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Chainsaw sharpening

Discussion in 'Arborist 101' started by Bwoell14, Dec 25, 2016.

  1. Bwoell14

    Bwoell14 ArboristSite Member

    Nov 20, 2016
    Likes Received:
    Central Florida
    A few questions about chain sharpening:

    Currently, I'm using a file without a handle or anything to sharpen. I'm constantly stabbing myself with it. I've seen handles, contraptions that hold the file and heard of people using Dremel's. What's your recommendation? What produces the best results and is most affective?

    How many times will you sharpen your chain before replacing it?

    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
  2. CTYank

    CTYank Peripatetic Sawyer

    Aug 26, 2010
    Likes Received:
    SW CT
    Best I've found over the years for general-purpose chain-sharpening and depth-gauge setting: Granberg "File-N-Joint" clamp-on-bar file guide. You pop in proper size file for the chain in question, then a 6" flat file later a/r for the depth gauges. You can make cutters like razors with this, with angles and height precisely set. Various companies have made copies of this guide for many years:
    For rocked chains, one-time on grinder to bring them back.
    Depending, a guided filing touch-up, every other fillup will KEEP cutters sharp. Do NOT wait until dull. Using this guide, chains and files seem to last a very long time, partly because you take off so little metal each time, so many, many sharpenings over life of chain, more than I'd count.
    Quick hit on a chain with this tool makes for a nice, short change of pace, to drop pulse-rate out in the woods.
    Did I mention that you don't use saw chain for rototilling?
    Next time, consider posting questions like this in [chainsaw] forum, after searching there. HTH
  3. benjo75

    benjo75 ArboristSite Operative

    Aug 29, 2010
    Likes Received:
    Malvern Arkansas
    Go to the local saw shop or Home Depot and pick up a wooden file handle. They're cheap. If you're not too good at sharpening chains and especially if you cut a lot of rocks, go to Harbor Freight or the like and buy a chain sharpener. And a few extra grind wheels. Then you can sit in the shop and get an accurate grind. I have an Efco. They're more expensive and I run a diamond wheel. But it's exact and the diamond wheel doesn't burn the tooth. I have the Dremmel attachment but never use it.

    The best result for me us filing by hand. I've been doing it for over 25 years so I kinda have it down. If you can find someone to watch and learn from will help. Sharpening by hand gets the best results, cuts the best and wastes less chain. But it does take time to learn correctly. There are file guides that hold the file, clamp on the bar, then you set the angles then hit each tooth the same number of licks. They're cheaper than electric grinders but still take a little learning.

    Don't forget the drags. Also called rakers. They're just in front of the tooth and decide the amount of wood to be removed. They're slightly lower than the tooth. They are lowered with a flat file. I hit mine about 4 strokes each every 3 or 4 times I sharpen my chain. There are file plates for accuracy on these too. If they're too high your saw will not cut good and will pull skillsaw dust instead of chips. If they're too low it will grab and hang and be dangerous to run. When they're just right it will cut smooth and pull chips.

    Don't forget the bar. I tighten my rails periodically with a rail tightener. This pulls them together and keeps the chain from laying over. I also use a bar leveler and level the rails. It's an electric grinder that lowers the rails to the same height. Otherwise a new chain will lean over and cut crooked. Then I file the wire edge of the rails with a flat file. If you run your thumb down the top and bottom of the bar you'll probably cut your thumb on it. That's metal that is pressed out of the top of the bar by cutting with a dull chain.

    Depending on which chain you're using will decide which angle to sharpen. Try to follow the original grind of the chain as closely as possible. I use 35 degrees for my main angle. Then if it's a square ground chain I'll drop down 10 degrees. If it's a round ground chain I'll still use 35 degrees back and 0 degrees down. That means perpendicular to the bar. There's a lot more to it than that but you have to start somewhere.
  4. Philbert

    Philbert Chainsaw Enthusiast

    Nov 25, 2006
    Likes Received:
    There are lots of ways to sharpen chains; you have to find something that works for you.

    At a minimum, some type of file guide will help you get sharper, more consistent, and uniform cutters, leading to smoother and more efficient cutting.

    Guys on here have their preference, and will advocate for those choices. It might be helpful to have someone local show you (maybe a saw shop) and adopt their method.

    Sharpen whenever the cutting slows down, and until there is no more teeth left to sharpen.

    Bwoell14 likes this.
  5. derwoodii

    derwoodii Tree Freak

    Mar 20, 2009
    Likes Received:
    Victoria Australia

    i just cut off 6 inchs of old rake broom wood handles drill a file end hole and jobs done,, oh how many files per chain much depends but dont forget to trim down the depth rakers over the journey

    get some coffee some chrissy pudding and watch 10 mintes of video
    Bwoell14 likes this.
  6. JeffGu

    JeffGu Antagonist/Heckler

    Nov 16, 2014
    Likes Received:
    Osceola, Nebraska
    I have various file guides (Granberg, Stihl, Pferd, Oregon, Husqvarna) and grinders, the little Dremmel tool type and the Dremmel attachment, bench grinders...
    They all have some pros and cons but they all do the job. My personal favorite, though, is the TIMBERLINE one. I have extra cutters and guide bushings for it, for all the chain sizes/types that I use.
    Badly rocked chains, or super dull/abused chains my neighbors or clients give me to sharpen, I start with a bench grinder. Those will get them back into shape quickly so you can sharpen them with one of the other devices in the future. Hand filing without a guide takes a lot of practice, the guides will give you better results right off the bat, and have a shorter learning curve. I got much better at touching up a chain with just a file by using the guides for quite awhile. They help you learn to hold the file at the right angles and perpendicular to the bar. They give you time to develop some "muscle memory" doing it, while getting decent results.

    The Timberline is my favorite because I take it with me in the field and on jobsites. It can sharpen a rocked chain, and touch up one that's just starting to dull. It comes with a carrying pouch and is small, compact and not fragile.
    It works me, but I have a friend who bought one after seeing me use mine, and he ended up trading it to me for a couple of the Stihl file guides. He didn't like it. Never elaborated on why, but he's not a patient guy, so it might just be that it confused him a bit. He's also not exactly famous for reading instructions or manuals. I ended up with a spare/backup Timberline and he actually got real good with the file guides, so it's all good.

    I think we all just end up using whichever device feels the most comfortable or rewarding to us. Once you get the hang of it, sharpening chains is rather relaxing and you always get the satisfaction of knowing that the time spent saved you money. You'll be shocked at how many times you can resharpen a chain, especially if you do it regularly... BEFORE THEY GET TOO DULL!... like others have said. I also have never actually counted how many times you can resharpen one. It varies too much from chain to chain, and how bad they were when you started. Waiting until they look like a dull butter knife, though, means more filing, and sharpening them as soon as they start to feel like they're getting dull will certainly INCREASE how many times you can sharpen the chain, even though that seems wrong. When they're in bad shape, you have to take off more metal than you would touching them up a half dozen times.
    Philbert likes this.

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