How to Tell If a Chainsaw is Dull? Reasons For a Dull Chainsaw Chain!

The part of the chainsaw which is most responsible for the cutting is its chain and a chain that doesn’t cut well and smoothly is definitely the one that has become dull!

How to tell if a chainsaw chain is dull? Whenever your chainsaw begins to be problematic while cutting wood, that means the chain is dull and it either needs to be sharpened or needs a replacement if it cannot be sharpened anymore. A dull chainsaw blade would not only NOT cut properly, but it can be extremely dangerous as well. This is because a blunt/dull blade might not cut through the target properly, resulting in kickbacks and other hazardous conditions.

I’ve been into chainsaws since childhood, and I’ve come a long way now. In my opinion, if your chainsaw isn’t extremely sharp, you’re already doing it wrong. Chainsaws aren’t meant to be slightly sharp. They must be extremely sharp. Their job is to cut through the wood, and they do it the safest when they’re sharpened the sharpest. 

So, keeping in view the sharpness level of your chainsaw is extremely important for a good cutting experience. Whenever you feel like the chain has become dull, do not use it further. Instead, sharpen it first and then carry on with your work.

This article contains all the information you need regarding the sharpness and dullness of your chainsaw. I’ve prepared this guide from my personal experiences with chainsaws over the years and I hope they’ll be of great help to my readers. let’s begin!

Firstly, How to Identify a Sharp and Dull Blade?

Although it seems to be pretty obvious how to identify a sharp and dull blade if you’re a beginner, you might not pay attention to it. I remember the first time my chainsaw got dull, and it was a small chainsaw I bought for backyard duties. 

It wasn’t cutting smoothly, and I had to put effort to push it through the small wood log. What I thought was that it was a weak saw and I made a mistake buying it because I had no knowledge of chainsaws at that time. 

But consulting with an expert, I got to know that the chain has become dull because I’ve been using it for quite a long and the solution was to sharpen the chain. And that’s what it was. Sharpening the chain fixed the issue and the chainsaw began to cut perfectly again!

Firstly, How to Identify a Sharp and Dull Blade

Let me help you with identifying a sharp and dull blade.

If the Blade is Dull

  1. It will look worn out.
  2. You’ll need to put the effort into getting the chainsaw through the wood.
  3. Kickbacks will occur.
  4. It won’t cut neatly and might even displace from the cutting target.

If the Blade is Sharp

  1. A sharp blade will look shiny.
  2. You won’t need to push the blade through the wood. It will cut through on its own.
  3. No kickbacks.
  4. It will give straight cuts and won’t displace from its cutting point.

Signs That Your Chainsaw Chain is Dull

Here are the signs of a dull chainsaw chain.

  • There is a Resistance to the Chain Entering the Wood
  • Instead of Wood Chips, Chainsaws Produces Sawdust
  • During Cutting, the Chain Pulls to One Side
  • Smoke from Chainsaw as if Bar Oil is Low
  • There is an Apparent Blunting or Rounding of the Edges of Chain Cutter Teeth

There is a Resistance to the Chain Entering the Wood

This is the most common sign of a dull chainsaw. When you try cutting the wood, the chainsaw won’t get through it easily and you’ll feel like exerting some pressure on the chainsaw to let it slide into the wood. In other words, you’ll feel a bit of resistance in cutting through the wood when you have a dull chain.

One of my chainsaws was doing this just a week ago and I knew what it needed. I sharpened the blade and it’s working perfectly fine now!

Get your hands on the best chainsaw sharpeners here!

There is a Resistance to the Chain Entering the Wood

Instead of Wood Chips, Chainsaws Produces Sawdust

This is something that most chainsaw owners won’t really pay attention to but it’s extremely important to notice how your chainsaw is doing while you cut. 

Chainsaw producing wood chips instead of sawdust is another big sign of a dull chainsaw. This is because when the chain is sharp enough, it would grind the wood so fast that only sawdust will be produced. While the case of a dull chain, the chainsaw would cut slowly, and it will produce wood chips. 

During Cutting, the Chain Pulls to One Side

Now, this is something extremely dangerous that the chain, instead of cutting through the target, pulls to a side. This also happens because the chain is dull, and it couldn’t stay in place. If this happens even once, do not take a risk at all. You do not need to try cutting like this even one more time. 

Stop the cutting, and get the chain sharpened. (You might want to find out the best chainsaw chains.)

Smoke from Chainsaw as if Bar Oil is Low

If your chainsaw is producing smoke, it’s a very clear sign that the chain has become dull, and it needs sharpening. This smoking could also be the result of a worn-out sprocket on a chainsaw guide bar, but it is more likely caused by a dull chain.

Chains that are dull cause friction as they skip across the wood, almost like a grinder. The friction between the chain and guide bar will produce smoke as heat accumulates. And you don’t want that. So, to operate a chainsaw safely, it is best to avoid heat as much as possible.

The longer your chainsaw chain remains sharp, the less heat it will generate, and the longer its life will be.

Smoke from Chainsaw as if Bar Oil is Low

There is an Apparent Blunting or Rounding of the Edges of Chain Cutter Teeth

This is something you can identify just by looking at the chainsaw teeth. If they have a non-blunted edge, it means they’re sharp and good to go with. However, if they have blunted or round edges, they’re clearly dull and require sharpening.

I’ve experienced each of these dullness issues over the years with different saws I own, and trust me, if you acknowledge the issue timely and get the chain sharpened, you’ll get an even better version of your chainsaw than before. 

No matter what sign of dullness your chainsaw is showing, all you need to do is either sharpen it if the chain hasn’t completely worn out or else, replace the chain if needed.

Signs That Your Chainsaw Chain is Sharp

If your chainsaw is cutting just fine, with no resistance or effort while cutting, it’s very obvious that it’s sharp enough. But still, here are a few things that ensure a sharp chainsaw.

  1. There’s a smoothness and efficiency in cutting. The chainsaw cuts super-fast through the wood, and you do not sense any need of pushing the chainsaw into the wood. It would cut just on its own once you’ve started it and put it through the cutting point.
  2. Secondly, the saw just remains where you positioned it. Neither does it displace from its target point, nor does it feel heavy on either side. You won’t face difficulty positioning the chainsaw when it’s sharp enough and you’ll be able to cut very easily.
  3. Lastly, the cutting process will produce sawdust, instead of making wood chips. The thinner and finer the sawdust, the sharper the chainsaw. 

Reasons for a Chainsaw Chain Getting Dull Quickly

Now that you know the signs of a dull chain, you might be wondering what causes a chain to become dull? What are the reasons for a dull chainsaw chain? Well, we’ve got you covered! 

The following are the reasons that make a chain dull.

  • You’ve been cutting dirty, muddy, or sand-covered wood.
  • Oak, Maple, and Hickory are the hardwoods. Cutting them often and not sharpening the chainsaw afterward can also be one of the reasons for the dull chains.
  • Allowing soil to be impacted by chainsaw chains.
  • Impacting non-wood materials like nails with the chainsaw chain
  • The blades made of soft material could also be one of the reasons as they are likely to wear out quickly.
  • Filing too hard could also make the edges of the cutters go dull quickly if you apply too much pressure.

Reasons for a Chainsaw Chain Getting Dull Quickly

Does My Chainsaw Need a Chain Replacement?

To know if your chainsaw needs a chain replacement, mentioned below are some of my personal observations that I’d want you to read. They’ll help you decide if your chainsaw needs a chain replacement.

  1. A rusted chain should not be used any further. This will have a significant impact on the chainsaw’s efficiency. So, you should replace the rusted chain.
  2. It would be unfortunate if the chainsaw started smoking even though it had been lubricated. A chainsaw can be severely damaged by it and to prevent that from happening, the chain should be replaced if it smokes.
  3. In the event that the chainsaw chain is damaged by hitting rocks, ice, or any other object, the chain should be replaced.
  4. It is important to replace the chainsaw chain if you observe that the highest point of the teeth is missing.
  5. Replace the chainsaw chain as soon as the safety lines are reached rather than sharpening it any further.
  6. If cutting is becoming very difficult, replace the chain!
  7. If you feel that the chainsaw chain may have been excessively damaged, do not wait further. Get it replaced.
  8. Drag links with damage or burrs should also be replaced immediately.

How to Tell If a Chainsaw is Dull – FAQs

How can I tell if my chainsaw is sharp?
If your chainsaw easily cuts through the wood, fastly and efficiently, it means it is sharp. Also, a sharp chainsaw won’t get displaced from the point you positioned it and will cut its way through without causing any friction.
Will a dull chainsaw chain smoke?
Yes. It is possible for a dull chain to smoke. This is because when a chain gets dull, it causes friction while cutting through the wood which apparently heats up the chainsaw and the result is smoke coming out of the chainsaw.
What dulls a chainsaw blade?
Using the chainsaw blade on dirty, muddy surfaces, or non-wood materials such as nails will dull the chainsaw blade. Try preventing the chainsaw from coming in contact with such materials. Also, when sharpening/filing the blade, do not be hard on it. File the blade without applying too much pressure.
How do I know if my chainsaw needs oil?
If your chainsaw is producing friction and there’s less smoothness and lubrication while cutting, it means your chainsaw needs oiling.
Does dry wood dull a chainsaw?
Chainsaw chains create more friction when they come into contact with dry wood because dry wood lacks moisture content. As a result, the chain is slowed down by friction which could cause the chainsaw to dull.
Is it OK to use a chainsaw in the rain?
Chainsaws could be used in all types of weather because that’s how they’re built. However, it’s more about the sodden ground and wet wood caused by rain than the chainsaw itself. In other words, it’s the wet wood or ground in the rain that you should be worried about and not the use of the chainsaw.



Chainsaws are to be maintained really well if you want them to perform well for the longest time. Sharpening the chain whenever it becomes dull and then replacing the chain when needed is extremely important to keep your chainsaw nicely working.

Other than that, maintenance of chainsaws also includes proper cleaning after every use, storing them covered under a shelter, and proper lubrication for smooth functioning. When maintained properly, chainsaws work really well for a long time!

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