Saw Sharpening for Handsaws and Chainsaws

Saw Sharpening for Handsaws and Chainsaws

Nothing can be more frustrating than using a saw with a dull blade. The project you’re working on can become three times as difficult to finish and using a dull handsaw will require a lot more effort. Using a dull blade can also result in messy cuts. Unfortunately, a saw blade won’t stay sharp forever. Repeat usage will wear down the teeth, making even the strongest, sharpest blade dull. However, people can do their own saw sharpening at home by following a few simple steps.

Instead of replacing the saw blade or chainsaw chain, learning how to sharpen these blades can end up saving you quite a bit of money each year. Learning these techniques can be a little intimidating in the beginning, but once you get the hang of it, you’ll be able to enjoy a perfectly sharpened blade that will offer precise cuts each and every time.

How to Sharpen a Handsaw

Most saws are made from steel, which can be easily sharpened with the use of a few basic tools. A couple of vises and a standard metal file will work well to sharpen a basic saw blade. If you decide to take your saw in to have it professionally sharpened, you’ll notice that they often use grinders or other types of power equipment.

Using a metal file to sharpen a handsaw is pretty straight forward. The saw’s blade should be placed teeth side up in the vise. Make sure that the blade in gripped firmly. You can use more than one vise to grip the blade if using only one feels too loose. Next, you’ll want to run the file parallel to the blade across the top of the teeth. The name of this technique is called trimming. You can file down the tops of the teeth until the tips are all even and flat. This will work to even out the teeth so that they’re all the same length.

The next step is running the file across the sides of each tooth diagonally in order to create new tips. Focus on pulling the file in a single direction, using a smooth motion every time. Keep an eye on the tops of the teeth to ensure that they gradually sharpen to a point. You should do this a few times. Make sure that every tooth is sharpened to the same tooth depth and height. This is referred to as shaping the teeth.

Blade Types

The types of saw blades commonly used at home are designed to saw some metals, glass, tile, plastic, and wood. Before you sharpen the blade it’s a good idea to first determine what type of material the saw is made of.

Probably the most widely used metal for saw blades is steel. Carbide and high-speed steel are also available but much more expensive than regular steel. If you need a saw for small projects around the home, a steel blade can easily meet those needs.

Some types of handsaws and circular saws have blades that are made from titanium carbide or tungsten carbide. This carbide is very durable and strong. Not many blades are made from pure carbide because it’s so expensive. Typically, a carbide tip is brazed onto a blade and works to make the tip of the blade ten times stronger than a steel blade. This type of material is also able to retain its sharpened point much longer than a standard steel blade. But eventually, even a carbide tipped blade needs to be sharpened and a standard metal file won’t work on this type of material. A sharpener or file that’s made out of pure crystalline carbon or diamond powder is tough enough to handle sharpening this material.  Keep in mind, the file will begin to wear down as you sharpen.

How to Sharpen a Chainsaw Chain

sharpen a chainsaw chain

Sharpening a chainsaw chain can be a little more complicated, especially if you’ve never done it before. To do, you’ll need a filing kit designed specifically for sharpening chains. These are available at most hardware stores.

To start, you must engage the chain brake and clamp the saw’s bar in the vise. Place the guide between the chain’s rivets. The arrows on the guide should be pointed toward the bar’s nose. Next, follow the angle of the top plate of the cutter. On the guide, the rollers will prevent you from going too deep into the cutter’s side plate.

When you’re filing, make sure you use even, steady strokes.  After you sharpen the cutters on one side, turn the saw around so you’re able to sharpen the other side. Make sure you use the depth gauge tool, filing to adjust the height of the depth gauges. This is important because if the depth gauges are too high, the cutters will be unable to reach the wood.

A chainsaw chain should be sharpened every few uses.

Let the Pros Sharpen your Blades

People who aren’t comfortable sharpening their saw blades can take their saws to a pro. Hardware stores commonly offer this service.  A professional sharpener can sharpen pretty much any type of blade using a piece of power equipment specifically designed for the task. While you can definitely do this on your own, having it done professionally can result in a saw that’s sharpened more efficiently. These services use a variety of tools for sharpening a wide range of blades. Some places will even specialize in sharpening the small bits on a chainsaw chain.

The cost for having your blades sharpened by a professional are usually pretty affordable. Many places will charge per blade as opposed to an hourly rate.

Final Thoughts

If you’ve decided to give saw sharpening a shot, keep in mind that it’s often a multi-step process. There are several types of saw blades on the market and the materials used for each type can require different tools to sharpen them. Steel blades don’t need anything other than a metal file, while carbide will require special tools. It’s important that you use the correct type of file based on the saw blade type in order to avoid ruining the blade.