Can Chainsaw Chains Be Shortened? [Answered]

Can a chainsaw chain be shortened?

Yes, it can, you simply have to remove the master link and then take off as many chains as you desire.

For a more detailed guide, keep reading…

Why would you shorten a chain?

Most of the time, chains can get shortened when they are overstretched, too long, or too loose. 

Depending on the issue of your chain, you can easily shorten it using the following steps.

How to Shorten a Chain That Has a Master Link

So many chains usually come with a master link. And a master link is designed for events that would require the chain to be shortened.

This can be very helpful because reducing a chain with no master link is a bit more tedious.

However, the latter can be done easily by following the directions below:

What happens if chainsaw chain breaks?
What can a used chainsaw chain be used for?
Chainsaw or axe

Removing the Master Link

  • Allow the Chain Cool Off

Regardless of whether you are working on a tractor or a chainsaw, your first move should be to let all the equipment cool. Allow it to cool off to the point where you can rest your hand on it without feeling uncomfortable.

However, if you haven’t used your chainsaw in a while, this process can be omitted.

  • Take Off The Spark Plug

This is a safety-related process because removing the spark plug is done to avoid your chainsaw from sparking off while working on it.

Most people usually skip this process because they feel the chainsaw can’t fire while they are the only ones around. But it’s better to be safe than sorry in this kind of situation. 

  • Find and Remove the Master Link

The next process is to find the master link and remove it. That’s because without removing the actual master link, you can’t remove other links, which is needed for the shortening of the chain.

The master link is relatively easy to find. It is unique from the other links in the table, and it always has a different color.

Master links are designed differently depending on the product, so it’s difficult to give a general process for removing all master links.

In general, most usually have a type of clip that keeps it secure, and you would need a plier to unlock the master clip.

After you have done this, you would need to disconnect it from one of the other links it is connected to.

Once you have removed the master link completely, you would be left with a fully disconnected chain and shorten it.

Shortening the Chain

  • Take Off the Required Amount of Links

Once you have successfully removed the master link, you need to remove the desired amount of extra links to reduce your chain to the correct length.

With just a bit of pressure, the links should be fairly easy to pop out. This process is easier when you make use of a plier rather than your fingers.

  • Reconnect the Chain

After you have removed the required amount of links, you can reconnect your chain. This process is also very easy; all you need to do is attach the master link to the link on the other end of the chain. Then you snap it back in place and make sure it’s tightly secured.

  • Test the Tension of the Chain

After you have successfully reassembled your chain, it’s important to test the tension before using it. You can do this by performing a snap test.

However, you should only perform a snap test while your spark plug is not connected. Grab the chainsaw in one hand and grasp the chain along the topside of the bar using your other hand. 

Pull the chain away from the bar and release it immediately. If your chain is properly tensioned, it will snap back into place very quickly, without resistance.

If your chainsaw passes this test, it is properly tensioned, but if it doesn’t, you need to keep adjusting the length by going over the entire process again.

Now that your chain is at the correct length and tension, you can reconnect the spark plug and get back to work.

How to Shorten a Chain Without a Master Link

As I mentioned before, not all chains have a master link. In a case where your chain doesn’t, you would need a special rivet installation tool.

The rivet installation bond allows you to separate one of the links to free other chains.

You can get this tool from any local saw shop. Once you have gotten the tool, it’s pretty easy to use. 

All you need to do is punch out the rivets in the chain links and put them back in place using a reverse process. You have to make sure that the connections are tightly secure and then complete it using the steps I listed above.

Should I hire a professional to shorten my chainsaw chain?

There is nothing technical about shortening the chains yourself, but you can always take it to the saw shop to have it shortened for you.

However, if you don’t have the time to wait, nothing stops you from putting on your safety gloves and goggles to do it yourself.


Finally, it’s important to think about whether you are shortening your chain for the right reasons.

If you are shortening your chain because it’s too long or too loose, then you have a valid reason for doing so. But, if the reason you plan on shortening your chain is that it has stretched due to prolonged use, then that’s wrong.

In a case like this, you need to replace it with a new one because shortening a worn-out chain would not make it better, but rather it poses a dangerous hazard.