Even the best chainsaw cuts only as well as its chain is sharp. Although a few models come with built-in sharpeners, with most you must do the sharpening the old-fashioned way with a separate sharpener. One of the best we found is the Buffalo Tools ECSS Electric Chainsaw Sharpener (Est. $42) that mounts to a bench, wall or vise. If you don't want to grant it a permanent station on your workbench, reviewers suggest bolting it to a piece of wood that you can clamp in place when you need it.
Experts say the Buffalo Tools ECSS has some flexibility in a mostly plastic body, but it's easier to get a consistent grind from tooth to tooth and leave your chain as good as new or even better. A few users express concern about plastic components, but most say the ECSS holds up well to light use and homeowner applications.
Some owners find the ECSS's instructions frustrating, but say it's fairly easy to intuit their way through the setup process. You must take the chain off the saw to sharpen it, but once you have the ECSS set up and ready to go, its 50-watt motor and 4,200 rpm grinding wheel easily sharpen an entire chain in 5 minutes or less. Along with how easy it is to get a more consistent sharpening angle, that's why we select the Buffalo Tools ECSS as our Best Reviewed chainsaw sharpener.
If you're confident in your ability to "freehand" sharpen and have a rotary tool lying around, the Dremel 1453 Chain Saw Sharpener Attachment (*Est. $20) is your best option. The kit comes with three grinding stones of 5/32, 3/16 and 7/32 inches, plus a guide and spacers to help you set the angle and depth of each grind.
Users agree that using the Dremel attachment is easy and quick, especially since you can sharpen the chain while it's still on the saw. However, the directions are a real sticking point for some; as with the Buffalo Tools ECSS, they're confusing and counter-intuitive. But once you figure them out, the overall process is fast and simple, about 5 to 8 minutes per chain. Still, the ultimate quality of the sharpening does depend somewhat on your steadiness of hand.
If you want to be able to sharpen on the go or in the middle of a job, the Dremel attachment is well worth a look. On the other hand, consider the Buffalo Tools ECSS if you have a dedicated space and ease of use is important to you.