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Any drawbacks to carbide chain

noodlewalker

noodlewalker

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Carbide chain has many myths attached to it one being you can cut anything with it.
For the money and time would it be better invested in learning how to sharpen normal chain efficiently than looking for a magic mythical chain that never needs sharpening? absolutely.
Also a big part is knowing what you can and can't cut if you see dirt clean it off if bark has dirt in it use an axe to cut it away at your cut. There is no magical solution as yet to cutting dirty timber.
All good advice, but I'm fairly experienced at sharpening and not looking for a magical substitute for doing it, just came across an opportunity and looking for experienced input. As I said I don't cut wood in large volumes, so I don't get in to strange situations that cause me to worry about ruining a chain. As far as the money and investment side of it, I can get this chain for 35 dollars... Hardly an investment and actually not much more than a standard chain. I'm just curious if there are some hidden issues with them in general. The fact that they chip is a hidden issue I never thought of and is very helpful. Hitting a nail is another one, I figured it would cut right through a nail (one of those myths apparently).
 
rogue60

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I was just generalizing not knowing your skills at sharpening chain.
If you can get a loop that cheap give it a try in clean wood it will stay sharp a long time but at the cost of cutting speed.
 
toadman

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I am new to the site, but I have been using Stihl brand carbide chains on my company's firewood saws. Mostly Stihl 290's & a couple 460's... I personally have started to use my personal saw (661 c-m) with a steel chain more often than not, for various reasons. We cut about 12-14 tons of wood a day, each. 5 days a week, for three months straight in the fall to sell. one cut after another until the pile is gone The wood is mostly oak, locust, sycamore, and ash.
The reason I decided to use my own steel, instead of carbide was for a couple reasons...
I hear all these story's of people cutting rocks and metal with a carbide chain, and I can't see it happening.
I ruined a full loop of Stihl 16" carbide chain on the first cut with it last year.
Every carbide cutter on the left was broken beyond repair by hitting a single drywall screw embedded in a log. I finished that cut with a steel chain, including hitting another screw & it just needed a quick hand file and hit the rakers to cut better than new again.
This is not a one time ocurrance, and we regularly have the cutters snap off, or shatter without any sparks or warning whatsoever.
I used to cast blame for dipping it into the dirt, or into the gravel, dropping the saw in the truck, Ect.
I am not sure the real reason, and I don't blame people anymore as I do it myself while doing none of those things. Debris (other than fine dirt or sand) in the wood with a carbide chain is a pretty expensive lesson to learn on your own dime.
That said, we have been able to go a full season on a single chain per saw in the past & if you are careful with what you cut.
I use husqvarna brand chain oil, and carbide chain tends to stretch past the point the tensioner can compensate before it slows down considerably- cutting clean dry wood. My steel chain is lucky to go a half day without a touchup, but I can get a full season of cutting circles around carbide in productivity, often halving my time spent & cutting the same amount of wood each day, out of just two steel chains. Again, if I am careful & keep them sharp.
 
noodlewalker

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I was just generalizing not knowing your skills at sharpening chain.
If you can get a loop that cheap give it a try in clean wood it will stay sharp a long time but at the cost of cutting speed.
Justsaws mentioned it being slower as well. Why is that? Maybe because the cutter is slightly wider possibly? When you guys mention slower, how much slower? Are we talking half speed? Or just slightly slower? I plan on using it with a 72cc saw. Do they overwork the powerheads since they are slower?
 
noodlewalker

noodlewalker

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I am new to the site, but I have been using Stihl brand carbide chains on my company's firewood saws. Mostly Stihl 290's & a couple 460's... I personally have started to use my personal saw (661 c-m) with a steel chain more often than not, for various reasons. We cut about 12-14 tons of wood a day, each. 5 days a week, for three months straight in the fall to sell. one cut after another until the pile is gone The wood is mostly oak, locust, sycamore, and ash.
The reason I decided to use my own steel, instead of carbide was for a couple reasons...
I hear all these story's of people cutting rocks and metal with a carbide chain, and I can't see it happening.
I ruined a full loop of Stihl 16" carbide chain on the first cut with it last year.
Every carbide cutter on the left was broken beyond repair by hitting a single drywall screw embedded in a log. I finished that cut with a steel chain, including hitting another screw & it just needed a quick hand file and hit the rakers to cut better than new again.
This is not a one time ocurrance, and we regularly have the cutters snap off, or shatter without any sparks or warning whatsoever.
I used to cast blame for dipping it into the dirt, or into the gravel, dropping the saw in the truck, Ect.
I am not sure the real reason, and I don't blame people anymore as I do it myself while doing none of those things. Debris (other than fine dirt or sand) in the wood with a carbide chain is a pretty expensive lesson to learn on your own dime.
That said, we have been able to go a full season on a single chain per saw in the past & if you are careful with what you cut.
I use husqvarna brand chain oil, and carbide chain tends to stretch past the point the tensioner can compensate before it slows down considerably- cutting clean dry wood. My steel chain is lucky to go a half day without a touchup, but I can get a full season of cutting circles around carbide in productivity, often halving my time spent & cutting the same amount of wood each day, out of just two steel chains. Again, if I am careful & keep them sharp.
So the benefit of a standard chain is it's ability to be sharpened. Kind of an interesting catch .22... The selling point of the carbide is it's durability on its cutting edge, but if it snags something the chain is unusable because it will just break. So why then do people buy it? Is it mostly inexperienced guys like me who have heard the myths of it's durability? Or is there actually a place for it in this field?
 
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Justsaws mentioned it being slower as well. Why is that? Maybe because the cutter is slightly wider possibly? When you guys mention slower, how much slower? Are we talking half speed? Or just slightly slower? I plan on using it with a 72cc saw. Do they overwork the powerheads since they are slower?
The speed is slower because of the weight of the carbide.
 
toadman

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Carbide is very durable in clean wood, as I mentioned previously, I have more than once gotten a full season out of a carbide chain without sharpening it, or breaking it apart overly much.
But it is not good for hitting metal, or any rocks. Both of which are heavily present in the section of this planet I normally cut wood in...
if the wood has been skidded and has thick dirt on the bark (no gravel!!) carbide really comes into play over a steel chain & I think that's its real forte'.
If you are aware, and careful, a carbide chain has its advantages. But If you are not careful, & aware- be prepared to wreck a few expensive chains very quickly. I have went mostly back to steel chain myself, but I have spent years learning to sharpen my chains on the saw, quickly and effectively.
I am still learning, But I have made major strides since I first sharpened a saw.
Most of the guys I have help me cut, have run saw for years, but would rather fight with a dull chain all afternoon than stop and sharpen it. & when they do sharpen the chain, it's often worse than it started & cuts crooked or not at all. Those guys get carbide chains, and they love them & swear by them. To each their own... Carbide certainly has it's place and it fills it nicely, but I myself prefer steel for 95% of my cutting.
 
Franny K

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So the benefit of a standard chain is it's ability to be sharpened. Kind of an interesting catch .22... The selling point of the carbide is it's durability on its cutting edge, but if it snags something the chain is unusable because it will just break. So why then do people buy it? Is it mostly inexperienced guys like me who have heard the myths of it's durability? Or is there actually a place for it in this field?
If one had a bunch of utility poles to cut. Those tend to be abrasive that is probably where the carbide chain makes sense. Once the cost of a guy on payroll gets figured out things may seem a bit different. I only bought one loop of 55 drive link Stihl picco duro. That loop has two cutters pointing the same way and a skip at the splice point. It worked fine on the battery saw. I was cutting clean frozen pine the wood is kind of yellow but I think the needles mean white pine. I put it on a gas saw and the most vulnerable cutter, the one near the skip and double in one direction but on the other side chipped. Then the one on that side behind it broke. Eventually I used it to flush cut a tulip poplar where there was no rocks and sort of similar happened when more cutters chipped, the one behind the chipped one on the same side chipped. I did sharpen it somewhat successfully with the kind of diamond tool that would go in a dremmel tool at some point. The pivoting points wear in a chain more so if used in dirty environment. Not sure how this figures into various scenarios. I probably would buy another loop for the right price, preferably significantly longer than needed so I could cut off a section and re spin shorter and have spare cutters to replace as soon as a damaged one is noticed. The cutters are shorter and taper more than standard chain. Perhaps half of the "cutter" is carbide and the rear portion steel.
 
rogue60

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Justsaws mentioned it being slower as well. Why is that? Maybe because the cutter is slightly wider possibly? When you guys mention slower, how much slower? Are we talking half speed? Or just slightly slower? I plan on using it with a 72cc saw. Do they overwork the powerheads since they are slower?
Carbon being brittle they have to keep the cutter fat and cutting angels conservative so the tooth holds together.
Also having a fat carbon cutter basically just stuck on a conventional saw chain chassis the chip clearance is impeded also slowing the cutting speed.

Circular saws cut well with carbon cutters as you get hook in a different way on them while retaining a a nice fat strong carbon tooth with no crazy angles. Pulse circular saw's have a massive gullet to clear sawdust.
 
toadman

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If one had a bunch of utility poles to cut. Those tend to be abrasive that is probably where the carbide chain makes sense. Once the cost of a guy on payroll gets figured out things may seem a bit different. I only bought one loop of 55 drive link Stihl picco duro. That loop has two cutters pointing the same way and a skip at the splice point. It worked fine on the battery saw. I was cutting clean frozen pine the wood is kind of yellow but I think the needles mean white pine. I put it on a gas saw and the most vulnerable cutter, the one near the skip and double in one direction but on the other side chipped. Then the one on that side behind it broke. Eventually I used it to flush cut a tulip poplar where there was no rocks and sort of similar happened when more cutters chipped, the one behind the chipped one on the same side chipped. I did sharpen it somewhat successfully with the kind of diamond tool that would go in a dremmel tool at some point. The pivoting points wear in a chain more so if used in dirty environment. Not sure how this figures into various scenarios. I probably would buy another loop for the right price, preferably significantly longer than needed so I could cut off a section and re spin shorter and have spare cutters to replace as soon as a damaged one is noticed. The cutters are shorter and taper more than standard chain. Perhaps half of the "cutter" is carbide and the rear portion steel.
I used to do landscaping, and i distinctly remember we always swapped to carbide for cutting railroad ties.
It did seem to work quite well for this application, as I have cut railroad ties afterwards for myself with steel chain, I and had far less success keeping the chain sharp.
 
Franny K

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Never seen the cutters chip on my Bosch worksite table saw? Ive used the same blade for more than a year without sharpening... cuts like through butter still. It don't get dirt and sand through it though.
Anyway, if a carbide cutter chip -what would a regular steel tooth do?
The circular saw carbides do not seem to chip. A board edger like in sawmill operation with 4 teeth per blade, one or two blades in wood and 20 horsepower does not chip. A 7 1/4 inch circular saw blade has been sent out to get re sharpened years ago when someone cut some wood but did not pry it far enough away from concrete. It wasn't chipped really just dulled. Some of the new ultra thin kerf blades can loose a tooth and it gets stuck in the wood ruining the blade. Perhaps the way a chainsaw chain cutter does it's porpoise like bite and dive as opposed to being rigidly mounted in a circular blade is why.
 
Justsaws

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What do you do with your chains? Send them in by the bucket full to be sharpened or just toss them out?
I'm just an occasional wood cutter with a few saws. I typically run a file across the cutters every other tank, and grind them before I put them away, or maybe a couple of days later. If a carbide chain can eliminate that or at least minimize it I'm happy. But if a carbide tip is going to cause more headache by breaking or chipping, then what is the appeal? Do guys mainly use them for "dirty" trees or stump work then?
I will sharpen 10-20 chains at a time on a grinder and swap them out regularly for dirty work, if the chain will file fast then it gets hit with a file. The buckets of chain occur because I collect chainsaws, basically a side effect. The long chains for the mills and what not are one offs for me and when they are done I make another off a reel.

I do not use chainsaws commercially. I do use them often, try to be somewhat professional while using.

Most of my experience with carbide chain were chains that were gifted or sold to me at cost for feedback. I have not paid retail for any, not sure what the chains cost these days. They used to be spendy.

From what you describe as your usage, it might be worth giving a loop a whirl. The Stihl dealers sell more than I would have thought to folks putting carbide on MS250 and smaller saws for homeowner use. Those loops are supposed to be fairly inexpensive.
 
Justsaws

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It makes me wonder what soft iron would do encountering that... "excessive heat" - you saying soft iron takes excessive heat better than tungsten carbide?
The excessive heat will cause the chain to stretch, get tossed, and carbide can get broken. Really need to make an effort not to allow the carbides to impact each other, or any steel or ceramic saw parts, etc.. It might be hard, it is certainly brittle.
 
Justsaws

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The cutter profile between carbide types and steel types are what make up the difference in speed and durability.
Not all carbide chains are the same, some will cut some nasty stuff, others will not.

I used to go through carbide circular saw blades regularly cutting plywood/manufacture wood, lumber, tons and tons of it. The teeth would get rounded over. If the blade bin was empty, then we just keep pushing the dull blade until the carbides were missing. The company that would sharpen/retooth for us would not if the blade was used much after bits went missing. Then carbide blades got dirt cheap and disposable, not many get retoothed or even sharpened anymore. Hand held circular saws, cannot imagine going back to steel tooth blades, I still own some, vintage tech.

Demo work with carbide blades often broke/chipped, lost bits. Cost of business, that is why they sell them in multipacks.

People used to get freaked out about the carbide bits shooting off like bullets during use. Never had an issue, just noticed feed rate and cut quality reduction. Eventually might get a like smokey.

If a person wanted to sharpen carbide chains the grinder wheels are available on eBay for around $100.00. Fairly good reputation, one more thing on the never ending list of things to buy. If you choose to grind carbide please wear a face mask, dust mask, gloves, clothes, once it is in you, it is always in you.
 
Justsaws

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So the benefit of a standard chain is it's ability to be sharpened. Kind of an interesting catch .22... The selling point of the carbide is it's durability on its cutting edge, but if it snags something the chain is unusable because it will just break. So why then do people buy it? Is it mostly inexperienced guys like me who have heard the myths of it's durability? Or is there actually a place for it in this field?
Probably a bit of all the above. Carbide chain definitely has its place commercially, paper mill, lumber mill, tie yard, stave mill, pallet yard, treated production, etc. it can be a good fit. People involved will invest a chunk of money so that down time is minimal, swap out and repair of the chain is often on site.

Non commercially some individuals seem to also be quite pleased with them. When the cost of the chain decreased it became more attractive, a person did not have to use it as often to get a similar value compared to steel cutter chain. The drawbacks are more forgiving the cheaper it gets. It suits what they want better than trying to maintain a non carbide chain for the price.

Like you stated, for $35.00, go nuts, give it a whirl, report back.

There used to be some pretty good YouTube videos about folks using carbide chains and the different types. Might be worth poking around if you already have not.
 
noodlewalker

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Thank you all for your education. Every bit of information is truly appreciated. I think I will give it a shot and see what happens.
 
buttercup

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The circular saw carbides do not seem to chip. A board edger like in sawmill operation with 4 teeth per blade, one or two blades in wood and 20 horsepower does not chip. A 7 1/4 inch circular saw blade has been sent out to get re sharpened years ago when someone cut some wood but did not pry it far enough away from concrete. It wasn't chipped really just dulled. Some of the new ultra thin kerf blades can loose a tooth and it gets stuck in the wood ruining the blade. Perhaps the way a chainsaw chain cutter does it's porpoise like bite and dive as opposed to being rigidly mounted in a circular blade is why.
I have circular carbide toothed blades on my table saw, miter saw, big hand circular saw, small super thin battery powered circular saw and on all my wood cutter bits for my router and router table. I have never seen a tooth come off, have you?

The excessive heat will cause the chain to stretch, get tossed, and carbide can get broken. Really need to make an effort not to allow the carbides to impact each other, or any steel or ceramic saw parts, etc.. It might be hard, it is certainly brittle.
Well thanks for your reply, as I said I have no experience with it used on chainsaws. I would expect people to be skeptic about it "really" because you need a grinder to sharpen it or because the box don't say "Stihl" :rolleyes:. Not sure what you're talking about heat though, the carbide cutters generate more heat to the links than a regular chain? Anyway, my circular saw cuts through nails no problem, I guess it's more solid than the small chain cutters but the actual edge should be much the same though.
 
noodlewalker

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It's on its way to me, I figured for 35 and some change, I can afford to give it a test run.... I don't really know how to go about "testing" it though. Just run it through some wood? Should I set up some scenarios? Any suggestions? Anybody interested in video of it?
 
Franny K

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Put a log horizontal, square up the end to be like a cant, then make 3 cuts down up down note the time. Change to various other chains and do similar. If you do not have a timing system a video generally will have a counter.

Then find a hardwood tree and cut off branches in a manner in line with the trunk like to make the log round. If I recall this is where quite a difference seems to exist but isn't something that can be timed and compared easily if at all.
 
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