Chainsaw Won’t Cut Even After Sharpening – Easy Fix

Are you wondering why your chainsaw won’t cut even after sharpening?

Well, you’ve come to the right place because I’ll be showing you how to fix this issue.

So, let’s get straight into it!

Why isn’t my chainsaw cutting even though I’ve sharpened it?

1. You didn’t sharpen the chain properly

Just because you went through the motions of running a file across the teeth of your chainsaw, doesn’t mean that the teeth are sharp. It could be that the chain was sharpened incorrectly.

Using hand tools to sharpen a chain takes a bit of practice, and many tools complicate the process. The Stihl sharpener is a great tool to use, both for professionals and beginners because it allows you to sharpen teeth and file down rackers in one easy stroke. 

How easy is it to sharpen the chain incorrectly? Let me give you an example. Many guys will recommend that when sharpening the teeth, that you run the round file across every tooth’s cutting edge the same number of times. 

The theory is that this will ensure that all teeth shorten at the same time. The problem with this is that you may have nicked a section of the chain on a stone or nail in the wood, damaging a few teeth. If you run the file across all the teeth the same number of times, some will be sharp, and others may remain blunt. 

It is therefore important that you file every tooth and inspect it afterward. Was your angle right? Did you file enough metal away to ensure that the cutting edge is sharp and will dig into the wood? 

I recommend that you do a visual as well as a “feeling” inspection. Feel that edge with your thumb. Does it bite a bit, or is it smooth? If it’s smooth, it needs a few more runs with the file.

Another tip is to ensure you are sharpening at the right angle for the type of wood you are cutting. Softwoods and hardwoods don’t act the same when being cut. A chain sharpened for hardwoods could be cutting very slow through softwoods. Keep this in mind when fault finding a problem chain.

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Flipping chainsaw bar

2. The Chain hasn’t been tensioned properly

The next mistake that may be preventing your chainsaw from cutting is the amount of tension on the chain. It’s important to follow the manufacturer’s guidelines in this regard. The chain can be either too tight, or too loose. 

It is also worth keeping in mind that you should tension your chain before every use, even after a few minutes of work depending on the weather. The metal expands as its temperature increases. If you tension the chain cold, it may become too loose once it’s warmed up. 

A chain that is too tight will experience too much friction along the bar while placing too much pressure on the front bearing. This will impact cutting performance while damaging your machine.

A chain that is too loose won’t cut properly either. The slack in the chain accumulates just in front of the wood you are cutting, allowing the saw tip to tilt into a non-optimal angle for cutting.

When it finally makes contact with the wood, it is not performing the way it was intended. In the long term, this will also cause the tip of your cutting edge to sink below the “body” of the tooth. 

When you try to cut, the tooth is in contact with the wood while the cutting edge is running freely, not removing the thin layer of wood as intended.

Visually inspecting the chain will tell you if this is happening. The top edge of the tooth must be perfectly flat and angled up toward the cutting edge.

If there is polishing visible on the tooth behind the cutting edge, this may be a tell-tale sign that you have been consistently cutting with a too loose chain. You can try to grind each tooth flat again. I would just replace the chain and make sure it doesn’t happen again.

3. Make sure the rackers are lower than the actual chain blade

Every cutting chain has two different objects sticking out. The one is the saw tooth. We have been discussing the importance of the tooth being sharp. The next object sticking out, usually, just a curved piece of metal is called the racker or depth gauge.

The racker and cutting edge act in unison when the chain is in motion. Upon contact, the cutting edge bites into the wood and starts sinking in. The racker stops it from penetrating too deep and forces the tooth to remove only a sliver of wood at a time. If the racker is too high, the sliver of wood that is removed becomes too little, and the saw doesn’t seem to cut at all.

Filing the rackers “doubles” the amount of work required to sharpen a chain. But it’s important to file the rackers down from time to time.

The Stihl sharpener allows you to file the rackers down to their optimal depth while sharpening the individual teeth. This will cut the sharpening time in half.

4. Just get a new chain

Chains can also age to a point where trying to keep them sharp and cutting takes all the joy out of a day’s work.

New chains always cut like a dream. Keep a new chain handy to swap out if your old chain breaks, or if you have a job you want to complete hassle-free.

I would also recommend keeping a hardwood and softwood chain for different types of wood. It can save you some sharpening time when you alternate between different kinds of wood.

In the end, hours spent trying to sort out a chain makes your operation unproductive. New chains are relatively inexpensive and can save you a ton of trouble.


The reason why your chain won’t cut even after sharpening is that you did not sharpen the chain properly, the chain hasn’t been tensioned properly, the rakers are higher than the teeth, or you need to replace the chain.

Hope you found what you were looking for in this guide.

Happy sawing!

– Adam