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Another Chain Sharpening Thread

Post in 'The Gear' started by mayhem, Apr 9, 2008.

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  1. mayhem

    mayhem Minister of Fire

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    I jsut camea cross this product and was wondering if its worth the effort or not.

    http://www.amazon.com/Improved-Elec...f=pd_bbs_8?ie=UTF8&s=hi&qid=1207765734&sr=8-8

    For now I tend to just buy cheap chains from Wally World and when they're dull they go in the recycle bin. This bugs me because its wasteful, but frankly its cheaper than buying quality chains that I then pay to have shrapened. I figure if I cna invest in a good sharpener that will do the job well that I can then move on to buying better quality chains.

    I go through maybe 3-4 chains a year, but they're like $7-8 apiece...everywhere else I've been to a basic 18" chain starts around $20 or so.

    Suggestions on how I cna better manage myself?

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  2. TMonter

    TMonter Minister of Fire

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  3. JustWood

    JustWood Minister of Fire

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    I used to have the commercial version ( I believe Oregon made it )of that when we had a feller buncher. Man do those things go through chains and wood. You won't regret paying the extra money for that model.
  4. kevin j

    kevin j Minister of Fire

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    If you only use a few chains via that method, you probably don't need your own grinder. Having one would be nice, and friends would come out everywhere to have you sharpen for them, so thqt could be enjoyable.

    I would buy a file guide and a dozen quality files, a gauge and flat files for the depth gauges and learn to file.
    Yes it can become ford vs. chevy when the real hard core people argue about a degree or two of this angle or that, but to simply maintain a daily work production chain is not rocket science. You can do it, probably enjoy it, and you will definitely notice a constantly sharp chain. You will be amazed at the difference between 'still seems to cut ok' and 'really really sharp.'

    I file 3 to 4 strokes every tank or two, and anytime it touches dirt. 5 minutes or so.
    Lots of good inet info, Oregon, Carlton and others on sharpening

    Touches rock or steel, I take it to the store for grinding, which is about $6.
    Good new chains are $20 range. Have not used the wally world chains. Probably fine, but I'd not like to think of their quality,or lack thereof, breaking and slinging back at me.

    k
  5. lvfd50

    lvfd50 New Member

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    That northern tool sharpener looks nice but to save a bunch of money I purchased one from Harbor Frieght, which is on sale all the time, and love it. Now if I had to sharpen a ton of chains it might get a little to tedious, but for the amount I do it works great. The best part is it payed for itself really quick. I think on sale I paid around $40 or maybe a little less and it actually looks very similar to the northern one. One other nice advantage is after cutting for a while I will change my chain, since I always have two, and touch up the first one. This way I always have one sharp chain and one chain I'm using. I don't even use my files as much anymore.
    I say buy 2 quality chains, the files, and the sharpener and you should be good for a long time.
  6. TMonter

    TMonter Minister of Fire

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    The big complaints about the harbor one is that it has a lot of slop in it and doesn't cut near as straight as the northern tool one. The harbor freight one is also mostly plastic so it flexes when sharpening chains. The HF isn't a bad sharpener per say, but it certainly isn't the quality of the northern tool one and if you do more than your own chains occasionally the northern tool one is the way to go.
  7. Gooserider

    Gooserider Mod Emeritus

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    I have the HF grinder. I haven't used it since I learned how to file by hand, which I do after every tank... If I had a rock hit or a big hunk of metal, I MIGHT be tempted to grind the chain, but for normal use, no way... It is far less hassle to hand file the chain a few strokes on each tooth after each tank of gas, and that way the chain stays SHARP... When I was grinding it didn't get the chain any sharper, and it was a pain constantly taking the chain on and off the saw.

    A side effect of having a really sharp chain is that your bar will last longer as well - dull chains need more force to cut, which increases the bar wear.

    Gooserider
  8. Turner-n-Burner

    Turner-n-Burner New Member

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    Ditto that on the hand sharpening. Maybe it's just me, but with all the links trying their best to twist and kink, I find that I can hand file a chain nearly as fast as I can swap them - and with much less cursing.

    I'll drop chains off for sharpening if I hit rock and really mangle them, but at $12 or so for a good chain at baileys, spending $100 on a sharpener doesn't make much sense to me. If you're paying $20 for a chain, you're getting ripped. go to www.baileysonline.com.
  9. gpcollen1

    gpcollen1 Minister of Fire

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    I have just built up about 4 or 5 chains per saw and then drop them off to be sharpened. I do everything else around here and did not need one more thing added to my list. It really is a cheap way out for me. I do not go through chains that often and at under $10 per sharpening, well I can live with a $8 bill at my local shop here and there. What I cannot afford is for a mechanic to work on my vehicle...
  10. Gooserider

    Gooserider Mod Emeritus

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    Well, I used to think that was a way to go as well... But unless you are swapping your chain after EACH tank of gas, you are spending most of your time cutting with a DULL chain - this works you harder, works the saw harder and works the chain harder, significantly increasing your costs for the latter two.

    It is FAR easier to cut with a really sharp chain, once you have done so for a while, you even start noticing the way performance falls off towards the end of a tank, but it's nothing like what you get with a chain that's been on the saw for a while, that is really poor...

    A file costs a dollar or two, a file handle is another few dollars, ditto for a raker guage and a raker file (which you probably still need if you get your chains ground, as nobody that I've ever had grind a chain touches the rakers - I've asked them to and they won't, the chain grinders aren't set up to do it.) This means my cost for sharpening approaches zero - maybe 5-10 cents a tank if I were to try to amortize the cost of the file :roll:

    I can sharpen the chain dozens of times with one file, and it takes me only a little longer to file the chain on the saw, and maybe tweak the tension a bit, than it does for me to go through all the hassles of changing a chain. Unless I'm getting rained out, or have some other unusual event that stops me from cutting abruptly, I simply file the chain at the end of each tank of gas - If I'm going to be cutting more, it gives me and the saw a chance to cool down and take a break. If I'm done for the day, it lets the saw cool so that I'm not putting it away hot... Takes about 10 -15 seconds a cutter w/ practice, (another reason to do it after every tank, it takes a lot less effort to touch up a chain that is still fairly sharp than it does to bring a dull one back to life) so a small bar takes me about 5 - 10 minutes, maybe 15 for a big bar, double that if you have to do the rakers as well (typically they will need a hit every second or third time)

    I even think I can do a little better job than the grinder - I don't risk burning the steel with a file, and since I can always file to the outside of the teeth, I get the same sharpness on both sides of the chain - the grinder always turns the same way, so the teeth on one side are sharpened to the inside.

    Can't urge you enough to learn how to file and do it regularly...

    Gooserider
  11. kevin j

    kevin j Minister of Fire

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    +1 on filing. we're ganging up on you.

    It's not a money thing. It is a time thing. Not just time of changing, but time in cutting.
    You may think the chain is 'sharp' but it is really only 'acceptable' enough not to change it yet.
    Once you run fresh touched up chain all the time you will feel it pull in and feel it cutting.
    I will bet a sharp chipper chain will still cut way faster than a chisel on the 'change it' rotation.

    File every tank (or two, you will feel it an know when to file), file whenver it touched dirt, and grind for rock or steel.

    You will notice it, and REALLY notice it when you use someone else's saw......

    k
  12. mayhem

    mayhem Minister of Fire

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    ok then, file it is. Got any specific recommendations? Just get a basic set of saw files that are the proper size for my saw and just get the feel for the right angle to file at or do you guys use a jig of some sort to guarantee the proper angle?
  13. kevin j

    kevin j Minister of Fire

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    Think of it as a good experiment....
    Try this: Run a chain until you think it is ready to change, or remeber how long you ran. Then, at HALF that time, try filing the chain. See how much difference it makes. Then run half that time again, (1/4 of what you would have run it) and file it. Notice the diffeerence. You will quickly be able to sense the difference between worn and fresh in a tank or two. (I have longer chains and small gas tanks, so why I reference one or two tanks. depends on the wood also and chisel or chipper chain. goose does one tank, and he uses full chisel.)


    Plenty of good info on AS site, but I think you will get overwhelmed about the 'ultimate' suggestions. For now, just start with learning to make it sharper than it is now! Doesn't have to be perfect on a few tries.

    I would NOT free file it, use a guide. Touching up later without a guide is possible, but learn with a guide for now. It is important to have the file correct diameter located at the right height. This is what sets the angle of the top plate. File too low, the top plate angle is too shallow.

    There are small roller guides that you hold on the chain and run the file across it. I have not used.

    IMO the ones that clamp on to the bar are too time consuming and complicated to use. Had one, gave it away. I find hand filing almost as good, and the clamp on ones don't replace occasional grinding anyway.

    I use the guide that clamps onto the file.

    http://www.stihlusa.com/chainsaws/acc_filing.html#filingkit
    Middle of the page.

    You do need to get the guide and file diameter size for the chain you have. Assuming you are using rounded corner chipper/semi chisel chain, not square cornered full chisel?

    Get several plastic file handles also. An old tubeless tire rubber stem works in a pinch, but don't file without some sort of end handle. Running a file pointed end through your hand would ruin the day...

    Raker depth gauge and flat file are top right of the page.

    Half dozen rounds, flat, depth gauge, and file guide would probably less than $25.

    STihl has some simple info in the video (avialble on their site). Oregon and CArlton sites have better info.

    I have a clamping thing on top of my saw tub, but try clamping the bar between a couple boards in a bench vise. You want it rigid, not wiggle or it rounds the cutting edge. ONce you learn, you can file on teh tailgate or on a log,but for now reduce the number of variable.
    I set the brake, mark one tooth with white paint marker stick to know where I started. If you have a painted master link already start there.
    File from inside to outside. out to in the sharp corner is harder on the file.
    Align file with the tooth angle and note which stamped line of the file guide linges up (different marks). Worry about changing the angles later, just duplicate what you have for now.
    Handle flat, 90degrees to bar.
    Look at the edge of the inside plate, not the top plate. File several strokes until it appears sharp. Don't worry about finding the worst, 'master tooth' for now. Now do all the teeth that way.
    File a few RH teeth, then the LH teeth, then release chain brake, move chain ahead, reset, and file some more.

    Depth guages, STihl shows using the tool over the teeth and flat filing the gauge down flush with the tool. I was taught to use the tool, slide the end of flat file across the top and if it snags the tip of depth gauge, it needs lowering. Don't file as is. Lift the tool and stand it on end in the notch ahead of the cutter, behind the dg (in the space you filed with the round file), then flat file the dg. The tool acts as a prtector for the newly filed tooth. One slip of the flat file would take off your newly fresh cutter edge otherwise.

    It may take you a half hour first. In normal work, it is less than 5 minutes.

    This is abreviated, I'm sure I missed plenty. check CArlton and Oregon sites. I need to head to work. goose, over to you.

    k
  14. Gooserider

    Gooserider Mod Emeritus

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    Well I free hand file - it's the way that the guy who taught me does it.

    I start by picking a tooth at random and coloring it with a black Sharpie marker - the key thing is that you need to have some kind of mark to tell you where you are on the chain so that you know when you've gone around once. On some chains you will have a spot where they have two cutters in a row on the same side - some folks use that, or a master link, doesn't really matter.

    Husky makes a nice file handle that grabs the file nicely, and has 25* and 30* angles molded into the edges, which is handy as a check on your angles. They also make a filing guide that I've never used, but some folks like that is a little "saddle" like deal that fits over the bar - it would probably work with the technique that I use.

    I do all the teeth on one side, working at the same spot on the bar, and advancing the chain for each tooth, filing from the inside to the outside. I hold the bar and chain with one hand, and file with the other. Hold the file flat / perpendicular to the bar, and matching the angle on the chain tooth, which will probably be either 25* or 30* depending on the chain. Push the file straight back into the gullet of the tooth, don't try to push down into the bar, or lift up as you stroke - the top of the file diameter will stick above the cutter a small amount, which is what sharpens the top edge of the cutters, and you want to preserve this distance. Make a smooth, straight stroke of the file, using the full length.

    I was taught that it is good to try to twist your wrist a little as you stroke, so that the file top surface turns AWAY from the tooth edge. This allegedly puts little micro-serrations into the edge, which is supposed to make it stay sharp longer and cut better. (This is why I don't like the guides that clamp the file so that it can't rotate) I don't know how much of a difference it really makes, but it doesn't hurt.

    When I finish all the teeth on one side, I either spin the saw 180* or flip it upside down, this puts the cutters on the opposite sides, so that you can sharpen the other side with the same hand as you did the first, though you will have to shift the angle a bit... In theory this should help you keep both sides sharpened the same, if you swap hands you will get uneven sharpening as just about everyone is stronger on one side than the other.

    I then do the rakers the same way - using the raker gauge, I check each one and file down as needed, either keeping the guage on the tooth and filing in the slot, or tilting it up and using the guage as a guard for the cutter edge. Again, always file from the inside to the outside, do all the rakers on one side, flip the saw, and do the other side.

    As you can tell, there is some level of difference between the way that different people do their filing, IMHO the key thing is that you find a method that works for you.

    Gooserider
  15. kevin j

    kevin j Minister of Fire

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    mayhem
    basically goose & I are saying teh same thing. he hand files, I prefer a guide, especially for newbie, and much is the comfort level or how we were taught, and have most expereince with. I think we both would summarize not to get too intimidated by the fine points, or the personal preferences, or thinking it is rocket sceince. Lot of good info on websites. Just get some stuff, and try it.

    Run your chain half as long as you think it would have lasted before changing. File it, no matter how clumsy your first attempts, I think you will be shocked at how dull it really was......

    Using precision tools is like the difference between driving a sedan and a bmw. Both get the job done, but the experience is a lot more satisfying and the work becomes fun.

    k
  16. Eric Johnson

    Eric Johnson Mod Emeritus

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    I file by hand, too, using basically the same approach as Goose. I have a C-clamp screwed into the end of my workbench to hold the tip of the bar in both filing positions (upside down and rightside up).

    What Goose said about the wrist action with the file is an important point. I don't flip my wrist so much as pull the file straight up at the end of my stroke. This breaks off any uneven metal on the cutting edge, basically giving me a straight cutting edge. So it's: push the file forward and then pull it straight up when you get to the end of the stroke. Usually, when making more than one stroke, I only do it once--generally on the last stroke.
  17. jebatty

    jebatty Minister of Fire

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    I've filed by hand for years, but saw the comments on the Northern Tool chain sharpener, and for the price thought I would give it a try. I use my Husky 372XP a lot, 18" bar, and not just for firewood. Small logging operation. It seemed that after awhile I just couldn't keep the chain sharp like new, so I would start a new chain. Maybe I didn't file the chain often enough.

    Today I used the Northern Tool chain sharpener for the first time. Sharpened 10 chains, put one on, and gave it a try. It threw the chips like new. Likely I will hand file several times, then switch to re-sharpened chain, etc., until all 10 chains have been put to use. The re-sharpen all 10 again with the Northern. The 72 chain takes the 60-25-10 angles. I used the Oregon 511 manual to set up the Northern (good advice).

    Sharpening multiple chains at the same time is easy and fast. All sharpened at the same settings, so all cutters are the same.
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