Hand Filing Chainsaws Figured Out!

Hand Filing Chainsaw Chain

Hand filing chainsaws is a perishable skill.  If you don’t practice you’ll lose it.

Today it clicked.  I no longer need, or want, a file guide.

My chain needed a major sharpening.  The cutters were different lengths and the top plate angles were way off.  I also hit a piece of metal embedded in the wood.

Oregon 72DPX Chainsaw Chain Hand Filing Chainsaws
That’s hand filed Oregon 72DPX semi chisel chain.

I use a welding magnet with lines to reference the top plate angle.

Keep the top of the file 20-30% above the cutters.  That’s a good starting point.

Keep the file parallel to the top of the teeth.  Look for a clean straight line where the file touches the top of the tooth.  If you don’t see a clean straight line keep filing until you do.

Welding Magnet with Angles
The welding magnet I use to reference the top plate angle.  I stick it to the bar when sharpening. You don’t have to be perfect.  Did I really say that?  Yes, I did.
Oregon 72DPX Semi Chisel Chain Hand Filed
A different view of the chain.

Adjust the height of the file by applying pressure toward the tooth and up, toward the tooth and back or toward the tooth and down.  Apply MOST pressure straight back toward the tooth.

Safety first!  Wear thick gloves when hand filing chainsaws!

Check every tooth with the depth gauge tool and file as necessary.

I checked the depth gauges with a depth gauge tool and knocked them all down one stroke.  Sometimes I get impatient.

Take two rounding strokes over the front of the depth gauges after setting their height.  Rounding the front of the depth gauges gives a smooth cut.

Consistency is the key when hand filing chainsaws.  Make the process as repeatable as possible.

Hand Filed Oregon 72DPX Chainsaw Chain
Final view of the chain.

Hand Filing Chainsaws

A brief video showing the results.

Author: John Holden

I'm a chainsaw, chainsaw mill, log splitter, axe and outdoor fanatic. I purchased a my first chainsaw, a Stihl 020, in 1992. I've added a Stihl 036 and Stihl 046 to my collection. I split wood with a Wetterlings Splitting Maul and Ames Super Splitter. When my body's had enough I use a Timberwolf TW-P1 log splitter. I use a Logosol Big Mill basic and Timberjig to mill lumber. I stack firewood in Holzhausen round wood piles.

4 thoughts on “Hand Filing Chainsaws Figured Out!”

    1. You’re welcome. I tried writing lines on soft jaws on top of the vice but the welding magnet gives you a longer line to follow.

  1. I just found your channel today, 8.27.16. And have been looking for a way to respond to your wood splitter tray. I couldn’t find a place where I could write in by phone till I saw this. RE your splitter’s add on wood tray — did you fix that yet? I wanted to suggest putting some short pieces of pipe on each red rod. Enough to extend the catching capability to a useful degree.

    1. Michael, That’s a great solution and most importantly it follows the simpler is better rule. I haven’t fixed it yet, not sure I ever will, but if I do I’ll try your solution first.

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