Chain Sharpening: Part 1...

Sharpening your chain is one of those necessary evils that we all have to do in order to keep the chainsaw cutting efficiently, a dull, worn cutter is just not effective at getting through the wood and it'll tire you out, making life harder.

So, for an easy life with your chainsaw it's worth learning the art of sharpening the chain - it'll save you having to take the chain to your local garden machinery centre to have it sharpened and that means saving you money. How's that then, this site is already making your like easier and saving you money.

In order to sharpen your chain though, there's a few things that you need to know first - find out more after the jump.

To maintain your chain at it's most efficient and effective, you need to know something about your chain to find out the following details...

  • What file size you should use.
  • What filing angle you should be using.
  • What the depth gauge setting should be (you do remember that the depth gauge on the cutter regulates how much wood gets cut don't you?)

To do this you have to know how to identify your chain, then you can set about finding the information you need. Let's take a look at chain ident.

Chain Identification

If you click on the image at the top left of this post, you'll see that the chain has some numbers on it (this particular chain is made by Oregon - one of the largest producers of after-market equipment for chainsaws).

The numbers appear on both the drive link and the cutter - or more specifically the depth gauge on the cutter. These numbers give us some clues to the chains identity - but be warned... Oregon, Stihl and Husqvarna all mark their chains differently, the numbers may be in the same place but the meanings differ. So here's your simple guide around the murky world of chain identification.


Looking at that image again we can see that on the drive link is the number '18' and on the depth gauge, '50' appears. With Oregon chains the number appearing on the drive link is an I.D. number that you can cross-reference with a filing table.

The image above shows an Oregon filing table, these are pretty easy to use and your first step is to take a look down the left hand side and find the row which relates to the number of your chain.

Our particular example shows a number '18' chain - look down the bottom of the table and you'll find a row marked '18H*'; that's ours. Reading across the row, we find the following information (L-R):

  • File size: 5.5mm round file.
  • Depth gauge setting: 1.2mm (or 50 thou').
  • Filing angle(1): we would need to hold the file 10o down, while...
  • Sharpening angle: ...pulling it back 35o to ensure the correct cutting angle.
  • Side plate angle: 85o. Forget about this for a moment - we'll deal with this in a later post.
  • Cutter profile: this is the profile of our chain - notice Oregon don't call it a chisel, semi-chisel or chipper; this is also true of Stihl. All you need to be sure of is that the profile matches the chain you are holding (you are wearing gloves whilst you hold that chain aren't you?).

But what if you have a #21 or #22 chain? Looking down the left hand column shows that there are two rows with these I.D. numbers - and the information within those rows is different. So how do you choose which one is yours? Easy - look over at the right hand side at the profile pictures, compare it to your cutter profile and whichever one matches is your row.


Stihl do things differently, and the numbers on the chain refer to different things compared to Oregon (and Husqvarna). It's not better or worse, just different.

The number on the drive link of a Stihl chain relates to the gauge of that chain and you'll see one of the following:

1, 3, 5, 6, 8, 0

These figures relate to the normal gauge sizes of:

1.1, 1.3, 1.5, 1.6, 1.8, 2.0mm

The number on the cutter shows the pitch of the chain and will be listed as:

325, 3/8 or 404

We can use this pitch information to find the data we need for sharpening the chain; just search for all the chains with your pitch and refer to the chain type. We'll cover this in more detail in another post, as Stihl refer to their chains as Rapid, Picco, Super, Micro and Standard.


Husqvarna have made it very easy. Just take a look at the number on the drive link, look down the Husqvarna filing table for the same number and there you have it.


Next post... we'll take a look at the naming convention used by different manufacturers for their chain.

Related Posts:

[HD VIDEO]: Sharpening The Chain

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Hi it's really amazing. I am using a Husqvarna 372XP chainsaw for 2 years and till now no problem occurred. It's really long lasting.