A dull chainsaw is more than just an inconvenience; it is a danger to the person using the tool. Many people believe chainsaws do not need sharpening because they cut through materials using a chain that holds a saw blade. Those unfamiliar with chainsaws often believe there is no actual saw at all. However, the chainsaw is actually very similar to a bike chain with multiple sharp teeth, which is where the “saw” part of the name comes from. You must know how to sharpen a chainsaw chain to use this tool safely and effectively for a long time.
Working With Chainsaws
People love chainsaws for many reasons, but mainly because they are highly effective and get the job done fast. If an area needs clearing in the wake of a natural disaster, for example, the hum of a chainsaw will be a welcome sound to your ears. Say a tree falls and blocks the road. However, if you do not know how to sharpen a chainsaw chain, you will find the going very slow.
Uses For Chainsaws
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Chainsaws make big jobs easy. You can spend several afternoons trying to clear a fallen tree with a carpentry saw or an axe, or half an hour with a chainsaw. This is usually because the person who owns the equipment knows how to sharpen a chainsaw chain. Once you own a chainsaw, however, what will you do with it? Here are a few options:
- Chopping up small trees
- Removing the limbs from large pieces of lumber so you may fell the tree more easily or haul off smaller pieces if it is already down
- Cutting up large stumps
- Artistic work (optional)
While many people purchase chainsaws for reasons like the ones below, a chainsaw really has more power than is strictly needed for the following:
- Removing trees and shrubs
- Chopping lumber
- Clearing areas of felled limbs and small trees
Most people planning on smaller-scale landscaping and not felling full-grown trees will not necessarily need a chainsaw. Most experts say an electric saw will suffice in these cases.
Part of working with your chainsaw involves knowing how to sharpen a chainsaw chain. However, another responsibility lies on you in that you must also have the right safety equipment. This includes:
- Heavy-duty boots
- Clothing made of thick fabric
- Ear plugs or other ear protection
- Safety goggles
- A dust mask or a respirator
- Heavy gloves
These items will keep you safe, but if you do not know how to sharpen a chainsaw chain, you have still left one huge threat in play. In the next section, we’ll explain why.
Importance Of A Sharp Chainsaw Chain
If you know how to sharpen a chainsaw chain, you hold the key to keeping your tool from turning on you. Because a chainsaw chain holds multiple blades, a single dull blade in the machine can cause the saw to jerk and buck around as you saw. This is due to the blades catching on the material, usually wood, that you are sawing. Think about this for a minute. Your chainsaw easily slices through huge trees and other pieces of wood. Even when it is dull, it could just as easily slice through you if the chainsaw gets out of control. Knowing how to sharpen a chainsaw chain will help keep you safe.
Dull Blades Make Slow Going
Feel as if you are strong enough to keep your chainsaw under control even if the blades are becoming dull? That is a foolish way to look at things. You should just learn how to sharpen a chainsaw chain and be even safer! However, if the safety factor is not persuasive enough for you, consider that using a dull chainsaw chain will make your work much harder and slower. A dull chainsaw requires the user to exert much more pressure on the material they are cutting and slows down the entire process. Speed is one of the big advantages offered by chainsaws, so do not waste it. That extra time also wastes fuel.
How To Sharpen A Chainsaw ChainWhen To Sharpen
Most experts recommend sharpening your chainsaw chain every time you refill the chainsaw with fuel. If you have a tendency to drive the chainsaw chain into the dirt while you are cutting, you may need to sharpen the chainsaw even more frequently. Here are six signs a chainsaw chain and its blades need sharpening:
- 1You find yourself pushing the saw into the wood instead of the blade “pulling” itself through the wood
- 2You notice the sawdust is fine instead of coarse
- 3Your tool is smoking when you use it
- 4Your cuts are crooked due to uneven teeth lengths
- 5The tool becomes more difficult to manage, rattling and bouncing as you use it
- 6You notice the “service and wear marks” on the saw chain are at the end of the blades, although not every brand has these.
First, you will need your safety equipment, including the heavy gloves. Additionally, you will need:
- A filing kit for chainsaws, which can be purchased at any outdoor power equipment store
- A vise for clamping the saw’s bar in place
- A round file with a file guide
- A flat file with a depth-gauge guide
- A sharpie marker
- A screwdriver
If you prefer to use power tools for the process, then you will also need:
- A Dremel chainsaw chain sharpener
- A depth guide
Step 1: Prepare The Chainsaw For Sharpening
Before you can start, you must secure the saw blade to your work surface. Use the vise to accomplish this and make sure it is secure. If the tool can move while you are sharpening the chain, it will not cut evenly when you are done. Some people also drive their chainsaw partway into a large hunk of wood to secure it.
Once the chainsaw is secure, tighten the tension adjusting screw so that the chain can move around the saw but is tight enough that it will not move as you sharpen. Use your owner’s manual to locate this screw.
Finally, put a small dot on the first tooth you plan to sharpen. This will help you keep track of where you started. Some chainsaw models have a designated “first tooth” that is a different color than the rest, but these can be difficult to locate. The sharpie will do the trick just as well.
Step 2: Use The Round File To Sharpen The Angled Teeth In The Chain
Select your round file size based on what fits the angled teeth on the front of the flat surface of the chain links on your chainsaw. The tip of the file should fit smoothly into place.
Slide the file across the face of the cutter. Some people use a file holder to make sure they maintain the exact same angle from cutter to cutter. Push the round file through the cutter, then remove it and repeat the movement several more times. Do not pull the file backward through the cutter in a sawing motion. Count how many times you pull the file through and use the same number on each tooth. Usually, this will take somewhere between three and ten repetitions.
Move around the saw, sharpening every other tooth. Once you have completed an entire rotation of the chain, rotate the chainsaw 180 degrees and repeat the entire process to sharpen the other teeth.
If you use the Dremel for this part of the process, insert the round file in front of the flat surface of the chain links and then turn the tool on. Instead of counting times you pass the file through the chain, you will count how long you leave the tool on. A count of four will usually suffice.
Step 3: Use The Flat File To Level The Rakers
The rakers are the pointy pieces that pull the chain through the wood. You will need to use the depth gauge to determine which rakers are now too high and need to be filed. Rakers that need filing will extend over the top of the depth gauge while those that do not may be skipped. If a raker extends over the depth gauge, run the flat file over the top of the raker until it is level with the top of the depth gauge. Continue until every raker meets the requirements set by the depth gauge.
Step 4: Release Your Chainsaw
Now that you know how to sharpen a chainsaw chain and have completed the process, it is time to get your tool ready for work again. Remove the tool from the vise, loosen the tension screw until the chain moves easily but has no visible slack, and refill the bar oil reservoir.
Time To Use Your Newly Sharpened Blade
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Learning how to sharpen a chainsaw chain can be intimidating. After all, those teeth, chains, and blades may look scary. If you are concerned that you are not experienced enough to sharpen your own chainsaw, consider taking it to a professional and getting an initial lesson on the process. A pro can walk you through how to use the tools in no time. Most people who use their chainsaws regularly and understand how they work quickly pick up on how to sharpen a chainsaw chain and can complete the entire process at home.