The best chainsaw sharpeners (Electric & Manual)

By Walter J. Farrell | GEAR

Having researched and tested over 11 different chainsaw sharpeners in about 20 hours in the course of three weeks, we picked the ECSS Electric Chainsaw Sharpener as the best among the products we've reviewed. It’s surprisingly simple to use once you get the hang of it. Its versatility can help you to easily and quickly sharpen saw chains. Because it has a built-in chain vise, it can adjust to all types of chain pitches and designs that can give you an accurate and precise cut angle every time. We also love its vise handle feature that lets us adjust the tension of the vise without having to remove our hands from the grinder.

Have you ever wondered why some of your lumberjack friends cut through wood like they cut through butter, which makes you want to have what they have?

Yes, sure, a good product and well-made chainsaw machine all combine to help. Some chainsaws rely almost exclusively on the type of chain used. The sharpness of the chain’s blades and user’s adeptness all play a very important role.

This guide mainly focuses on your chainsaw’s blades, because the sharpness of its teeth is where everything starts to come together.

Since we started this review, we were able to explore different ways to sharpen chains. We’ve racked our brains to understand all the bits and pieces of every product we came across, and slowly, we learned which chainsaw sharpener was the best.

Buying your own chainsaw sharpener will save you the time and effort of going to your local sharpening store. So we’ve reviewed five of the top quality sharpeners out there and we’ve put everything here to help you out.

Ready?

So let’s begin.

The Best Chainsaw Sharpener 2018

Product NameProduct DimensionsItem WeightManufacturer
8 Piece Chainsaw Sharpener File Kit3 x 1 x 2 inches8 ouncesKayco USA
ECSS Electric Chainsaw Sharpener13.5 x 9.5 x 6.2 inches7 poundsBuffalo Tools
Bar-Mount Chain Saw Sharpener9.5 x 1 x 3.5 inches1.7 poundsGranberg
410-120 Bench or Wall Mounted Saw Chain Grinder12 x 12 x 12 inches17 poundsOregon
Timberline Chainsaw Sharpener with 3/16" Carbide Cutter6 x 4.2 x 4 inches1.1 poundsTimberline

How Do Chainsaw Sharpeners Work?

They can either be stationary chainsaw sharpeners that will require being mounted on a bench and assembled before use or handheld sharpeners that have a rotating disc that will do the cutting.

Cutting through wood using a dull blade will take you more effort because you need to work longer and harder than if you’re using a nice and sharp blade. Chainsaw sharpeners make your wood cutting job easier. 

It also can give you a more polished cut simply because it functions smoother much faster than by using a dull one. This will help you efficiently cut more wood and boost your productivity as it will take less time to finish the job.


What to Consider Before Buying a Chainsaw Sharpener?"

When you do a lot of woodwork outdoors, chances are, your number one problem is how quickly your blades begin to dull. If you’re fairly new to this kind of machinery, it can be frustrating if you don’t know how to fix the problem.

Dull blades mean not being able to properly cut through the wood and impair precise results. Chainsaw sharpeners are made to sharpen your blades within just a few minutes- enough to help you start working again.

There are different kinds of chainsaw sharpeners widely available to you in your local hardware stores. We have compiled some of the key characteristics for you to ponder on when choosing one that’s best for your saw. 

1. Manual or Electric

Handheld sharpeners are portable and easy to use, but it’s going to take a lot of effort on your part to sharpen your chainsaw.

The main difference between the two is the frequency of the use of your chainsaw. Handheld ones are great for occasional chainsaw use (once a week or month) when you have the extra time to spare for wood cutting and sharpening your blades as you please.

Electric chainsaw sharpeners, on the other hand, are ideal when your job requires a more frequent use of your chainsaw. It is because manually using a hand-held sharpener every time your blade gets dull will take more time and energy on your part. 

2. Size

Your sharpener needs to be the right fit for your chainsaw. Chainsaws and sharpeners come in a variety of sizes. You need to check which sharpener corresponds to the size of your chainsaw- from small – medium- large. It’s best to take your time in exploring as it will be a valuable and important investment. 

3. Mount

Having something that anchors the sharpener to the ground can make the cutting task simpler for you because it adds stability. If you often use your chainsaw, it’s best to choose a mounted sharpener than a handheld one because sharpeners with mounts are more precise and quick in sharpening.

If you do your sharpening at home, then it’s a good thing to consider an electric sharpener since an outlet or extension cord is easily accessible.

If you often do your woodwork out in the woods, then a sharpening kit might be more practical since it is lightweight, portable and won’t require electricity. 


How We Assessed and Evaluated These Products

Today, there’s a wide range of configurations, sizes, and brands of chainsaw sharpeners available in the market. They have greatly transitioned from a professional tool many years ago, to an everyday tool.

You can find three basic types of chainsaw sharpener: handheld round file, bar mounted guide and electric chainsaw sharpener.
For this guide, we focused more on the handheld round file and electric sharpener since these models are the most popular choices based on customer feedbacks and our surveys from friends, family, and readers.

We found 11 different chainsaw sharpeners, and we narrowed our choices by consulting and conducting private interviews with professional chainsaw operators, grounds worker, and tree workers. In the end, we came up with five models to test.

With our sharpeners ready, we started putting them to work. We borrowed dull chainsaws from friends and colleagues and used them on our test targets which consisted of 50 to 60 cm diameter logs. We tested the chainsaws (carefully with all our safety gears on) first on its dull state, then we sharpened them based on the manufacturer’s directions then cut the logs again.

We repeated the tests and noted the things we observed in their dull and sharp states. We also focused on aspects like build quality, power (for the electric ones), noise level, user-friendliness, speed, and ergonomics to score each one of them.


Our Top Picks

If you’re a busy person who doesn’t have much time to spare on filing or sharpening your chainsaw, then this might not be for you. Out of the box, it was hard for us to determine how to use each tool- we mostly had to head over and watch YouTube videos to get an inkling on how to properly file the chainsaw using this kit.

After watching the how-to videos on YouTube, we, however, found it easy to use the kit and sharpen the saw we had in about 15 to 20 minutes. We were glad that this kit came with the complete set of tools needed to sharpen chainsaws. Upon unboxing, we saw that the set was complete with a hardwood stain and finish handle, a flat fine tooth file, a filing guide, a tool pouch to carry everything, a depth-gauge tool, and three tooth files and varying sizes.

We would have liked it to come with a chainsaw wrench, but that’s just a minor setback. The guide made it really easy to sharpen the saw, and we even tried it to sharpen an ax, and it worked, so that was a plus.

What We Liked

  • Very easy to store
  • Very portable
  • Saves you a lot of money than by going to a professional

What We Didn't Like

  • Instructions are not very clear
  • exclamation-triangle
    Must look at YouTube videos to really know how to use them

2. ECSS Electric Chainsaw Sharpener – Editor’s Choice

When testing out this sharpener, we found that it was always better to sharpen the blades less rather than more. We also noticed that it was better to mount it on something so that you can easily see the position of the sharpening disc and the blade when sharpening.

The instructions were a little inadequate in our opinion, but that was okay since we found how-to videos on YouTube and had fun figuring it out ourselves. We bolted the sharpener to a 2 x 6-inch plywood and clamped it on our work table outside.

Although they look like they were made with poor quality materials (plastic housing), surprisingly, it did well at sharpening the Husqvarna 440 18” Chainsaw we borrowed. It took us just about 15 minutes to sharpen the chain then we were cutting large oak stumps in less time than when the chainsaw was dull.

If you’re a professional user, though, we think that you’d be better off with a higher-quality chainsaw sharpener since you’ll be using it frequently. We think that this works well for home use. 

What We Liked

  • Very simple to use
  • Pays for itself fairly quick
  • plus
    Really puts an edge on the chain’s blades

What We Didn't Like

  • exclamation-triangle
    The grinder seems to be a little aggressive but it still does the job
  • exclamation-triangle
    Must look at YouTube videos to really know how to use them

When we tested our third sharpener on the list, we liked that straight out the box it was fairly easy to use though it was a little tricky to set up. We found that it worked best if we tightened the thumbscrew to the bar first before firming up the Allen screws over the chain rivets.

Greasing the slides a little bit also makes the operation smoother. Also, one important thing to note is to always check the alignment of several teeth before starting to file them.

We liked how this tool lines everything up so we could use one hand on each end of the file to resolutely sharpen each blade with precision. We could easily see that using this sharpener took less time than by having to drive to the store and wait for it to be sharpened by someone else. Just always keep in mind to keep the screws that hold the file firm to avoid any accidents.

We used this on our 18-inch bar Stihl chainsaw and found that it sharpened the chain good as new. On another borrowed chainsaw that was bought recently, though, we had a hard time sharpening it because the chain was so new and unworn that we couldn’t file in between the teeth easily.

What We Liked

  • Doesn’t wear out the teeth like some others and keeps them nice and sharp
  • Sturdy material and well-designed
  • Great for pros and amateurs

What We Didn't Like

  • Sometimes using the 30 degrees universal angle does not get the file to drop into position in the tooth
  • exclamation-triangle
    Doesn’t come with a sharpener file

The only time we had issues on trying this sharpener out was when we were figuring out some of its controlling adjustments. When it arrived, we liked that all three of its grinding wheels were undamaged.

Its assembly was not a real problem, but we did notice that the one we got had its chain holder installed incorrectly as the motor could not be attached to the frame. We realized we had to remove the chain holder to reverse it. We found it easier to place a chain in the vice then carefully adjust the grinder until it hit each of the chain’s tooth at the right angle.

Since this sharpener comes with three wheels, just be sure to use the right one for your chain. The manual has a chart that gives you the settings for a particular chain, but we found that this might be incorrect since we got the wrong wheel on our machine when we followed it.

Overall, it looks like this sharpener will outlast the chainsaw we were testing it on. It’s made of good quality material.

What We Liked

  • Feels hefty and solid
  • Craftsmanship is high quality
  • plus
    Has a good chain positioning system

What We Didn't Like

  • Assembly instructions are vague and the charts are not accurate
  • exclamation-triangle
    The guard needs to be removed for each swap of the grinding wheel

When we evaluated this product, we did conclude that it’s a great tool. At this point, we were fairly knowledgeable about using different chainsaw sharpeners, so we were able to assemble this in a matter of minutes.

There was a bit of a learning curve on setting it up correctly, but once we got comfortable with it, we managed to sharpen the chainsaw blades pretty quickly. After sharpening two chains, we determined that this was far better than the ones that didn’t make it to our top 5 list.

It took us about 20 – 25 minutes to sharpen an 18-inch chain. We found that unlike this simple tool, is more efficient than the others that couldn’t give us the same sharpness from chain to chain. We loved that this sharpener is very portable (small enough to fit in our pockets), and doesn’t have any cheap plastic parts that would break easily.

Just be sure to order the correct sized carbide cutter for your chain. We found that Timberline has a helpful sizing chart on their website.

What We Liked

  • Well-constructed with good quality materials
  • Very simple to use
  • Comes in ready to use for a standard 30 degree cut for a .325 pitch saw blade

What We Didn't Like

  • The adjustment must be changed and checked when hanging from one cutter side to another
  • exclamation-triangle
    Some people have reported that the cutters are brittle


Our Recommendations:

Editor's Pick: ECSS Electric Chainsaw Sharpener 

If you’re a serious lumberjack, we recommend the ECSS Electric Chainsaw Sharpener. This model is our top pick because it produces professional-quality, polished and honed chains, which makes for more efficient and faster woodwork.

It is great for both professionals and do-it-yourselfers as this will get the different cutting jobs done. If you don’t have much time to file and sharpen your chain tooth by tooth, this will save you a lot of time. But of course, this should be properly handled to obtain premium results. There’s a bit of a learning curve to bear, but once you get the hang of it, you’ll be saving lots of money than by getting it sharpened by your local sharpening shop.

1st Runner Up: Timberline Chainsaw Sharpener with 3/16" Carbide Cutter

We liked that this does not heat and temper the chains. That means it won’t dull quickly which saves you gas and electricity by producing faster cuts. As this sharpener has a solid platform that guides its carbide cutter into each tooth, it guarantees precise and accurate angles on every tooth. This sharpener is a can be a great alternative if you’re not looking for an electric sharpener.

2nd Runner Up: 410-120 Bench or Wall Mounted Saw Chain Grinder

What we loved about this product is its long-lasting and durable aluminum cast chassis with a wide range motor grind angle that gave us multiple adjustments to work with. We were able to quickly sharpen the 1/4 –inch, .325-inch and 3/8-inch chains that we borrowed. And their added vice sliding feature made things easier and simpler to keep the wheel steady.

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About the Author

Walter J. Farrell is an accountant who is very passionate about sharing his knowledge on high tech gadgets. He started AuthorityAdviser to help people know more about the products that are currently a hit in the market.

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