December 3, 2010

PowerSharp Chainsaw Sharpening System - Review


Have you ever sharpened a chainsaw by hand?

It blows. It really does.

It's time consuming, tedious, and we always seem to end up with bloody knuckles by the time we're through. There's the alternative of bringing the chain to the hardware store and having them sharpen it, but who wants to deal with that? So now there is a third option: the PowerSharp Chainsaw Sharpening System. Its maker, Oregon was nice enough to send us a sample to try out. In order to test it, we first had to dull the chain, and to do that, we did horrible, horrible things to our chainsaw. Things that went against everything we believe...

So the PowerSharp is a pretty clever system. It's made up of three parts which all work together; the chain, the bar, and the sharpener. Because they all need to be compatible, they are all part of the set. You can't use your own bar or your own chain with the sharpener, for reasons you'll understand in a sec.


To use the sharpener, you must first cllp it to the end of your bar. It attaches with two through rods and a clip. When installed, there's no play in it and the fit is tight. Then, with the engine running and the chain moving, you press the nose of the bar against something. What this does is push an internal sharpening stone against the chain. This is what causes the sharpening. The real clever part is that there is a single link on the chain that is diamond-coated and hones the sharpening stone as it passes.

powersharp-concrete.JPGSo to test the sharpener, we first timed ourselves cutting a chunk off a fat log (9 seconds), and then we had to dull the chain. How did we dull the chain, you ask? Well, first we got the saw running and without much ceremony, we buried the bar into a gravel driveway. Then we did it again. And again. Then we ran the saw for about 15 seconds hard against a concrete block as if we were trying to cut it. It's a very weird thing to do, beat on a chainsaw like that. Normally our time is spent protecting the chain from all harm, but here we were treating it like we hated it.

So then we made the cut on the log again. Or rather, we tried to make the cut on the log again. By this point, the chain was so toasted that we couldn't even get more than in inch or so into the wood, and this was after a period of about three minutes and the pouring of much smoke. The local coroner pronounced the chain DOA.

powersharp_before.JPG powersharp_roasted.JPG
Alive (left). Dead (right)

Then we clipped the sharpener on the bar and went through the sharpening process for a few seconds. We inspected the chain and saw that some of the damaged material had been removed, but we were a long way from sharp. We repeated the process again and again until the chain looked sharp, totaling about 40 seconds in the sharpener.

powersharp_solo.JPGThen we timed the cut one again and got it done in nine seconds. Just as it was before...and only a few minutes later. It's incredible really. In moments, we were able to revive a chain that was by all accounts, far, far, far beyond destroyed. After the abuse we put it through, it wouldn't even be worth hand sharpening.

According to PowerSharp, the average user can get about 15 sharpens out of a stone/chain combo before it needs to be replaced. For most people who are just going to dice up a little firewood, this probably equals years of use.

The PowerSharp system isn't available for the big, mega pro models like the Husqvarna that we just reviewed. The people who are buying those saws likely have their own methods of sharpening and they're not going to leave it up to some newfangled gadget to do it for them. PowerSharp intends this to be for the casual user, the guy with the woodpile who gets hit with the occasional windstorm clean up. This still covers a lot of saws, just not the real biggies.


So what does this magical item cost? About $70-75 for the initial buy in (the three parts), and then when you've worn down your stone, it's another $30 or so for a stone/chain combo. PowerSharp has set things up in such a way that by the time you need a new stone, you also need a new chain.

So when it all comes down to it, the PowerSharp is phenomenal. It takes a laborious process and turns it into a two minute diversion. For most people, sharpening a chain is an obstacle to the enjoyable task of cutting up wood. Now it doesn't have to be.

PowerSharp's website has information on saw compatibility. You can also get a lot of that information over at Amazon's product listings.


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Posted by Doug Mahoney at December 3, 2010 5:00 AM
Recent Comments

As the owner of a logging/ lumber company, I'm confused by some of the above comments.

We've been cutting in snowy conditions of late and the amount of time spent sharpening saws is absurd. When bucking logs with snow and/or frozen mud on them, you're literally sharpening every 3 or so cuts.

Personally, I'd love a new dangled device that sharpened our chains in 40 seconds!

Posted by: Nathan at January 3, 2014 7:10 PM

The system is awesome! I sharpen more often and for short periods and I have gotten more than 15 sharpens out of mine so far and there is lots of life left in it. As mentioned previously this enabled you to keep a really sharp chain for longer engine life and much faster cutting. For me it's all about time. What solution will give me the most time actually using my saw for its' intended purpose versus maintaining it. I can slap this on, run it for 5-10 seconds and be cutting wood again with a really sharp chain in under 30-45 seconds. You just can't beet that with any other system. Once you use this system I can't imagine anyone arguing against it. Well, unless you really like the old methods. I'm sure some people do, it can be very meditative...:-) At least that what it was for me when I used to do it. To be fair I had no power tools so it was by hand. Maybe if I had a power sharpener I would be more on the fence?

I wouldn't be surprised if it's eventually adopted by the larger commercial saws.

Posted by: Josh at March 24, 2013 11:23 PM

Giving this a try right now. Using the 16" bar / chain combo on a Poulan PP 4218, that normally runs a 18" bar - given the more aggressive cutters on this chain (needed to engage the sharpening stone - quite different shape & look vs. Std chain) - I figured to go to the shorter bar to help the engine keep up with the chain.

I'll try to report back.

I already tried this on a Stihl MS 170 Homeowner saw - and it was very impressive, but the Stihl was a bit underpowered, yet it did cut very well, and the resharpening was a snap.

This Poulan was pro shop tuned and has a good bit more power than the smaller (42 cc vs 30 cc) Stihl, so it should really do well with the 16" bar.

I also have a Pro saw, the ECHO CS-530, which cuts very well, of course.

Funny thing, the Poulan PP 4218 with the upgraded Oregon Chain would cut faster than the larger & more powerful ECHO - until I upgraded the ECHO to the pro-chain (versus the awful low kickback oem chain supplied on it....).

Point is the type of chain & how sharp it is makes a huge difference in your cutting experience.

My buddy, a super experienced Arborist, said saw chain sharpness plays a huge role in how long saw engines last - that and keeping the sprocket in nice condition.

That is what partially made me want to test this Powersharp system. When I called them, they said that they were testing a larger version for the larger .325 chain saws (bar size 20" & up), so maybe this will come out for the larger saws, in time.

Thanks Tool Snob for the review. I'll report back what I learn.....

David A.

Posted by: David at January 16, 2011 4:04 AM

Dremel with the Oregon sharpening stones that match your chain is the way to go.

Posted by: dustin at December 8, 2010 2:20 PM

Before knocking the product, buy one and try it. I think you'll find it works as sdvertized. Progress comes in many ways; otherwise we'd all be Luddites.

Posted by: Frank the logger at December 5, 2010 10:07 PM

I must agree with Andy. As a regular user of larger pro model Huskys I sharpen my chain before it gets to dull and only revert to my bench chain sharpener if I really dull it horrible. The bench grinders take off too much material in my opinion and using a good sharp Swedish round file works much better.
It appears to be another gimmick similar to something I remember seeing years back. Some sort of " Self-sharpening Chain" or something on that order.
Save your money and invest in a few good files and touch up that chain by hand.

Posted by: gasaxeman at December 5, 2010 9:05 AM

Last time a took my Stihl saw to get sharpened the shop convinced me that the only way to go was to hand sharpen, and to do it frequently (i.e. before it get's really dull) and I have to say it really only takes a about 5 minutes once the bar is clamped in the vice.

Point is that this device looks neat but really, who needs it?

Posted by: Andy at December 3, 2010 10:59 AM
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