Chainsaw Sharpening Guide

In the olden days, lumberjacks used to spend quite a considerable amount of time sharpening their chainsaw that they usually can use them efficiently after felling 3 to 5 medium sized trees and depending on the consistency of its hardwood, may even take a longer time. Cutting chains are usually very sharp to begin with since they come in ready to use, but experienced chainsaw users can instantly determine if a cutting chain is indeed sharp enough to cut down trees, particularly the hardwood variety since these type of trees can quickly dull out your chainsaw. Cutting chains vary in sizes depending upon their use in which they can efficiently serve their purpose given that you should know what type of trees you are cutting to determine if the chains you are using are adequate enough for that purpose.

Chainsaw Sharpening guideThe efficiency of your chainsaw depends on two factors for it to perform as what you expect from it and having the right engine size and cutting chain gives you an idea of what particular purpose your chainsaw was meant to do, with regard to cutting trees and lumber. The size of the cutting bar also plays an important part of how your chainsaw should be used accordingly. Longer cutting bars with a length of as long as 20 inches were meant to make initial cuts into big trees and depending upon the wood variety, using the proper corresponding chain size makes a big difference on the chainsaw’s performance and efficiency. It is not as simple as picking out a cutting chain of your choice and just using it right away since using the wrong chainsaw with the wrong bar length with the wrong chain size could either damage your chainsaw or worse, even inflict damage to yourself, which is not a pleasant thought.

A chainsaw’s efficiency depends upon putting all the right combination of having the right bar length with respect to its engine size and the right type of cutting chain that will fit the task at hand. Since the longer the cutting bar is, the more resistance it will tend to encounter once it makes contact with what it’s cutting. An engine displacement size of 60cc is adequate enough to do almost any wood cutting job with regard to hardwoods and depending on the size of the material that you are trying to cut, chain size with regard to pitch and link skips all have various effect on how the wood material is either sawed off or gnawed off. Cutting chains with 2 to 3 full skip distances are used to “shred” off wood rather than neatly cut them off.

These type of “shredding” chains leave a particularly larger gap to give the cutting bar enough room in between the wood material to allow it to freely move around, reducing the occurrence of getting your cutting bar lodged into the wood. Wedges are needed in this process to avoid having to struggle with dislodging your chainsaw from a tree trunk since many people had found this very difficult to do without the assistance of this device (wedge). Cutting chains have standard link sizes that fit most cutting bars and sprockets and they only vary in the degree of thickness accordingly to their gauges along with the distance from one cutting teeth to the next. The distance of the cutting teethes is called “pitch” and the farther the distance between pitches determines the cutting ability of the chain.

Wide gaped pitches mean that the chain was meant to chisel out or “shred” the wood, giving it a rougher cutting consistency requiring it to be used on a more powerful chainsaw with a longer cutting bar. You can imagine what it may feel like while holding a chainsaw such as this while cutting down a tree in where the vibration of the chainsaw would definitely require you to give your full effort in controlling it. Again, you would have to consider that the chain will be moving in a forward motion, away from you towards the front end of the cutting bar, that you will have to hold it down firmly to refrain it from kicking upward towards your face. For more information about chain sizes and their particular use, you can go here.

Traditionally, cutting chains were sharpened by hand in which circular files were used to sharpen the cutting teethes with fine consistency. As further developments continued to enhance chain designs, alternative sharpening methods became necessary to adapt to modern cutting chain designs that the use of electric chain sharpeners became a necessity. There are 3 important parts that consist which make a cutting chain perform the way it should when cutting wood and it is these 3 components that need to be sharpened either manually or by the use of a sharpening machine.

Parts of a Cutting Chain

Scoring cutters may consist of either 1 or 2 pieces of teethes and depending on the distance between pitches and the type of cutting chain, you may find that there are quite a few. These scoring teethes are the first to make the initial cut into the wood and are placed parallel to each other on opposite sides in a row. Usually, the first scoring teeth is smaller than the second after which it is followed by the second scoring teeth which is considerably much bigger than the first one as to make a deeper incision into the wood. The clearing cutter is what actually “chips” off the wood ion which the first two scoring teethes had made and it is also the clearing cutter that throws out the debris from the cutting area.

The pitch is actually the number of links in between two consecutive cutting teethes and the closer the pitch are, the finer its cutting ability. The drive links or the drive lugs as most people would call them are the ones that cling to the chain drive sprocket which grips the chain into the cutting bar as well, guiding it around the bar while keeping it from popping out of place. “Shredding” and “Chiseling” chains have different sized clearing cutters which “rip” off the wood in many ways depending upon the size of their clearing teethes.

3/8th Low Profile:

These chains are used in chainsaws that are 2.5 cubic feet or less (20 to 24 inch cutting bar) which are used mostly for pruning and trimming trees leaving a clean cut. These type of cutting chains are mostly used by arborists in maintaining trees.

Semi-chisel Chains:

These type of cutting chains are mostly used wet conditions such as debris clearing operations during storms. The cutting teethes of these chains remain sharper for a longer time and leave a “shredding” consistency on the wood being cut. Although it is highly efficient in cutting considering its ability which can be used in any given condition, it is not as fast cutting compared to other chain types since it has a substantially big clearing cutter.

Round Chisel:

Round chisel chains were designed to be used in clean cutting conditions and can easily cut different varieties of hardwood and softwood. It is very easy to file and sharpen manually and can cut faster than most cutting chains which makes it the choice of most professional chainsaw users.

Square Chisel:

When cutting speed is concerned, the square chisel is the best recommended type of cutting chain that you can equip your chainsaw with since its clearing teethes were designed to simulate a knife’s cutting edge. Although it is considered as the best in the market today, it can also be considered as one of the most difficult chains to sharpen since its perforated teethes need to be sharpened using an electric chain sharpener. Added to this, getting the right angle on every cutting teeth is difficult enough without the help of these sharpeners.

Traditional Chain Sharpening and Other Alternative Methods

It is not unlikely that you may have had enough of manually sharpening your chainsaw using the conventional methods of painstakingly undertaking the process of individually honing each cutting teeth until you achieve in getting a very sharp cutting consistency. Although it is a very rewarding effort to have achieved sharpening your cutting chains with your own hands, using an electric chain sharpener would be more efficient since it can maintain a constant angle that gives you cutting chains a consistent sharpness. There are manual chain sharpeners that can give the same result as some people prefer to do it the old fashioned way which enables them to sharpen their chains without taking out too much material from their chain.

Without a doubt, electric chain sharpeners offer a quick alternative to manual sharpening methods, but they do tend to take out more materials from your chain in the process of sharpening them. This could quickly sharpen your cutting chains, as well as wear them out faster than you may think since an electric chain sharpener has a consistently running motor that grinds off the metal from your chains faster compared to that of manual sharpening. There is nothing much to discuss about using electric chain sharpeners since these machines can be used with ease provided that you know the exact setting which is prescribed appropriately for your chains with regard to its cutting angle and pitch.

There are alternative ways of sharpening without the need of using an electric chainsaw sharpener which offers a more detailed method of honing your chains using the old methods of manual sharpening. Bar mounted manual chain sharpeners offer the same sharpening result rendered by electric chainsaw sharpeners with regards to quality, though it is a very slow process to undertake since you are obliged to use your hands in filing down each cutting teeth, one at a time. Labor intensive as it is, it is the first step in learning the age-old method of sharpening your cutting chains.

A bar mounted chainsaw sharpener can be attached on the cutting bar of your chainsaw while your chainsaw is securely mounted on a vise. Specific settings such as pitch and cutting angle are already inscribed on the chain sharpener and is only a matter of choosing the right setting that is appropriate for your cutting chain. Once set, you can then proceed to file down each cutting teeth on your chainsaw as its manual grinding motion is already fixed in one particular angle which is securely fastened so you will have no problem with deviating from your sharpening angle.

Most bar mounted chainsaw sharpeners can use regular circular files, which can be attached to its mounting carriage. Most people would just sharpen their chains right away using dry sharpening methods. Others however use some form of lubricant while sharpening each teeth and in most cases, the use of lubricating oil comes in handy for purposes such as this. Sharpening using a file usually means taking out the surface metal of the cutting chain, which exposes in to air that can start oxidation which leads to the onset of rust. The use of oil while filing down you cutting chains not only makes filing easy as it lubricates the teethes, but also leaves a coat of protection on the bare metal exposed to the air so that oxidation is minimized.

Other alternative methods of slowing down oxidation includes applying a generous amount of lubricating oil on your cutting chain and placing it inside a tin can and setting it in low fire until it starts to “cook”. This alternative method tempers your chains and allow partial absorption of oil into the chain itself, sealing out moisture to avoid the buildup of rust if you intend in storing your newly sharpened cutting chain for any future use. While waiting for your chains to cool down, you can apply another amount of oil on your chains after which you can finally put it inside an acid free plastic sandwich bag and store it away until such time as you are ready to use it.