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Chainsaw Sharpener. Tips from a professional

Since its introduction in the early 1800s, the chainsaw has evolved into an invaluable tool for woodcutters such as loggers and arborists. However, like other mechanical tools, a chainsaw begins to lose its sharpness after being used for an extended time. At that time, you notice that it takes more time to cut a log, or the chain gets hotter than usual.

Chainsaw sharpener

Generally, using a file is still an easy and effective method to sharpen a chainsaw chain. But it needs a certain skill. Easier and faster is using an electric chainsaw sharpener. There are several types and models on the market. Other alternatives are a bar-mounted sharpener and bench-top sharpeners.

This article will explain why it is worth sharpening a chainsaw and a suitable method. I will also explain what professionals use to sharpen their chainsaw chains and how long you can expect a chain to say sharp.

Is it worth sharpening a chainsaw?

The importance of keeping your chainsaws sharp cannot be overemphasized. The main benefits you stand to gain from doing this include:

● Effectiveness and cheaper to use

With a properly functioning and sharp chainsaw, cutting and slabbing timber can be easy and fun. With a blunt chainsaw, however, the work can prove quite tedious, reducing productivity as work becomes more time-consuming. Moreover, dull chainsaws increase gas and chain oil usage, making a sharp chain more economical to use.

Blunt chains can negatively affect the accuracy of your cuts as they cannot slice finely through the timber. If you wish to slice timber to specific proportions, sharpening your chainsaws beforehand is a no-brainer.

● Safety

A sharp chainsaw boosts the safety of operator and machine alike.

– Personal safety

Trying to cut timber using a dull blade forces the user to employ more physical effort and stamina into the work. This makes woodcutting a particularly tedious and fatiguing exercise and increases the chances of work-related accidents such as those resulting from kickbacks.

– Machine safety

Dull chains increase friction on the chainsaw and cause greater wear and tear to various parts such as the chain, bar, and engine.

How many times can you sharpen a chainsaw chain?

Many chainsaw users get confused about how many times they need to get their chainsaws sharpened before needing a replacement. The answer is that there is no fixed duration. Depending on the usage, a chainsaw can be sharpened 9-15 times before it needs to be replaced. With proper usage and maintenance, the chain’s lifespan can be extended.  

A well-maintained and correctly used chain is more likely to last through more sharpenings than a poorly maintained saw that is regularly used to cut through hardwoods and hit stones and other hard objects.

When do you need to sharpen your chainsaws?

Generally, chainsaws should be sharpened once they get blunt. If you notice the following signs in your chainsaws, your saw most probably needs sharpening:

  • Hot chain: When your chain is getting hot quicker, it is a clear signal it is getting blunt.
  • More force needed: More physical force than usual is required to cut through wood
  • Different debris: Debris from your cuttings are fine powdery sawdust rather than chunky wood chips.

What is the best way to sharpen a chainsaw?

The oldest, and in my opinion, the best way of getting a chainsaw chain sharpened is the manual method, using a file. This method is the most cost-effective option and is ideal for small-scale loggers with fewer chains to work on.

The following steps can be used to sharpen your chainsaws by hand:

● Step 1: Remove debris from the chain

Using a screwdriver or piece of cloth, carefully wipe the chainsaw chain, removing any bits of wood chips, sand, or oil that may be stuck to it.

● Step 2: Lock the chainsaw

Hold the chainsaw firmly and securely in place with its bar in a vertical position. You can use a bench vise to clamp the chainsaw blade.

● Step 3: Tighten the chain

Tighten the chain around the chainsaw bar. These first two steps are crucial and serve to ensure the stability of the saw while you file. A failure to do this would result in an inaccurate filing.

● Step 4: Use the correct file

Get a file that suits the unique shape and size of your chainsaw cutters or teeth. Recommended file sizes vary for different chain tooth sizes. Using an oversized file can disfigure your chainsaw teeth, which will have a negative impact on the blade’s efficiency. Be sure to check your chainsaw manual to find out what peculiar file size is recommended for its blade, or consult a professional.

● Step 5: Use a file guide

Attach your file to a file guide. These are relatively inexpensive devices designed to control the depth at which your file digs into the chainsaw tooth, so you don’t cut too deep or too shallow in the chain. They also help keep the angles at which each tooth is filed uniform.

● Step 6: Check the file angle

Use the correct angle at which to file your chain. Your chainsaw manual can guide you in finding the right angle for your particular chain. Whichever one you choose, it is essential to ensure that you file all your chainsaw teeth at the same angle to maintain uniformity.

● Step 7: Sharpen the chain with the file

Following the angle guidelines which are provided in the file guide, file all your teeth in repeated forward motions with your file directed away from the chainsaw engine. Remember to mark the first teeth you sharpen with a marker to let you know when you have completed the cycle. Be careful to keep the length of all your teeth as uniform as possible without compromising on sharpness.

Continue sharpening until you are through with every individual tooth. After you are done, you can use a flat-file to smooth the top of your rakers or depth gauges to ensure that they are of equal length.

How do professionals sharpen chainsaws?

Professionals such as loggers and industrial-scale timber workers work on large quantities of wood on a regular basis. This means that they require a larger number of chainsaw chains than the average private woodcutter or gardener. Because of the labor-intensive and time-consuming nature of the hand filing method, most professional woodcutters prefer to use electric chainsaw sharpeners for their chains. This option is faster and less tedious, though more costly.

Some of the most commonly used types of sharpening tools among professionals include:

● 1. Electric chainsaw sharpening kit

Electric chainsaw sharpening kits are usable on any chainsaw type and carry features that enable users to adjust the sharpeners to the unique size of their chainsaw cutters or teeth. They also generally feature angle guides that enable users to sharpen their chainsaws at the correct angles. The disadvantages of these kits are that they can be a bit difficult to set up.

Dremel tools and electric rotary grinders, which are movable power-sharpening tools, are also used.

● 2. Bar-mounted sharpening tools

Industrial-scale woodcutters often use Bar-mounted sharpening tools to sharpen large numbers of chainsaws quickly. They typically feature jigs that are used to hold the chainsaw bar in position and ensure that all the teeth are sharpened to equal angles, heights, and proportions. They can be adjusted to hold most sizes of chainsaws. Bar-mounted sharpeners are renowned for their high precision and accuracy.

● 3. Bench-top sharpeners

Bench-top sharpeners are also designed to sharpen large numbers of chainsaws chains quickly. As the name implies, bench-top sharpeners typically function while clamped to the top of the user’s workbench.

How long should chainsaws stay sharp?

Chainsaws get dull with repeated use, regardless of how well-maintained they are. Generally, you can expect your chainsaw to stay sharp for between one and three hours of active use on harder wood. Some factors which may determine how long your chainsaw stays sharp include the following:

● 1. How often do you use your chainsaw

If your chainsaw is seldom used, you may only need to get it sharpened once or twice every year. If you use your chainsaw more often, the usage time will add up quickly. In that case, I recommend checking the chain before starting and sharpening it when needed.

● 2. The type of wood

When working with hardwoods such as maple or oak, you will see that your chainsaw gets blunt more quickly than it would when you work on softwoods such as fir and cedar. With hardwoods, you would need to sharpen your saw around three to five times more often compared with the softer wood types.

When cutting logs or pieces of firewood that have gathered dirt, mud, and grit from having lain in the open for an extended period, your chain will get dull much faster, in perhaps an hour. When dealing with such wood, I recommend cutting the logs as soon as possible. Or cover them if possible.

● 3. Operator’s skill level and meticulousness

A skilled and careful chainsaw operator avoids making contact with hard objects such as rocks, nails, etc. while cutting. A failure to do this may result in the chain getting blunted instantly. Or worse, it may damage the chain. Touching the chainsaw’s tip to the ground often dulls the chain really fast as well.

● 4. Quality of sharpening

The chainsaw sharpening quality also determines how long it stays sharp. Be sure to use the correct angles for sharpening the teeth. Consult your chainsaw users’ manual to ensure that you use the appropriate angle as well as file size for your chainsaw.