The Best Electric Chainsaw Sharpeners for the Workshop
Keep your power tools sharp for easier (and safer) cuts using these workshop essentials.
For years, sharpening a chainsaw meant having to sharpen the individual cutters on the chain by hand. Today’s sharpeners are changing all that. An electric sharpener (also called a “grinder”) makes quick work of getting a dull chain back into shape, so you can get back to the important job at hand. If you’ve been thinking about making the switch, keep reading to learn which features are most important and why we consider the these fives models to be the best electric chainsaw sharpener options out there.
- BEST OVERALL: Oregon 410-120 Saw Chain Grinder
- BEST VALUE: Buffalo Tools ECSS Chainsaw Sharpener
- BEST UPGRADE: TEMCo Industrial Fully Automatic Bench Grinder
- ALSO CONSIDER: Oregon 620-120 Hydraulic Assisted Grinder
- ALSO CONSIDER: Oregon 520-120 Bench Saw Chain Grinder
Before You Buy
Since using an electric sharpener is very different from manually sharpening a chainsaw, it’s a good idea to understand just how a sharpener works. The chain fits into a horizontal guide on the sharpener’s base, and then a disk-shaped grinding stone (resembling a circular saw blade with no teeth) is fitted into a pull-down head. The pull-down head tilts and adjusts so the grinding stone can make contact with the chain’s cutting links at just the right front angle. In addition, the guide holding the chain swivels to ensure the grinding wheel strikes the cutting links at the correct side angle. At first, the most difficult part of using a chainsaw sharpener may be setting all the angles correctly, but once they’re set, you can sharpen the cutting links on an entire chain in just a few minutes.
Key Shopping Considerations
Chainsaw sharpeners are typically mounted to either a bench or a wall. Bench-mounting can be handy if you have a large workbench with lots of space, but if the workshop is small, wall-mounting will save on workbench real estate. Wall mounting also permits the user to mount the tool at or just below eye level to keep from having to bend over when sharpening multiple chains. Some electric sharpeners can be mounted either way—to a bench or to a wall.
Pitch is the distance between cutting links on a chain, and it’s measured in inches, from smallest to largest. Chains come in one of five pitches: 1/4-inch, .325-inch, full profile 3/8-inch, 3/8-inch low profile, and .404-inch. The most common pitch sizes are 3/8-inch and 3/8-inch low profile, and most sharpeners will accommodate at least these two pitches. Many will accommodate all five pitches. Some sharpeners are labeled as “sharpens up to .404-inch pitch,” which means they will also sharpen all five sizes.
Chainsaw chains come in various sizes, and before buying an electric sharpener, make sure it will accept the chain(s) you use most frequently. This requires knowing your chain’s pitch—but if you don’t know, don’t worry: The number is often printed right on the saw arm of your chainsaw, or you can find it in your owner’s manual.
Manual or Hydraulic Assist
Some of the newer electric sharpeners feature hydraulic assist, which just means every time you lower the spinning grinding wheel, the hydraulic assist will lock the chain into place so the cutting links won’t move when the grinding wheel makes contact. This is a nice feature, but it’s not an absolute necessity. If the tool doesn’t have a hydraulic assist, it will have a manual knob you can tighten to secure the cutting links before you lower the grinding wheel. Hydraulic assist speeds up the process, but it doesn’t affect the actual sharpening.
The speed at which the grinding stone spins is measured in rotations per minute (RPM). Rotation speeds average from around 3000 to 4200 RPMs, with 3400 RPMs being the most common. Theoretically, a higher RPM will get the job done more quickly, but a higher RPM is also more aggressive—meaning, if you haven’t adjusted the grinding angles precisely and the spinning stone makes contact with the cutter in the wrong spot, it’s more likely to leave a gouge in the cutting link. While there is no danger factor to the person using the sharpener, sharpeners with higher RPMs have the potential to damage cutting links more easily.
Depending on the level of mechanization you’d like, you can choose a basic electric sharpener that requires you to unlock and advance the chain links by hand after filing each one, or you can opt for a fully automatic sharpener that does all the advancing and sharpening after you set the adjustments to match your specific chain.
While the majority of chainsaw sharpeners on the market today are adjusted by turning knobs and handles, a few of the newest models are using digital technology to help pinpoint the exact angles on the sharpener. These digital models feature LED readouts, and you can key in the pitch of the cutting links and the desired angle of the cuts for precise sharpening.
Options and Accessories
All electric chainsaw sharpeners work in a similar manner, but some come with options and accessories that can be useful.
- Built-in light: This may be one of the handiest options of all, since a built-in light directs illumination on the very spot where the grinding stone meets the cutting links, so you can clearly see if you’re grinding at the exact angle you want.
- Grinding wheels: You can purchase stone grinding wheels at lumberyards and DIY centers, but you’ll often receive one or more with your purchase of a sharpener. Grinding wheels coordinate in size to the pitch of the cutting links you’re sharpening.
- Grinding wheel gauge: This is a little metal or plastic bar with notches that you can hold up to the edge of the grinding wheel to make sure the wheel is the correct width for the cutting links you’re sharpening. These are also widely available at home improvement stores.
- Dressing stone: A dressing stone is used to remove residue that may build on the grinding wheel during operation.
Our Top Picks
If you’re searching for the best chainsaw sharpener, start here. These five options are powerful enough for woodcutting pros but just as suitable for the smaller DIY workshop.
1. BEST OVERALL: Oregon 410-120 Saw Chain Grinder
Offering the ultimate in versatility, the Oregon 410-120 Saw Chain Grinder mounts either on your workshop wall or your work bench. Wherever you choose to set it up, you get the ability to sharpen all five chain pitches (1/4-inch, 3/8-inch low profile, 0.325-inch, full profile 3/8-inch, and .404-inch). This built-tough, best-in-class sharpener features a manual handle for securing the cutting links, and it comes with three grinding wheels, a dressing stone, and a plastic grinding wheel gauge. Not to mention, there’s a built-in light—very handy!
2. BEST VALUE: Buffalo Tools ECSS Chainsaw Sharpener
While it doesn’t come with a lot of bells and whistles, the Buffalo Tools ECSS Chainsaw Sharpener features a robust 4200 RPMs and can be mounted to either a wall or a bench. It will sharpen only the most common cutting links’ pitch—full profile 3/8-inch—so if you don’t have to sharpen different size chains, the Buffalo sharpener is a great way to sharpen your chain and save money.
3. BEST UPGRADE: TEMCo Industrial Fully Automatic Bench Grinder
If you prefer a sharpener that you can “set and forget,” you’ll love the TEMCo Industrial Fully Automatic Bench Grinder. It adjusts to fit 1/4-inch, full profile 3/8-inch, and 3/8-inch low profile pitches, and it’s fully automatic. Once you set the angles, the tool does everything else—it automatically lowers and raises the grinding wheel and forwards the chain to the next cutting link after grinding the previous one. Not only does the TEMCo plug into a standard electric outlet like other sharpeners, but it can also connect to an automobile battery, so you can sharpen cutting links while you’re out cutting in the woods.
4. ALSO CONSIDER: Oregon 520-120 Bench Saw Chain Grinder
If you’re a serious woodcutter and want the ability to sharpen a variety of chains, check out the Oregon 520-120 Bench Saw Chain Grinder. It’s designed to mount to a workbench, and it adjusts to sharpen all five cutting link pitches (1/4-inch, 3/8-inch low profile, 0.325-inch, full profile 3/8-inch, and .404-inch). The sharpener comes with three grinding wheels, a dressing stone, and a grinding wheel gauge. It features a manual handle for securing the cutting links during sharpening, and the wheel spins at 3400 RPMs. It also features a built-in light.
5. ALSO CONSIDER: Oregon 620-120 Hydraulic Assisted Grinder
With the Oregon 620-120 Hydraulic Assisted Grinder, you’ll enjoy the ability to quickly sharpen link after link without having to use a manual handle to secure the cutting links. This popular model spins at 3400 RPMs, and it can be adjusted for sharpening all five cutting link pitch sizes (1/4-inch, 3/8-inch low profile, 0.325-inch, full profile 3/8-inch, and .404-inch). It comes with three grinding wheels, a dressing stone, and a grinding wheel gauge.