How to Sharpen a Chainsaw with A Grinder

by Joost Nusselder | Updated on:  August 18, 2020
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In the modern world, cutting and splitting of trees has been made easier with the availability of the chainsaw. However, you must sharpen your chainsaw to enable it to work effectively.

A blunt chainsaw exhausts your energy and takes up precious time that you can use for other things.

A chainsaw that is not sharpened for a long time may is rendered irreparable and helpless. You should sharpen and maintain your chain regularly to avoid the cost of replacement.

How-to-sharpen-a-chainsaw with a grinder

A blunt chainsaw emits a lot of hot dust. A sharp chain will pierce big wood flaws. When you are using extra force to cut a small portion of wood, it’s a sign that your chainsaw is dull.

Even more, overheating is a good indicator of a dull machine. Instead of waiting until your chains become blunt, we advise you to sharpen it regularly.

In fact, you should make few strokes with the round file immediately after using the machine, to make sure you are using a sharp chainsaw. Remember to use the appropriate sharpening tool.

Choose the perfect grinder that will help you sharpen your chainsaw effectively. Powered grinders serve best when it comes to sharpening tasks. We also have a guide on the best hole saw for stainless steel.

How to sharpen your Chainsaw with a Grinder

Sharpening a chainsaw without a prior skill is risky for safety reasons. If you use your grinder incorrectly, it makes your machine vulnerable.

You must comprehensively learn how to sharpen a chainsaw with a grinder using the guide below:

Identify your workspace

Once you identify your workspace, lock the bar of your chainsaw. Take your time and firm up all the tension adjusting screws to lock the chain, and prevent it from shifting.

Suppose you lack a clamp to hold your chainsaw during grinding, you can improvise your own way instead. It may require some adjustment from you.

The way you hold a grinder, and your standing position matters a lot during sharpening. You may review the manufacturer manual where necessary.

Test the Grinder

Make sure to test your grinder before sharpening your chainsaw. The grinder is supposed to be tested in an isolated space to avoid damaging anything around you.

This machine is composed of several moving parts, and you must ensure that they are all running. During this testing, discover any kind of malfunction that may hinder your sharpening.

Hold the angles of the machine appropriately with both hands, and set it on to see how it operates.

Make Adjustments

Before you sharpen your chain, you must start by investigating dented cutters. You will need to sharpen all cutters and level them to cut equally.

That is why grinders must be adjusted to match even a blunter cutter.

Practically, the horizontal stop should lie against the rear edge of one cutter, making it keep a preset distance for the edges of the wheel.

Mark the starting point

Label the tooth from your starting point using permanent ink. This will help you distinguish the sharpened tooth, and prevent you from sharpening the same tooth repeatedly.

The mark will be erased as you continue using the chainsaw. Also, a chainsaw can be built with a starting point indicator, but this might fade with time.

Check the edges of your chainsaw and you might find some unique spaces or marks with different colors.

Adjust for Depth

Twist the threaded adjuster that regulates how deep the abrasive wheel chops. It should move deep enough to touch the bent side of the cutter, but not to cut the chainsaw body.

Try arranging some teeth before you start, and grind repetitively for some seconds until you achieve the defined grinding depth.

Because the metal attached to the cutter is thin, it is advisable not to overheat it by prolonged sharpening.

Check Angles

As the operator,​ you must confirm that the required speed limit of the grinder disk and dimension is properly set.

Also, you must make sure that the angle of the grinding wheel is matched with the tooth and the cutter of your grinder.

Do not force if the diameter of the grinding wheel is not matching the curves. Grinding machine is a safe tool when used in accordance with the basic guideline provided by the manufacturers.

However, if you handle them carelessly, there is a possibility that they will be subjected to regular failure, and you may as well endanger your life.

What angle do I grind my chainsaw chain?

A common question is always about what angle to grind at. As a general rule, most of the standard chains are sharpened at 25 or 35 degrees if you are crosscutting wood.

If you are ripping with the grain, it’s best to use 10 degrees.

Tip: if you are cutting with the grain, use a 10-degree angle.

Adjust Depth Gauge

Grinding of chainsaw mostly involves shaping cutters to enable them to chop effectively. Therefore, you should regularly adjust the levels of the depth gauge.

These curvy extensions of metal are grounded beside each tooth. It controls the chops realized on wood during sawing. After a few sharpenings, the level of the cutter lessens considerably.

You need to adjust depth gauges to balance the level. Without this tactical sharpening, chains may not work appropriately.


Use cushion wheels layered with abrasives to get rid of unwanted metal splits, and smoothen the cutters. This is what grinding operators term as polishing.

It can also be used to remove a damaged tooth that cannot be repaired. On the other hand, you can use a wire wheel mounted on the grinder to remove rust, paint, or dirt from the chainsaw.

Place the chainsaw on the wire wheel, and hold it firm as the wheel rotates until all the unwanted traces are cleared.

Don’t apply extra pressure against the surface of the wire wheel to avoid the dispersion of steel wires.​​​​​​​

Knowing how and when to sharpen your chain is a great deal of saving your time and money.

Here’s a simple way to sharpen your chain with an angle grinder

Check out this simple trick to sharpen your chain using an angle grinder in a matter of minutes.

Benefits of Using A Grinder

Grinders are ergonomically designed to cover small space, and can easily be moved from one place to another. A grinder is a good tool to have because it is easy to use as a sharpening tool.

Don’t be worried about parts, it is a complete machine. There are different sizes of grinders that can suit any of your chainsaws.

Therefore, you may search for a compatible grinder based on the type of your chainsaw.

For the best results, you want to sharpen your chainsaw chain on a low-speed grinder at 1,750 rpm. It’s easier to sharpen evenly at low speed.

Grinders are less expensive, but they perform a spectacular task when it comes to the sharpening of the chainsaw. Prices differ depending on the type and quality.

For sharpening your Chainsaw, you will need a strong grinder that will perform a perfect job with minimal failure.

You need a grinder that is consistent and powerful enough to survive when sharpening metals.

Risk Factor and Caution while sharpening

Make sure you protect yourself before you start sharpening your chainsaw.

The most common protective equipment for grinding purposes is goggles, helmets, masks, ear protection, gloves, and leather aprons.

You must ensure that the sparks produced during sharpening do not impair your eyes. It is also important to note that sparks can also ignite the fire at your workspace.

As a result, you must be careful to prevent fire breakouts. Generally, a moment of divided attention may cause great harm in your life as an operator.

When you are operating a handheld grinder, do not put it down when the disk is still rotating. Ensure your grinder is completely off before you place it on any surface.

Significantly, do not use mounting flanges when the surfaces which cling on the grinding wheel are warped, corroded, or full of dirt.

Powered grinders are very hazardous if safety measures are not adhered to. The grinder can disperse wreckage’s when sharpening materials so it is important to protect your eyes.

Do not forget to wear your gloves as the metal debris can piece your body. You may also find it relevant to wear ear protection and a dust mask.

How to Optimize the Performance of the Tool

The speed at which the disc rotates is an important factor for optimizing the performance of the tool. You can easily adjust the speed on your grinder to suit the sharpening requirement.

In most cases, we recommend you start with the minimum speed. You can adjust the speed once you are certain that the grinder is sharpening well.

Also, you must ensure that the wheel is moving to avoid overheating.

Stay attentive to identify problems during sharpening. If your grinder is malfunctioning, reduce the speed in order to avoid further damage on the chainsaw.

When the wheel is rotating at a high speed, it can be difficult for you to control the sharpening on chainsaw teeth.

Reducing speed will allow you to witness what is affecting your grinder, and finish your sharpening task effectively.

A faulty grinder may produce a loud noise and excessive vibration that may consume much of your energy when handling it. Reducing the speed will minimize this problem.

Your grinder is created with a side handler. For optimal safety and efficient operation, ensure you handle it properly. Use the handlers to set up maximum control when sharpening.

Again, ensure that the wheel or disc guard is properly protected when you are operating the tool.

Notably, the guard is transparent, so you will still watch how your chainsaw cutter is progressing. For your safety, you should not leave the guard uncovered.

Why does my chainsaw dull so quickly?

This is a question everyone always asks. It seems that as soon as you use your chainsaw, it starts to dull. There are several reasons your chainsaw dulls too fast.

First, you may be using the wrong size of file for the chain. Check the user manual and make sure you use the right-sized file.

Also, you might be applying too much pressure when you use your chainsaw. Never apply more pressure than necessary.

This causes the cutting edges to become too thin and dull faster than usual.

The final tip: use a depth gauge specifically crafted for your saw.

How many times can you sharpen a chainsaw chain?

This is a general estimate, as the quality of the chain is of utmost importance. Famous brands like Stihl make high-quality chains that last longer and don’t dull as quickly.

But, in most cases, you can sharpen a chainsaw chain about 10 times before you need to replace it with a new chain.

What tends to happen is that the chain gets worn down and dull unevenly.

In this case, it will be sharp in one part and dull on another, which makes cutting wood a real hassle. If you experience uneven wear and tear, take the chain to a professional who can grind it uniformly.

What kind of electric grinder should I buy for sharpening chainsaw blades?

If you are on the market for an electric grinder, look for one specifically built for sharpening chainsaw chains.

These devices make your life easier because they are automated to do the grinding for you. For example, check out this Oregon 410-120 Bench or Wall Mounted Saw Chain Grinder.

Oregon 410-120 Bench or Wall Mounted Saw Chain Grinder

(view more images)

A grinder such as this one makes sharpening your chain easy. This grinding bench features a dressing brick as well as three grinding wheels for sharpening chains with the following dimensions:

1/4″, 3/8″ low profile, 0.325″, full profile 3/8″, and .404″

Before you buy a grinder, check the dimension and thickness of your chain. Make sure the grinder has the right sized grinding wheels.

How do you sharpen a chain saw chain by hand?

Final Verdict

In conclusion, the grinder is the right sharpening tool for chainsaws, since it produces a magnificent result within a short time.

As an operator, you must be attentive to monitor the progress of your grinder to prevent damages on the chainsaw cutters.

This enables you to decide whether adjustments are required for optimized sharpening.

I'm Joost Nusselder, the founder of Tools Doctor, content marketer, and dad. I love trying out new equipment, and together with my team I've been creating in-depth blog articles since 2016 to help loyal readers with tools & crafting tips.