Chainsaw Sharpeners: A Quick Intro

When it comes to getting the most out of your chainsaw, few things will make more of a difference than using a quality chainsaw sharpener to tune your chain. You can have the best chainsaw in the world. But with a blunt chain, it’s entirely useless – and they dull surprisingly easily.

There are quite a few different types of chainsaw sharpener on the market today – ranging from professional bench mounted machines to file sets you can take to the forest with you. Each has its pros and cons – and will be a better fit for different types of buyers.

In this review we’ll take a deep dive into the best products in each category, and help you figure out exactly what type of chainsaw sharpener you need. Let’s get right into the products:

Best Overall

1. Oregon 575214 Sure Sharp 12V Chainsaw Sharpener

Key Details

⤍ Power of electric, portability of manual

⤍ Works with a variety of chain pitches

⤍ Great value for money

⤍ Easy to use

 

Compatible Chain Pitches: Up to .404”

Power Source: 12V Car Battery/Lighter Outlet

Price: $$

Our Rating

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Our Take

Oregon have a well-established reputation in chainsaws and chainsaw accessories, so it comes as no surprise that their sharpeners are among the best in the business. They have a wide variety of different options, but when it comes to a tradeoff between price, performance, and ease of use, the 575214 is a great choice.

This sharpener is designed to be a portable electric device, which runs of a 12V car battery or lighter outlet. That makes it ideal for use out in the forest and at home in the garage. With many other electric options being too heavy to bring with you, it’s a huge plus to have the power of an electric unit and the portability of a traditional file.

Sharpening a chain accurately can be tricky, and Oregon have added a helpful angle guide to ensure you grind the chain at the correct angle. You simply line it up with the chain on the saw, and read it off as you grind – which is very easy to do. Another obvious benefit of this sharpening approach is you won’t have to remove the chain from the saw to sharpen it.

For home buyers, and even the more demanding home buyers, you can’t go far wrong with Oregon’s Sure Sharp 12V handheld chainsaw sharpener. This handy little unit will help you get the job done, and won’t break your wallet either. If you are a commercial or heavy user however, then you might consider the next offering in our review.

Best Performance

2. Oregon 410-120 Bench Or Wall Mounted Saw Chain Grinder

Key Details

⤍ High-performance chainsaw sharpener

⤍ Accurately sharpens almost all chains

⤍ Integrated work light

⤍ Easy calibration and setup

 

Compatible Chain Pitches: Up to .404”

Power Source: 120V Mains Electricity

Price: $$$

Our Rating

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Our Take

With their wealth of experience in forestry equipment, Oregon also tailor products to the commercial and demanding customer. The 410-120 Bench or Wall Chain Saw Grinder is one such product, and has been designed to give buyers professional performance in a package they can use at home.

This is a larger bench top grinder – designed for use in the garage rather than out in the field. Unlike the smaller portable devices, you’ll need to remove the chain from the chainsaw to use this sharpener – but that does allow you to get a much more accurate result. Once removed, you’ll line it up in the chain dressing brick, and grind each blade in turn. The great advantage of this approach is that the chain and the sharpener are both secured firmly, allowing you to achieve a perfect grinding angle every time.

Oregon have take great care with the ergonomics of this machine – with a handy little work light integrated to help you see what you are doing. This attention to detail is also evident in the quality of the handles, clamping mechanism and dressing plate. With the calibrations easily set out, the machine is not hard to set up for a variety of different types of chain.

If you use your chainsaw regularly, we highly recommend taking a look at a more accurate chainsaw sharpener like the 410-120. Not only will it save you time when out working, but it’ll also ensure your chains last longer and thus save you money in the long run.

Best Value

3. Woodsman Tough Chainsaw Sharpener File Kit

Key Details

⤍ Lightweight, simple file kit

⤍ Easy to use while in the field

⤍ Fits most chainsaw chains

⤍ Very affordably priced

 

Compatible Chain Pitches: Up to .404”

Power Source: Manual

Price: $

Our Rating

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Our Take

If you’re shopping for a more affordable option, then a simple manual file kit is the way to go. Even this type of chainsaw sharpener can vary in price wildly – and the options from Stihl and Husqvarna later in this review are an example of that. When it comes to affordable value however, Woodsman Tough have a great offering in their Chainsaw Sharpener File Kit.

One of the main advantages to such a simple setup like this is you don’t have to remove the chain from the chainsaw in order to sharpen it. That’s also hugely helpful for quickly sharpening your chain while you’re out in the field, as you don’t need to fumble around with tools. Obviously, a file kit like this is extremely lightweight, and easy to bring with you whether in your pocket, wheelbarrow, or pickup truck.

Unlike cheaper file systems, this setup uses twist clips to secure the guide in place and keep you cutting at the correct angle. By comparison, other options use flimsy metal clips which are prone to breaking. The markings on the guide are nice and easy to read, and with various different file sizes included, you can happily sharpen a variety of chainsaw chain types.

While it might not be as quick as using an electric chainsaw sharpener, many experts still swear by the manual approach. What’s more, when it comes to affordability, this is easily the cheapest option there is. So, for buyers looking for a chainsaw sharpener for occasional use, the Woodsman Tough File Kit is a great choice.

4. STIHL 2 In 1 Easy File Chainsaw Chain Sharpener (3/8”)

Key Details

⤍ Well-designed system for accurate filing

⤍ Very easy to use

⤍ Robust, sturdy design

⤍ Lightweight and portable

⤍ No power required

 

Compatible Chain Pitches: Various

Power Source: Manual

Price: $$

Our Rating

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Our Take

In the early 1900s, Andreas Stihl became one of the first people to invent and sell chainsaws, setting up the Stihl company shortly afterward. Regarded by many as the finest manufacturer of chainsaws in the world, Stihl is still the market leader when it comes to forestry products.

Interestingly, Stihl only manufactures this manual sharpener, which is perhaps a sign as to how effective they believe it is. Unlike other chainsaw sharpeners in this review, this only fits one chain size, so you need to purchase the correct pitch version for your chain.

The compact design keeps the file and guards safe and protected while you transport it with your other equipment – so you don’t need to worry about breaking your files. When it comes to sharpening, the case then doubles as both the guide and the handle for the file.

This sharpener really is a pleasure to use, and the two-handed motion allows you to sharpen the saw quickly and effectively – almost as fast as with an electric sharpener. The guides are also particularly effective at keeping you cutting accurately.

Although it’s not as cheap as some of the other file kits out there, Stihl’s 2 in 1 File Chainsaw Sharpener is an excellent bit of kit, and rivals many electric sharpeners. The tool is very cleverly designed and is a great option for mobile sharpening out in the field. This also makes it well suited to homeowners and folks who aren’t heavy chainsaw users.

5. Buffalo Tools ECSS Electric Chainsaw Sharpener

Key Details

⤍ Affordable electric bench mounted sharpener

⤍ Accommodates most common chains

⤍ Electric power

 

Compatible Chain Pitches: Various

Power Source: 120V Mains Electricity

Price: $$

Our Rating

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Our Take

For buyers who are looking for an entry-level electric sharpener for garage use, the Buffalo Tools ECSS Chainsaw Sharpener is a great choice. Less complex and much more affordable than the alternatives from Oregon, this little machine works well for occasional homeowner use.

Like most benchtop chainsaw sharpeners, this device is primarily aimed at workshop use rather than use out in the field. All chainsaw sharpeners of this type require removing the chain from the chainsaw, so it’s not really easy to do in the forest environment, even if you could find somewhere to mount the unit.

That said, the benefits of the benchtop approach are clear in this device, which includes a dressing brick and powerful electric sharpener. Mostly manufactured from plastic, this isn’t a unit that is aimed at the most demanding buyers, and although sturdy enough for occasional use, it may suffer when used heavily.

Sadly, there isn’t a work light on the Buffalo Tools machine, which is a bit of a shame. That said, in most well-lit environments you should be able to use it just fine. We noted a few buyers complain that the on/off switch also wasn’t in the most optimal position, however on balance these complaints seem to be relatively few in number.

All in all, if you are in the market for an affordable bench mounted chainsaw sharpener, then the Buffalo Tools ECSS is a great entry level buy.

6. TEMCo FP1000 Automatic Chainsaw Sharpener

Key Details

⤍ Fully automated chain sharpening

⤍ Cuts 20-40 degree angles

⤍ 12V or 120V compatible

 

Compatible Chain Pitches: Various

Power Source: 12V & 120V Mains Electricity

Price: $$$

Our Rating

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Our Take

For commercial buyers, or other owners who find themselves sharpening chains very often, the TEMCo FP1000 is the Ferrari of chainsaw sharpeners. This fully automated unit is a true “set and forget” device – and will complete the whole process with minimal supervision.

Essentially, this machine is simply an automated version of a traditional bench mounted sharpener. A feed mechanism passes the chain onto the sharpening disc. One downside of this approach is that it can’t accommodate full skip or half skip chains, due to the different position of the raker heads on the chain. Sadly, if you use either of those types of chain, this machine isn’t for you.

Although it takes a little time to set up, the benefits of this device are obvious. It will happily accommodate 20-40 degrees of sharpening angle, and automatically detects and re-orients the grinder for left and right hand cutter positioning. Another nice benefit of this device is that it works on either 12V or 120V mains electricity, so you could set it up on a pickup for use out in the field.

Although a little pricey, this machine will fully automate your chain sharpening process. For heavy users who want accurate sharpening on a regular basis, this is an incredible option.

7. Husqvarna 531300082 Pixel Chainsaw Blade File

Key Details

⤍ Manual file-type sharpener

⤍ Lightweight and portable

⤍ Suits .325” Pixel chains

 

Compatible Chain Pitches: .325” Pixel Chains

Power Source: Manual

Price: $

Our Rating

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Our Take

Designed for use with Husqvarna’s Pixel chains, this is a manual file-type sharpener from one of the largest brands in the forestry industry. Like Stihl, Husqvarna are one of the most established brands out there, and are generally highly regarded for their quality.

This blade file kit is designed to be a very simple portable sharpening kit, which you can use in the field with the chain still on the saw. Some owners prefer the simplicity of this approach, while others swear by electric bench top sharpeners for a more thorough job.

This kit includes a selection of files, along with a handle and a guide to help you cut at the correct angle. The guide isn’t quite as easy to use as the Stihl variety, and some buyers pointed out that novice buyers will find this tool harder to use.

All in all though, the quality is high, and if you own a .325” pixel chain, this is a very affordable solution to your sharpening needs.

8. Generic Electric Chain Saw Bench Sharpener

Key Details

⤍ Bench mounted electric sharpener

⤍ Adjustable to various chain types

⤍ Mains 120V power

 

Compatible Chain Pitches: Various

Power Source: 120V Mains Power

Price: $

Our Rating

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Our Take

It’s not often that we feature generic products in our reviews, but with a number of happy buyers online, we felt we could make an exception for this chainsaw bench sharpener. Obviously, you are taking a degree of risk by stepping out from the renowned brands, but occasionally this can help you save some money.

Taking a look at the device, this is a bench mounted electric chainsaw sharpener, strikingly similar in design to the Buffalo Tools device. Both are largely made from plastic and offer adjustability for a wide range of common chain sizes.

Construction is fair, although for heavy users we might recommend stepping up to a higher quality product. For occasional and light users, something like this could make sense and will come in slightly cheaper than the branded options.

9. Timber Tuff CS-12V 12-Volt Portable Electric Chain Saw Chain Sharpener

Key Details

⤍ 12V portable chainsaw sharpener

⤍ Guide helps cut correct angle

⤍ Compact and portable

 

Compatible Chain Pitches: Various

Power Source: 12V

Price: $

Our Rating

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Our Take

Another option in the portable electric category, the Timber Tuff CS-12V electric chainsaw sharpener will help you give you chain a quick tune up out in the field. Timber Tuff are a MN-based company specializing in forestry accessories – and while they don’t yet have the brand recognition of other firms, they continue to produce innovative tools.

The CS-12V is fairly standard as portable electric chainsaw sharpeners go – featuring a replaceable grinding stone to enable you to accommodate various chain sizes. The guide is also a fairly standard design, helping you line up the bar to find the correct cutting angle.

With 12V portable power, you can run this sharpener in the garage or out on the road, and the compact lightweight design will lend itself well to use on logging excursions. Although not our top choice in this category, this is nonetheless a decent product that should help you get the job done quickly and efficiently.

10. Blue Max 5655 Electric Bench Mount Chainsaw Sharpener

Key Details

⤍ Benchtop electric chainsaw sharpener

⤍ 120V mains power

⤍ Accommodates various chain sizes

 

Compatible Chain Pitches: Various

Power Source: 120V

Price: $$

Our Rating

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Our Take

Bluemax are a reasonably well known producer of more affordable yard equipment, so it’s nice to see them throw their hat into the ring with this chainsaw sharpener. As you can see, this is an electric bench top variation, which is better suited to static use in the workshop rather than in the forest.

This unit offers a decent range of adjustability, with the grinder unit swinging for right and left cuts, and accommodating grinding angles of up to 35 degrees. Construction is reasonably sturdy for a plastic unit, and probably one of the better options compared with other generic type bench grinders. Cutting discs are reasonably easy to replace, to allow you to take on different types of chainsaw chain.

In summary, this is a decent affordable electric offering. While not the cheapest product in the category, it nonetheless sits at the low end and could be a good choice for an occasional home user.

What Type Of Sharpener Do I Need

Great question. The right sharpener will depend on how often you use your gas or electric chainsaw, how long you use it for, and where you use it. Let’s take a look at each type in turn, and what type of buyer it is best suited to.

Bench Sharpeners

If you take your chain to a store to get it sharpened, chances are they’ll be using a bench sharpener. These tools will deliver the most consistent and precise result – since the chain is removed from the saw completely. The whole unit is secured to a bench, and the grinder and chain are clamped in place at the perfect angle.

If you’re doing a lot of sawing and sharpen your chain frequently, then these are the best choice to go for. They tend to be a bit more expensive for a quality one (the Oregon 410-120 is a great example) – but the investment will be worth it.

Bear in mind, however, that this requires a different approach to using your chainsaw. Since you’ll only be able to sharpen the chain in the workshop, some owners will have multiple chains and then switch them out if they dull while working in the field. 

Portable Electric Sharpeners

Portable electric sharpeners are among the most common type of chainsaw sharpener used by homeowners. These devices are typically powered by a car battery, and have a small electric motor connected to a grinding stone. The great thing is they combine the efficiency of the electric motor with the portability of a traditional file. The downside of these tools is that you need to be skilled to achieve a consistent result – as the chain is left on the saw, and the grinder is held by hand.

For most buyers – we recommend this type of sharpener. It’ll help you get a decently sharp chain, it’s easy to use, and you don’t have to remove your chain every time you sharpen it. They can be finicky to use, but once you get the hang of it, you’ll get good results.

Manual (File) Sharpeners

The traditional way to sharpen a chainsaw chain is by using a file set. These often come with a guide, which helps you orient the file correctly to the chain. Different size files help you work with different types of chain.

The main advantage of manual file sharpeners is you don’t need a power source and they are highly portable. Some pros will bring one out in the field with them to help in a pinch. The downside is they require a bit of skill to use them effectively, and the process is time consumer. An electric sharpener is much faster – but typically they are the cheapest option.

File chainsaw sharpeners are best purchased as a fall back or portable sharpener to bring with you in the field. Some traditionalists will also enjoy the methodical manual process, but we generally don’t recommend them for beginners.

What To Consider When Choosing A Chainsaw Sharpener

With so many different types of chainsaw sharpener out there, and so many different types of chain and other technical terminology, choosing the right sharpener can get confusing. A sharp chain will breathe new life into your chainsaw and make collecting firewood a lot easier. Below, we’ll take a look at some of the key things to think about when buying your sharpener, and what the terminology means.

Chain Pitch Compatibility

In chainsaw terminology, the pitch of a chain is the distance between the cutting links on the chain. There are 5 main pitches in common circulation: ¼”, .325”, 3/8” Full profile, 3/8” Low profile, and .404”. The most common are the two 3/8” profiles.

You need to ensure your sharpener can accommodate the pitch of your chain. You can typically find that written on your chain, on the saw, or in your manual. Some sharpeners work for a specific chain pitch, while others cover them all. If you see “up to .404” – that means it covers all the smaller chain pitches too.

Where You Use It

Take a moment to consider where you’ll use your saw most frequently. Is it a long way from the workshop? Will you have a power source (12v) nearby? Is it a very remote area?

If you’re working a long way from base, we recommend a portable sharpener. If you’re doing a lot of sawing away from home, then you might consider purchasing multiple chains, and potentially a backup chainsaw too. The best portable sharpeners are the electric versions, but if you don’t have access to a power supply, you’ll have to go manual or bring a spare chain.

If you’re doing all your sharpening at home, then a bench sharpener will be the best option. As we’ve discussed before, these deliver the best quality sharpening – so if you can, this is the best choice.

Your Skill Level

It is certainly easy to sharpen a chainsaw chain incorrectly. Most often, this happens because you won’t sharpen the cutting links at the correct angle.

The easiest way to avoid this issue is to use a bench mounted sharpener. You can set the whole machine up, and there’s much less room for error.

If you’re working to a lower budget, then an electric sharpener is the next best option. These are relatively simple to use, and the guides help you figure out the correct angle to grind at. Generally, we feel manual files are best suited to folks who are experienced with a chainsaw and will avoid making sharpening mistakes.

Chainsaw Sharpener Buyers Guide FAQs

What is the best chainsaw sharpener?

We’re often asked what the best tool is – and honestly it depends on why you are buying it. What’s great for one person isn’t always great for another. That said, let’s take a look at some of the best chainsaw sharpeners and why. Overall, we highly recommend the Oregon 575214 Sure Sharp 12V Handheld chainsaw sharpener for most use cases. This electric sharpener is highly portable, easy to use, and sharpens the chain fast.

For more demanding and commercial users, then the Oregon 410-120 Bench Sharpener will be a better choice. This machine sharpens much more accurately, but you’ll need to remove the chain from the saw, and the unit isn’t portable. This approach suits folks using multiple chains on one saw. For customers shopping on a tight budget – take a look at the Woodsman Tough Chainsaw Sharpener File Kit. This file kit is good quality, easy to use, and won’t break the bank.

Is it worth sharpening a chainsaw chain?

Absolutely! Would you simply throw away a knife when it becomes dull? Most folks find sharpening a chainsaw blade a bit intimidating, but really it’s not hard to learn. Once you’ve figured it out, you can get much more life out of your chainsaw chain before you need to replace it. You can tell when your chainsaw needs sharpening by looking at the chips coming out of it. Nice big chips mean the saw is sharp, but a fine powder means its getting dull.

How many times can a chainsaw chain be sharpened?

You should be able to sharpen your chainsaw chain ten times or more. The more you sharpen your chain down, the more cut away the material on the cutting teeth will be. Often, you’ll see the wear on the teeth is uneven, which is a sign that you should take it to a store for a more professional sharpening job.

One thing to bear in mind: you should avoid using just one chain for a long period of time. If you do it, the chain wears into shape on the bar and sprocket of the saw, meaning that when you put a new one on it won’t work as well. A much better approach is to use 2-3 chains, and rotate them intermittently. 

Why does my chainsaw get dull so fast?

There are lots of reasons that could cause your chain to become dull – including how you use your saw and how you sharpen your chain. First off, cutting dirty wood, or cutting into the ground will dull your chain. Try to avoid both of these and you’ll certainly help yourself.

If the chain’s angle on the cutting links is too steep, then that will cause the chain to dull quickly. As will having rakers that are too far worn down. Finally, some woods are just harder than others. Your saw will need to be sharpened much more when cutting hard oak than soft pine wood.

Is it OK to use a chainsaw on wet wood?

Great question. The right sharpener will depend on how often you use your chainsaw, how long you use it for, and where you use it. Let’s take a look at each type in turn, and what type of buyer it is best suited to.

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