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How to Shorten a Chainsaw Chain? | 7 Practical Steps!

Chainsaws are one of the most common tools for cutting and clearing tree branches.

They can be very helpful but also dangerous if the user is not careful.

The chainsaw chain is one of the most critical parts of a chainsaw and needs to be regularly maintained. The chain needs to be sharp and well-oiled for optimal performance.

If it becomes dull, it will make it difficult to cut through a branch or tree limb.

Besides oil and maintenance, the chainsaw’s chain needs to be shortened for various reasons. This article entails how to shorten a chainsaw chain to adjust it according to the desired job.

If you’re new to chain sawing, you may be wondering how to shorten a chainsaw chain.

The process is quite simple and requires only a few tools you likely already have in your toolbox. This blog post will walk you through shortening a chainsaw chain.

So, let’s find out how to shorten a chainsaw chain.

Reasons to Shorten a Chainsaw Chain!

When you’re working in the yard, you need many tools to help you get the job done quickly and efficiently.

One of the most important among them is a chainsaw!

Chainsaws are made of high-speed cutting chains made of steel. But over time, chains can get worn out and need to be replaced.

These chains elongate with long-term usage due to continued tension and wear rate (also known as self-tensioning). As a result, their cutting performance deteriorates. Therefore, they need to be shortened.

Stretching of a chainsaw chain is normal, but it’s essential to keep your chainsaw in good shape.

If your chainsaw chain is too long, it can be a hazard. It can get caught on branches or other objects and can cause the chainsaw to kick back.

“Kicking back is when the chainsaw guide bar comes up and hits you in the face or chest. It can be very dangerous and even fatal.”

Therefore, it is recommended not to afford a delay in the process to avoid any potential damage.

If you’ve ever used a chain saw and noticed that it’s not cutting as fast as it used to, chances are your chain has gotten too stretched.

We have good news for you! Don’t buy a new chain.

Please continue reading to learn how to shorten a chainsaw chain and regain its cutting beauty.

Sign of Chainsaw’s Stretched Chain!

The best way to determine whether your chain is elongated is by running it through the saw at full speed.

Now you have to check how long it takes for the chainsaw’s teeth to make contact with the wood.

It needs a quick fix if they’re only making contact after 2 or 3 seconds of running at full speed (or barely making contact).

Due to its tough job of cutting sturdy branches, the chainsaw chain stretches.

The extreme friction from cutting through hard logs heats the chain and causes the metal to expand. As a result, the chain stretches. The chainsaw’s tension indicates whether the chain is extended or not.

You should check it every time you use your saw, especially if you notice any signs of wear or damage.

Can Chainsaw Chains Be Shortened?

Chainsaw chains are designed to be used for a long time, so replacing them is often not recommended.

There are several ways to shorten chainsaw chains.

  • You can do this by cutting off the chain’s links or by removing its links. You can shorten chainsaw chains easily; however, the difficulty of doing so depends on whether your chain has a master link.
  • This article has made the shortening of chainsaw chains easier. If the chain has a master link, you must remove it and as many other links as necessary to make it the right length. You will need a special rivet tool to shorten a chain that doesn’t have a master link.

Let’s now see how to shorten a chainsaw chain in our seven quick and easy steps!

How to Shorten a Chainsaw Chain? | 7 Quick & Easy Steps!

If your chainsaw chain is too long, it can be a major hassle to deal with.

Not only is it more difficult to control, but it can also be dangerous. Thankfully, there’s a quick and easy way to shorten your chainsaw chain without removing the bar or taking the saw apart.

With just a few minutes of your time, you can have your chainsaw running like new again.

Safety First

The first thing in chainsaw repair or maintenance is fully acquainting yourself with the manufacturer’s guide that came with the equipment. The instructions vary by brand, so make sure you carefully read the manual that came inside the tour chainsaw’s parcel.

Once you are familiar with the safety precautions, here are the basic measures before continuing our shortening process:

  • Ensure that you wear your safety dress that includes a helmet, glasses, gloves, long boots, and ear protection.
  • The brake and clutch of the chainsaw must be working properly
  • You should remove the spark plug and keep it nearby in case the engine backfires.

Here are the steps on how to shorten a chainsaw chain.

It is pretty easy to do and only takes a few minutes.

1. Cool Down the Engine

First, ensure that the saw is turned off and the chain is not moving.

Let the engine cool down, as the hot machine is unsafe to handle. Check if you can easily hold the chain; if so, continue doing the task.

2. Remove the Spark Plug

Never ignore removing the spark plug when you are up to maintaining a machine.

Some people ignore this step and put themselves in danger. Generally, machines are likely to catch fire in such a case, but chainsaws rarely catch fire. However, it is best to be safe and take as many safety precautions as possible.

3. Remove the chain

First, you will need to remove the chain from the saw.

  • You can easily do it by loosening the two nuts that hold the guide bar in place using a wrench.
  • Once these are loose, you can slide the guide bar out of the way and off the saw.
  • Do it carefully, as you may break the chain in the process, and fixing it won’t be as easy.

Now, take a look at the chain.

You will notice that it has several different-sized links; the larger ones are called drivers that fit into corresponding slots on the guide bar, and the smaller ones are called cutters that do the cutting.

How to Shorten a Chainsaw Chain with a Master Link?

Some manufacturers incorporate a master link in chainsaws, making the link-removal process quicker and easier.

4. Remove Chain Links

You need to remove some of the chain links to shorten your chain.

Locate the master link, and the rest of the process will be done quickly. You will easily identify the master link. It is a small metal link that is different from the other links in the chain.

This process is pretty simple and only requires a few tools.

  • First, you’ll need a pair of pliers and a pin punch. The pin punch is used to push out the rivets that hold the links of the master link together.
  • Repeat this process for the link right next to the master link.
  • You will need to remove some of these links to shorten the chain. You will need a pair of pliers for this.
  • Grip one link with the pliers and pull it out of its slot.
  • Now, measure how much shorter you want the chain to be.
  • Repeat the process until the chain is shortened to your desired length.

Be sure to wear gloves and eye protection when doing this.

5. Reattach Master Link

After shortening the chain, reattach the master link using the pliers. Make sure that all the small parts are in their correct place before doing this.

Once everything is back in place, your chainsaw chain should be the correct length.

6. Test the Chain

Now assess the chain to check if the shortening went right.

  • The best way to test is by starting the saw and letting it idle for a few minutes.
  • Then, slowly move the bar’s tip towards a piece of wood or another object. If the chain binds or slows down before reaching the object, it may need another 1–2 links to be removed. If not, you are good to go!

It is also essential to check that the depth gauges on the side of the cutters are set correctly.

If they are too high, they will cause the chain to bind. If they are too low, they will not cut deep enough and overheat quickly. The depth gauges should be set so that they barely touch the surface of the wood when cutting.

How to Shorten a Chainsaw Chain Without a Master Link?

The chainsaw that lacks a master link is a bit difficult to shorten.

You have to work extra dismantling the links with a tool. Only a professional or an experienced person can do this process.

If your chainsaw chain is too long and you don’t have a master link, you can shorten it using a pair of pliers.

Here’s how you can do that:

  • First, find the rivet that connects the two halves of the chain.
  • Then, a punch or other sharp object drives the rivet out.
  • Once the rivet is out, you can remove any excess links from the chain.
  • Repeat this process until the chain achieves its desired length.

Be sure to count how many links you remove so you can put them back in the same order when you’re finished.

7. Reassembling

Once you’ve removed enough links, reattach the bar and chain to the saw. Be sure to tighten down all nuts securely before using the saw again.

With just a few quick and easy steps, you can have your chainsaw running like new again in no time.

Test the fixed chainsaw on scrap wood before using it on your project!

Safety Measures!

Before using your fixed chainsaw again, it is vital to check that the chain is tensioned correctly.

If the chain is too loose, it can come off the saw while you are cutting and cause serious injury. Hold the saw upside down to check the tension and pull the chain tight.

The bottom of the guide bar should be level with the bottom of the saw body. If not, use the adjustment screws on the side of the saw to adjust the tension.

In addition to checking the chain tension, you should inspect the chain itself for damage (in case you may cause it during chain shortening).

Look for any bent or broken links and any damage to the teeth.

Unfortunately, you must replace the chain if you find any damage. Once you have checked the chain and ensured it is in good condition, you are ready to start cutting.

That’s all!

Now you know how to shorten a chainsaw chain.

Here’s a video guide for you:

Chainsaws & Tools: How to Shorten a Chainsaw Chain – YouTube

Let’s head toward the conclusion.


Shortening a chainsaw chain is not as difficult as it may seem.

With the right tools and a little know-how, you can have your chainsaw chain shortened in no time. We hope our seven quick and easy steps have helped you understand how to shorten a chainsaw chain.

A stretched chainsaw chain can cause the saw to bind and kick back. It can be dangerous for the operator and damage the saw.

It is crucial to keep the chain properly tensioned and at the correct length to prevent this from happening.

This article is your saver in any such case.

If you have any questions, feel free to leave them in the comments below, and we will be happy to help!