Why Does My Chainsaw Cut Crooked?

Chainsaws are powerful tools that make taking down a tree or cutting up firewood almost effortless. However, even the most expensive and powerful chainsaws may not always operate as intended. One issue that may crop up is a chainsaw may cut crooked or in a curved pattern.

A chainsaw cutting crooked is usually caused by an improperly sharpened chain. If cutter teeth are sharpened with an inconsistent angle degree the chain will pull in the direction of the highest degree. Other possible reasons for a crooked cutting chainsaw could be from a damaged chain that has come into contact with an object, (like a nail), other than wood. Damaged cutter teeth will not offer a consistent cutting degree and can cause the chain to not cut in a straight line.

The problem of a crooked cutting chainsaw can be discouraging when you have lots of work to do. However, this is a problem that can be easily corrected with little know-how.

Improperly Sharpened Chain

What does an improperly sharpened chain look like? Before we can discuss this I need to go more in-depth about chainsaw chains. Chainsaw chains are composed of different components that have very specific functions in the cutting of wood.

The 3 primary parts of the chainsaw chain are the cutter tooth, cutter guard, and chain drag. The cutter tooth is the part of the chain that does the actual cutting of wood. The cutter guard acts as a shield for the cutter tooth to prevent overly aggressive bites by the chain – which can be extremely dangerous due to kickback. The chain drag is what carries the chain around the chainsaw’s guide bar and what the chainsaw’s sprocket uses to make contact with the chain. Out of these 3 parts, the cutter tooth is usually the culprit of crooked cuts.

The cutter tooth is the sharp part of the chain that requires sharpening from time to time. Improperly sharpening a chain is what causes crooked cutting most of the time. Each cutter tooth will need to be sharpened with the exact degree angle as each other. For example, if you sharpen the first cutter tooth at 30 degrees then you will need to sharpen every one of the other cutter teeth at 30 degrees as well. If a chain is sharpened in this fashion it will make straight cuts. However, if you sharpen the first cutter tooth at 30 degrees then you sharpen the other cutter teeth at an angle different than 30 degrees then you will have a chain that will not cut straight. Remember to always use the same angle degree for each and every tooth when sharpening your chain. I personally sharpen my chains at 30 degrees.

If you recently sharpened your chain and then the problem occurred immediately afterward then you know that the sharpening was done incorrectly. Don’t worry though, this problem is easily corrected. All you need to do is re-sharpen your chain with a consistent angle of degree. Problem solved!

Damaged Chain

Incorrect sharpening is not the only reason a chainsaw may cut crooked. Another reason could be the chain may have come into contact with something other than wood. A typical scenario is when someone is cutting a tree and hit a random nail that someone for some reason nailed into the tree. When this occurs the cutter teeth are damaged and can be improperly angled. If the chain is still able to cut it more than likely will not be cutting in a straight line. Sometimes the damage can be corrected by sharpening the chain to re-angle the cutter teeth to the correct degree. However, in most cases, the chain is damaged to the point of having to be replaced. If multiple cutter teeth are bent over or missing sharpening may not be a viable option. In these situations it is best to just replace the chain and move on with your day.

Use a Local Shop

Sharpening chainsaw chains is definitely a skill. If you are not confident in your sharpening ability do not be afraid to take your chain or chains to your local chainsaw shop. Shops usually use sharpening machines, instead of hand files, that are pre-set to the proper angle to make sure your chain comes out almost perfect. I have customers that bring buckets of chains in to me because either they don’t know how to do the job properly or do not have the time. When their chains leave my shop they are dialed in and ready to go. The do not have to concern themselves with sharpening their chains and can focus on their job at hand.

Safety First

Improperly sharpened chains and damaged chains may not only be frustrating but can also be dangerous and unpredictable. If you notice your chain is not cutting properly it is a good idea to stop using it immediately and correct the issue as we have covered above. Continuing to use equipment that is unpredictable is not a good idea when you’re working with a chainsaw. People tend to get comfortable and used to to their equipment and that’s when bad things tend to happen. Just remember your chainsaw is extremely dangerous and should be respected at all times. It takes only a moment for a catastrophic situation to occur. Be mindful and safe, especially with chainsaws.

Wrapping up

Chainsaws are a marvelous invention that can really lighten our wood cutting tasks. However, when chainsaws do not operate as intended our work progress is halted. In most common cases the problem can be corrected quickly and easily if you know what to do. In the case of this article we covered why a chainsaw may not cut in a straight line and identified the likely reasons this happens as an improperly sharpened chain or a damaged chain. Both of these issues can be corrected easily be either sharpening or replacing your chain with a new one.

Have a great day and be safe out there.

Steven R

I have been part of the chainsaw and outdoor power equipment business in one way or the other for over 35 years. There are not many things that I have not seen in the business. From repairs, sales, equipment operation, and safety I can help you with your questions.

Recent Posts