How to Sharpen Saw Blades

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How to Sharpen Saw Blades

Nothing is more annoying than a dull saw blade. The project becomes three times as difficult to finish with a dull blade that keeps jamming up and requires more effort just to cut wood, plastic or any other material. Not to mention, dull blades make messy cuts. Unfortunately, saw blades do not stay sharp forever, even when using an expensive carbide tipped blade. Repeated usage wears down the point, making even the sharpest, strongest blade dull. However, people can get blades sharpened using a professional service or even sharpen the blades at home.

Most blades are made of steel, but it is possible to sharpen blades made from other materials like copper. This process takes some time, but only requires a few basic tools. A standard metal file and a couple of vises work well to sharpen everyday saw blades. Other tools, like power equipment, and grinders are used by professional sharpening services. Such blade sharpening tools, and even the saw blades to sharpen are sold in hardware stores, at flea markets and garage sales, on manufacturer websites, and on classifieds and listing sites like eBay.

People can sharpen saw blades at home using a metal file and a vise. This process works best on straight saw blades made of steel or aluminum. Place the blade teeth-side up in a vise. Make sure that the vise grips the blade firmly. Use more than one vise to firmly grip the blade if it still feels loose or wobbly. Run the metal file across the top of the teeth, parallel to the blade. This technique is called "trimming." File down the tops of the teeth until the tips are all flat and even. This helps even out the teeth so that all are the same height.

Run the metal file diagonally across the sides of each tooth to create a brand new tip for each. Pull the file in one direction in a single, smooth motion each time. Keep an eye on the top of each tooth to ensure that it gradually sharpens to a point. Do this three or four times. Make sure that each tooth is sharpened to the exact height and tooth depth. This is called, "Shaping the Teeth."

Crosscut Saw Blades

Those with a crosscut saw, where every other tooth is set outward in an opposing direction, need to "Set" the saw. This is also useful for making a straight saw into a crosscut saw. People use these saws because they do not jam as easily in the sawing process. To set a saw, a saw set is needed. A saw set is a hand tool placed over each tooth to bend the tooth in the correct direction without breaking it. When offsetting the tips of a blade, set them no more than double the thickness of the blade apart from one another.

Types of Blades

Many types of blades exist and are used for many purposes. The saw blades used at home are meant to saw wood, plastic, tile, glass, and some metals. It is a good idea to determine what type of material a blade is made of before attempting to sharpen it.

Blade Material




Common; easy to shape; cheap silver metal

Used in every type of blade; cuts wood, ceramic, plastic, and glass


Not common; easy to form reddish-brown metal

Used mostly in back saws for precise wood cuts


Diamond fragments affixed to steel blade; expensive

Cuts ceramic, concrete, stone, and glass

High Speed Steel

Expensive, durable steel; withstands high temperatures without losing hardness

Cuts steel, copper, aluminum, and other metals


Very hard, strong metal; often brazed to the surface of a steel blade

Cuts wood, plastic, vegetation, and some metals

Steel is among the most widely used metals for saw blades, while copper is the least commonly used. Diamond, high speed steel, and carbide blades are all commercially available, but cost more money for the average person to purchase. Those who just want a saw to cut wood and use in small projects around the house can meet their needs with a standard steel blade. Those who want to make very accurate cuts in glass, tile, or stone can find the right material in a diamond or carbide blade.

About Carbide Tipped Blades

Some blades, especially circular saw blades, are tipped with tungsten carbide or titanium carbide. This carbide is very strong and durable. Not many tool blades are made of pure carbide because the material is so expensive. These tips are brazed onto the blades and make a blade tip that is 10 to 20 times stronger than a steel blade. Carbide also retains its sharpened point for longer than a steel blade or other type of blade material. Eventually, carbide does wear down and needs to be resharpened.

A standard metal file does not work on this type of material. It is too hard to be sharpened with a heavy steel file. A file or sharpener made of diamond powder, pure crystalline carbon, or Moissanite is hard enough to sharpen carbide. However, the file starts to wear down as it sharpens the blade. Over time, a new file needs to be purchased to keep up with repeated sharpenings. Carbide blades are so hard to sharpen that many people opt to take them to a professional blade sharpener who has special equipment to sharpen all types of blades.

Professional Blade Sharpeners

People who are uncomfortable sharpening their own blades or who cannot quite get the knack for it can take their saw blades to a professional. Hardware stores, carpenters, and other small businesses often have blade sharpening services. Some professional sharpeners also set up special in-store events with local hardware, crafts, and hobby shops to coming in to sharpen tools of all types for customers. This service can sharpen almost any type of blade using a piece of power equipment designed for the task. While it is possible to sharpen a blade at home using a metal file, professional services can do the job more efficiently and with less hassle.

These services have a variety of tools for sharpening a range of blades. Some even have saw chain sharpeners to sharpen the small bits on a chainsaw chain. Sharpeners, grinders, and even special circular saw sharpeners are all tools that the professional can use to keep blades working like new.

The fee for using a blade sharpener is often quite affordable. Many charge per blade rather than on an hourly basis. People often save up a number of dull blades to take in all at once to the sharpener. They are able to drop in without an appointment and get their saw blades sharpened within half an hour. When using a professional sharpening service, be sure to keep all of the dull blades in a sealed container. Place them in the container when walking them into the store and put them back into the container when walking out of the store. This is safer for everyone, as even a dull blade can cut.

Buying Blade Sharpeners on eBay

Saw blades and blade sharpening tools are easy to find on eBay. Whether you want to purchase a metal file or go into the sharpening business with a metal grinder, eBay sellers have everything you need. Rather than taking extra time to search manually through the categories, use the search engine tool available on every page of the site. To use this tool, just enter in the keyword you want to search for and hit the "Search" button. The search engine is able to search through thousands of listings for generic terms or specific products, such as a "metal grinder."

Seller Location

If you are looking for a piece of heavy sharpening equipment, you can use the refinements available on any results page to narrow the listings by seller location. To use this refinement, click on "Distance" on the results page. Enter your zipcode, and then enter the search radius into the drop down menu. The search radius is the area you want to search within for a product. The site automatically sorts the results to show those within your radius.


Sharpening saw blades is a multi-step process. Most straight blades can be sharpened using a metal file and vise. After securing the blade in the vise, the tips of flattened so that all are the same height. When the teeth are all trimmed, they are each sharpened back to a point with three to four passes of the metal file on either side of the tooth. If the blade is a crosscut, a special setting tool is needed to set each tooth back in the appropriate position.

Several types of saw blades exist on the market, and the materials used in each can require different tools to sharpen them. Steel and copper blades do not need anything other than the metal file for sharpening. Carbide requires harder materials, such as diamond bits or a carbide file. Often, people choose to take their dull saw blades into a professional service to have them sharpened within minutes. This service is widely available and affordable. However, the tools and equipment to sharpen blades at home can be found on eBay.

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