Chainsaw Maintenance

How Many Times Can A Chainsaw Chain Be Sharpened?

A chainsaw is a powerful tool, a workhorse that easily conquers thick logs and dense foliage. But its performance doesn’t just depend on the engine or the design. It’s all about the chain, that razor-edged workhorse that does the actual cutting.

Yet, we’ve all faced that point of despair when the chainsaw doesn’t cut like it used to. Dull chains not only slow down your work, but they also pose a safety risk. But the big question is, how many times can a chainsaw chain be sharpened? In this article, we’re going to delve deep into this topic to help you get the most out of your chainsaw chains.

“Sharpening a chainsaw chain is like sharpening a pencil – a few times can help it perform better, but eventually, it will need to be replaced for optimal performance”.


You don’t have to toss out your chainsaw chain after a few uses, it can actually be sharpened, giving it new life. In fact, the average chainsaw chain can be sharpened anywhere between 5 to 10 times, depending on the quality of the chain and the severity of the dullness. But remember, each time you sharpen, you’re reducing the life expectancy of your chain. So, strike a balance!

For example, you’re prepping for the winter, chainsaw in hand, ready to cut down that old tree in your backyard. You rev the chainsaw, but the tree stands defiantly. That’s when you realize, it’s not about the tree’s stubbornness, but your chain’s dullness. Now, that’s a problem worth tackling!

How Many Times Can A Chainsaw Chain Be Sharpened?

As I mentioned earlier, the average chainsaw chain can be sharpened up to 10 times and even more, depending on factors like the quality of the chain and the severity of the dullness. Each sharpening session removes some of the material from the teeth of the chain, which over time can diminish its life span.

When you notice your chainsaw isn’t performing as well, before running to buy a new chain, consider sharpening it. A sharp chain will help you work faster, more efficiently, and more safely. However, sharpening too often can wear out your chain faster.

Factors Influencing Chainsaw Chain Sharpening Frequency

There are several factors that can influence how often you need to sharpen your chainsaw chain:

Chain Quality: High-quality chains are made of more durable materials that retain their sharpness longer, thus requiring fewer sharpening sessions.

Usage: If you’re using your chainsaw frequently or for long periods, the chain will need sharpening more often.

Cutting Conditions: Cutting harder materials or dirty wood can dull a chain faster.

Maintenance: Regular cleaning and proper chain tensioning can help your chain stay sharp for longer periods.

Sharpening Skills: Over-sharpening or improper sharpening can decrease the life of your chain.

The Importance of Proper Chainsaw Chain Sharpening

Properly sharpening your chainsaw chain is not just about improving the chain’s efficiency but also about safety. A dull chain can cause the chainsaw to kick back or get stuck in the wood, potentially leading to accidents.

  1. Sharpening technique: Using a round file that matches the cutter’s diameter, sharpen at the right angles.
  2. Maintaining balance: Ensure you sharpen all teeth to the same length to maintain the chain’s balance.
  3. Checking rakers: The rakers, or depth gauges, control how deep the cutters can penetrate the wood. They should be checked and filed regularly.

Choosing the Right Chainsaw Chain [Explain]


Identify Your Chainsaw’s Specifications

Pull out your chainsaw’s manual or check the bar for these crucial details:

  • Pitch: This is the distance between any three consecutive rivets divided by two. Common sizes are 3/8 inch and .325 inch.
  • Gauge: It’s the width of the drive links. Common sizes are .050 inch and .063 inch.
  • Length: It’s the number of drive links.

Read more: How Many Drive Links in An 18-Inch Chainsaw?

Note: If you don’t have this information handy, don’t panic. A quick internet search of your chainsaw model should do the trick.

Understand Your Cutting Needs

Different tasks call for different chains. Here’s a quick rundown:

  • Full chisel chains: They’re like the high school jock of chains – strong, and fast, but they dull quickly, especially when they meet dirty or frozen wood.
  • Semi-chisel chains: They’re the marathon runners, cutting slower but staying sharp for much longer, a reliable choice for dirtier wood.
  • Low-profile chains: They’re for the casual user, providing less kickback and easy maintenance, but with less cutting power.

So, if you’re tackling clean, softwood, the speedy full chisel is your MVP. But if it’s dirty or hardwood, go for the steady semi-chisel.

Choose The Right Cutter Style

Consider this like choosing a new hairstyle for your chainsaw. The three popular ones are:

  • Standard: It’s like the “business in the front, party in the back” mullet. It’s got great cutting power but can kick back like a mule.
  • Low-kickback: This is the safe, “parent-approved” style. It may not cut as fast, but it reduces the chances of dangerous kickbacks.
  • Aggressive: This is the chainsaw equivalent of a mohawk, designed for experienced users dealing with large, hardwood tasks.

Know Your Chain Arrangements

Chain arrangements, also known as sequence types, dictate the chain’s cutting characteristics:

  • Standard sequence: Has the most teeth, giving the fastest, smoothest cut. Best for clean wood.
  • Skip sequence: Has fewer teeth, requires less power, and stays sharp longer. Ideal for dirty or frozen wood.
  • Semi-skip sequence: The Goldilocks of sequences, it’s a compromise between the standard and skip sequences.

And there you have it, folks! You are now equipped to stare down that wall of chains at the hardware store with confidence.

How To Sharpen Chainsaw Chain Correctly?


Step 1: Roll Up Your Sleeves and Gather Your Gear

Get your hands on the following tools:

A round file matching your chain’s pitch
A flat file
A depth gauge guide
A file guide
A sturdy vise

You might be wondering, “Where do I get these?” Hardware store, my friend! And hey, it’s an excuse to buy more tools, right?

Step 2: Secure That Chainsaw

Pop your chainsaw into the vise. Secure it, but don’t go Hulk on it; you need the chain to move freely. While you’re at it, make sure to disconnect any power sources. We’re sharpening chains, not fingers.

Step 3: Know Your Chain Type

There are three general types of chains:

Chisel chains: They’re square-cornered, common, and cut quickly. Speedy Gonzales of chains, if you will.

Semi-chisel chains: Slower but stay sharp longer. Think, “the tortoise and the hare,” but with chains.

Chipper chains: Less commonly used with the roundest corners.

Read more: Ripping Chain Vs Standard Chain

Knowing your chain type can help, especially when you’re trying to measure chainsaw chains for replacement or deciphering mysterious numbers like “72” on your chain.

Step 4: Let’s Start Filing

Put the round file into the file guide and rest it into one of the cutter’s teeth. Are you seeing the angle marks on the chain? That’s your guide. Keep the file level with those lines, like you’re trying to balance a book on your head at finishing school.

Push the file across the cutter’s face, maintaining even pressure. You’re not petting a cat here; make sure to give it some elbow grease. But remember, we’re after a Goldilocks touch – not too hard, not too soft.

Step 5: Don’t Forget the Depth Gauges

Those little fellas control how deep the cutters dig into the wood. Use a depth gauge guide to check ’em. If they’re too high, take your flat file and bring ’em down a peg. Just like your 6th-grade teacher did with your over-inflated ego.

Step 6: Time to Test Your Work

Try out your newly sharpened chainsaw on some test wood. Is it cutting smoothly? Does it feel like you’re trying to wrestle a grizzly bear? If so, you might have overdone it a bit. Remember, the goal here is to avoid chainsaw sharpening mistakes, not create new ones.

NOTE: If you’ve followed all these steps and your chainsaw is still struggling, you may need to measure your chainsaw bar length, or you might be due for a new chain entirely.

Chainsaw Chain Storage and Maintenance

Proper storage and maintenance are vital for preserving the life of your chainsaw chain. Always clean the chain after use, and make sure it’s dry before storing to prevent rusting. A little oil can also help protect the chain.

Read more: Chainsaw Maintenance Checklist

Regular maintenance includes cleaning the chain, adjusting the chain tension, and lubricating the chain. These steps can significantly prolong the life of your chain and reduce the need for frequent sharpening.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it better to sharpen or replace a chainsaw chain?

It’s often better to sharpen a chainsaw chain if it’s simply dull but still in good condition. However, if it’s damaged or worn out, replacement might be necessary.

Why does my chainsaw chain dull so quickly?

Your chainsaw chain can dull quickly if you’re cutting dirty wood, hitting the ground, or the chain isn’t properly tensioned. Using the right technique and maintaining your saw can help.

Are chainsaw chain sharpeners worth it?

Yes, chainsaw chain sharpeners are worth it. They’re a cost-effective way to extend the life of your chain and maintain optimal cutting efficiency.

How much does it cost to have a chainsaw chain sharpened?

Having a chainsaw chain sharpened can cost between $10 to $20 at a local service shop, depending on the service provider and the chain’s size.

Key Takeaways

  • The average chainsaw chain can be sharpened between 5 to 15 times.
  • The quality of the chain, usage, cutting conditions, maintenance, and sharpening skills all impact how often you need to sharpen your chainsaw chain.
  • Proper sharpening is crucial for the chainsaw’s efficiency and safety.