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MagraAdam

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Hi guys,
I was going to make some comments on existing threads, but i thought I'd start my own here. Before I do though, I want to shout out to @Gaudaost and @trains for their help either through posting their own learnings or through directly helping me to understand things more.

A few things to start with:

  1. I'm in Australia, so my wood is pretty hard, but I'm in Tasmania so not the hardest wood around. Most of what I cut is Stringy Gum, Blue Gum or Peppermint Gum - I long for some Box or Redgum
  2. Most of my experience has been on my MS391 with a 3/8 063 Full Chisel Stihl chain (just moved to a 361) and I also use the MS170 with a 3/8LP 043 Full Chisel chain (I now have an MS250 with a 3/8LP 050 Full Chisel on it)
  3. I cut 15+ cubic metres of wood each year for personal use on my own land
  4. I don't have a splitter, so I also use a 10deg Semi Chisel chain for ripping rounds that I can't split
  5. I know that everyone has different preferences when it comes to things like angles and files, so I'm not suggesting this is the best, just what's been the best for me so far
  6. I'll add a couple of photos below, but if you want photos of anything, just ask and I'll see what I can do
OK, on to what I've learnt.

  • I really like a full chisel chain, I find they cut clean enough (as firewood doesn't need a nice edge to it) but mostly they cut fast
  • I like a wider kerf too, I know that this removes more wood and makes it slightly harder to cut, but I get less pinches of the bar and the chips fly cleanly
  • When I started out with a saw I used to sharpen with a normal round file and guide plate, and never got good angles. I find now that what works for me is a nice high surface and a vice to hold the bar. I actually use a trunk of a tree with a stump vice in it. heaps of room to move around and nice and stable. This has helped me to get better positioning and more consistent angles
  • I find 30deg works fine for what I cut
  • As for the top plate angle, I just use a 5.2mm round file. I don't think I can be bothered using different files at different times on the same chain. (4mm on the LP chains)
  • After not having much luck in the beginning and always having my saw cut crooked, I went and got a Stihl 2 in 1 file. This changed my life. If you're starting out with a saw, get one of those. I'll make the chain good enough and you won't have to worry about the depth gauges. Remember to rotate the files every now and then.
  • In saying that, somehow I ended up with 1 side of my chain on 35deg using the 2 in 1.. who knows how.
  • After I got through about 50% of the life in the teeth on my chain I noticed that it wasn't self feeding as well as it could, so I needed to change things up a bit
  • I moved back to a normal round file and guide and noticed that for a lot of my teeth the plate wasn't sitting on the tooth. somehow I had been riding up the tooth, so I had to file with a lot of down pressure to fix that
  • My depth guides also needed adjusting. first, they were flat, so they needed to be ramped. this would make the chain run smoother again. Secondly I invested in some progressive deph gauge guides, these are great. a little fiddly to use if you don't have heaps of dexterity in your hands, but they made my chain self feed again, and they ramp the guide too. There is a good thread on these
  • I also recently learnt about cleaning the gullet of the tooth - not needed when using a new(ish) chain, but eventually it should be done. While my wood doesn't pull massive chips like some northern hemisphere wood does, it still probably helps, and it's very little work to do.
  • Oh, talking about depth gauges, Every chain that has come on a second hand saw that I've bought had the depth gauges filed right down. I just throw the chains out. I won't mess with that.
  • The file guide plate that I use has markings for 30deg and 10deg, but I find that they are in a spot that makes them hard to use, and for the 10deg one I need to change the direction of the plate to be able to to both sides of the chain, so I have made a guide plade that sticks to the saw with magnets. I haven't put it to the test yet but it's based on the same idea as the one that Stihl and Oregon make, and I was inspired by one of @Gaudaost's posts. I'm hoping it'll help me keep not just a consistent angle, but also stop my elbow from wobbling.
  • Talking about angles, I always have the file at 90deg to the bar. If my chain isn't super tight i may angle the nose down a little to account for the wabble in the tooth - yes, I know i should tighten the chain more than I would for use when i sharpen, then relax it back afterwards, but that's all effort..
  • Ah, now I almost forgot part of the story.. Inbetween going from a round file to the 2 in 1, I got one of those systems where you clamp it onto the bar. Man I really hated that thing. so much work and so little return. I have also found that keeping all the teeth identical length burns through a lot of metal and really isn't needed - close enough is good enough. I now know that these tools are great for things like resetting angles or changing the profile of your chain, but I don't really do that, I just want my chain to always perform the same..
  • I did once try to measure all of the teeth with a set of calipers. That was a nightmare too as it really depends on how you hold them on the tooth as to what value you get, so I gave up on that.
  • So now I'm at the point where I'm using the round file with the top plate guide, the progressing depth gauge guide, clearing the gullet, and about to test my new angle guide.
  • Generally I sharpen my chain after about 2 tanks of fuel or at the end of the day of cutting (or when I hit the dirt, which I really try to avoid). I like my equiptment ready to run all the time. So now i do 3-5 passes of the file on each tooth, make sure i can see new metal on the cutting edge, then move on to the next one, then I do a pass with the depth guide tools and call it done.
  • Not all chains have an abnormality, so I always mark the tooth I start with and I use a green Posca paint pen. Easy to use, easy to see, stays on while filing, comes off in the wood. I've been using the same one for 7 years. I just do the top plate, I've seen people do the whole tooth, but I don't think that's needed.
  • I've never used an electric grinder, but I feel like they would give a great consistent angle but maybe go through a lot of metal too.


Here are the photos of my filing angle guide. The marker i used to put the angles on it was terrible, so I'll find a better one and make a better one once i'm happy with the size etc. They are 5mm x 3mm magnets holding it on. 2 each side. Held in with JB weld.

30deg
2021-03-25 12.41.06.jpg

10deg
2021-03-25 12.41.14.jpg

Well, that's about all that I can think of for now, but if I think of anything else I'll add to this post and I hope that if you got this far it wasn't too boring.

Thanks,

Adam
 
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Thanks for the tag and write up, I have experienced much the same as you have mentioned. I have found for me personally a round fine and progressive raker gauge to be the best of the bunch of options. There is a learning curve and it’s still not a perfect result on every tooth in uniformity, sometimes it’s frustrating. Sometimes the teeth are slightly different angles too. However my chains cut better than any jig I have tried so far and will only get better with time.
 

MagraAdam

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So I re-made the filing guide with the lines now recessed and neater.

DSC_0511.JPG
DSC_0512.JPG

I also discovered that the ms170 that was always sharpened with the 2 in 1 file had a fee teeth where the file was rising up the tooth, and one side the teeth were all much longer than the other. It took about 40 strokes a tooth to correct it.

DSC_0513.JPG

I think the lesson is that the 2 in 1 hides what's happening on the teeth more than other tools, so it's easier to end up with problems.

Here's also some pics of using the progressive depth gauge guide

DSC_0516.JPG
DSC_0514.JPG
 
Joined
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So I re-made the filing guide with the lines now recessed and neater.

View attachment 899984
View attachment 899985

I also discovered that the ms170 that was always sharpened with the 2 in 1 file had a fee teeth where the file was rising up the tooth, and one side the teeth were all much longer than the other. It took about 40 strokes a tooth to correct it.

View attachment 899986

I think the lesson is that the 2 in 1 hides what's happening on the teeth more than other tools, so it's easier to end up with problems.

Here's also some pics of using the progressive depth gauge guide

View attachment 899987
View attachment 899988
Very nice! Did you recess magnets to hold it?
 

Wow

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Hi guys,
I was going to make some comments on existing threads, but i thought I'd start my own here. Before I do though, I want to shout out to @Gaudaost and @trains for their help either through posting their own learnings or through directly helping me to understand things more.

A few things to start with:

  1. I'm in Australia, so my wood is pretty hard, but I'm in Tasmania so not the hardest wood around. Most of what I cut is Stringy Gum, Blue Gum or Peppermint Gum - I long for some Box or Redgum
  2. Most of my experience has been on my MS391 with a 3/8 063 Full Chisel Stihl chain (just moved to a 361) and I also use the MS170 with a 3/8LP 043 Full Chisel chain (I now have an MS250 with a 3/8LP 050 Full Chisel on it)
  3. I cut 15+ cubic metres of wood each year for personal use on my own land
  4. I don't have a splitter, so I also use a 10deg Semi Chisel chain for ripping rounds that I can't split
  5. I know that everyone has different preferences when it comes to things like angles and files, so I'm not suggesting this is the best, just what's been the best for me so far
  6. I'll add a couple of photos below, but if you want photos of anything, just ask and I'll see what I can do
OK, on to what I've learnt.

  • I really like a full chisel chain, I find they cut clean enough (as firewood doesn't need a nice edge to it) but mostly they cut fast
  • I like a wider kerf too, I know that this removes more wood and makes it slightly harder to cut, but I get less pinches of the bar and the chips fly cleanly
  • When I started out with a saw I used to sharpen with a normal round file and guide plate, and never got good angles. I find now that what works for me is a nice high surface and a vice to hold the bar. I actually use a trunk of a tree with a stump vice in it. heaps of room to move around and nice and stable. This has helped me to get better positioning and more consistent angles
  • I find 30deg works fine for what I cut
  • As for the top plate angle, I just use a 5.2mm round file. I don't think I can be bothered using different files at different times on the same chain. (4mm on the LP chains)
  • After not having much luck in the beginning and always having my saw cut crooked, I went and got a Stihl 2 in 1 file. This changed my life. If you're starting out with a saw, get one of those. I'll make the chain good enough and you won't have to worry about the depth gauges. Remember to rotate the files every now and then.
  • In saying that, somehow I ended up with 1 side of my chain on 35deg using the 2 in 1.. who knows how.
  • After I got through about 50% of the life in the teeth on my chain I noticed that it wasn't self feeding as well as it could, so I needed to change things up a bit
  • I moved back to a normal round file and guide and noticed that for a lot of my teeth the plate wasn't sitting on the tooth. somehow I had been riding up the tooth, so I had to file with a lot of down pressure to fix that
  • My depth guides also needed adjusting. first, they were flat, so they needed to be ramped. this would make the chain run smoother again. Secondly I invested in some progressive deph gauge guides, these are great. a little fiddly to use if you don't have heaps of dexterity in your hands, but they made my chain self feed again, and they ramp the guide too. There is a good thread on these
  • I also recently learnt about cleaning the gullet of the tooth - not needed when using a new(ish) chain, but eventually it should be done. While my wood doesn't pull massive chips like some northern hemisphere wood does, it still probably helps, and it's very little work to do.
  • Oh, talking about depth gauges, Every chain that has come on a second hand saw that I've bought had the depth gauges filed right down. I just throw the chains out. I won't mess with that.
  • The file guide plate that I use has markings for 30deg and 10deg, but I find that they are in a spot that makes them hard to use, and for the 10deg one I need to change the direction of the plate to be able to to both sides of the chain, so I have made a guide plade that sticks to the saw with magnets. I haven't put it to the test yet but it's based on the same idea as the one that Stihl and Oregon make, and I was inspired by one of @Gaudaost's posts. I'm hoping it'll help me keep not just a consistent angle, but also stop my elbow from wobbling.
  • Talking about angles, I always have the file at 90deg to the bar. If my chain isn't super tight i may angle the nose down a little to account for the wabble in the tooth - yes, I know i should tighten the chain more than I would for use when i sharpen, then relax it back afterwards, but that's all effort..
  • Ah, now I almost forgot part of the story.. Inbetween going from a round file to the 2 in 1, I got one of those systems where you clamp it onto the bar. Man I really hated that thing. so much work and so little return. I have also found that keeping all the teeth identical length burns through a lot of metal and really isn't needed - close enough is good enough. I now know that these tools are great for things like resetting angles or changing the profile of your chain, but I don't really do that, I just want my chain to always perform the same..
  • I did once try to measure all of the teeth with a set of calipers. That was a nightmare too as it really depends on how you hold them on the tooth as to what value you get, so I gave up on that.
  • So now I'm at the point where I'm using the round file with the top plate guide, the progressing depth gauge guide, clearing the gullet, and about to test my new angle guide.
  • Generally I sharpen my chain after about 2 tanks of fuel or at the end of the day of cutting (or when I hit the dirt, which I really try to avoid). I like my equiptment ready to run all the time. So now i do 3-5 passes of the file on each tooth, make sure i can see new metal on the cutting edge, then move on to the next one, then I do a pass with the depth guide tools and call it done.
  • Not all chains have an abnormality, so I always mark the tooth I start with and I use a green Posca paint pen. Easy to use, easy to see, stays on while filing, comes off in the wood. I've been using the same one for 7 years. I just do the top plate, I've seen people do the whole tooth, but I don't think that's needed.
  • I've never used an electric grinder, but I feel like they would give a great consistent angle but maybe go through a lot of metal too.


Here are the photos of my filing angle guide. The marker i used to put the angles on it was terrible, so I'll find a better one and make a better one once i'm happy with the size etc. They are 5mm x 3mm magnets holding it on. 2 each side. Held in with JB weld.

30deg
View attachment 897016

10deg
View attachment 897015

Well, that's about all that I can think of for now, but if I think of anything else I'll add to this post and I hope that if you got this far it wasn't too boring.

Thanks,

Adam
I built this Bar and Chain jig. The chain is installed backwards so I can easily file from the bar tip aft. The old spur drive holds the chain. A turnbuckle sets tension. I use White out like office supplies sells to mark my Start tooth. My Left -right hand cutters are trued to 30% using a home made angle guide that rides at the top of the Bar and a small flat file. I do all cutters before sharpening. Then use my guide and hit the Right hand Cutters with my Left hand and the Left hand cutters filing using my right hand. Learning to file using either hand has difficult. Test in wood to make sure it cuts straight. Cuts slightly Right, then touch up the L. Cutters. Cuts slightly Left, hit the R. cutters again. Getting it just right took a lot of practice. Most time my chain cuts straight and is razor sharp. Getting sharp chains by hand filing is like learning to play Piano. For me it was hard but I love a challenge. 😀
 

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MagraAdam

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I built this Bar and Chain jig. The chain is installed backwards so I can easily file from the bar tip aft. The old spur drive holds the chain. A turnbuckle sets tension. I use White out like office supplies sells to mark my Start tooth. My Left -right hand cutters are trued to 30% using a home made angle guide that rides at the top of the Bar and a small flat file. I do all cutters before sharpening. Then use my guide and hit the Right hand Cutters with my Left hand and the Left hand cutters filing using my right hand. Learning to file using either hand has difficult. Test in wood to make sure it cuts straight. Cuts slightly Right, then touch up the L. Cutters. Cuts slightly Left, hit the R. cutters again. Getting it just right took a lot of practice. Most time my chain cuts straight and is razor sharp. Getting sharp chains by hand filing is like learning to play Piano. For me it was hard but I love a challenge. 😀
That's a cool set up!
 

chipper1

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So I re-made the filing guide with the lines now recessed and neater.

View attachment 899984
View attachment 899985

I also discovered that the ms170 that was always sharpened with the 2 in 1 file had a fee teeth where the file was rising up the tooth, and one side the teeth were all much longer than the other. It took about 40 strokes a tooth to correct it.

View attachment 899986

I think the lesson is that the 2 in 1 hides what's happening on the teeth more than other tools, so it's easier to end up with problems.

Here's also some pics of using the progressive depth gauge guide

View attachment 899987
View attachment 899988
I like the reworked guide. One it shows great ingenuity, two attention to detail, there a good bit of artistic ability :). I think for someone learning to file it's a great tool. A cheat for someone who has a swiveling vise; you can rotate the vise so that the angle you want on the chain is matched with the edge of your workbench, then mark the vise on the swivel, it helps a lot if someone has difficulty seeing the witness marks.
Many have a hard time getting the angle correct, not because they can not see the witness mark or are holding the file at an improper angle, but rather because they are not holding the file at a consistent angle perpendicular (or 10% off) which will change the top plate angle.

I like having the stihl progressive guides like those and have them for everything but 404. The bummer for us in the states is they are not available here :cry:. They are a bit aggressive compared to the Oregon versions on most chains and so are not great if you are setting up a chain for bore/plunge cutting, and they make a chain more dangerous for a beginner, guessing this may be part of the reason they are not available in the states?
 

fields_mj

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I filed by hand for about a decade. I'm a bit anal retentive about stuff like that, but I got pretty good at it. A vice is EXTREMELY helpful. Stump vice will work, but I would highly recommend using an actual vice if you can. Attached are a couple pics of my current setup. Some 2" sq tubing and some 2.5" sq tubing. All the bolts are 1/2". Bolt heads are 3/4" which is the same as 19mm. In other words my scrench fits them. I've welded a cheap 2" receiver to my trailer so that I can mount it on the trailer as well. I normally do that. I recently made the horizontal extension so that I could use it on my truck with the tailgate down. I also lined the jaws with some wood so that I wasn't dinging my freshly sharpened teeth on the steel vice. It's cheap, and looks like crap, but it works REALLY well. Saw Vice with Stihl 064.jpg

Saw vice jaws.jpg
 

fields_mj

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I now use a Timberline and will NEVER go back to hand filing. The only tricks to the timber line are getting it mounted somewhat parallel to the bar (not that difficult), making sure you get the cutter all the way down in the gullet, make sure you get it clamped to the bar so that it doesn't ride up on you, and start with a new chain.

If you're going to an MS361, I would recommend going to an 18" .325 chain. Swap your drive bearing out to one that fits an MS460 so you can use a drum that accepts standard spline rims, and go with a 9 pin rim. I drop my rakers down to .040" on that saw. It's too grabby to use on small limbs (I use an 026 for that), but it pulls hard into the wood and cuts really fast. I cut mostly shagbark hickory in the 10" to 24" range, and this is my preferred setup, and I agree with the full chisel profile. Much faster.
 

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