! It’s always nice when that happens, and you gave me a perfect opportunity! I’ll have to scrounge around to see what I can find, but one of these days when it calms down a bit I sure will PM ya. Thanks!

          Stay safe, cass “cronkito”

  2. I think it’s a great tutorial article about How to sharpen a chainsaw chain. Thanks to the author for sharing us this informative article. It is very helpful for us.

    1. Thanks for stopping by, Michael!

      Sorry, somehow I missed your comment. Glad I could help you out, don’t hesitate to ask any questions if you get in a bind!

      Safety first, cass “cronkito”

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