If you own a chainsaw then you should know the dangers associated with dull chains. Cutting using a dull chain increases the chances of your saw catching or slipping and kicking back.
Related Article: The 5 Best Cordless Chainsaws Reviewed
Now you might pay to have your chain sharpened for you which is a perfectly fine way to do it. For anyone who needs their saw frequently though it can become a high-cost over time. That’s why if you frequently use a chainsaw, then owning a sharpener is a smart investment that can save you lots of money in the long term.
Just a little bit of elbow grease and sharpening your chainsaw can save you quite a bit of money when it comes to a new chain or premature wear and tear of your saw. If your mind is open on sharpening your own chainsaw, the question then becomes, what kind of model should you go for?
Our Top Picks
|Oregon 520-120 Bench Saw Chain Grinder||Electric sharpener for frequent use||View on Amazon|
|Oregon 410-120 Bench or Wall Mounted Saw Chain Grinder||Electric sharpener for occasional use||View on Amazon|
|Timberline Chainsaw Sharpener||Manual chain sharpener||View on Amazon|
|Buffalo Tools ECSS Electric Chainsaw Sharpener||Budget electric sharpener||View on Amazon|
|Stihl 2-In-1 Easy File Chainsaw Chain Sharpener||Manual chain sharpener||View on Amazon|
Best Chainsaw Sharpener Reviews
Best Overall Value: Oregon 520-120 Bench Saw Chain Grinder
The Oregon 520-120 is our pick for the overall best chainsaw sharpener on the market. Oregon makes some of the absolute best chainsaw sharpeners out there and could have easily filled half our entire list, but the 520-120 is the one we think brings the most to the table.
The 520-10 is a bench mounted sharpener built for high volume use. Its speed and ease of use, coupled with the ability to work with nearly any size chain, have made it a favored choice among professionals. Equipped with a self-centering chain vise, it reduces prep work and gets your chain sharpened quicker and with less room for error. Oregon has also provided robust safety features with the unit featuring a one-way rotation motor and a built-in light.
Easy to use, versatile, and powerful, the 520-120 is our favorite sharpener on the market, and we highly recommend it to anyone who needs to sharpen chains frequently. If you only occasionally need to sharpen chains, then this model may seem a bit pricey, and we would encourage you to check out Oregon’s more lightweight 410-120 model instead.
- A Self-aligning chain vise makes setup fast and simple.
- Able to sharpen any chain with a pitch up to .404″
- Makes sharpening chains a quick and easy process.
The model under the 520-120 shares a lot of the strengths of its sibling, including the versatility to work with nearly any chain. This mid-sized grinder features an interchangeable mount and can be mounted to a bench or a wall for easy sharpening.
As a lower budget model, the Oregon 410-120 lacks some of the fancier touches of the 520-120. Unfortunately, this includes the extended self-aligning vise. It is still a highly capable tool that offers great value at a more budget-friendly price point for home use.
If you’re looking for a chainsaw sharpener to use at home, then the 410-120 has our recommendation for the best light-duty model on the market. At a great entry point, and providing high value with quick and easy use it makes for the perfect option for occasional use. For anyone who works with a chainsaw enough that they would need frequent usage though we recommend looking at the 520-120 instead.
- Can be mounted on a wall or bench giving more options for setup
- It is able to be used with any chain up to a .404″ pitch.
We love the Timberline sharpener line for how portable they are without sacrificing any quality. Incredibly small and weighing in at only two pounds, it’s easy to toss this unassuming little beast in your bag before heading into the field. With a patented design, the Timberline attaches to the bar of your saw and uses a hand crank carbide file to sharpen the cutters.
With the body of the tool acting as a fixed guide, you can be confident that each tooth is sharpened accurately. The result is a well-balanced chain ready to get back to cutting. We only wish the guide included a way to file rakers with similar precision as well.
While this tool is great, though, we do have a word of caution for anyone intending to buy it to make sure they take the time to check out Timberline’s online instructions and tips to learn to use this sharpener effectively. It doesn’t take long to learn, but without taking the time to do so, you might find yourself getting poor results from improper technique.
As a tool to provide precision sharpening wherever you find yourself, we highly recommend the Timberlane Chainsaw Sharpener to anyone who needs a reliable sharpening solution on the go.
- An incredibly portable tool.
- It provides an unrivaled level of precision in sharpening your cutters evenly.
- With a super sturdy build, this tool is solidly made and durable.
TheBuffalo Tools ECSS Electric Chainsaw Sharpener is our top choice for the best budget electric sharpener. It won’t hold up to a $150 sharpener, so don’t let your hopes be unrealistically high, but it can still get the job done at a great price point.
If you’re the kind of person who only occasionally needs to sharpen a chain and is still tired of paying for subpar sharpening jobs or spending time filing a chain, then this tool is for you. Able to be mounted on a bench, vise, or wall, this sharpener can adjust to fit most chain sizes. It’ll save you time over manually filing, and with only occasional use, this sharpener can be counted on to last for a long time.
Our biggest gripes with the saw are its mostly plastic construction and the weak instruction manual. When it comes to budget power tools, you have to expect that a less durable construction and we’ve found it still is durable enough for its intended job as a home sharpener.
If you sharpen chains often, then you likely won’t find this unit up to the task. While this is a great budget model the extra investment in a high-quality electric sharpener like those made by Oregon goes a long way when it comes to quality.
- A low budget option that offers great value for the price
- Good for occasional home use
The STIHL 2-in-1 Easy File Chainsaw Chain Sharpener is a very simple to use sharpener that you can take with you wherever you go. Lightweight and easily stored, it was our favorite manual sharpening tool before being introduced to the Timberline.
Our favorite thing about the 2-in-1 Easy File is the same feature it derives its name from. The tool is a unique dual file system that both sharpens your cutters and files down your rakers at the same time. Not only is this a huge time saver, but since the amount it files them down is decided by the height of the cutter you’re sharpening, they should always be filed to the perfect Hight. It also features etched lines to help you keep the right angle when filing your saw.
Our one major gripe with the 2-in-1 Easy File is that each one is built to work with a single chain size. If you only work with one chain size, then this isn’t a problem, but if you do, then the cost of buying multiples of this tool can add up, and having to carry around more than one ruins some of the convenience.
- Lightweight and portable.
- Very easy to use
- Files your rakers while sharpening your cutters saving you time and providing a clean cut.
- These tools are made to work with one chain size, doublecheck that the one you buy is the correct size before purchasing.
For more on the best landscaping equipment to get your yard in tip-top shape be sure to check out our review of the best brush cutters
Chainsaw Sharpener Buyer’s guide
Which Chainsaw Sharpener should you get?
As useful as chainsaws are, they can get costly if you replace the chain or the metal teeth of these units regularly. Believe it or not, many chainsaw owners prefer to do things this way because they don’t want to be bothered. They think that maintenance is too much of a hassle. So they end up spending money they didn’t need to.
With just a little bit of elbow grease, sharpening your chainsaw chain can save you quite a bit of money compared to a new chain or premature wear and tear the other moving parts of your chainsaw. If your mind is open on sharpening your own chainsaw, the question then becomes, what kind of model should you go for?
There are, of course, many different ways to sharpen a chainsaw. But this can all be boiled down to three essential practices. Before we discuss these at some length, it’s a good idea to do a little bit of a recap on why you should sharpen your chainsaw.
Extend the life of your equipment through regular maintenance
Like any other landscaping equipment, a chainsaw needs to be maintained to keep working well. Keeping your things in shape through regular cleaning is also a preventive measure.
Now, it’s effortless to come up with a very casual attitude regarding product replacements. But believe me, spending $200 on a chainsaw year after year gets old quickly, especially if you don’t need to spend that much money in the first place.
A little bit of maintenance can go a long way. It all boils down to regularity. As long as you schedule sharpening every quarter or every four months, you’re pretty much good to go because it doesn’t take much for your chainsaw to remain in operational shape.
Sharpening is crucial to any chainsaw’s maintenance
Regardless of the design of the chainsaw you have, or the brand, sharpening its blades is crucial to its overall health. So if you want that piece of equipment to last long enough for you to get a positive return on investment, get ready to sharpen it.
It doesn’t have to be complicated. It doesn’t have to require a tremendous investment of your time. It just needs a little bit of know-how.
The key here is to understand that you have at least three different options when it comes to sharpening the teeth of your chainsaw. Again, regardless of its design, irrespective of the brand, irrespective of any other individual distinction of your unit, sharpening is crucial for it to remain in operational shape.
The first method is quite popular with busy people. Basically, they use an electrical sharpener to sharpen the teeth of their chainsaw. This is a quick and relatively straightforward procedure.
What makes this such a preferred option is that people save a tremendous amount of elbow grease because the moving parts of the sharpening tool are automated. You only need to move your arm to the right place, and the tool does everything else—quick, easy, and drama-free. Of course, you still have to know what you’re doing.
Manual loose sharpening
The other approach is to do things by hand. This is the same operation as electric sharpening, but without electricity. You basically move your arm backward and forward like you’re sharpening an ax.
Now, why would people want to do this? Why would people want to invest this time, effort, and energy? It all boils down to precision. If you want your chainsaw in tip-top shape, you need to be precise with your range of motion.
Also, this applies to people who are perfectionists or who are sticklers for quality. Whatever your reason may be, there is a manual loose sharpening option. Because if you want to extend your chainsaw’s life for a very long time, there’s no better way to do it that loose manual sharpening.
This method gives you a maximum range of motion and also precise pressure on the blade so you can sharpen them just right.
Frame-mounted or vice-based sharpening
If you want to do things manually, but you need a little bit of structure, you can mount a frame around your chainsaw and move your chainsaw through the frame while you manually sharpen. This is a good compromise solution. It’s not as precise as manual loose sharpening, but it does save time.
By picking one of the three methods above, you can use a chainsaw sharpener to extend your chainsaw’s operational life. It all depends on how much time you have to devote to the sharpening process.
It also depends on your discipline and amount of patience. Regardless, a little bit of regular maintenance can make your equipment last a whole lot longer.
What are the benefits of Manual vs. Electric Chainsaw Sharpeners?
Electric Chainsaw Sharpeners
An electric chainsaw sharpener will allow you to finish sharpening faster. By using one you and can reduce the amount of time you need to spend working on a blade. Some electric models can sharpen a chain in only seconds, although they need modifications to the chainsaw. Electric Chainsaw sharpeners tend to be pricier than manual models but can make up for it in saved time.
Manual Chainsaw Sharpeners
While slower than an electric sharpener, manual chainsaw sharpeners offer more control. By relying on your own force to sharpen the chain, this method gives you more control of the process. This added control can make them a safer option for inexperienced owners.
Manual sharpeners offer another benefit in their portability. Smaller lighter and not needing a power source, manual sharpeners are easy to bring to any job. For that reason, logging companies often install vices on the backs of their trucks to use with manual sharpening tools.
What Should You Know When Shopping for a Chainsaw Sharpener?
Chainsaw Pitch and File Size
When choosing your sharpener, be sure to pick one that’s the correct file size for the pitch of your chain. The pitch of a chain is a measurement of the size of the saw chain determined by the length between drive links.
For manual tools, this measurement is especially important as they are often made for only one pitch of chains. Many electric models, on the other hand, can adjust to fit most standard pitches. Still, it wise to double-check your chain is compatible with a sharpener making a purchase.
Common Sizes of Chainsaw Pitches and their Appropriate File Diameters:
- 1/4-inch (4 mm)
- 325-inch (4.8 mm)
- 3/8-inch (5.2 mm)
- 404-inch (5.5 mm)
Inches represent chain pitch while millimeters refer to the file diameters.
Chainsaw gauge refers to the thickness of a chain’s drive links. Different sharpeners are compatible with varying gauges of chain, so it is essential to be sure the one you buy works with your chain. Typical chain gauges range between .043 inches and .063 inches.
The tooth angle refers to the angle at which you will need to sharpen your cutters. Most sharpeners are compatible with the most common tooth angles. However, it would be best if you still double-checked that a sharpener is compatible with your saws chain before making a purchase.
Caring for Your Chainsaw Sharpener
Depending on the kind of chainsaw sharpener you purchase, you will need to care for it differently.
- Regular maintenance is required for the abrasive wheel of an electric chainsaw sharpener. This maintenance is performed by using a dressing stone to work the spinning wheel into shape.
- Rotary Tool
- Cylindrical filing bits designed to use with rotary tools are prone to wear out before long. When this happens, you will need to replace the worn-down bit.
- A file used to sharpen chainsaw blades will be worn out before long, and you will need to purchase a replacement when this happens.