Two Fine Chain Saw Sharpeners

Learn how you can keep your own chain saw cutting fast and true with either of these superb chain saw sharpeners.

| November/December 1981

  • 072 chain saw sharpeners - Gamn' Sharpener
    The Gamn' Sharpener is equipped with a carbide bur operated by a crank. It sharpens at one fixed angle, but is also easier to learn.
  • 072 chain saw sharpeners - oregon file guide
    The Oregon File Guide can accept any of three different file sizes and permits a range of other adjustments.
  • 072 chain saw sharpeners - sharpening process
    Either of the chain saw sharpeners profiled here can help you restore your saw's effectiveness, with a minimum of time and expense. 
  • 072 chain saw sharpeners - diagram, right-hand cutter
    Detail of a chain saw right hand tooth.
  • 072 chain saw sharpeners - diagram, chain saw anatomy
    Diagram shows the parts and dimensions of a chain saw chain.

  • 072 chain saw sharpeners - Gamn' Sharpener
  • 072 chain saw sharpeners - oregon file guide
  • 072 chain saw sharpeners - sharpening process
  • 072 chain saw sharpeners - diagram, right-hand cutter
  • 072 chain saw sharpeners - diagram, chain saw anatomy

The introduction to the chapter on how to sharpen chain saws in Barnacle Parp's Chain Saw Guide includes an anecdote about the author's buddy—a character called Three-Legged Muskrat—who insists on filing his saw chains by hand. Parp concludes: "Muskrat is a real old-fashioned expert who has worked with sharp steel all his life. When he is finished sharpening a chain by hand, it's almost as perfect as a chain that was machine sharpened ...."

Now if you've ever tried to lay a file to a dull chain with nothing more than your eyesight and fingertips to guide you, you know Muskrat must have been a near magician with a file. And you're also well aware—if you've ever tried hand-sharpening and failed—just how miserable working with an improperly sharpened chain saw can be. There's no substitute for a chain that's honed to the correct angle with its cutters properly profiled and trimmed to equal length. Unfortunately, most amateur lumberjacks don't know how to correctly sharpen a chain without visiting a local saw shop (at $2.50 to $4.00 apiece) to have the job done.

We began gathering a representative sample of do-it-yourself chain saw sharpeners several months ago in an effort to remedy that situation. Through the past summer and into the fall, we put the dozen or so contraptions to work keeping the saws used at the Eco-Village and by MOTHER EARTH NEWS' staff members in tiptop shape. During that time we dulled a passel of chains (they were subjected to about every job short of ditch digging or wire cutting), and we've come to some definite conclusions about what does, and doesn't, make an effective chain saw sharpener.

Rub Your Belly and Pat Your Forehead at the Same Time

The complexity of the task that a chain sharpening device must accomplish is formidable, and the job is made even more difficult by the fact that the device has to be able to perform many of the different functions at the same time. First, and most obvious, the tool must precisely establish the proper angle for the cutters in relation to the direction of chain travel. Most saw chain (known as chipper-type) is sharpened to a 35° angle, but some chisel types are designed to use a 30° cut. However, many experienced saw owners prefer to use a chain trimmed to less than the recommended angle, in order to reduce the strain on the operator during extended periods of sawing ... or to perform special tasks, such as ripping.

Whatever the means used to control the angle of the teeth, a good chain sharpener also needs some mechanism to prevent the file, stone, or bur from digging too deeply into the cutter's gullet or (worse yet) into the tie strap. This happens all too often to chains that are hand sharpened by amateurs. The telltale sign is teeth that are formed like breaking waves at the beach. A chain that has been "hooked" in this fashion not only is structurally weakened, but also will dull quickly and pull and jerk when being used.

Furthermore, there's another angle that must be taken into account when sharpening a saw. Some types of chain have their cutters ground at other than horizontal. For such chains the filing device will typically be set to point uphill at a 5 or 10° angle.

12/6/2007 5:01:55 PM

I would also like to find where to contact Gamn if they are still in business. I have sold many of their sharpeners in the 80s and 90s when burning wood was popular in my area. Now it is becomming popular again and I would like to contact them for products. James

2/22/2007 3:33:17 PM

Gamn enterprises inc is no longer at the # in your article( (two fine chain saw sharpeners) . Do you have a new number ?


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