Why Does My Chainsaw Cut Crooked? [Solved]

Do your cuts follow a line as straight as a banana? Have you found yourself scratching your head wondering, “Why does my chainsaw cut crooked?”

This isn’t one of the worst problems to have and, luckily, it’s probably not your cutting technique. The most common cause for a crooked cut is the saw or chain itself.

If you’ve noticed that your chainsaw cuts crooked, there are a few things you can do to fix it and get your saw cutting straight again. These fixes can be done at home or corrected by your local chainsaw dealer or repair shop.

#1 Reason: Chainsaw Chain Improperly Sharpened

Chainsaws need proper maintenance and putting even regular maintenance off like a dull chain will cause problems in more ways than one.

Sharpened Chainsaw Chain

Before and after you use a chainsaw you should check the teeth on the chain along with everything else on it. Regular maintenance and cleaning will save you a lot of headaches like this one.

How To Get A Properly Sharp Chainsaw Chain?

While some say leave sharpening to the professionals, you can definitely sharpen your chain at home with just a round file and some patience.

Some companies also make file guides to assist homeowners trying to sharpen their chainsaws at home. These are especially helpful if using an electric grinder which really makes quick work of your sharpening duties.

Depending on how worn your chain is, sometimes it’s easier to buy a new chain than to sharpen the old one. Chains have a lifespan and if yours has reached its end, it’s time to get a new one.

Correct Angle With A File

Most chainsaws require a 30-degree angle when sharpening. If you’re unsure, check your manufacturer’s recommended sharpening instructions before working on your chain.

The 30-degree angle is in reference to the guide bar. Directly perpendicular to the guide bar is your starting point and you would want to move 30 degrees from there and begin filing.

You should hold the file in your dominant hand and apply some pressure as you push the file away from you, but you do not want any pressure as you pull the file back toward your body to reset.

Sharpening works best when you file in one direction only.

Maintain a nice flat angle while you sharpen to avoid uneven sharpening and always place the chainsaw in a vice or on a flat surface.

Each tooth should get equal attention unless they’re different sizes. We recommend giving each tooth 3-4 strokes depending on how dull your chain is.

Setting The Rakers

After sharpening the cutter teeth, you should go back with a depth gauge setter and file down the rakers. The rakers are the pieces of metal just before the cutter tooth.

It’s important not to forget about filing the rakers down after sharpening. A raker that is taller than the cutting tooth will prevent the saw from doing any work.

Using a depth gauge tool will also prevent you from filing too much of the raker. If the raker is significantly lower than the cutter tooth, the saw will bite into too much wood and can cause it to kickback or just jam.

Using A Chain Sharpener

A chain sharpener, or a file guide, is the easiest way to make sure your teeth are sharpened evenly.

File guides come with an indicator to ensure you maintain the proper angle and also have flat files in them that will lower the depth gauges automatically while you sharpen.

Chain sharpeners are comfortable to use, more efficient, and faster than using a regular round file to sharpen your teeth.

#2 Reason: Your Chainsaw Bar Is Bent

Check that your chainsaw bar is not bent. Even a slight bend in the bar can cause your chainsaw to stop cutting straight lines.

Bent Chainsaw Bar

The easiest way to tell if your bar is bent is to take it off your chainsaw and hold it up to your eye, almost as if you were trying to see if a piece of lumber is crooked.

From this position, you should be able to see any slight curve in the bar.

You could also lay it flat on a table to check.

Solutions To A Bent Bar

It’s just better to buy a new bar and forget about the old one. A bent bar can be dangerous even if straightened again.

Bending a bar can weaken the metal and over time it can become a serious problem. Depending on how badly bent your bar is, it may or may not even be salvageable.

A worn bar can cause catastrophic malfunctions and severely injure you. At the end of the day, you need to decide what’s worth more – the cost of a new bar or your life.

Ensure you’re using enough bar oil to keep your chain or bar from heating up. Regular cleaning and keeping broken wood particles out from the area between the chain and the bar can help avoid damage to your saw.

#3 Reason: Incorrect Chain Tension Causing Crooked Cutting

A chainsaw cuts crooked sometimes because of a loose chain. When this happens, the chain can grab the wood in weird ways and cause you to cut crooked.

Incorrect Chain Tension

Thankfully, modern chainsaws can easily have their chain tension adjusted.

You should always check your chain’s tension before you cut. Improper chain tension can cause more serious problems than just crooked cutting.

How To Set Chain Tension?

Depending on your model chainsaw, your tension screw should be in between the two studs that hold the bar on. Check the manufacturer’s manual or website to see where yours is if you don’t know.

Loosen the two nuts that hold the bar to the studs. Once you’ve done that, either tighten or loosen the adjusting screw depending on the tension of your chain.

When you pull down on your chain along the bottom of the bar, there should be no more than a 1/4-inch gap and it should snap right back into place.

As a rule of thumb, your chain should never hang loosely off the guide bar and it should never be so tight that you struggle to move it with your hand.

#4 Reason: Uneven Top Plate Causing The Chainsaw To Not Cut Straight

Uneven top plates can cause your saw to not cut in a straight line. Cutter teeth damaged by rocks or nails hidden in a log can easily become dull or result in a different-sized top plate.

Uneven Top Plate

Ways To Fix Top Plate Issues

The easiest way to fix an uneven top plate is to take a file and even out the plates. File until all of the top plates are the same consistency.

Filing takes time and patience. Oftentimes, chainsaw owners will feel comfortable filing from one direction, but uncomfortable from another.

That uncomfortably sharpened side of the chain will cut crooked. As the chain goes through the log, one side of the chain will cut while the other side won’t do much of anything causing a chainsaw to cut crooked.

Makes sure you practice sharpening from both directions so you’re comfortable on either side of the chain.

Final Thoughts

The most common reason a chainsaw is cutting crooked is uneven cutting teeth. Keep your chain sharp and your saw will keep cutting straight.

You should also check your guide bar to ensure it’s not bent. A bent bar is sure to cause problems in more ways than one.

Learning how to properly maintain your chainsaw chains will help avoid most chainsaw problems that can arise. Thankfully, a crooked cut is fairly easy to fix and you can be back out working in no time.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ):

Why does my Chainsaw keep cutting to the left side?

If you find your chain pulling to one side or another, stop what you are doing and check the teeth before continuing to work.

Chainsaws can make crooked cuts for a variety of reasons. Check your chainsaw's chain and bar to ensure they're in proper working order.

Uneven cutting teeth or a bent bar can cause your saw to bite to one side or another while cutting.

How do I know if my Chainsaw Blade is too tight?

A tight blade will prevent the chainsaw from turning the chain and may make the chainsaw produce smoke as it overheats.

Avoid overtightening your chain and ensure it's properly adjusted by loosening the tension screw. Your chain should be able to pull slightly away from the bar and snap back into place when you let go.

How long will a Chainsaw Chain stay sharp?

Chainsaws that are rarely used will, of course, stay sharp longer than chainsaws that are used every day. You'll have to resharpen your saw about every 3 or 4 hours of active woodcutting. A sharp chain is vital if you want to cut straight and stay safe.