Can a Chainsaw Chain Be Shortened? How to Make It Smaller?

A chainsaw is a fairly necessary machine for any suburban household. If you’re a homeowner, a chainsaw that has a chain of perfect length can make your life easier. But, on the other hand, even a slightly damaged one can cause terrible accidents. So, you should know about every safety measure and condition before using a chainsaw.

But can a chainsaw chain be shortened? How to make chainsaw chain smaller?

To shorten a chainsaw, you must follow some safety precautions and then move on to the actual task. Verify whether there’s a master link or not and proceed with the shortening technique accordingly using a rivet installation tool. Reconstruct the chain and finish things off with a final check.

But that’s just the basics. To prevent risk, you need to understand the process correctly. So, without further ado, let’s see what the fuss is all about!

How Does a Chainsaw Work?

A chainsaw is an indispensable machine that every household needs. It is one of the most crucial machines for those who live in the suburbs.

But nothing good will come out of this incredible machine unless the users know how a chainsaw works. Significant accidents can take place because of a slight length mismatch of the chain. So, it is crucial to understand how a chainsaw works.

How Does a Chainsaw Work

The name of the chainsaw itself should be pretty much self-explanatory when it comes to how it works. It has a saw (blade) and a chain wrapped by the side of the saw. Both the chain and the saw are connected to the engine. Moreover, the machine is powered by fuel, battery, electricity, and gas, depending on the chainsaw model.

These are the essential elements. Before you dive into the process of how to shorten a chainsaw effectively, you need to know about a few basic components of the chainsaw.

How Does the Chain of Chainsaw Work?

A chainsaw has blades inserted into a rotating chain. The chain is what keeps the chainsaw functioning. It creates enough friction to cut off wood smoothly.

The engine powers the chain with fuel, electricity, or battery. If you’re talking about the most vital part of the chainsaw, it’s the chain itself. The length of the chain must be precise. Otherwise, it can damage the machine. Even worse, it can injure the user badly and cause horrible accidents.

How Does the Chain of Chainsaw Work

Gear Wheels

Another crucial element of a chainsaw is the gear wheel. Imagine a bicycle to understand the gear wheel better.

Just like the bicycle, the chain rotates as the gear wheel spin. The gear wheel spins around the guide bar, which creates enough friction so that the saw can cut through the wood. Without a functioning gear wheel, you can wish your chainsaw goodbye.

Gear Wheels

Chain Brake

The next most important type of machinery of a chainsaw is the chain brake. It prevents chains from rotating around the bar.

A chainsaw often moves upward and then moves back toward the user when the tip comes in contact. This phenomenon is called ‘kickbacks.’ This can injure users seriously. The chain brake makes sure the chain doesn’t spin around the saw when kickback occurs.

Chain Brake

Different Types of Chainsaw

Every chainsaw part is essential to shorten and adjust the chain. So, you should know about chainsaws’ types and variety to better grasp the chain shortening process. Here’s the basic rundown.


It is usually squared shape and great at cutting hardwoods at a fast speed. But this type of chain also tends to dull quickly. Also, because of the unpredictable kickbacks, this one is not recommended for beginners.



These chains usually have a little bit of rounded edge compared to the full-chiseled ones. In addition, this type of chisel takes more time to cut through. So, for softwood, a semi-chiseled chain is recommended.


As the chain functions at a slower speed, kickbacks are less likely to happen.

Low Profile

This chain type was designed specially to prevent kickbacks as much as possible. Moreover, due to its rounded edge, it can be used flawlessly on any form of softwood.

Low Profile

Chain Arrangement Full Component

This chain has a large bar size. It has fewer teeth than other chainsaws, comparatively. A chain arrangement full component can project great force because of the way it was built.

So with this chainsaw, you can quickly plow through multiple pieces of larger woods.

Skip Chain

If you are working on a smooth surface, a skip chain is required. This is used on bars that are up to 24 inches long.  Though they are the slower type, they are much safer. It is recommended for someone just starting with using chainsaws.

Skip Chain

Semi Skip Chain

This kind of chain is often used in more powerful chainsaws. This is because it produces a smooth cutting. But for this one, a large amount of wood is not recommended as this type is not that fast.

Semi Skip Chain

Because of its slower speed, cutting larger wood with it can be an arduous task.

Does the Chainsaw Chain Stretch?

In case you are wondering if a chainsaw chain can stretch – yes, it can stretch for quite a margin.

The chainsaw stretches due to ill maintenance and overuse. Other reasons can affect it too. Heat and friction can cause the chain to stretch. Wearing off with time can cause chainsaw chain stretch too. Stretched chains cause damage to the overall construction and sometimes to the user itself.

Does the Chainsaw Chain Stretch

But that doesn’t mean the problem can’t be fixed. With proper instructions and enough knowledge about the issue, you can fix a stretched chainsaw in no time.

How to Shorten a Chainsaw Chain?

The easiest way to shorten a chainsaw chain is to bring it to a workshop. But, for those who like to do their works themselves, the chainsaw chain is not tough to shorten as long as you have guidance.

How to Shorten a Chainsaw Chain

Step 01: Cautionary Measures Before Starting the Process

Chainsaw is just as dangerous as its usefulness. Handling a chainsaw without proper safety caution can injure someone the worst way possible. So, before mending the chainsaw, you must follow some precautionary steps. They are:

  • Wear goggles and gloves for safety.
  • Make sure the chainsaw is not running.
  • Make sure the chainsaw is not heated.
  • If the chainsaw has been used very recently, let it cool down.
  • Remove chainsaw from the socket if it is plugged in.
  • Keep chainsaw far away from water and other elements.

Accidents don’t call before arriving. But safety measurements can sure decrease the possibility. Always be very prepared before you start using a chainsaw.

Step 02: Check Whether the Chainsaw Has Masterlink or Not

Technology has gradually improved with time. So, is every other device to make it easier to use. Chainsaw is not lagging in that case.

That’s why chainsaws come with a master link nowadays. Masterlinks are specially made for easier usability. By removing the master link, you can easily shorten the chain of the device.

Step 03(a): Shortening the Chain That Has a Master Link

For shortening the chain of a chainsaw that has a master link, follow these steps.

  • Remove the chain from the saw.
  • Trace the side cover where the chain is held.
  • Remove the bolts and nuts.
  • Take the chainsaw out of the cover.
  • Expose the chainsaw to have a clear vision, be careful not to break it.
  • Remove the blades from the chainsaw.
  • Decrease the tension on the chain as much as possible.
  • Repeat it a few more times, pull the chain out.

Step 03(b): Shortening the Chain That Does Not Have a Master link

Not every chain has a master link. But that doesn’t make it impossible to shorten the chain. With the help of a unique tool, chains can be easily shortened and adjusted accordingly.

If your chain doesn’t have a master link, you will just need a rivet installation tool. Any hardware shop will have the device. This tool will free any link of the chain quickly and will grant access to other links of the chain.

Shortening the Chain

To shorten the chain, you need to follow the steps:

  • Scrutinize the chain.
  • Locate the master link.
  • Apply pressure on it carefully.
  • Use pliers to apply pressure.
  • Decide the number of links needed to be removed.
  • Break them with a chain-breaking tool.
  • Now, grab the chain-breaking tool and align it up with the link. Line up push arms with the pin.
  • Turn the handle till the pin pop out of the link.

Step 04: Reconstructing the Chainsaw

After adjusting the chain length, the next step is reconstructing the whole thing together.  Following the steps discussed below, you can make your work process a lot easier.

  • Lose the nut located between the blade and chain.
  • Wrap the newly sized chain around the side of the blade.
  • Push the blade up slightly to increase the tension.
  • Place the blade on the chainsaw’s adjustment pin.
  • Replace the side cover.
  • Tighten the screw.

If you are still having problems, expert advice from chainsaw users is just a google search away. Moreover, for further information, youtube can always help you out with clear demonstration.

Step 05: Testing the Modified Chain

The whole process is pretty easy for anyone, as long as they follow the instructions correctly. Still, there is a considerable possibility of the chain not being adjusted adequately at one go.

To eliminate those possibilities, you need to test the chain. Proper testing ensures there are no fatal flaws or complications while you start using the chainsaw again. The process of testing the chain of a chainsaw is as follows.

  • Pull the chain up, away from the blade, and release quickly.
  • Observe the chain.
  • See if the chain pulls away slightly and then snaps into the blade without sagging or dropping.
  • If the answer is yes, the chain is now in perfect length and has an ideal tension.
  • And if the answer is no, then the chain is not adjusted correctly.
  • However, if the chain seems droopy, then continue the processes explained above again.

Maintenance of a Chainsaw

Every machine needs maintenance from time to time. A chainsaw is a hazardous machine that can cause horrible accidents if not taken care of. To escape this situation, proper maintenance is a must.

But not everyone is not a chainsaw expert. So this may not come naturally to you. However, maintaining a chainsaw is not as hard as you might think.

Maintenance of a Chainsaw

Some steps for adequately maintaining a chainsaw are:

  • Sharpen the blade regularly.
  • Keep the device clean after using it every time.
  • Clean the device occasionally. For every part, follow the cleaning instructions accordingly.
  • Soak the chain in ammonia and water for 30 minutes after every use.
  • Check if any residue is clogged up inside.
  • To clean the carburetor, use a compressed air spray or a fuel additive.
  • Use lubricants and oils for chains and blades.
  • If the device is powered by gas, refill gas regularly.

To sum up, take care of it whenever you get time, not when you have no other options other than mending it. If you take care of things, they will care for you by providing you excellent service.


  1. Do chainsaw chains have a master link?

Yes, a lot of chainsaw chains these days come with a master link. But it’s designed in such a way that you can easily remove it while you shorten the chain. If the chainsaw chain you’re using right now comes with a master link, you should remove it so that you get the correct length of your chain.

  1. Do chainsaw chains stretch over time?

Yes, sometimes chainsaw chains stretch as time goes by. It also can become loose over time as you operate it. It’s because, during operation, the chain goes through friction and tension. As a result, it becomes hot and becomes loose.

Another reason your chain is stretching is probably because it’s ‘wearing off’. The bad news is, there’s no possible way to prevent it from stretching. This is why, it’s always crucial to check the tension of the chain before using a chainsaw.


So, can a chainsaw chain be shortened? How to make it smaller? We think you got your answers.

With enough instructions, almost anyone can fix the loose chain and adjust the tension. So, as long as proper safety measures are taken, you can expect a smooth result. Be safe while chainsawing!

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