5 Most Effective Chainsaw Sharpeners of 2018 – Reviews and Buying Guide

We all can’t but agree that sharp blades make a big difference in chainsaw performance and reduce the risk of injury. But after some time, they naturally go dull. Some people get it sharpened in a hardware store or even buy a new chain every time, but it’s much more practical to find one of the best chainsaw sharpeners available out there to keep your chainsaw as sharp as new.

There’s a huge variety of sharpeners, which can be manual or electric, portable or bench-mounted, and also created for different chain sizes. To make the process of choosing this critical accessory easy for you, we researched a huge variety of chainsaw sharpeners to find the ones that stand out from the pack. We consulted user reviews and technical specifications to curate a list of our favorites on the market today.

Top 5 Chainsaw Sharpeners Review 2018

The article begins with a comparison of our five favorite chainsaw sharpeners in the table below, then offers a detailed review of each of the five to help you learn more about what sets them apart. The buying guide contains helpful information about the role that chainsaw sharpeners can play in maintaining your saw, and how to choose the sharpener that is right for your needs. Finally, we highlight our all-around favorite chainsaw sharpener.

Name and Features Image Rating Price
1. Oregon 410-120 Electric Chainsaw Grinder (Best All-Around Chainsaw Sharpener)
Powerful electric bench- or wall-mounted sharpener fits nearly any chain size; quick and easy to use; very durable, comes with 3-year warranty and 3 grinding wheels included
Oregon410
2. Timberline Chainsaw Sharpener (Best Bar-Mounted Sharpener)
Bar-mounted manual sharpener with a carbide cutter and durable machined aluminum build; easy to use and portable; features a lifetime warranty
Timberline
3. Oregon 520-120 Electric Chainsaw Grinder (Best for Heavy Use)
Electric bench-mounted sharpener with a durable build, powerful motor, and 3-year warranty; accepts nearly all chain sizes
Oregon520
4. STIHL 2 in 1 Easy File Chain Sharpener (Best Manual Sharpener)
Manual sharpener that comes in several sizes, inexpensive and easy to use; portable and doesn’t take much space
Stihl
5. Buffalo Tools ECSS Electric Chainsaw Sharpener (Budget Pick)
Bench-mounted sharpener good for any chain size and easy to set up; very affordable
Buffalo
Features
  • For 1 1/4″, 3/8″ Low profile, .325″, 3/8″ and .404″ pitch chain
  • Volts: 120-AC
  • Motor: 1.2Amp, 150W, 0.4hp (one-way)
  • 5-3/4″ wheel
  • 3,500 RPM
  • Self-centering chain vise
  • Includes dressing brick, quick check grinding template, and 3 grinding wheels
  • Built-in light
  • 3-year warranty

OVERALL RATING: 10 out of 10

Oregon410

This versatile and powerful electric sharpener from Oregon is designed for people who work with chainsaws frequently and have a number of different types of chains on hand, or just don’t want to pick one that is right only for their particular chain. The sharpener is compatible with a wide range of chains, including 1/4″, 3/8″ low profile, 0.325″, full profile 3/8″, and .404″ pitch chains, as well as chisel chains and basically any other type of chain that can be set over the unit’s railing. The adjustments to switch between these types of chains are easy to use, although finding which adjustment knobs to turn for which movement effects can take some getting used to.

The sharpener, in addition to being electric and thus limited to an area with a power outlet, is designed to be stationary and bolted to a workstation. It can be mounted either to a benchtop or to a wall, although the more stable the platform it is on, the fewer issues you will face with slight wobbling when sharpening. An initial barrier to this sharpener is that the User’s Manual, and particularly the assembly instructions, are very difficult to read and many users report having to ask people who have experience with this particular sharpener on how to set it up after first purchasing it. But after you get used to it, it will work perfectly well for you.

The sharpener itself is designed to last a lifetime and comes with a three-year warranty to provide peace of mind in case there are any issues. The unit comes with three grinding wheels to keep you sharpening for a while before having to invest in replacement wheels.

PROS:
  • Fits nearly any chain
  • Quick for sharpening numerous chains
  • Durable, with three-year warranty and three grinding wheels included
  • Can be bench- and wall-mounted

CONS:
  • User’s Manual is hard to read

Features
  • Variety of sizes can be used for practically any chain
  • Bar-mounted
  • Carbide cutter
  • Cartridge guides fixed at an angle of 30°
  • Durable machined aluminum
  • Easy to use
  • Portable (1.2lbs)
  • Lifetime warranty

OVERALL RATING: 9.7 out of 10

Timberline

This sharpener from Timberline is a great choice when you’re using your chainsaw on the go, away from your garage, such as for felling trees in the woods or working on the job site. At only 1.2 pounds, it is extremely easy to carry and even comes with a soft-sided travel case. It is also relatively fast and easy to use for the experienced user, since it simply fits over your chainsaw’s bar with the chain still on – again, making it easy to use in the field.

Although the tool itself is simple once you get the hang of it, users who are used to filing teeth by hand found that it took some getting used to and time spent watching tutorial videos from Timberline. However, once they had the technique down, almost everyone who used the tool fell in love with it because of how easy it is to file all of the teeth evenly. In addition, users noted that the carbide sharpening cutter takes only a tiny bit of material off of each tooth during the sharpening process, which prolongs both the life of the chain and the life of the carbide cutter itself.

The sharpener comes in a variety of sizes and is made of machined aluminum, which means that it’s designed for durability in addition to portability. The manufacturer’s confidence in the sharpener is shown by the tool’s lifetime warranty. The only downside to this tool as a sharpener is that it is relatively expensive for a manual sharpener.

PROS:
  • Lightweight and portable
  • Even sharpening across teeth
  • Lifetime warranty

CONS:
  • Expensive for manual sharpener

Features
  • For 1/4″, 3/8″ low profile, 0.325″, full profile 3/8″, and .404″ pitch chain
  • Volts: 120-AC
  • Motor: 4.3Amp, 300W, 0.4hp (one-way)
  • 5-3/4″ wheel
  • 3,400 RPM
  • Self-centering chain vise
  • Includes dressing brick, quick check grinding template, and 3 grinding wheels
  • Built-in light
  • 3-year warranty

OVERALL RATING: 9.5 out of 10

Oregon520

The 520 from Oregon is the big brother of the 410, our overall favorite chainsaw sharpener. It is designed primarily with the heavy chainsaw user in mind – people with numerous chainsaws, all with multiple chains in different sizes and styles. The sharpener is designed to adjust to nearly any chain you put on it thanks to a series of easy-to-use adjustment knobs and self-centering chain vise. While these adjustments take some practice to fully understand, especially if you plan to be switching between multiple chain sizes, the large knobs are easy to turn and the numerous scale bars on the machine make it easy to mark your settings for each chain.

The sharpener is designed to be mounted to a workbench, which is likely not a problem for the intended audience for this sharpener. However, it can be quite bulky in an already crowded workspace.

Although this sharpener is excellent at evenly and quickly grinding chains, it is somewhat unclear what sets the expensive 520 model apart from the very reasonably priced 410 model. Both models use a 0.4 horsepower motor, a 5-3/4” grinding wheel, and offer a maximum speed of 3,400 rpm. Both models also come with a three-year warranty, a very similar construction, a built-in light, and two spare grinding wheels. The only thing that might be different in 520 is that it has a more heavy-duty design and an improved chain vise, which makes it better for those who need to do a lot of sharpening.

PROS:
  • Accepts nearly all chain sizes
  • Durable build, three-year warranty

CONS:
  • On the pricy side

Features
  • Good for 1/4’’, 3/8’’, 0.325’’ chains
  • Sharpen saw chain cutters and lower depth gauges at once
  • Include two round files, one flat file, a unique file holder and filing guide

OVERALL RATING: 9.0 out of 10

Stihl

This manual sharpener from Stihl strips down sharpeners to the bare minimum – which users who only need to sharpen chainsaws once in a while found to be perfect. Unlike large electric sharpeners, this tool can be put away when not in use rather than take up space permanently on a bench. Plus, its small size allows it to be taken into the field when needed for mid-cut sharpening, although having a vice to hold the chainsaw in place makes it much easier to use and is safer than holding it in your lap.

The sharpener is described as a two-in-one because it is able to both sharpen chain teeth and reduce the depth gauge of the teeth all in one motion. Users found that the sharpener was extremely easy to use, even among those who had never sharpened their own chainsaw before, and was relatively fast for a manual sharpener. The included filing guide is also helpful for making exact, even teeth around the entire chain.

Because this sharpener is manual, it only fits a specific set of chain sizes and styles. Although it is designed to fit 1/4’’, 3/8’’, and 0.325’’ chains, when in doubt it is best to call Stihl’s customer service to ensure that it will work for your chain.

PROS:
  • Does not take up bench space
  • Easy to use
  • Inexpensive

CONS:
  • Manual is slow for sharpening multiple chains
  • Does not fit all chain sizes

Features
  • For any chain size
  • Volts: 120-AC
  • Motor: 85W
  • 4-1/4’’ x 1/8’’ grinding wheel
  • 7/8’’ arbor
  • 4200 RPM
  • Table vise angles: 35° right to left
  • 90-day warranty

OVERALL RATING: 8.5 out of 10

Buffalo

If you are new to chainsaw sharpeners and don’t want to spend a fortune on your first sharpener, this model from Buffalo Tools is a great budget option. Much of this cost savings comes from using plastic materials throughout the sharpener, which can be divisive. Some users did not mind the plastic stops and exterior, noting that with careful use they did not break while the sharpener was in use and that the stops do not need to be adjusted after the first use unless sharpening multiple different chains. Others, however, found that the plastic stops are, unsurprisingly, prone to breaking and must be replaced with metal pieces from the local hardware store. Note that the sharpener comes with a 90-day warranty.

The sharpener itself does its job extremely well, although the instructions provided with the tool are very difficult to understand, and most users needed to turn to the online community for help. The chain does not auto-advance, which can be frustrating for those who are sharpening frequently or sharpening many chains, but it is otherwise easy to get into a groove of pulling the chain along. Of course, this requires having a pair of protective gloves whenever you use this sharpener.

The sharpener is designed to be bolted down to a workbench, which is fine if you have a dedicated space but can be troublesome if your bench is crowded. The tool comes only with one blade, but additional grinding wheels can be purchased cheaply from Buffalo Tools.

PROS:
  • Inexpensive
  • Easy to use once you know how and effective

CONS:
  • Plastic parts
  • Requires manually advancing the chain

Buying Guide

If you’re new to chainsaw sharpeners, the abundance of new information might be overwhelming. In this guide, we’ll guide you through it and help you find out what’s really important.

Why use a chainsaw sharpener anyway?

Сhainsaw sharpener

A chainsaw sharpener is essential to maintaining your chainsaw’s chain and keeping your saw working as effectively as the day you bought it. Keeping the chain blades sharp will not only reduce the time it takes to cut through a thick piece of wood, but also help keep you save by reducing the chance of having the saw catch and cause kickback. In addition, a sharper chain means that you’ll use less battery or gas to cut through a piece of wood as well as reduce the overall rate of wear on your chain.

Chainsaw sharpeners work by filing each blade’s tooth along the length of the chain. This filing can either be done manually tooth-by-tooth or can be done across a number of teeth simultaneously depending on the type of sharpener you are using, as discussed below.

When and how often to sharpen?

How often you need to sharpen your chain depends on what you’re cutting through, and how much of it. For clean wood, expect to have to sharpen the chain after several hours of semi-continuous use. However, if you encounter sand or dirt, it is likely that you will need to sharpen the chain almost immediately. If the chain does not pull itself into the wood, that is typically a sign that the chain is dull and needs to be sharpened.

Consider your needs

Chainsaw Sharpener

If you’re going to be using your chainsaw heavily, or on dirty wood surfaces that quickly dull your chain, you’re likely going to want to invest more in a sharpener that is fast and easy to use, since you’ll be sharpening frequently. On the other hand, if sharpening is a once-a-month occurrence because you only rarely use your chainsaw, you may be willing to pay less for a sharpener that requires more manual labor.

Types of sharpeners

Sharpeners come in three types: handheld files, bar-mounted sharpeners, and electric sharpeners. Handheld files are rare because they require a significant amount of manual labor and do not file all of the teeth to exactly the same sharpness. Bar-mounted sharpeners fit over the chainsaw’s bar to file about one-third of the chain at a time and give a much more even sharpening across the entire chain.

Electric sharpeners require the least manual labor and, if they are adjustable, can fit nearly any chain. Sharpening is highly even across the teeth, but electric sharpeners can be pricy compared to manual sharpeners.

Chain compatibility

Chains are made out of different materials and come in different sizes, and accordingly not all sharpeners will fit all chains. You will want to be sure that the sharpener you choose is compatible with the chain you use, both in material and size. Typically, adjustable electric sharpeners are compatible with a large variety of chains, whereas manual sharpeners have higher specificity. Anyway, by checking the pitch that is usually labeled on the chainsaw bar, you can pick a sharpener that will be right for your chainsaw.

Build and quality

Build a Chainsaw Sharpening

Getting a sharpener that is built to last and easy to use is important, since this can be a big investment for your toolbox. Sharpeners that are made out of machined metal are often the most durable, since sharpening involves metal-on-metal and less solid materials can easily be worn down. In addition, look for sharpeners that are easy to use and have built-in safety mechanisms, especially if you plan to be sharpening frequently. Purchasing a sharpener with a warranty can provide peace of mind.

Safety tips

Chains are sharp enough to hurt you even when they are dull, so it is extremely important to practice safety whenever you are sharpening. Wear heavy work gloves and eye protection whenever sharpening. Do not try to speed up the sharpening by pulling the chain through faster than it is intended to go. When sharpening the chain on the chainsaw bar, use a vice to hold the saw down rather than hold it near your body and make sure it is unplugged or the battery removed to prevent accidental starting.

Conclusion

Having a sharp chain on your chainsaw is critical to having your chainsaw work effectively as a cutting tool and to preventing dangerous kickback when cutting. Depending on how frequently you use your chainsaw, you may need to sharpen the chain more or less frequently – so choose a sharpener that fits your needed combination of price point and speed of sharpening. Our review of the five best chainsaw sharpeners makes it easy for you to choose the sharpener that is right for you and provides you with the information you need to make an informed buying decision.

10 Total Score
Oregon 410-120 Bench or Wall Mounted Saw Chain Grinder – Editor's Choice

Although all five of the sharpeners we reviewed are excellent choices, our overall favorite was the 410-120 electric chain grinder from Oregon. This sharpener is very reasonably priced for the feature set, which includes a large 5-3/4” grinding wheel, adjustments that allow it to fit virtually any chain, and a built-in light for working in the garage. The sharpener is designed to be permanently mounted to a workbench, so it is most worth using the space if you have numerous chains of different sizes to sharpen. The sharpener itself is made with a durable construction and comes with a three-year warranty to back that up, as well as two spare grinding wheels to keep you sharpening for the first several months or even years.

Overall performance
10
Chain compatibility
10
Quality and durability
10
PROS
  • Fits nearly any chain
  • Quick for sharpening numerous chains
  • Durable, with three-year warranty and three grinding wheels included
  • Can be bench- and wall-mounted
CONS
  • User’s Manual is hard to read
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