How Long Do Chainsaw Chains Last?

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You just finished cutting some green wood and you marvel at how well the chainsaw works. The chain has a lot to do with that of course, so naturally you wonder, how long can you use it? How long can you realistically expect a chain to last? In this post you will learn the average life expectancy of chainsaws and how to prolong them.

Chainsaw chains are good for at least 5 years, but its life expectancy can be extended. A chainsaw chain that is cleaned regularly, well maintained and used properly is going to last a long time.

What Causes Chainsaw Chains to Dull?

There are many factors that determine how long a chain will last. The most important is to only use the chains recommended by the manufacturer. Second, sharpen the chain when it dulls and use the right lubrication mix. You should also avoid the following as much as possible.

Cutting Ice. There are some specially designed chainsaw chains for use on ice, but it will still require effort. Both ice and frozen wood are hard on the chain so do not be surprised if it dulls quickly.

Not Enough Lubrication. Not using enough oil is a surefire way to shorten the life of a good chain. Aside from wearing out the chain, improper lubricants can also make chainsaws overheat and smoke. Always make sure there is enough of this in your chainsaw.

Hitting a Rock. Rocks and dirt can inflict serious damage on the chain. Given the nature of wood cutting debris can be hard to avoid. But as any chainsaw owner will tell you, rocks can make short work of chains and are best avoided.

Hitting Foreign Objects in the Wood. Not as common as rocks, but all kinds of objects can end up in wood. Nails, pieces of metal and other stuff. Even if you perform an inspection around the vicinity, there is no telling what that tree swallowed up. This can also cause a chainsaw to get very hot.

Incorrect Storage. Improper storage will limit the usefulness of any chainsaw chain. Clean the tool after use and put it back in its case. Or you can just place the chainsaw somewhere dry. Make sure it is out of reach of children and pets.

If your chainsaw chains has dulled, you can use a file guide like the Honoson Chainsaw Sharpener. It is a simple but effective tool to keep those chains sharp.

Types of Chainsaw Chains

There are many types of chainsaw chains and knowing what they are is essential to making it last. With this information, you will recognize what chain to use in a particular situation.

The following is a general overview of the most widely available chains and their uses. Refer to your chainsaw manual for what chains you can use with it.. Note that there are many ways to classify and organize chains, including by cutter, blade, configuration etc. But these are the ones you will likely use.

Chainsaw Chain TypeBest Used For
Square cutterFor professional cutting,
Fast aggressive cutting,
Needs to be filed often
Full chiselCutting trees,
Not ideal for dirty or porous wood
Semi-chiselfrozen, dirty or dry wood,
Slow at times
Low profileLight wood cutting,
Good for beginners
Chamfer chisel cutterDry and fresh wood
Full skipHas a limited number of chainsaw teeth,
For fast, rough cuts
Semi-skipSmoother cuts than full skip
Standard chainSmooth cuts,
Good for most woodcutting
Table. Chain Cutter Type Best for Ave lifespan

There are going to be come variations depending on the chain brand, but this should give you a good place to start. You should only use a chainsaw chain the way it is meant to be, and that will go far in extending its lifespan.

How to Prevent Chainsaw Chain Rust

Rust makes any chainsaw chain unusable. If you want to make a chain last you have to protect it from rust. Fortunately there are steps you can take to prevent this from happening. The key is performing regular maintenance.

Clean the chain, bar and the rest of the chainsaw after each use. If you cut wet wood or used it in rainy conditions, wipe dry before storing.

When you are done, put the chainsaw cover sheath back on. If yours did not come with one or is long gone, you can buy another easily.

The last step is to place the chainsaw in your shed or where you keep your tools. Chainsaw scabbards are usually waterproof, but it is best to store indoors somewhere dry.

How Often Can You Sharpen Chainsaw Chains?

Chain cutters have small sharpening marks which signify how often you can sharpen the chain. Each time you sharpen, bits of metal are removed. Once you pass this mark, it is time to get a new one.

How often you need to sharpen and replace the chain depends on how you use it. A heavily used chain requires frequent sharpening. The more you sharpen, the more metal gets shaved off and the closer you get to the sharpening mark.

A rarely used chain will need little sharpening so it comes down to personal usage. The materials the chain cuts is a major factor too.

If you do mostly shallow cuts, a chain will last a long time. But if you work mostly dense timber at peak age, the chain will wear out faster.

And if dirt, rocks or metal hits the chain, it could result in chipping. Never use chain with missing teeth or chipping. It is better to replace it with a new one. Chainsaw chains are not interchangeable so make sure that it is the right one for your chainsaw.

As long as the chain is not chipped and there is enough chain beyond the sharpening mark, you can still use it. But if the chain is damaged, replace it immediately even if there is room beyond the mark.

What is the Best Way to Sharpen a Chain?

Chainsaw chains can be sharpened manually with a file guide, or you can take it to a professional sharpener who will use a grinder. In most cases a file guide is the better option.

File guides are easy to use and you only need to do a couple of swipes after each refueling. That should be enough to keep the chain sharp. For light to medium wood cutting and DIY, a file guide is the right tool for the job.

Chainsaw service centers use grinders though you can buy and use one yourself. Grinders are efficient and make your chain sharper. The problem is the grinder removes too much metal. You do get a sharpen chain but its life expectancy is cut short.

For others the best solution is to get both. You can buy a file guide and a grinder so you can pick and choose. If you want to buy a grinder, we suggest the Oregon Professional as it is efficient and easy to use.

If you know how to use a grinder you can limit the amount of metal it removes. You not only get a sharper chain but it lasts as long as if you filed it. A grinder is also ideal if you have to sharpen a lot of chains at once. For a beginner or if you only use chainsaws occasionally, a file guide is enough.

There is also a limit to how much you can use a file guide. After 35+ manual sharpening, you probably have to use a grinder to do any more. Or you can buy a new chain if the edge is already close to the sharpening line.

When Should You Get a New Chain?

At some point the chain will no longer be usable and need a replacement. When any of these signs appear it is time to get a new chain.

If the chain is damaged. If teeth are missing, there is chipping, the chain comes loose or shakes, get a replacement. Sharpening is not going to fix it, and you are putting yourself at risk. Do not wait for the chain to reach the safety mark, just replace it.

If the chain is past the sharpening line. If the chain is not damaged, you can keep sharpening it until it goes past the mark. You only need a couple of swipes from a file guide to sharpen the chain, so it should last a while.

If the chain is rusty. An old, rusty chain has to be replaced. Follow the tips given in this post to prevent rust. But if the chain has corroded, install a new chain. It is not worth the effort to try and clean it.

If your chain is well maintained and used properly, expect to get many, many hours of use. The key is to use the chain only as intended. By doing regular maintenance as suggested in this post, you will make the most out of it.