Sharpening - my personal opinion and experience (not an expert)

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eriklane

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I run Husky 52/72/394, and mostly use full chisel chains. I've most used the pocket Husky roller file, and it does seem to be pretty good, but the rollers do wear down, and if ya don't replace em, I think it could affect sharpening. I also purchased the Grandberg file n guide, which mounts to the bar, but because the user (me) can mess the settings with up/down/angle, it's a good unit, but still may be problematic. I even had a bench grinder, but, eventually sold it. I'd rather go with simple and being in the field and needing to sharpen, I should be able to with around file. Getting to my point, I recently purchased the Stihl file guide, that comes with a file. That, and in combination with a recent thread where the author mentioned how he carves out the gullet to the top of the link, then manually sharpens the top tooth, and then takes rakers to .30 - .40, I think I may have come to a good place. I think that a person can file and get off the track because the file isn't properly grabbing material off the upper tooth, and in combo with improper rakers, I think that's basically the main issue most people have. That, and angles that are too low won't cut properly ie, a 20 degree won't cut as good as a 25 or 30.

The bottom line to me now is that the Stihl guide forces the user to keep that file up because the guide lays on the chain top. That means the file is always ripping that top tooth, and, the gullet isn't straying on a slight angle down toward the bar-and maybe the gullet isn't as important as making 100% sure that top tooth is razor like. When I get a new chain, that tip is always like a razor, grabbing my finger skin. If it's not that, game over.

And in summary, the idea of grabbing a saw and using it, and never having to hardly fiddle with the chain, is nonsense. Every time you use it, the potential for damage exists. There are other thoughts obviously around this topic, like making sure you're not hitting dirt, making sure you avoid dead wood centers with all kinds of dirt, possibly even hacking off highly rough bark, etc. And per rakers, I'm not advocating going way down, but it's probably an easily overlooked issue. For now, I'm very happy with the cheap hand tool, and that obviously hinges on having a good file. Both are simple and cheap and easily used.
 

homemade

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On my husky roller file guide, I measured the “hard” side at .025 and the “soft” side at .038”. We don’t have much for huge trees like the pacific north west so a 24-30” bar on a 90cc saw will pull .030-.040 raker depth. Even some of the 50-60 cc saws will pull it in 16-20” with rakers that low in softwood. It all comes down it sharpening a chain and setting the rakers to a level the saw will pull comfortably.


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Ken Yanoviak

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I started out hand filing...then tried just about every gizmo out there...and now back to hand filing. I use a grinding wheel on badly damaged chain to even things out , then hand file, or file with a guide to fine tune it. When my 3/8 chain teeth are more than half gone I go from 7/32 to 13/64 files. My files were dulling quickly and I realized it was because the file was hitting the chain links as well as the cutters. Also, I rarely measure the rakers and just go by feel. We may cut hard oak and soft paulownia in the same day...if I were just cutting fir all day I could prob dial it in. Sometimes I use a rag to mop off the chain oil so it doesn't get in the files...also, I learned to tell when a file is toast so I don't waist my time...
 

fields_mj

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On my 036 I run an 18" bar with .325 chain and have the rakers set down to at least .030". I've replaced the drive bearing so that I can run a standard size sprocket and rims (like a 362 does) and run a 9 pin rim on it. It pulls the chain just fine in hickory and oak. It's a very grabby set up that works well for bucking, but not for limbing. I have the same bar/chain on my 026, and leave the rakers at the stock height on that saw. Does fine on limbs :)
 

Philbert

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the Stihl guide forces the user to keep that file up because the guide lays on the chain top.

Right. File guides that index off the top of the cutter will alway give you a consistent top plate bevel angle, regardless of the brand of chain or how worn the cutters are.
EC89E2A9-C014-495B-90AC-87C014C6A753.jpeg

We may cut hard oak and soft paulownia in the same day...

Consider having different chains, sharpened for different types of cutting. Nobody plays golf with just one club!

Philbert
 
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Right. File guides that index off the top of the cutter will alway give you a consistent top plate bevel angle, regardless of the brand of chain or how worn the cutters are.
View attachment 945251



Consider having different chains, sharpened for different types of cutting. Nobody plays golf with just one club!

Philbert
The only problem with those type guides is most people end up with top plate angles all over the place as the guide obscures your view.
 

Philbert

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The only problem with those type guides is most people end up with top plate angles all over the place as the guide obscures your view.
There are three, key angles to maintain when filing. Most file guides help with one or two. The Granberg style guides fix all three, but some guys find those cumbersome.

Every guide, or method, he has some limitations. I like the one showing because it is the most “universal“.

Philbert
 
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The only problem with those type guides is most people end up with top plate angles all over the place as the guide obscures your view.
The top plate angle doesn't always end up the same as the angle the file and guide combination is pushed. I suspect it has to do with the file deflecting. Still I use that style the most. The kind with two rollers an inch or so apart won't have much file deflection. And like you state the cutter can be seen all the time.
 

Patrick62

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It takes a few years, and you have to wreck a few chains to get this figured out.
What works for you, won't for someone else.
Hand filing is a artform. I have seen good chains, and some not so good ones.
I can make it cut again, sometimes fairly well.
The grinder is good for resetting the angles back to something in the ballpark!

Filing off the rakers, and making it a hungry chain? On soft wood you can get away with a little more. Probably not past .030

When someone comes into the store... telling the story of how they can file them off real low and beat me... I say "oh yeah?" put your $ on the table, let's go see about that.
Taken to the extreme, you could take a chain, make it real hungry! File them off flat.
Oh, no not enough power? 500 cc bike saw?
Screw that... Ford 390 with a 4bbl carb. put a high pin sprocket on it!
And drop it on to a log...

Gaze at the broken chain.

I will beat you with a Stihl 180....
 

thenne1713

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I've never taken a chain in to be sharpened 'professionally', I learned early on with a file (files). Are they perfect, likely not, but they sure cut better than they did when dull.
There is an idiot on youtube bragging/ sharpening w/ a side-grinder, and I have run into (more than one) who had filed chain to end-of-life and NEVER filed depth... both probably NEVER understood WHY a new chain CUTS BETTER than anything THEY ever sharpened, LOL. I have filed to 10', 15' and (0/90)-degree for ripping chain, and bucked/ trimmed w/ same chain and see no difference that prompted the warning "never use ripping chain for bucking/ crosscut"? I guarantee longer cutters on one side will make chain cut crooked w/ bucking and/or bar rise/ fall when milling; (SMOOTHEST/ lowest vibration/ Least grab/jerk) will be even length cutters and even depth gages. MY TIP: BEST is STIHL 2-N-1 that files both cutter and raker at same time; field sharpen x3-X4, then change chain and BENCH GRIND ALL EVERY NIGHT to restore even length/even depth. Bench grinder will also SHOW YOU how inconsistent you were at field filing, and reduce the grab/ jerk. Good Luck to all. SAW SAFE, ya hear? ONE OTHER SAFETY TIP: When bucking, STEP ASIDE and remove body/ crotch from bar alignment; a thrown/ broken chain may then go flying by your important body parts, with only a "near-miss" tale to tell :)
 

GrizG

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I use Stihl Rapid Super chain on my MS261 and MS461 saws. I sharpen with a Stihl file guide and a Husqvarna depth (raker) gauge. The file guide keeps the file where it should be on the tooth and there are 30° angle lines on the gauge that are easily lined up with the bar by eye. I use the hardwood side of the raker gauge as I mostly cut hardwood. I prefer the Husky raker gauge over the Stihl gauge as it not only sets the raker depth but it also slopes the raker. The Stihl gauge, on the other hand, leaves the raker flat and requires that you file the slope freehand. Having to file the slope separately adds time and increases the variance across rakers. The Huskey gauge also sets the raker height to it's mating tooth instead of setting it to the height of the longest nearby teeth like the long Stihl gauge does. I'm not shy about replacing files.... buy them by the dozen and when they don't cut well I throw them away.

At first it was difficult for me to tell if a tooth was actually sharp... and I fell into the nonsense of taking the same number of file strokes on each tooth. I finally realized that once the tip was sharp I was done with that tooth and the stroke count was irrelevant. My chains cut a lot better and I got more life out of them after that as filing away all the teeth to keep them all the same length was nonsense in respect to how it cut... Each pair of tooth and raker works independently of the others though it does take a "left" and a "right" tooth to make the chip. Even having a missing tooth due to damage doesn't materially impact the cut quality.

Making sure both "sides" are equally sharp is important also... else the saw will tend to make crooked cuts. That has a bigger impact than equal length teeth in my experience. Folks tend to sharpen one side well and the other not so well... I turn my bench vice so the jaws are 90° to the edge of the bench and leave the bar stick out over the floor. I can then sharpen both sides consistently by standing on both sides. That technique is a lot easier than filing strong handed and goofy handed. 😉

I also have rip chains and a Granberg Alaskan mill. Other than the angle (10° vs. 30°) the sharpening process is the same. Adding a winch to the mill has a much greater impact on the smoothness of the cut than does having equal length teeth... this as it aids in smoothly moving the chain through the wood. BTW, that's a 28-30" wide ash in my thumbnail.
 

thenne1713

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You come so close and yet remain so far away? Cutter length and files strokes and cutter/depth gages consistency determine smoothness of cut; a chain cutting with big gouges in the sawn face has problems; my CSM board face barely needs sanding. MANY BAR WEAR problems are caused by improper sharpening, pulling one/ more cutters sideways, causing abnormal bar groove wear, and further cutter damage. Cutter sharpness problems and raker depth problems (inconsistencies) cause saw VIBRATION, which can/ does translate to acute and chronic nerve damage to the user... and YES, a lot you say is true, I agree, but NOT 100%
 

dennis066

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I use Stihl Rapid Super chain on my MS261 and MS461 saws. I sharpen with a Stihl file guide and a Husqvarna depth (raker) gauge. The file guide keeps the file where it should be on the tooth and there are 30° angle lines on the gauge that are easily lined up with the bar by eye. I use the hardwood side of the raker gauge as I mostly cut hardwood. I prefer the Husky raker gauge over the Stihl gauge as it not only sets the raker depth but it also slopes the raker. The Stihl gauge, on the other hand, leaves the raker flat and requires that you file the slope freehand. Having to file the slope separately adds time and increases the variance across rakers. The Huskey gauge also sets the raker height to it's mating tooth instead of setting it to the height of the longest nearby teeth like the long Stihl gauge does. I'm not shy about replacing files.... buy them by the dozen and when they don't cut well I throw them away.

At first it was difficult for me to tell if a tooth was actually sharp... and I fell into the nonsense of taking the same number of file strokes on each tooth. I finally realized that once the tip was sharp I was done with that tooth and the stroke count was irrelevant. My chains cut a lot better and I got more life out of them after that as filing away all the teeth to keep them all the same length was nonsense in respect to how it cut... Each pair of tooth and raker works independently of the others though it does take a "left" and a "right" tooth to make the chip. Even having a missing tooth due to damage doesn't materially impact the cut quality.

Making sure both "sides" are equally sharp is important also... else the saw will tend to make crooked cuts. That has a bigger impact than equal length teeth in my experience. Folks tend to sharpen one side well and the other not so well... I turn my bench vice so the jaws are 90° to the edge of the bench and leave the bar stick out over the floor. I can then sharpen both sides consistently by standing on both sides. That technique is a lot easier than filing strong handed and goofy handed. 😉

I also have rip chains and a Granberg Alaskan mill. Other than the angle (10° vs. 30°) the sharpening process is the same. Adding a winch to the mill has a much greater impact on the smoothness of the cut than does having equal length teeth... this as it aids in smoothly moving the chain through the wood. BTW, that's a 28-30" wide ash in my thumbnail.
IMO For optimum performance the cutters need to be the same height!
 

GrizG

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You come so close and yet remain so far away? Cutter length and files strokes and cutter/depth gages consistency determine smoothness of cut; a chain cutting with big gouges in the sawn face has problems; my CSM board face barely needs sanding. MANY BAR WEAR problems are caused by improper sharpening, pulling one/ more cutters sideways, causing abnormal bar groove wear, and further cutter damage. Cutter sharpness problems and raker depth problems (inconsistencies) cause saw VIBRATION, which can/ does translate to acute and chronic nerve damage to the user... and YES, a lot you say is true, I agree, but NOT 100%
I'd be surprised if there were a 100% agreement on something like this... That said, I don't experience the kinds of problems you cite. My cross cuts are straight and smooth and my rip cuts are smooth. I don't end up with any "Hag's Teeth" that leave grooves and make the saw vibrate abnormally or make curved cuts.

Consider that if you have some teeth that end up noticeably shorter than others after sharpening that typically isn't a permanent state. This as those short teeth will experience a bit less wear initially and only take a stroke or two to restore to sharp. Within a couple more sharpenings they end about the same length as the others. Also, it is rare to damage a single tooth. Damage tends to impact a section of teeth so that section will be relatively close in tooth length after sharpening and as a group cut just fine.

Bar problems have been non-existent. I use bars well after there is no paint left on them... Keeping up with bar maintenance, though a bit off topic for this thread, is important too. I draw file the bar whenever I detect a burr and keep the groove and oiler hole clean. I had one well used, paintless, bar on an MS271 that had some groove wear and I used a groove tightener on it to return it to proper size. There was still a lot of life in that bar when I traded up to an MS261.

Monday I bucked and noodled a sizeable oak for use as firewood. The rounds were big and very heavy so I reduced the size of the rounds by quartering them. This allowed me to get them out of the "hole" I was working in and to load them into the truck for later splitting. While noodling a round I cut through an embedded nail that was about 6" deep in the trunk. In the field I swapped chains and then sharpened the damaged chain at home using the techniques I described previously. Out of curiosity I counted the strokes needed to sharpen each tooth. They ranged from 7-13 strokes. The chain cuts just fine again albeit it's life was shortened due to the damage.

What is also telling is that brand new Stihl chains for my 18" bars have consecutive teeth on the same side at the point where the ends of the loop were joined. The lack of an opposing tooth between them in not noticeable. The same is true of the occasional teeth on well used chains that are filed almost completely away due to damage.

I agree that in theory a chain full of teeth and rakers all exactly the same should cut better than one with some variance across teeth and rakers. However, from a practical standpoint that isn't necessary to having a well performing chain. Also, in the quest to achieve perfect teeth chain life disappears into file swarf rather than into feet of wood cut. Hand filing chains vs. using a chain grinder is kind of like with fully handmade flintlock long rifles built with 18th century technology or a Purdy shotgun as compared to guns made with machinery... Just because they are hand filed doesn't mean they are crude. The hand filed 18th century style screws below that I made work just fine for the task. They are always reinstalled into the same hole as there is a bit of variance across screws. Note that the heads were left thick so the slots could be clocked upon installation.


HandFiledScrews.jpg
 

GrizG

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rub a stick of chalk on a file to keep it from clogging.
That does help... I use a stiff brass brush to clean files rather than a file card that has steel bristles. This was something I picked up from Lynton McKenzie back in 1987... He reported that at a detail level the file cards are typically hard and can dull the files prematurely.
 

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