Keeping Your Chain Saw Sharp

Keeping your chain saw sharp. How to safely sharpen a chain saw and keep it operational, including the tools of the trade, a filing guide, sharpen your skills first, extending bar and chain life and buying the right saw.

| October/November 2002

  • Tips on keeping your chainsaw sharp for the homestead.
    Tips on keeping your chainsaw sharp for the homestead.
    PHOTO: STEVE MAXWELL
  • A chainsaw blade up close. The teeth, known as cutters, bite into wood, while the depth gauges determine how deep the bite will be. Proper filing of both helps keep your chainsaw in good cutting condition.
    A chainsaw blade up close. The teeth, known as cutters, bite into wood, while the depth gauges determine how deep the bite will be. Proper filing of both helps keep your chainsaw in good cutting condition.
    STEVE MAXWELL
  • A full-featured filing guide (middle) is a great tool for beginners. The simpler guide (bottom) demands more skill for success. The flat file and depth-gauge guide (top) are used on depth gauges every few sharpenings.
    A full-featured filing guide (middle) is a great tool for beginners. The simpler guide (bottom) demands more skill for success. The flat file and depth-gauge guide (top) are used on depth gauges every few sharpenings.
    STEVE MAXWELL
  • Clamp your filing gauge in the middle of the bar, along the top edge.
    Clamp your filing gauge in the middle of the bar, along the top edge.
    STEVE MAXWELL
  • Extending bar and chain life for chainsaws.
    Extending bar and chain life for chainsaws.
    STEVE MAXWELL
  • Periodically filing depth gauges is one of the little-known tricks to maintaining saw-chain performance.
    Periodically filing depth gauges is one of the little-known tricks to maintaining saw-chain performance.
    STEVE MAXWELL
  • To handle homestead chores, choose a chainsaw with a bigger bite. A larger chain cuts more aggressively.
    To handle homestead chores, choose a chainsaw with a bigger bite. A larger chain cuts more aggressively.
    STEVE MAXWELL
  • Consistency is the key to a sharp saw: File each cutter with the same number of strokes.
    Consistency is the key to a sharp saw: File each cutter with the same number of strokes.
    STEVE MAXWELL

  • Tips on keeping your chainsaw sharp for the homestead.
  • A chainsaw blade up close. The teeth, known as cutters, bite into wood, while the depth gauges determine how deep the bite will be. Proper filing of both helps keep your chainsaw in good cutting condition.
  • A full-featured filing guide (middle) is a great tool for beginners. The simpler guide (bottom) demands more skill for success. The flat file and depth-gauge guide (top) are used on depth gauges every few sharpenings.
  • Clamp your filing gauge in the middle of the bar, along the top edge.
  • Extending bar and chain life for chainsaws.
  • Periodically filing depth gauges is one of the little-known tricks to maintaining saw-chain performance.
  • To handle homestead chores, choose a chainsaw with a bigger bite. A larger chain cuts more aggressively.
  • Consistency is the key to a sharp saw: File each cutter with the same number of strokes.

Tips on keeping your chain saw sharp and how to buy the right saw.

Using a chain saw significantly cuts the time and energy devoted to homestead chores. But that's only true if the saw's chain is sharp. A dull chain saw is about as useful for cutting wood as a plastic spoon. To cut quickly and safely, saws must be sharpened often. With a few simple tools, here's how you easily can do it yourself.

Successfully sharpening a chain saw involves three steps: shaping the chisel-like teeth that cut wood (they're call cutters); adjusting the parts of the chain that regulate the bite taken by each cutter (called depth gauges); and fine-tuning the tension of the chain so it runs freely, with no slack, around the bar. Think of a saw chain as a linked row of small chisels. Each cutter is a chisel it takes a bite as it travels across the wood. If all the bites are crisp, equal and even from side-to-side, you've got a hungry, smooth-running and well- sharpened chain.

Keeping Your Chain Saw Sharp: Tools of the Sharpening Trade

While I was a university student during the early 1980s, I worked part time for a Mennonite farmer named Paul. His ancestors settled the land in 1816, and preserved a magnificent maple sugar bush while other pioneers slashing and burning like mad. When we weren't making maple syrup, we cut firewood for sale from a forest that included century-old maples big around than trash cans.



Sharpening chain saws was Paul's exclusive job, and I soon understood what a really sharp saw could do. He used only a round file, a vise welded the bucket of his tractor, and a well-trained eye to get results that sent long curls of wood showering out of the saw he gave me to cut through oak, oral and hickory. Using a file freehand looked easy, until I attempted to sharpen my own saw a few years late) spent hours trying to succeed, yet still had a saw with no appetite for work.

But all that changed when I bout some tools to help. Choosing the right is the first step to hone; your chain saw sharpening skills. And unless you want to spend years training your eye to guide a file without help, that means more than just a round file. But not much more. Here are the tools you need for successful sharpening:

Abbey Bend
2/20/2013 9:36:17 PM

Obviously not written by a person with much logging experience. :( Files should last much longer than he states, I have one that has gone through a number of chains and is about 30 years old now, and my newer one is over ten years old and sharpened 5 or 6 chains so far. :) Maybe he should spend a bit more money on quality files!! A very important point he has left out is the angle and shape/style of chisel on the chain is dependent on the type of tree being cut down as well as the horsepower of the saw! When you look at the files guides, one of the first things you will notice is different angles being shown. Use the wrong angle and the cutting is slower, and the engine will be over worked and die an early death! If you want really good information about sharpening a chain go to Oregon Chain, the finest chain made, period. Read what they have to say about sharpening a chain, along with all of the different types of chain for different users, chainsaws and wood types. All of the chainsaws out there will do a good job and last well, once you put on the right chain and understand how to keep it properly sharp!!


Robert Baker
2/15/2010 9:10:02 PM

When it comes to chain saws, Husqvarna and Stihl are top of the line. I own a Husqvarna. It has a 16in. bar, and I believe it has a 45cc motor on it. It will handle most cutting jobs that the average home/land owner may face. My friend owns a Stihl. His is either a 16in. or 18in. (not sure, and I am not sure what size engine it has, but it is similar in size to mine. We have both been well pleased with our saws, and have gotten really good service out of them. I have owned Poulan saws, and I have used a couple other brands that other people owned, I also own a 16in. Craftsman saw that someone gave me for doing some work for them, and I can tell you from experience that none of them even come close to the Stihl or the Husqvarna. So, if you are planning to buy a chainsaw, take some advice...go ahead and spend the extra money to get a Stihl or Husqvarna. It will be extra money well spent.


william_51
1/8/2008 9:17:08 PM

Just use high-test gas. One year the Town used regular and burned out all their saws, so did I. Don't use used motor oil in place of the chain lube, although you could thin it down and pour some over the blade occasionally. Those cheap saws last for about 10 Maples. Always always wear ear protection, my neighbor who's a tree-faller now has a phone amplifier, almost deaf. A hard hat is good for when a dead branch comes down out of nowhere. Don't forget to replant what you cut. Regards.







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