Sharpening a chainsaw once 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 the following models are top performers among the best electric chainsaw sharpener options out there.
- BEST OVERALL: Oregon 410-120 Chain Grinder
- RUNNER UP: Oregon 520-120 Bench Mount Chain Grinder
- ALSO CONSIDER: Oregon 620-120 Bench Grinder
Before You Buy a Chainsaw Sharpener
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. 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.
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Chainsaw Sharpener
With a clear idea of how an electric chainsaw sharpener works, think about whether a bench-mounted or wall-mounted model is more suitable for your workshop. Similarly, manual versus hydraulic assist is worth considering. It’s important to select a sharpener that has an appropriate speed and is compatible to the pitch of your chainsaw. Keep automation and digital technology in mind, as well as optional features and accessories.
Chainsaw sharpeners are typically mounted either to 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.
Chainsaw chains come in various sizes. Your electric sharpener needs to be able to accept the chain or chains you use most frequently. This requires knowing your chain’s pitch. This number is often printed right on the saw arm of the chainsaw.
Manual or Hydraulic Assist
Some of the newer electric sharpeners feature hydraulic assist, which means that 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.
While this is a nice feature, it’s not an absolute necessity. If the tool doesn’t have a hydraulic assist, it’s likely to have a manual knob you can tighten to secure the cutting links before you lower the grinding wheel. Hydraulic assist speeds up the process.
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.
Note that 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.
Many chainsaw sharpeners are adjusted by turning knobs and handles, but 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 enable you to key in the pitch of the cutting links, as well as the desired angle of the cuts.
Options and Accessories
Some electric chainsaw sharpeners 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 separately, 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.
- Dressing stone: A dressing stone is used to remove residue that may build on the grinding wheel during operation.
Our Top Picks
With those shopping considerations in mind, the following models are some of the best chainsaw sharpener options for durability and high performance.
Offering standout versatility, this Oregon 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!
If you want the ability to sharpen a variety of chains, check out the Oregon 120V Bench Mounted 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.
With the Oregon Professional 120V Bench Grinder, you can sharpen link after link without having to use a manual handle to secure the cutting links. This 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.
FAQs About Your New Chainsaw Sharpener
If you’re unsure of how to use an electric chainsaw sharpener, consult the following common questions and answers.
Q. What angle do you sharpen a chainsaw with an electric sharpener?
This depends on the saw chain, and manufacturers have specific instructions on appropriate sharpening angles. Refer to the user instructions associated with the saw chain you use for best results.
Q. How do you sharpen a chainsaw with an electric sharpener?
Proceed through these steps to properly sharpen your chainsaw:
- Determine the pitch and gauge specifications of the chainsaw blade.
- Make sure the sharpener is mounted securely on the workbench or wall.
- Set up the sharpening stone with the correct width to fit the chainsaw blade’s teeth.
- Place the blade in the sharpener’s holder and adjust the angle.
- Adjust the depth by positioning the depth stop.
- Lower the grinder wheel on the first tooth of the blade and maintain contact briefly.
- Lift the grinder and check for a shiny finish on the tooth’s inner surface.
- Proceed with sharpening all teeth on one side of the blade.
- For the other side, readjust the grinder to the negative equivalent of the chosen angle.
- Repeat steps 6-8.
Q. How do you know when your chainsaw needs sharpening?
An easy way to check sharpness is by noting the appearance of the wood expelled by the saw. A dull chainsaw creates wood dust, while a sharp blade creates thin shavings.