Over the decades I’ve seen various chainsaw sharpening systems in action, but the one I want to tell you here is the fastest I’ve seen. It’s meant to automatically  sharpen a saw chain while the saw runs (no files or guides needed), and this model is the only one that works well enough to make it to the mainstream as far as I can tell. It’s called Powersharp, it’s made to fit most small and medium-sized saws and it greatly reduces the skill and time needed to sharpen a saw chain. I first discovered this tool back in 2010, and it’s still on the market now and still working well.

The sharpener opener on this Oregon PowerSharp sharpener. The yellow case locks shut and the pink, U-shaped stone sharpens the top edges of the teeth as they slide over the stone while the chain is spinning.

Oregon Chainsaw Sharpener in Action

Oregon is the company that developed Powersharp, and they’re one of the leading manufacturers of saw chains, bars and accessories in the world. Many chainsaw manufacturers install Oregon chains as original equipment on their new saws, and I know from 40+ years of using chainsaws that Oregon is first rate. Even professional loggers use their stuff. If any other company had come up with Powersharp, I probably wouldn’t have paid as much attention.  But as it turns out, a particular chainsaw torture test I completed proved the worth of this device.

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Beginning with a sharp saw chain, I intentionally sawed into a piece of limestone rock for about three or four seconds. Even instantaneous contact with stone makes any saw chain dull, so this chain was dull indeed. It wouldn’t cut wood at all afterwards, though it didn’t stay lame for long during my tests.

It took less than 30 seconds to clip the Powersharp unit on the end of the bar, another 10 to 15 seconds to complete the sharpening process, and another 15 seconds to remove the device again. Total time invested: Less than two minutes, but the next attempt at cutting a log showed nearly as good cutting action as with a new chain. That’s a remarkable thing. It isn’t quite as good as with a brand new chain, though performance is still more than good enough to make this sharpener worthwhile.

Oregon Chainsaw Sharpener – How It Works

The Powersharp system has three unique parts: a sharpening unit that includes an internal U-shaped grindstone, a special bar made to anchor the sharpener, and a proprietary chain that’s designed to be sharpened on top of the teeth. The entire kit costs about $80. The bar and sharpener body will last a long time, and a new chain and replacement grindstone comes together as a $35 package. You can expect five to fifteen sharpening sessions before the chain is toast. I just bought two more Powersharp units, one with a 16″ bar and another with an 18″ bar.

At the first sign your chain is dull, shut off the engine, hinge open the yellow sharpening unit, then snap it shut around the two anchor holes at the end of the bar. Start your saw up again, then find a stump, large rock or any other solid object and push the spring-loaded nose of the sharpener against it while the engine is revved up. This pushing operation slides the U-shaped grindstone into the moving chain as it travels around the tip of the bar, honing the top surfaces of the cutters and restoring quite good cutting action. You know it’s working because small sparks can be seen coming out from the bottom of the sharpening unit. You won’t find a Powersharp sharpened chain to be quite as effective as a brand new chain, and it’s certainly not as good as chains I sharpen with my electric chainsaw sharpener. But it’s still at least as good as what most chainsaw users can achieve with a file. Maybe better.

This close-up of a PowerSharp chain shows how it’s the top edge of the cutting tool that gets sharpened by the system. This fact is at the heart of how this system can work so quickly.

Besides sidestepping the pretty steep learning curved involved in mastering traditional chain sharpening skills, Powersharp is fast. This makes it attractive even for those of us who know how to sharpen with a file. Depending on how fast you move, it’ll probably take no more than a minute or two to dig the sharpening unit out of your saw box, snap it onto the anchoring holes in the bar, rev the engine and hone the cutters, then take the sharpener off and get back to work. Even an extremely dull chain sharpens up surprisingly quickly. Part of this comes courtesy of a special flat diamond dressing surface on the chain itself. This keeps the U-shaped surface of the grindstone relatively flat and glaze-free enough to sharpen the cutters well, even given the oily conditions that develop there.

Want to try Powersharp? One way to buy is online. Go to Amazon, search for “Powersharp” and you’ll see the full selection of options. You’ll need a special chain and sharpener to fit your particular chainsaw.

Oregon Chainsaw Sharpener Limitations

The only drawback with Powersharp is that Oregon doesn’t  make a unit to work with large saws spinning big chains. And since most of the saws I use regularly are as big as they get, I’ll still be sharpening using the electric sharpener I’ve come to like so much for some of my saws.. Click here for a detailed video tour of the sharpener I use on my big chainsaws.