How to shorten a chainsaw chain: 6 easy steps

How to shorten a chainsaw chain: the best guide

How to shorten a chainsaw chain? If you are the lucky owner of a chainsaw chain and use it often, then most likely you face the problem when the chain stretches now and then, gets worn out, and requires maintenance.

Probably earlier, dealing with a stretched chain, you had to apply for assistance and spent money for the service.

So, if you decided to take the situation into your own hands, then we have good news for you.

Finally, you may learn how to shorten a chainsaw chain to the desired length thanks to 6 simple steps in this article, regardless of your experience level.

How to shorten a chainsaw chain
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Safety precautions

Since the process is technical and involves many potential hazards before you learn how to shorten a stretched chainsaw chain, take into account the basic precautionary measures.

Use the proper safety gear: ear protection, eye protection, helmet, special gloves, and other proper clothing.

Make sure to maintain a safe distance from others while operating your chainsaw.

Keep the chain away from electrical wires.

Make sure the chain brake and clutch are in good working condition.

Remove the spark plug to make sure there is no power running to the chainsaw. Do it to prevent the machine from catching fire. Although this is unlikely to happen if you are the only one around, try to stay on the safe side.

How to shorten a chainsaw chain
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Tools you will require to shorten a stretched chainsaw chain

One more thing you should consider before going into how to shorten a chainsaw chain is gathering the right tools.

Experts recommend using specialized equipment for shortening the stretched chainsaw chain.

This allows you to carry out high-quality work, and avoid breakage during subsequent operation of the tool:

  • special rivet installation tool;
  • a chain breaker;
  • a chain-breaking bar;
  • a spinner;
  • pliers;
  • wrench;
  • a couple of tie straps and chain rivets.
How to shorten a chainsaw chain
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Here are the steps involved in chainsaw chains shortening

Follow this simple guide below to shorten chainsaw chain in no time:

Step 1. Allow the engine to cool down

First, if you just used your chainsaw, you better let it cool down until its elements are bearable to touch. Although, you may skip this step if the chainsaw has not been used.

Step 2. Remove the chain from the chainsaw

  1. Next, remove the stretched chain from the chainsaw.
  2. Find the side cover, then use a wrench to remove the nuts or screws holding it set up. Mostly, it’s two nuts or bolts.
  3. If the chainsaw’s brake is attached to the side cover, then it should be unlocked.
  4. Slightly remove the guide bar away from the chainsaw (there will be a clicking sound) to loosen the chain’s tension.
  5. Once the tension is loosened – lift the chain, then remove it from the saw.

These actions are vital in many ways. For example, unlocking the brake makes it easier to rejoin the shortened chain with the chainsaw. And using a wrench helps to extract screws without damaging the machine.

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To shorten a chainsaw chain, remove one cutting link.

After this condition is met, it can again be adjusted by the existing tension mechanism.

Some manufacturers install master links in their chainsaws to remove links much easier and faster.

  1. First, remove the master link to take out other chain links.
  2. Make sure that you remove the links to the desired size and be careful not to remove redundant links as the chain will be too short.
  3. Inspect the chain for the master link. The links of this type and purpose have different designs depending on the manufacturer. For this reason, just look for a certain link that differs from other links by its color.
  4. The way this specific link opens varies according to the chainsaw brand and type; however, you should easily unclench it. Most master links have a sort of clip. You have to open them using either a pair of pliers or your bare hands.
  5. After moving the master link apart, remove it from one of the chain links it is joined with.
  6. After that, you will be able to take out other links for the proper chain length.
  7. The best way to do this is by using pliers or a vice grip.
  8. Use pliers to tightly grab onto the master link, and carefully take it out of the other link.
  9. Then attach the master link to the link which is next to the link you just extracted and close it.
  10. When you finish your operation, your chain gets the desired length and is ready to use.
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  1. You should not be afraid to shorten the chainsaw chain that doesn’t have a master link. You will succeed with the right tools.
  2. For that, you will require a special rivet tool. It will help you to take out one of the links to release the chain. It shouldn’t be a problem to purchase a tool like this at your local saw shop or hardware store.
  3. Next, to shorten a chainsaw chain that lacks a master link, locate a link you are going to remove.
  4. Next, you should place the chain into the chain breaker bar. The chain breaker bar should have different kinds of groove sizes for various chain pitches.
  5. Choose the right groove size according to your chain’s pitch, and set the chain into the bar. Make sure your chain firmly sits in.
  6. Put the bar chain under the chain breaker, pull the handle of the breaker, and punch out the rivets.

Once the rivet is out, you can extract any redundant links from the chain if you want to make your chainsaw chain shorter.

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Step 4. Rejoin the chainsaw chain

Once you finished removing the drive links, it’s time to rejoin the chainsaw chain. For that, you will require a spinner.

Place the chain into the spinner and align the pins.

Rotate the left handle, while applying counter pressure to the right handle, until the rivet is smashed flat.

Another way to do this is to use pliers to squeeze the chain rivet’s head to loosen it.

Once you have the correct length, place the cut pieces back into the chainsaw and insert the rivets back into their positions.

After it is done, your chainsaw chain is again ready to work like before. 

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Step 5. Reassemble the chainsaw

Ensure the tension screw (on the side of the machine’s blade) is loosened.

Fit the chain around the chainsaw guide bar and ensure the drive links are in place.

Tighten the tensioning screw to the recommended tension.

Step 6. Test the chain

The final step is the snap test to determine whether the chain has been shortened properly.

Before proceeding with the regular use of the chainsaw, you need to perform several control cuts.

Then check that the chain tension is tight. If the shanks come out of the groove by no more than 2-4 millimeters when it is simultaneously stretched by the upper and lower sides, the tension is normal.

Getting the right chain length, you can dismantle the spark plug.

Congratulations! Now you know how to shorten a chainsaw chain.

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Common mistakes while shortening your stretched chainsaw chain

Shortening stretched chainsaw chains may seem challenging; however, it’s important to do it correctly. Here are some typical mistakes one can make while fixing a stretched chainsaw chain:

  • Operating with the wrong tools to shorten the chainsaw chain.
  • Removing too many links, which can cause an incorrect chain length, and create an unsafe cutting environment and a chain break.
  • Not adjusting the tension of the chain after making it short can cause it to loosen or tighten.
  • Improper aligning the chain with the chainsaw bar can be the cause of an early malfunction of both the chain and the chainsaw.

It is advisable to keep in mind that violation of the operating scheme can lead not only to tool breakage but also to dangerous injuries. You should carefully check each element of your technical device before you start cutting wood.

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Tips for properly maintaining chainsaw chains

To keep your chainsaw chain in top shape, check out the maintenance tips below:

  • Systematically check the chain tension and adjust it if necessary to avoid a chain break.
  • Keep the chain decently lubricated with chain oil to decrease friction.
  • Clean the chain after every use to take out debris and prevent its formation.
  • Store your chainsaw in a cool and dry place to prevent wear and rust.
  • Sharpen the chain duly to maintain optimal efficiency.
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The reasons the chainsaw chain stretches

It is very important to understand what led to these problems to fix them effectively. There are a few reasons behind chainsaw chain problems:

  • Lack of proper maintenance, like insufficient lubrication.
  • Improper usage and harsh operating conditions.
  • Overheating. The thing is that metal thermally expands when getting hot.
  • Excess mechanical wear and tear due to continuous operation at a rapid rate.
  • Incorrect sharpening methods. Keep in mind to sharpen the chain after 6-7 hours of use.
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Frequently Asked Questions

What is the best angle to cut a chainsaw chain?

How to shorten a chainsaw chain properly? The best angle to cut a chainsaw chain is between 25 and 35 degrees, with the file’s pitch about 5 degrees from horizontal. This angle provides both efficient and durable cutting. Try to maintain a stable angle.

Should the chainsaw chain be loose or tight?

Generally, a chainsaw chain should not be too loose or tight. If the chain is too loose, it will fall off. If the chain is too tight, it can cause the tool damage. There is a certain optimal tension that the chain should maintain. A properly tensioned chainsaw chain should stretch slightly but remain on the slides of the chainsaw’s guide bar.

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Conclusion: How to shorten a chainsaw chain?

A chainsaw, like any other tool, requires careful maintenance.

When buying it, you should pay attention to the manufacturer and seller. All chainsaw chains stretch once in a while, but as a rule, the tool purchased in branded stores needs to be repaired less often.

If you’re fixing your chainsaw chain because it has worn out, the chain should not be shortened. It is better to replace your worn chain with a new chain.

To protect yourself from various troubles when operating a chain headset, do not skimp on its quality.

Keep in mind that you will not fix the problem of stretched links and worn parts by shortening the worn-out chain. Moreover, this makes it dangerous to use, and the chain should be replaced. 

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