Why Does My Chainsaw Cut Crooked?

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I’ve been there too – meticulously working on a wood project, and suddenly the chainsaw just won’t cut straight. It’s more common than you’d think; it’s not just you. Over time, even the best of us find it tough to keep our saws on a straight path.

But don’t fret! I’ll dive deep into why this happens and share expert solutions to get your chainsaw back on track.

Reasons Why a Chainsaw Cuts Crooked and How to Fix it

Reason #1: Uneven Sharpness

Manual sharpening can cause the chain curves to get dull. Right-handed people often tend to sharpen the left side more than the right side, causing uneven sharpness that leads to the cutter tooth taking a different-sized bite on the wood. 

How to Fix Unevenly Sharpened Chains

For proper saw sharpening, it’s essential to give equal attention to both sides of the chain, including the basic component – the cutter tooth. 

Avoid solely focusing on your dominant hand; instead, work on the side that you feel needs more attention until you achieve a perfect balance of sharpness on both sides.

sharpening chainsaw

Sharpening a Chainsaw That Cuts to the Right or Left

Here’s a simple guide on how to sharpen your chain to avoid crooked cutting.

  1. Use wrenches or pliers to pull off excess materials around the blade. 
  2. On the end where the teeth meet, place a file on top.
  3. File evenly by pushing down on the tooth, firmly in a back and forth direction. 
  4. Place the fine-grit sandpaper on top of the tooth to sharpen, and remove any burrs by filing until both sides are equally smooth.

Reason #2: Unequal Top Plate

Unequal length on the top plates is one of the most common reasons for uneven bites, prompting the chainsaw to curve and form an angle on the heavier side.

chainsaw top plate

How to Fix an Uneven Top Plate

To avoid your saw from making crooked cuts, the weight of the plate should always be evenly distributed, which means a 180 degree is the ideal angle. 

If you notice that the other plate is smaller, then sharpen the longer side with your dominant hand. This makes it easier to get a cut straight and get exact angle proportions to avoid distortion on the plates. 

Reason #3: Bent Bar

An irregularly shaped or dented bar is one of the most common reasons for the chain to curve when cutting. Bent chainsaw bars can cause a chain to cut crooked. 

chainsaw bent bar

How to Fix a Bent Bar

Lay your bar on a flat surface. Fixing a bent bar isn’t that difficult and can be done without technicalities. Just use a hammer to straighten out the peaked side of the bar and adjust the strength depending on the bar’s condition.

Reason #4: Uneven Cutting Teeth

The most common cause of crooked cuts is uneven cutting teeth, often the results of tear and wear. It’s common for the chain teeth to get sharper on the other side due to uneven sharpening. 

Dragging your chainsaws can also cause the teeth to bend and pull in one direction. When the teeth are of unequal sizes, this can lead to cuts favoring the side with the biggest bites.

How to Fix Uneven Cutting Teeth

To prevent dulling the chain teeth easily, eliminate any hard objects such as nails and rock. These are often the culprit to your cutter teeth getting uneven. 

chainsaw uneven cutting teeth

In most cases, getting help from a professional is ideal for sharpening the chainsaw teeth evenly, but if you insist on doing it, use a grinder when sharpening instead.

Reason #5: Improper Chain Tension

Another likely reason why your chainsaw is not cutting straight or is causing crooked cutting is improper or loose tension on the chains. Not getting the right amount of tension on your saw can lead to crooked cuts and even a bigger problem on your chain.

tightened chain will prevent the saw from cutting straight and moving freely around the guide bar.

How to Fix Improper Chain Tension

Know the proper tension you want for your chainsaw to work in the proper direction. When you pull the chain, you should be able to see ¾ of the drive links, and it should spring right away. 

To fix chain tension, consider the temperature, as it’s another common reason you end up doing it incorrectly. 

adjusting chain tension screw

Hold your guide bar when you adjust the nuts of your chainsaw until you get a fair tension. Always wear protective gear when adjusting loose tension to avoid cuts on your finger. 

Understanding Your Chainsaw

Getting a chainsaw for your woodworking needs is just the first step, and it’s not a guarantee fewer headaches while doing your projects. Not reading the manual and not understanding how to use it properly can cause more anxiety for typical woodworkers. 

So, you better understand how your chainsaw works accordingly to model and type to avoid the common culprits of chainsaw problems

Choosing and Buying a Chainsaw + Proper Maintenance

A chainsaw purchase is one of the best investments; hence, buying the right one for your specific needs. Consider the power and usage if you’re using the chainsaw for DIY. Often a battery-powered saw is ideal. 

Poulan Pro Chainsaw

However, professionals should opt for more high-end versions, usually gas-operated. Whichever it is that you have, keep in mind that maintenance includes both the motor and chain [1].

The Most Common Issues With Chainsaws + How to Fix Them

Issue #1: Overheating

Overheating is a common reason why engines get damaged causing your chainsaw to stop running. To secure smooth usage of your chainsaw, maintain regular cleaning, especially if you’re using it during the summer when chainsaws can easily overheat. 

Always clean the exhaust, which can get overflooded with broken wood particles and sawdust. 

Issue #2: Flooded Engine

Flooded engines always happen even in top brands like Poulan. It is brought about by undrained gas on your machine. Starting the chainsaw without oil can also pose risks for flooded engines. 

It can be tedious to re-start the machine, but after a couple of pulls on the starter, it should work sharp again. 

Issue #3: Turnover

You’re probably trying to figure out what causes turnover issues on your Husqvarna saw. But often, improper lubrication is the perpetrator. 

The turnover issue is one of the chainsaw problems that surprise users. Abusing the engine or leaving it stagnant can cause problems, so you have to follow proper maintenance to relieve you from possible headaches.

Read Next: How to Stop Saw from Sticking 


Why does my chainsaw keep jamming?

Chainsaws are purposeful in cutting wood. However, you need to consider the tree’s weight and opt for manageable size logs. Often the blades can wear when you force them into cutting heavyweight woods. Chainsaws will jam too if you cut wet or softwood trees, as it’s primarily designed for cutting hardwoods only.

Why does my chainsaw produce smoke?

Users who aren’t used to the sight of smokes when cutting wood with their chainsaws often get intimidated once this rare occurrence happens. Cases like these happen when you use improper oil, causing the chain to malfunction. 

Abusing the machine and running it longer than the desired period can also lead to smoking. Not adding enough oil is another culprit to unusual smokes.

How long should a sharp chainsaw chain last?

Keeping your chainsaw chain sharp requires proper maintenance. However, this doesn’t signify a lifetime guarantee on chainsaw chains. 

You’ll eventually need to replace your chains to maintain satisfactory performance. At most, a chainsaw chain’s sharpness can last for five years for regular users, but casual woodworkers can expect a longer lifespan. 

When it comes time to buy a new chain for your chainsaw, make sure you are buying the right one by consulting this chainsaw chain identification chart.


After diving deep into the world of woodworking, I’ve pinpointed the likely reasons your chainsaw might be cutting crooked. From my experience, regularly sharpening the chains and cutting teeth is crucial. 

Not only will this guide give you the know-how, but it’ll also save you the cost of professional repairs. Remember, a little maintenance can go a long way!

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Robert Johnson is a passionate furniture maker & carpenter, sought after for his knowledge on the craft.
You’ve probably seen his down-to-earth wisdom in USA Today, Bobvila, Family Handyman, and The Spruce, where he has shared commentary and guidance on various woodworking topics.

Robert is the brain behind Sawinery, where he aims to share tips, tricks, and a passion for all things carpentry.

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