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Carbide Chainsaw Chain. Tips from a Professional

A carbide chainsaw chain is a durable and reliable type of chainsaw chain. Carbide chains are preferred for some jobs because they can cut through materials that regular chains cannot. The lower wear and tear make them last longer than most other types, making them a potentially cost-effective option.

Carbide chainsaw chain:

Compared with most other types, Carbide chains will generally last about 10 times longer before they need sharpening. Due to their superior hardness, they can cut through surfaces such as ice, metallic nails, tree roots, and digging trenches. However, carbide chains are pretty expensive, and sharpening them is more complicated. They also decrease the chainsaw’s cutting speed and might affect the overall productivity.

In this blog post, I will explain the pros, cons, sharpening, and actual applications of carbide chains. And if they are worth using.

Are Carbide Chainsaw Chains Better?

In general, carbide chains are much harder and more durable compared to most other steel chains. They require less frequent sharpening, and they can cut through hardwood with ease. However, carbide chains are expensive and may increase the overall weight of your chainsaw.

Choosing the correct type of chain for your job can be a challenging task. There are three different materials used for chainsaw chains: carbide, chrome, and Diamond. The cutting ability of all three materials differs, and I recommend them for different jobs.

Carbide chainsaw chains are a good choice when you need to cut timber and other hard materials and need the chain to last for an extended period. Of course, diamond chains will last even longer, but they are in another price class.

Compared to chrome, the carbide material is stronger and offers more durability. It can even cut through most metal without any problem. They also do not get dull quickly when they come in contact with the soil. So, you can cut logs lying on the ground. In general, they remain sharper much longer than chrome chains.

You can use carbide chainsaw chains for cutting frozen wood, walls, roofs, wet wood, ice, and frozen rivers. They will perform fine under extreme situations.

Many professionals choose a carbide chainsaw because it can cut five times better than other chainsaws without sharpening it as often.

From my personal experience, I can say the following:

  • Cost: Despite their advantages, you have to pay more for carbide chainsaws than other types of regular chainsaw chains. It is also more expensive to sharpen carbide chains as it requires a special diamond-coated wheel.
  • Ease of operation: Carbide is a heavy material. This increases the chainsaw weight and can make it more challenging to handle. The cutting speed also gets reduced.
  • Application: In short, I would say that carbide chains are best suited for applications such as cutting ice, walls, and roofs where a standard chain would get dull quickly. Or jobs where you use your chainsaw for an extended period and do not want to sharpen it often. If you are on a limited budget and need a chainsaw merely for woodworking applications, I’d say it is better to invest in a steel (HSS) chain.

Do they Make Carbide Chains for Chainsaws?

In general, carbide materials are used in cutting tools that need superior hardness. This applies to chainsaw chains and various other tools like drill bits. The superior carbide hardness makes it possible to use these chains for jobs where a regular chain will not work. Jobs that involve materials like wood with nails, metal, soil, ice, or other debris.

The advantage is that carbide chains do not get flat or dull quickly. They are often used by professionals who work in construction, agriculture, or landscaping. Many chain brands sell carbide chains.

Can Carbide Chainsaw Chains be Sharpened?

Sharpening carbide chains is possible but is more challenging than a regular chain. It can be done using a diamond-coated sharpening tool. If you are less experienced, I recommend asking a professional for help while sharpening a carbide chain.

You know it is time to sharpen a carbide chainsaw chain when the wood starts burning or smoking. You will notice that the blunt carbide chainsaw will no longer cut as smooth as before. Always check that the chain is not damaged or is missing teeth.

How can a carbide chainsaw chain be sharpened?

  • Use a depth gauge: An important tool for sharpening a carbide chain is the depth gauge. You need this to measure and adjust the chain.
  • Use a diamond tool: As a carbide chainsaw chain is made from a really hard material, you need an even harder material to sharpen it: diamond. The most cost-effective method is to use a handheld grinder and a diamond stone. Or a diamond wheel, a file won’t touch it. There are also cost-effective diamond Dremel bits you can use. Most of these tools can be purchased at a good dealer or online.
  • Take care of the angles: After adjusting, the sharpening process refurbishes all four sides of the carbide teeth. You must do this at the correct angles. This is why sharpening a carbide chain is more challenging. If angles are off, it can ruin the carbide blade.
  • Check for flatness: After sharpening, the blade should be rust and dirt-free. Check for any flatness since a flatter blade cannot cut items properly.
  • Sharpening frequency: A good-quality carbide blade can be sharpened more than three times before it needs to be replaced. When the chain is damaged, it can not be sharpened and need to be replaced.

Does Stihl make a useful carbide chain?

Stihl makes a good-quality carbide chainsaw chain with a 0.325 pitch. Their signature RD3 carbide chain is a perfect choice for cutting wood wrapped in dirt, roots, and hardwood. The chain is cost-effective and considered among the best in the market with a good warranty.

Carbide chains are more challenging to sharpen, but when done, they will stay sharp for longer than regular chains. People prefer Stihl because it has been in the market for a long time providing high-quality products. You can purchase them online or at multiple certified dealers.

Are Carbide Chains Worth it?

Carbide chains are worth it for jobs that need a durable chain capable of cutting hard material without frequent sharpening. Carbide Chains are popular among people who work in construction, agriculture, or landscaping. They can cut wood with nails and even soil without constant sharpening. It will cut clean wood fine, but it is slower.

Compared to other chainsaws, carbide chainsaws are much more durable and long-lasting. Due to their stability, carbide chains produce less vibration and noise, out of the many reasons why professionals prefer to use them when the job demands this. But keep in mind that they will cut slower, so I recommend using a standard, cheaper chainsaw chain for regular, clean wood.

While it is true that carbide chains last longer, they eventually get damaged and become useless. Restoring the carbide chain after the damage is nearly impossible. In most cases, you have to buy a new chain which is costly.

I have shown earlier that sharpening the carbide blade is challenging and expensive since we need expertise and special equipment. Some users prefer chains that are easy to sharpen without additional cost. At the same time, some users buy a single yet expensive chain to save them from the trouble of constant sharpening/replacement. Hence, depending on your ease, you can choose any particular type of chain accordingly.

Carbide requires additional care if it is damaged. The carbide chain should not be flat and rusted after sharpening since rusted carbide will not cut properly. It is also easier for flatter and rusted carbide chains to get additional damage.

Despite not being cost-effective, it can be an excellent choice for some jobs. With proper usage, it can last a whole season. If your work involves rescue or demolition work, investing in a carbide chain could be a perfect decision. The pros outweigh the cons, such as its durability, longevity, and applicability on hard surfaces.

What are the applications of carbide chainsaw chains?

Carbide chainsaw chains are created for tough jobs that require extra durability. They are perfect for cutting hard or abrasive materials, such as hardwood logs, masonry, bricks, iron pipes, steel pipes, and even some metal. They’re also used to cut wood with nails in it, stubborn roots and branches, and even asphalt.

Due to their hardness, carbide chains can operate on a wide range of metallic surfaces, rust, sand, and even dirt. Some of the areas where their use is prevalent are:

  • Tough wood with nails: Carbide chains can be a good choice if you have to cut tough and hardwood for extended periods. Or wood that contains nails.
  • Adverse cutting operations: A typical HSS chain wears out quickly if operated on dirt. Carbide chains, however, can run as long as you want them, be it dirt, smoke or ash. In many cases, they are sharpened only once a season.
  • Fire departments/rescue operations: Most firefighters carry chainsaws with carbide chains as part of their rescue operations. They may be used to operate on roofs for ventilation purposes in case of fire/smoke.
  • Industry: At the industrial level, various metallic sheets, plastic rolls, fiberglass, or bundled logs can be cut to their desired dimensions if a carbide chain is available.
  • Mining: Carbide-coated chainsaws are quite helpful in sawing coal, rock salt, and other soft rock minerals.

When you have to decide if you will use a carbide chainsaw chain, check if it is both efficient and economically viable. If you plan to cut domestic lumber or forest wood mainly, your best bet will probably be a steel chain. In this situation, a carbide chain would probably not be an economical choice as any cutting advantage obtained would not be enough to counter its high cost.