Chainsaw Chain Life Expectancy: When to Sharp or Replace?

Chainsaws have become a staple for homeowners who enjoy home improvements and take an interest in woodwork and remodeling. If you own a chainsaw yourself, you should know that not all chainsaws are created equal. Each of them needs special attention when it comes to maintenance and upkeep.

Homeowners often find themselves confused about when to sharpen or replace the chain to maximize their chainsaw chain life expectancy, how often to do it, and where to sharpen chainsaw chains. These are valid concerns as all these factors will essentially determine your chainsaw’s durability.

Depending on the frequency of usage, a chainsaw chain can serve you from five to ten years if it’s well taken care of. So, we will address these crucial questions in this article.

How Long Does a Chainsaw Chain Last?

Chainsaw chains, also known as the right and left cutters, come with long and sharp teeth responsible for cutting through the wood or timber. The alternate edges are designed to ensure an even and balanced cut.

However, they become dull rather quickly and need to be sharpened regularly. Dull chains will cut poorly and create finer sawdust when you’re cutting through wood.

How long your chainsaw chain lasts mainly depends on the quality of its upkeep and the frequency of usage. It also depends on a few other factors, such as the type of chain you are using, the type of wood you are cutting, the duration of each cut, and more.

How Long Does a Chainsaw Chain Last

Chainsaw chain durability and life expectancy differ from one product to another. However, if you land yourself one of the top-quality chainsaw chains, it should last you from five to ten years.

Even with frequent use, a chainsaw chain can serve you for more than five years if it’s well taken care of. And it can last as long as ten years if you’re using it only occasionally.

Why Does My Chainsaw Chain Dull So Quickly?

Chainsaw chains are responsible for cutting through wood and timber. Being the most vital part of the machine, their sharpness and overall well-being require special attention.

Why Does My Chainsaw Chain Dull So Quickly

If you’re trying to maximize the life expectancy of your chainsaw chain, here are a few factors that you should watch out for. They can damage your chainsaw chain faster and cause unnecessary injuries.

Hitting Nails

Chainsaws are often used for cutting trees, logs, or branches. And trees are often used for fencing purposes at home. So you’re very likely to find embedded metals in trees, such as nails while cutting them using your chainsaw.

Hitting Nails

This can cause lasting damage to even the best chainsaws in the market. So before you cut off a tree or use the chainsaw on a log, make sure to clear it off of any nails or metallic objects.

Hitting Rocks

If you’re cutting near the ground, be careful not to hit a rock with your chainsaw. The cutters can easily slide into dirt, gravel, or rocks. But be aware because dirt and rock are likely to dull the chainsaw chain within seconds.

Hitting Rocks


They often form onto chainsaw chains as a result of improper oiling and cleaning techniques or frequency. Moreover, improper storage can also contribute to rusting and harm the chain’s durability. In fact, more often than not, improper storage and infrequent oiling are the leading cause of rust.

Experts advise storing the chainsaw inside a home or storage space where it will not be exposed to the elements of nature or extreme weather conditions.

Here are some tips on how to store a chainsaw properly. If you’re putting the product away for some time, make sure to empty the fuel tank. It should be done in a well-ventilated place. Be sure to clean and dry it afterward.


Also, dismantle the chainsaw before you store it. That is, separate the chain and the guide bar from the rest of the body and make sure to spray some protective oil on them.

Once you’ve coated them properly with the oil, store them in a cool and dry place, in a clean spot where they will be free of dust. Keep the chainsaw chain away from the sun. This will ensure that your chainsaw chain is well-protected against rust.

Cutting Through Ice

If you’re planning on using the chainsaw in the winter, you need to be wary of frozen wood and ice. The chainsaw chain will cut through it without a hitch, but it will decrease its life expectancy and even cause a chip or wear in the chain.

Cutting Through Ice

It may be a little tricky to identify a frozen wood when you see it because it looks like any other wood. But frozen wood is as rigid as a rock and, of course, cold. So make sure to check the wood before you run a chainsaw through it in the winter.

Improper Lubrication

Lubrication is done to solve overheating problems in your chainsaw. It makes sure that the chain is running smoothly. It is a part of a chainsaw’s maintenance and needs to be done every once in a while.

Improper Lubrication

However, improper lubrication can do more harm than good. You’ll have to use chain oil and a bar to keep the chainsaw chain cool. Not using proper lubrication in regular intervals can cause overheating in your chainsaw and damage its functionality.

How Many Times Can You Sharpen A Chainsaw Chain?

There is no straightforward answer to this question. While chainsaws are designed to cut only clean, polished and solid timber, most people use them to cut hard timbers as well.

And the timber often has several unexpected elements, including nails, rocks, charcoal, dirt, sand, and more. These can escalate the damage, and the chain will need to be sharpened more frequently.

Manufacturers don’t usually tell you how many times you get to sharpen your chainsaw chain before replacing it. But generally speaking, you should be able to sharpen your chainsaw chain at least ten times before it needs to be replaced.

And if the chain is worn out unevenly, you can take help from a professional to regrind it back to a uniform shape.

But, a rule of thumb to identify when to sharp chainsaw is to watch out for stress. If you feel stress on the chain and need to apply greater external force to cut deeper, you should consider sharpening the chainsaw chain.

How Many Times Can You Sharpen A Chainsaw Chain

However, if the chainsaw hits a rock and its chain chips or breaks, even a professional will not be able to fix it.

In addition, if the chain takes off only half of the metal than it typically does after a sharpening session, it would mean that you can sharpen it only a few more times before replacing it.

So to summarize, whether you can sharpen the chain of your chainsaw again will depend on the following two factors:

  1. The amount of metal content that has been removed from the chain each time you sharpen the chainsaw chain
  2. The amount of damage, wear or tear it has incurred

So before you take the chainsaw chain to sharpen again, make sure that it does not have any visible damage on its surface, and there is still enough space between the tip of the chain’s cutter and its guide pieces.

How Often to Sharpen Chainsaw Chain?

In most cases, it is recommended to sharpen the chainsaw chain after every ten uses. If the usages are too heavy and the sessions too long, you can even sharpen the chain after each session.

How often you should sharpen chainsaw chains depends on your frequency of use, method of cutting, and so on. But generally speaking, when used frequently, you should sharpen the chain every 3 to 4 months to maximize its efficiency.

How Often to Sharpen Chainsaw Chain

However, if you notice that the dullness of the chain remains even after sharpening, you might consider replacing it to enhance efficiency.

How to Tell When a Chainsaw Chain Is Worn out?

There is no expiration date for your chainsaw chain. But it will give you several warnings before wearing out completely. Of course, a dull chainsaw will not cut too well or as smoothly as you’d expect. This is a good indicator that the chain has begun to wear out.

How to Tell When a Chainsaw Chain Is Worn out

But several other indicators will call for your attention. The sooner you respond to those warnings, the better are your chances of bringing the chain back to life. So watch out for the following signs to identify a dull blade. It will help you understand when to replace chainsaw chains.

Dents in the Chain’s Teeth

The teeth of the cutter are sensitive to hard and metallic objects. It is not unusual for a chainsaw to hit a nail, rock, or even ice in the winter. This may result in chipping and breaking of teeth in the cutter.

The chipping might not always be immediately noticeable. But you’ll notice it cutting unevenly immediately afterward. And the longer this goes untreated, the more harm it will cause.

Dents in the Chain's Teeth

If such an incident occurs, stop cutting with the chainsaw immediately. Assess the damage. Try to salvage the chain if you can. Otherwise, take it to a professional who can retrieve the chainsaw chain.

Missing or Damaged Teeth

Make sure to inspect the chain to look for broken or missing teeth. Teeth often show signs of wear and tear when they need sharpening or replacement. Pay special attention to broken or damaged teeth as they cannot be sharpened or rectified.

Broken teeth are considered a potential hazard for a chainsaw. And if that’s the case, you would have to cease all operations of the chainsaw and replace it without a moment’s delay.

Missing or Damaged Teeth

However, it is not as hazardous a case if you find that some teeth are missing. It will not cause any injuries or accidents. But it still means that the chainsaw chain has served its natural life expectancy and needs to be replaced.

Remember, chains that are in healthy condition do not miss teeth. So be sure to take proper actions when you find such signs.

Smoke Forms While Cutting

If your chainsaw is producing any kind of smoke while cutting through wood or timber, even after lubrication, it is a sign of a damaged product. It simply means that your chainsaw is having trouble cutting through the surface and is wearing out. The saw will not be able to cut as efficiently as it usually would.

Smoke Forms While Cutting

Moreover, you are likely to find fine sawdust before it reaches this stage. While smoke itself is a bad sign, sawdust coupled with smoke straight out means that your chainsaw chain needs replacement.

Issues with Chain Tension

If you need to adjust the chain tension more often than you’d like, yet it ends up loosening up more than it should, there might be something wrong with it. The tension in your chainsaw chain needs plenty of cutting force, and it begins to stretch over time.

This will cause the chain’s straps to lose their ability to stay tight, eventually damaging the teeth’ ability to stay connected to the bar.

Issues with Chain Tension

When the chainsaw chain is loose, it will send several warning signs. It will bind up when cutting, snap during the cutting session, and even create kickback scenarios. This can even cause serious injuries.

So if you’re struggling with keeping the chainsaw chain tight, make sure to address the issue as soon as you can to prevent injuries and damages to the machine.

Unbalanced and Uneven Cuts

If the balance of the chain’s teeth is still off, despite fixing the depth gauge and tension of the chain, there might be a greater problem lying underneath. If the chainsaw chain cuts unevenly, feels unbalanced, or rattles when you’re cutting with it, it is a sign that the chain is damaged.

Unbalanced and Uneven Cuts

It may even be inclined to one side while cutting, and you’ll find yourself struggling to get an even cut. In such a case, you might need to replace the chainsaw chain.

Fine Sawdust Instead of Coarse Chips

When the chain is wearing out, the cutting teeth will get dull. And as it gets duller, the chainsaw will throw out finer and finer chips. It will also take much longer to cut through a wooden piece or timber than it regularly does.

Moreover, you may feel the need to apply greater force in order to cut with a dull chain, and you’ll have trouble getting any work done with the product.

Fine Sawdust Instead of Coarse Chips

You may also notice that the depth gauge is wearing down. All these signs indicate that you have reached the end of the chainsaw chain life expectancy, and it will need to be replaced soon.

You cannot sharpen or adjust the product anymore. Continuing to use it will result in overheating it and forming smoke. Even if the chain looks usable, it should not be sharpened back to life. It will be greatly inefficient and is likely to do more harm than good. This may backfire and may end up causing injuries.

Best Way to Sharpen a Chainsaw

Here are a few ways you can sharpen the chain of your chainsaw. You can either get the job done by yourself or take professional help.

Best Way to Sharpen a Chainsaw

Manual File Guide

Using a manual file guide to hand sharpen a dull and rusty chainsaw might look like a slow process at first glance. But the procedure requires intricate techniques, and once you can master them, the sharpening process is incredibly fast.

As you already know, the chainsaw chain has a series of teeth that come with sharp cutting edges. The edges are semicircular, with a diameter between 5/32 inches to 7/32 inches. In order to sharpen those curved edges perfectly, you’ll need round files of equal diameters.

Between those cutting edges are flat pieces of metal called rakers. Rakers don’t usually need sharpening, as they don’t contribute to cutting through the surfaces. Their primary purpose is to work as a depth gauge to help you control how deep the cutting edges should go.

Manual File Guide

Now here’s a tip: to ensure consistent filing, mount the file into sharpening guides. It will allow a flat surface where you can rest the file on the chainsaw and help control how deep the file should cut.

In addition, the top surface of the guide is stamped with angled lines. They will act along with the cutting angles of the chain’s teeth and help you file better.

And if you’re wondering when you should sharpen using a file guide, we suggest you give the chain a couple of swipes with the file guide every time you refill its fuel tank. This will enhance the efficiency of the chainsaw.

And if you notice significant dullness in the chainsaw chain, you can add a few more swipes to retain the original sharpness.

Sharpening Chainsaw Chain with a Dremel

Another easy way to sharpen your chainsaw chain is to use a Dremel. There are several highly efficient Dremel kits in the market for you to choose from.

Sharpening Chainsaw Chain with a Dremel

The drill is that you need to attach the sharpening guide that comes with the kit and mark the teeth you want to sharpen. Make sure that you’re sharpening every teeth equally and the same number of times. Also, strictly follow the Sharpening guide and maintain the correct angle and level to sharpen a tooth.

Using a Grinder

Grinders are quite easy to use and are designed to help homeowners operate. Yet, it’s best for most people to take professional help in this regard, as there is a risk of injury involved.

However, before you choose this method of sharpening, note that it will take off more metal content from the chainsaw than a file guide would.

Using a Grinder

So frequent grinding is likely to lower the chainsaw chain life expectancy. You should be able to sharpen the chain of your chainsaw at least 40 times using a file guide before you feel the need to use a grinder. This is an ideal choice for fixing more complex issues in the chain.

If You Don’t Want to Sharpen the Chainsaw Chain Yourself

Whether you have a grinder at home or prefer to sharpen with a file or Dremel kit, sharpening the chainsaw chain is not a big deal.

Sharpen the Chainsaw Chain

However, without the right tools and skills, you can’t reclaim its condition. In that case, the question comes, where you can get the job done and how much it would cost.

Where to Sharpen Chainsaw Chains?

There are many professional services available to help homeowners fix their gears. You can just head over to your nearest saw shop with your chainsaw, and they will help you sharpen your chainsaw.

How Much to Sharpen Chainsaw Chain?

Most shops use grinders to sharpen the chain, and the cost varies with the cutter numbers. Each chain requires $5 on average, so for a 16-inch chain, the cost is approximately $20.

Apart from sharpening, you can condition your bar and clean the chain saw from the local service center at an affordable rate.


So regular sharpening and replacement of chainsaw chains are highly encouraged as worn-out saws become pretty unfit. In fact, they are often deemed dangerous because damaged gears can cause injuries. So you better solve the case before it delves further into the issue.

We went through several factors that affect chainsaw chain life expectancy. These indicators will help you identify when to sharpen or replace the gears.

Also, the methods described above will help improve your home improvement and outdoor skills. And we believe the job will be half done if you learn how to properly manage and take care of your chainsaw chain.

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