How To Tell If Chainsaw is Dull

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Are you a chainsaw user struggling with cutting logs and wondering if this is due to a dull chainsaw? If yes, then this is definitely the right place for you to be.

You can tell if chainsaw is dull by looking at a number of factors. You can tell if your chainsaw is dull if the chainsaw is pulling into the wood, overheating and excess smoke coming out, fine sawdust coming while cutting, if the cuts aren’t straight, more vibration than normal, and more. If you notice any of these things, you should sharpen the blade. Meanwhile, you will have to replace the blade if the chain is rusty, if the chain is broken, chipped, or dented, difficulty in getting precise cuts, once you have reached the safety lines, and more.

In this article, you will get to know all about dull chainsaws, how to tell if chainsaw is dull, what to do if your chainsaw isn’t cutting properly, how to sharpen the chainsaw chain, reasons to oil a dull chainsaw, and more. Continue reading to get all the answers that you are looking for.

Importance Of a Sharp Chainsaw Chain

Many tools these days are unnecessarily complicated because of having too many buttons and options. You can easily make use of a chainsaw by pressing a few buttons. Some of them are so easy to use that all you need to do is turn on the chainsaw, and it’ll be ready to be used with just the turn of a knob.

Whether you’re opting for an electric-powered chainsaw or a gas-powered chainsaw, you will be able to enjoy the simplicity integrated into its ease of use. Switching out the gas/fuel on a gas-powered chainsaw will be as simple as filling your vehicle’s tank up with gas. Meanwhile, charging an electric chainsaw will be as simple as plugging in and charging your mobile phone. Chainsaws are quite simple to handle once you understand how a chainsaw is operated and have a fair bit of experience with them. You will still have to proceed with caution and wear the necessary safety gear. Further, follow the safety protocols to use the chainsaw safely.

Having different size options available will be another benefit of using a chainsaw. Generally, chainsaws come in power options up to 100cc for gas chainsaws and up to 30-inch in bar lengths. If you’re looking for a chainsaw that can fit into the trunk of your car or the cab of a truck, you will want to go for a smaller chainsaw with a bar length of about 24 inches. The chainsaws in this size category are quite easy to carry around in one hand and store in small spaces. 

Chainsaws are capable of cutting through a lot more than just wood. A chainsaw can cut through wood, plastics, stones, as well as different types of metal tubing. As far as wood materials go, a chainsaw is commonly used for cutting through oak, ash, almond, hard maple, and many types of hickory and birch. If a chainsaw chain gets dull, it can make it difficult to cut through any type of material. 

How To Tell If the Chainsaw is Dull

A chainsaw can be a backyard owner’s best friend, but like every other tool, a chainsaw will need proper care and maintenance to perform at its best ability. One of the main things that you should look after on your chainsaw is its blade. A dull chainsaw blade can affect the chainsaw’s ability to perform to its potential and compromise safety when using it. But how to tell if chainsaw is dull or the blade has gone bad? Here are some of the ways through which you can tell if your chainsaw blade is dull – 

1. Chainsaw isn’t pulling into the wood

When operating a chainsaw, the wood must naturally draw the chainsaw through it. As a result, the chainsaw appears to be dragging into the wood.

It is a possibility that your chainsaw isn’t pushing through the wood properly, as there is greater resistance than usual. This is pretty common when the chainsaw blade becomes dull.

2. Fine sawdust when cutting

A well-performing chainsaw results in large, stranded sawdust. If the chainsaw blade has become blunt, it will have to work harder to cut through wooden logs. This will result in finer sawdust being produced. If you’re noticing that the sawdust created by your chainsaw appears finer than normal, it is time to sharpen the chainsaw blade.

#STIHLsecrets When To Sharpen A Chain Of A Chainsaw | STIHL GB

3. Overheating and excess smoke

If your chainsaw has gotten dull, the engine will have to work harder for longer hours. Some heat is normal and expected when using the chainsaw, but if it is uncharacteristically hot or if there is smoke, then this is because of the machine being overworked.

4. If the cuts are uneven

A chainsaw needs to cut in a straight line, but this isn’t always the case when the chainsaw blade is dull. A dull chainsaw blade will leave a chewed, uneven line instead of cutting in a single straight line. This is due to the fact that the cuts made aren’t smooth, and the blade is chewing on the wood instead of gliding through wood with ease.

5. More vibration than normal

When you are operating a chainsaw, you might notice more vibration than normal. This is another sign that the chainsaw blade has become dull. If you are noticing excess vibration, this is because the chainsaw is biting the wood as it cuts.

All that you’ll need to do if you detect any symptoms mentioned above is sharpen the chainsaw blade. Even though this might appear to be a difficult task, it is actually pretty simple and can be completed at home quickly and safely. All you will require is a decent sharpening tool.

How To Sharpen a Dull Chainsaw

Sharp chainsaw chains tend to be much easier to work with. This is why it will be worthwhile to have the chainsaw chain sharpened. Having sharp blades on the chain will get you cleaner cuts through wood with less effort. Fortunately, chainsaw chains can be sharpened multiple times without much expense.

You must keep in mind that generally, the chainsaw chain will remain sharp for around 3-3.5 hours of use. If you’re using the chainsaw all year long, mounting the sharpener will make it basic to maintain while also helping you avoid mishaps. As a general rule of thumb, you must sharpen your chainsaw chain after 10 uses. Depending on the material being cut and the chainsaw chain being used, you might have to sharpen the chainsaw after each cutting session.

Special files can be used for sharpening chainsaw chains. Most chainsaw users make use of circular files for sharpening the chain. However, some users utilize square files similar to the ones used for sharpening knives. Chainsaw files come in three different sizes – 5/32”, 3/16”, and 7/32”. 

For sharpening the chainsaw chain, you must follow these steps –

  • Engage the chain brake
  • Clamp the chainsaw bar in a vise 
  • You should position the guide between the rivets of the chain 
  • Follow the cutter’s top plate’s angle, the guide rollers in the chain will prevent you from getting too far into the side plate 
  • On the file guide, you should mount a round file
  • Hold the file horizontally with a bar at a 30 or 35-degree angle, which essentially means that you will be holding it at a right angle vertically 
  • For stability while sharpening, you should make a 2-inch deep kerf in a log and then place the chainsaw bar within 
  • You should find a cutter on the top of the bar, and toward the end, before placing the file and file guide in it 
  • Make use of a pen for marking the top part of the cutter that you have chosen 
  • Align the file using a cutter’s ground angle 
  • Make a stroke away from your body, but it must be parallel to the ground 
  • Stroke every cutter 5–6 times 
  • You should use the file for filing every other cutter 
  • Now, you should repeat the entire process for the other side of the bar 
dull chainsaw chain

What Should You Do If the Chainsaw Isn’t Cutting

When it comes to troubleshooting chainsaws that don’t cut, you need to first take into consideration the type of chainsaw you’re using. Is it a gas-powered or electric chainsaw?

Electric chainsaw isn’t cutting

Electric chainsaws usually operate on batteries. Once the battery runs out, the discharge rate gradually decreases. If the battery is low, it will reduce the effectiveness of the electric chainsaw, but it shouldn’t entirely shut it off.

In case there are any significant fluctuations in the power supply, a corded electric chainsaw might stop operating. Most of the time, a low-quality or damaged extension cord could be the primary reason your electric chainsaw isn’t cutting. You should check with the chainsaw manufacturer to determine which length and size of the extended cord works best with your chainsaw.

In a wide variety of situations, an electric chainsaw can become clogged. As it is common for sawdust to clog the chainsaw, you must always clean your chainsaw after each use. There is a potential chance that a foreign object could have clogged the unit, which makes proper care and maintenance of your chainsaw all the more important.

Gas-powered chainsaw isn’t cutting

If a gas-powered chainsaw isn’t cutting, there is a chance that there could be issues with the chain brake, tension of the chain, guide bar, and more.

If the chain brake is engaged, you need to disengage it and check if the chainsaw is cutting properly now. If it still won’t cut, you should check the tension, as it could be too tight. To fix that, you should locate the bar-retaining nuts and then loosen them. To loosen the nuts, you will have to find the tensioning screw and then rotate it counterclockwise. Once you have it in the position that you want, you should tighten the nuts.

You will have to check the owner’s manual for your chainsaw so that you can confirm that all parts are assembled and installed properly. The owner’s manual will show you how to assemble and install the guide bar, the drive assembly, the chain, and the cutters. If everything is installed properly, you should check the oil filter to see if it is dirty. In case it is, you should clean it or change it.

Oil Your Chainsaw’s Dull Blade

Your chainsaw’s durability and performance will depend on how well you oil the chainsaw. Even though chainsaws have multiple moving parts, the bar and chains are usually the ones that need the most maintenance.

There is a good chance that you’ll have to apply bar and chain oil right away if your chainsaw chain isn’t moving as quickly as it normally does. A chainsaw that ends up running out of gas quicker than normal will be another sign that it probably requires chain oil.

There will be continuous contact between the guide bar and the chain. Without oil, the rapid passage of the chain over the chainsaw bar could result in significant friction. When there is a lot of friction between the guide bar and the chain, it will translate to a sluggish chain. It’ll also require the machinery to use more oil than usual, while also causing buildup that results in harm to your chainsaw.

When To Consider Replacing the Chainsaw Blade

With time, the chainsaw chain will eventually lose its sharpness. This could be hazardous to the user, and it’ll also make the work harder. Here are some of the indicators that your chain has gotten too dull, and you must replace it.

1. Rusty chain

It isn’t preferable that you should use a rusted chainsaw chain. This damages the teeth of the chain and blades of the chainsaw, which can decrease the amount of efficiency while using it.

2. When the chainsaw begins to smoke

You should also consider replacing the chainsaw blade when the chainsaw begins to smoke, irrespective of being well-greased. If that happens, then the engine has likely worn out.

3. When the chain gets broken, chipped, or dented

If the chain of your chainsaw hits ice, soil, or rock multiple times, then it is time to change and replace the chainsaw chain. This is the biggest reason why your chainsaw gets damaged. Moreover, if the highest points of the teeth are missing, then it is a sign that you need to replace the chainsaw blade.

4. Not getting precise cuts

When you aren’t getting precise cuts, you will have to replace the chainsaw chain. You will know this when you are looking to cut the wood the way you want, but it starts to clutter and rattle.

5. When you reach the safety lines

Most chainsaw models come with small lines for indicating the maximum amount of metal allowed to be removed. This is also known as the “safety lines”. Once the blade reaches this line, it wouldn’t be safe to sharpen and use the chain again.

If the chain passes these lines, there will be a risk of the chain breaking into separate pieces or the chain flying off during use. This is extremely dangerous, so the best thing that you should do will be to replace the chain once you reach the safety lines.


How can I know that my chainsaw is blunt?

You will have difficulty in achieving precise cutting positions as your chainsaw will rattle during cuts. Further, the chainsaw will also pull in one direction, which will result in crooked finishes. Uneven teeth lengths or blunt-cutting teeth on one side can often cause this. The reason is your chainsaw’s teeth might be broken or accidentally hit rocks or dirt.

What causes a chainsaw chain to become dull?

A chainsaw chain can become dull with a single contact with the ground when running. This is because there are sand, dust, rocks, and other objects in the ground, which is abrasive. To avoid such situations, you should avoid cutting wood that is placed on the ground.

Does dry wood dull a chainsaw?

As dry wood lacks moisture content, more friction is created as the chainsaw comes in contact with the wood fibers. This friction tends to result in the chain slowing down.

How long will a chainsaw stay sharp?

If you rarely use your chainsaw, you will have to sharpen it once a year. However, if your chainsaw gets used regularly, you will have to sharpen it regularly to make sure that the blade doesn’t become too dull. On average, the chainsaw blade will retain its sharpness for around 3-3.5 hours of cutting through wood.

How long will a chainsaw chain last before sharpening?

If the chainsaw chain has cut against stone, it’ll have to be sharpened immediately. If you use the chainsaw for most of the day, it will be appropriate to sharpen the chain with a file each time you have to refuel. It’ll be easier to sharpen a little but often instead of waiting a long time to file.

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Hi, I'm Mike - but my friends call me Backyard Mike. I'm the founder of this website, and I'm addicted to outdoor power tools. I love to work with wood and share my knowledge here on this website with you. You can find more about me here.