How to Use an Oregon Chain Sharpener (Step by Step Guide with Pictures)


If you’re wondering how to use an Oregon chain, we’ve got you covered.

all saw chain eventually needs sharpening whether it’s cutting in abrasive conditions like dirt and sand or just normal wear.

Using the professional-grade Oregon 520-120 grinder is an excellent choice for sharpening saw chain and getting back in the cut.

Related: How to Sharpen a Chainsaw Blade?

In this article, you will learn how to properly operate the Oregon 520-120 grinder. These instructions are applicable to the Oregon 410-120 grinder as well.

Before using the Oregon grinder, be sure to read and understand the information provided in the associated product owner’s manual.

Additionally, please be sure that you have properly completed the assembly process. Please note that proper personal protective equipment should always be worn during assembly and operation.

Before we begin, let’s look at the basic components that make up a chainsaw chain.

Related: How To Tighten Stihl Chainsaw Chain (Step by Step Guide)

Chainsaw Chain Components

The components that make up a loop of chain include cutters, tie straps, rivets, and drive links.


Before sharpening your chain, it’s especially useful to understand the attributes of a cutter:

  • top plate,
  • cutting corner,
  • side plate,
  • gullet,
  • and depth gauge (depth gauges are sometimes referred to as breakers or drags)


Oregon cutters are electrostatically plated with a thin layer of chrome on the top plate and side plate for outstanding performance and to stay sharp.


Some Oregon chains have a witness mark on the top plate indicating both the proper grinding angle and end-of-life of the chain.


When the chain is dull or damaged, it is vitally important to sharpen all cutters sufficiently and evenly to get back to good chrome.


How to Use an Oregon Chain Sharpener

Recommended Oregon Chainsaw Sharpener Angles

The factory recommended chainsaw saw chain cutting angles for a particular Oregon chain model can be found in several locations:

  • 520-120 owner’s manual,
  • Oregon Maintenance and Safety manual,
  • back of the Oregon chain package,
  • or online at Oregon’s website.

The three fixed grinder settings are:

  • the grinder head angle,
  • top plate cutting angle,
  • and ten-degree down angle tilt.


These settings are unique to each chain.

First, set the appropriate grinder head angle by loosening the clamp on the back of the grinder head bracket and tilting the grinder head into the appropriate position.


Next, set the top plate cutting angle by rotating the chain vise assembly to the appropriate setting.


If specified for a particular Oregon saw chain, proceed to set the recommended degree down angle.


For left-hand cutters, the vise adjustment knob is pulled toward the operator and for right-hand cutters, the knob is pushed away from the operator.

A handy phrase to help you remember the correct knob direction is ‘right away’.


Note, when using the ten-degree down angle setting with a 520-120 grinder, it is important the chain vise setting and the grinder head angle setting be correct.


Positioning Cutters for Sharpening

Before using your chainsaw sharpener, it is always a best practice to clean the chain and fully inspect the entire loop.

A clean chain makes it easier to assess damage to the cutters and chassis. Additionally, a clean chain will keep grinding wheels in peak performance by reducing build-up of contaminants.

To begin, look for the cutters with the most damage. The most damaged cutter in the loop is the cutter that should be ground first.

Properly position the grinding wheel by lowering the grinding wheel down on the most damaged cutter.

The chain should be facing the same direction as it would be on your saw. Note, the vise is not clamped at this stage and the chain can travel freely in the track.

Adjust the chain stop paul so that the center of the paul is on the cutter being sharpened. Next, turn the rear chain adjustment knob until the cutter just engages the wheel.


This adjustment controls how much material is to be removed when grinding.

Lastly, set the wheel depth stop. Ideally, the depth of the wheel should be at least down to the fold in the cutter.


The grinding wheel should never be set deep enough to grind into the chassis of the chain.

Correct Grinding Techniques

Remember, always wear the appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) when working with chain grinders.

Grind all the cutters on the same hand of the chain. For example, if you start with the right-hand cutters, complete all right-hand cutters in sequence before stopping the unit and rotating the chain vise assembly to grind all the left-hand cutters and sequence.

The goal is to get back to good chrome plating.

When grinding, always use a quick tapping technique to minimize burning of the surface of the cutters.

Before switching to the other hand, visually verify that the cutters you have sharpened have similar top plate length.

If the cutter top plates are not visually similar, adjust the cutter chain stop to remove slightly more material to achieve uniform visual top plate length.

It is important that the right hand and left-hand cutter top plate links remain balanced through the life of the chain.

To obtain this balanced condition, the top plates need to be approximately the same length.

After grinding, clean the saw chain to remove any grit and then soak in oil.

How to Set Depth Gauge

Adjusting depth gauges is an important part of regular chain maintenance. If the cutter has been aggressively sharpened to remove damage, the depth gauges will need to be set.

If there’s been no damage to the cutter, the depth gauges can be adjusted about every three or four sharpenings.

For setting chain depth gauges with a 520-120 grinder, install a quarter-inch or 5/16 inch wheel.

Rotate the head tilt angle to 60 degrees, then rotate the vise assembly to zero degrees. Check the profile of the grinding wheel as illustrated in the Oregon chainsaw sharpener manual. Adjust the profile with a dressing brick if necessary.


Next, verify the correct depth gauge setting. Adjust the first depth gauge by hand. Assess the need for adjustment with the supplied template tool or other depth gauge tools.

Oregon offers tools for setting depth gauges manually, the 31941 or the 22290 along with a simple flat file.


If the depth gauge requires adjustment, it should be made with a flat file and checked again with the template until it’s within specification.


Next, with the power off and unplugged, lower the grinding head and make contact with the depth gauge that was previously set by hand.

Once the depth of the grind has been set, grind all of the remaining depth gauges in the chain. Note, there is no difference between depth gauges on right and left-hand cutters. You can lower all depth gauges in sequence on a loop of chain.

With your newly sharpened chain, you’re ready to get back to work.

I hope now know ho to use an Oregon chain sharpener. If you’re looking for a cheaper sharpener, why not try the Oregon Powersharp chainsaw sharpener?

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