How to Shorten a Chainsaw Chain: Easy and Effective Guide

You’re in the middle of a DIY project, and you find yourself stumped by your chainsaw. It’s acting up, not cutting as smoothly or effectively as it should. And as I’ve often experienced, there’s a good chance this could be due to a chain that’s too long. That’s where learning how to shorten a chainsaw chain becomes a crucial skill.

In my years of working with chainsaws, I’ve found that the difference between a well-fitted chainsaw chain and one that’s just a tad too long can be immense. It’s not just about the effectiveness of your cuts, though that’s a huge part of it. It’s also about safety. A loose or improperly fitted chain can be a serious hazard.

Understanding how to shorten a chainsaw chain isn’t just about improving your chainsaw’s performance. It’s about ensuring you can work safely and efficiently. Stick around, and I’ll walk you through this process step by step, so the next time your chainsaw chain is too long, you’ll know exactly what to do.

How to Shorten a Chainsaw Chain

In the sections to come, we’ll dive deep into what makes a chainsaw chain work, the process of shortening a chainsaw chain, and how to do it without any specialized tools. By the end, you’ll be well-equipped with a new skill that’ll keep your chainsaw—and your projects—running smoothly. So, let’s dive in, shall we?

Understanding Chainsaw Chains

Before we delve into the nitty-gritty of how to shorten a chainsaw chain, it’s vital to understand the importance of the chainsaw chain itself and its impact on the tool’s overall performance.

Importance of the Correct Chain Length

Just like how a bike chain affects the bicycle’s performance, a chainsaw chain plays a crucial role in a chainsaw’s effectiveness. The length of the chain significantly influences both the safety and efficiency of your tool.

When your chainsaw chain is of the correct length, it provides a snug fit around the chainsaw’s guide bar. This allows the chain to spin freely, yet securely, ensuring that the chainsaw operates smoothly and safely. A chain that’s too long, however, may not fit properly, causing it to sag or even come off during operation – a situation that’s both inefficient and potentially dangerous.

Shortening your chainsaw chain to the correct length can significantly improve your tool’s performance, resulting in cleaner, faster cuts. It also minimizes the risk of kickbacks, ensuring safer operation. Hence, knowing how to shorten a chainsaw chain is a vital skill for anyone regularly using this tool.

How Chainsaw Chains Work

A chainsaw chain is more than just a simple loop of interconnected links. It’s a complex piece of machinery, designed for efficiency and safety. The chain comprises several components – cutting teeth to saw through the wood, drive links that fit into the chainsaw’s guide bar, and rakers that determine the depth of the cut.

As the chainsaw’s motor runs, it drives the chain around the guide bar at high speed. The cutting teeth then do the heavy lifting, biting into the wood with each pass. The drive links ensure the chain stays on track, while the rakers prevent the teeth from digging too deep, which can cause a kickback.

Understanding the chain’s functionality helps when shortening a chainsaw chain, as it emphasizes the importance of each component being in the right place for the chainsaw to operate efficiently and safely.

In the next section, we’ll cover the tools you need and the steps you’ll follow when shortening a chainsaw chain, with or without a tool.

How to Shorten a Chainsaw Chain: A Step-by-Step Guide

Whether you’re a seasoned professional or a chainsaw novice, you’ll find that knowing how to shorten a chainsaw chain is a handy skill to have. But before we get started, let’s talk about the tools you’ll need for this task.

Tools Needed to Shorten Chainsaw Chain

Here is a list of tools you’ll need to get the job done:

  1. Chainsaw file: This tool is used to file down the rivets on the chain, allowing you to remove links as needed.
  2. Chain breaker: This tool is designed to break the chain’s links apart. It’s invaluable when shortening a chainsaw chain.
  3. Hammer and punch: If you don’t have a chain breaker, a hammer and punch can also do the trick.
  4. Chainsaw chain rivet spinner: You’ll use this tool to reconnect the chain once you’ve removed the necessary links.
  5. Safety gear: Always remember to wear safety glasses and gloves to protect yourself during the process.

Detailed Steps on Shortening a Chainsaw Chain

Now that we’re equipped with the necessary tools let’s proceed with the steps on how to shorten a chainsaw chain.

  1. Identify the Link to be Removed: Count the number of drive links on your chain and determine how many you need to remove for a proper fit.
  2. Break the Chain: Using the chain breaker, press out the rivets on the link you’ve selected to remove. If you’re using a hammer and punch, place the punch on the rivet and hammer it out.
  3. Remove the Link: Once the rivets are out, you can remove the link. Repeat this process for each link you need to remove.
  4. Reconnect the Chain: After removing the necessary links, use your chainsaw chain rivet spinner to rejoin the chain at the desired length.
  5. Test the Chain: Finally, place the newly shortened chain back onto the chainsaw and test its fit. The chain should be tight against the guide bar, but you should still be able to move it by hand.

Tips and Precautions When Shortening Chainsaw Chains

Shortening a chainsaw chain can be a bit daunting, especially if it’s your first time. Here are a few tips and precautions to keep in mind during the process:

  • Always wear appropriate safety gear.
  • Work in a well-lit, clean, and stable environment.
  • Don’t rush the process. Take your time to ensure the job is done correctly and safely.
  • Always check the chainsaw manufacturer’s manual for specific guidelines about chain length and replacement.

Remember, when it comes to chainsaws, safety is paramount. If you’re uncomfortable performing this task yourself, consider consulting a professional. But if you’re ready to give it a shot, these steps should guide you on how to shorten a chainsaw chain effectively.

Can You Shorten a Chainsaw Chain

Can You Shorten a Chainsaw Chain?

You might find yourself asking, “Can you actually shorten a chainsaw chain?” The answer is yes, you can! However, as with any DIY project, it’s essential to understand the potential benefits and drawbacks before diving in. Let’s explore these aspects more in-depth.

Potential Benefits of Shortening Chainsaw Chains

There are a number of reasons why one might want to shorten a chainsaw chain, leading to several potential benefits.

  1. Better Fit: A chainsaw chain that’s too long can slip off the guide bar. By shortening the chain, you ensure a snug and secure fit that reduces the risk of accidents.
  2. Cost-Efficiency: Buying a new chainsaw chain every time your current one stretches can quickly become costly. Shortening your chainsaw chain is a cost-effective alternative.
  3. Improved Performance: A correctly fitted chain allows the chainsaw to perform optimally, making your work more efficient and effective.

Drawbacks and Potential Risks of Shortening Chainsaw Chains

While there are clear benefits to shortening your chainsaw chain, it’s equally important to understand the potential risks and drawbacks.

  1. Risk of Damage: If you’re not experienced in chainsaw maintenance, you run the risk of damaging your chain, which could result in having to purchase a new one anyway.
  2. Potential for Injury: Working with chainsaws and their chains can be dangerous. Without the proper safety measures, you risk injury during the process.
  3. Time Consuming: Depending on your level of experience, shortening a chainsaw chain can be a time-consuming process.

In conclusion, while shortening a chainsaw chain is certainly possible and can offer several benefits, it’s crucial to weigh these against the potential drawbacks. Always prioritize safety and consider seeking professional help if you’re unsure about the process.

How to Shorten Chainsaw Chain Without Tool: Is it Possible?

If you find yourself without the traditional tools used for shortening a chainsaw chain, you might wonder if it’s still possible to carry out the task. Indeed, there are alternative methods to accomplish this. However, it’s essential to take extra safety considerations into account.

Alternative Methods to Shorten Chainsaw Chain

You can potentially shorten a chainsaw chain without the conventional tools. However, this requires more caution and could lead to less precise results. Here are a couple of methods that can be used:

  1. Using a File: In lieu of a chainsaw file, a regular metal file can be used to grind down the rivets before removing the chain links. While this can work, it’s a more laborious and time-consuming process.
  2. Dremel Tool: If you have a Dremel tool at your disposal, you could use it to grind down the rivets before removing the excess links. This method requires extreme precision and patience.

These alternatives can be handy in a pinch, but remember, they are not as efficient or safe as using a proper chainsaw tool. It’s also crucial to note that these methods are more suited to people with some experience in handling chainsaws and tools.

Safety Considerations When Shortening Chainsaw Chain Without Tools

When performing tasks like shortening a chainsaw chain without the appropriate tools, safety should always be your top priority. Here are a few safety considerations:

  1. Wear Protective Gear: Always wear appropriate safety gear, including gloves and safety goggles, to protect yourself from flying metal particles.
  2. Secure Your Chain: Ensure that the chain is firmly secured before you start working on it. A loose chain can lead to accidents.
  3. Work in a Well-lit Area: Ensure that you’re working in a well-lit area so you can clearly see what you’re doing.
  4. Avoid Rushing: Patience is key. Rushing can lead to mistakes that can potentially harm you or damage the chain.
  5. Remember, if you’re in any doubt about the process, it’s safer and smarter to seek help from a professional. It’s not worth risking personal injury or damaging your chainsaw chain.


Understanding how to shorten a chainsaw chain and maintain its proper length is an integral part of owning and operating a chainsaw. An ill-fitted chain not only reduces the efficiency of your tool but also increases safety risks. Whether you opt for professional help or choose a DIY approach to shorten your chainsaw chain, always ensure that the chain fits snugly onto the bar and rotates smoothly. Moreover, never overlook the importance of regular chain maintenance – clean, sharpen, and oil it as needed. Remember, a well-maintained chainsaw chain guarantees optimal performance, extends the lifespan of your chainsaw, and most importantly, keeps you safe during operation. So, take the time to learn about your chainsaw and its needs – your efforts will surely pay off in the long run.


What are the signs of a chainsaw chain that is too long?

If your chainsaw chain is too long, it might not fit properly in the guide bar groove, and it could sag or hang loose even when the tension is fully adjusted. You might also experience inefficient cutting, rapid wear of the chain and the bar, and in worst cases, the chain might even slip off the bar during operation.

Can I use any type of chainsaw chain on my chainsaw?

No, it’s crucial to use a chain that’s specifically designed for your chainsaw model. Chains vary in pitch, gauge, and number of drive links, and using an incompatible chain can lead to poor performance, excessive wear, or even dangerous conditions like kickback.

How often should I replace my chainsaw chain?

The frequency of chainsaw chain replacement depends on how often you use your chainsaw and the conditions you use it under. However, if the chain becomes dull quickly even after sharpening, or if it’s damaged or stretched, it’s time for a replacement.

Can a chainsaw chain be too short, and what are the potential dangers?

Yes, a chainsaw chain can be too short. If a chain is too short, it can place undue stress on the chainsaw’s motor and potentially cause damage. Additionally, an overly tight chain can snap during operation, which poses a serious safety risk.

Is it possible to sharpen a chainsaw chain that has been shortened?

Yes, you can sharpen a chainsaw chain that has been shortened. The process for sharpening remains the same as with any other chainsaw chain. However, make sure the chain’s tension is properly adjusted after shortening to ensure optimal performance.