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best way to sharpen a chain saw?

Post in 'The Gear' started by par0thead151, Sep 28, 2010.

  1. par0thead151

    par0thead151 Feeling the Heat

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    there are numerous tools out there to sharpen a saw blade, im wondering which is best for the blade, and which does the best job ad sharpening?
    i know that it can be done with a hand file, dremmel, tools from the store, to hiring the local hardware store to do it.
    i would like to do it myself.
    input on what works best would be greatly appreciated
    thanks

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  2. mtcates

    mtcates Member

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    What works best for me is just use a good ole sharp file with the saw clamped in a bench vise by the bar. You can get two hands on the file like this. Works the best for me. Good lighting is a must. The most common mistake I see with others sharpening by hand is the lack of consistency from tooth to tooth.
  3. Beowulf

    Beowulf New Member

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    Well, I bet you get a few opinions on this topic!

    I personally have used all of the methods you mention. Here are my thoughts, for what they are worth:

    1. Hand filing. Definitely an art to it. Helps to hold the bar in a vise, maybe use a guide at first to keep the angle consistent. Use the same number of strokes per link. Pros: Cheap, reasonably fast, can be done in the field, removes least amount of metal for long chain life. Cons: some skill required, possible to get the angles off and have the chain cut uneven until rectified.

    2. Hardware store: Did this a few times. Hit and miss with the operator's ability to use the machine. About $8.00 per chain where I live. Pros: cuts like a new chain (for a while.) Cons: somewhat expensive, removes a lot of metal, especially with a low skilled operator, have to go to town.

    3. Dremel tool: Keep these things around, work pretty good. Pros: a little faster than hand filing, if the chain is pretty dull. Cons: need a guide for best consistency with angles; tips are not that cheap, don't last all that long. You can heat up a tooth and soften the edge easily.

    4. HF chainsaw sharpener: Kind of like this, use one frequently. I bought enough chains to just swap in the field when one dulls up to where a few file strokes won't bring it back to "nice." Sharpen them off the saw on the HF sharpener at my leisure; Pros: fast, consistent, Cons: can still take off too much metal or heat a tooth up if you are not careful.

    Probably learning to file well, with the right size file at the correct angle is a real good place to start. Once you get that down, "automating it" with a sharpener might make sense. They are regularly on sale for $29.99 or so. Or maybe the file will be just fine. That's all I used for years.
  4. soupy1957

    soupy1957 Minister of Fire

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    When I was using my chainsaw on a regular basis, I kept one chain sharpened and ready on the workbench, and the other on the saw. In fact, that chain saw is gone now, and the 2nd chain is still hanging there waiting (lol).

    I would set aside a Saturday early morning, and sit in the garage with a small, round (about Ø.1) semi-fine file, and just patiently go around the chain, sharpening each tooth. (I'd put a piece of string around where I started, so I wouldn't forget.

    The stress of life can easily interfere with everything we do, and I made it a point to say to myself "as long as it takes me, is as long as it takes me!" and I TOOK MY TIME.

    Being careful about the angle on each tooth is important; as is wiping off the chain when done, and putting a light oil on it to protect it.

    -Soupy1957
  5. John_M

    John_M Minister of Fire

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    Par0, Good guidance here. Do a search for "chain sharpening" above and you will be directed to many excellent threads about sharpening saw chain. This subject has been discussed ad infinitum in the past.
    You will see recommendations and favorite tips from those who sharpen exclusively by hand and others who use nothing but machines and others who use both methods and others who bring their chains to a favorite chain saw service center.
    You can then "pick your poison" from the multitude of opinions.
    John_M
  6. BigV

    BigV Member

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    I purchased this electric sharpener a year ago from Harbor Freight and it works great. Easy to set-up and use and the results are almost like using a brand new blade. It’s on sale right now for $39.00

    [​IMG]
  7. ManiacPD

    ManiacPD Member

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    It's personal preference. I prefer hand filing. It took me a few times to figure it out but it isn't rocket science. The beauty of learning to hand file is it's completely portable and you can sharpen anywhere you are at any time. Husky makes a file gauge that I prefer but there are others out there. To each their own.

    If you're sharpening on a bench in your garage or basement a grinder is a great tool, but like everything, you can do damage with one if you're too aggressive.
  8. FireWalker

    FireWalker Feeling the Heat

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    If you have a workbench and a vice, get yourself a file (the right size for your chain) and learn how to do it. It's not hard. If you do a ton of sawing, buy 6 chains and go to a local saw shop when you have 3 dull ones and have him/her sharpen them.
  9. BigV

    BigV Member

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    At $7.00 a chain to have them sharpened here in NE Ohio, I would rather do them myself. In addition, I have had chains ground down over 1/16” by a reputable saw shop a few years back. Chains don’t last long when sharpened that way.

    We have a local dealer that puts on a BOGO sale on their saw blades every Valentines Day. I stock up when there on sale.
  10. Ithaca

    Ithaca New Member

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    I like the portability of a hand file and guide. I have to stop and sharpen at least once when out gathering a truckload of wood. Nothing like a wet or muddy log to dull things, and being able to stop and sharpen keeps the cutting going fast.
  11. smokinj

    smokinj Minister of Fire

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    Just depends on your demand for sharp chains....
  12. oldspark

    oldspark Guest

    Does anyone besides Stihl make a bench mount hand filing device so it is easy to do them off the chainsaw, doing them in a vise seams like it would be time consuming.
  13. Gator eye

    Gator eye Member

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    At the beginning of the day put the whole saw in the vise by the bar, hit it with a round file and I'm good for the day.

    I usually touch it up real quick out in the field everytime I fill the gas tank, mostly for the extra break time than the chain being dull.
  14. Got Wood

    Got Wood Minister of Fire

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    This looks interesting to me. I have never gotten the hang of hand sharpening. Has anyone else used this? Opinions?
  15. Highbeam

    Highbeam Minister of Fire

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    I too use this grinder and it is a very good deal. All you have to do is sharpen 4 chains and it has paid for itself. I have sharpened at least twenty chains with it and the dang thing keeps making me money! It only takes a meager amount of skill to set up and use properly to get a like new chain every time that cuts straight and fast.

    I never bothered learning to use a hand file. I also never bothered using a hand powered drill. I mix my cookie dough with a kitchenaid mixer too. Life is too short to spend time using manual tools. I will admit that I have dulled a chain in the field early in the day and after swapping to my second sharp chain I worried that if I dull another chain that I'm done for the day. It would have been nice to be able to hand file it in the woods, I decided, that I would instead buy more chains to have more backups.

    Just this Sunday I spent a few minutes in the garage with a cold beverage and sharpened the OEM 20" Stihl safety chain. I've been cutting with it plus a second Stihl skip chain for two full seasons and sharpened each at least 10 times. Each chain has more than 50% of each tooth left so don't buy into the story that grinders take too much tooth and waste chain life.
  16. oldspark

    oldspark Guest

    Highbeam, any problems with flexing of that unit, some people have complained about that very issue.
  17. TreePointer

    TreePointer Minister of Fire

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    My preference: Place saw in heavy bench vise and hand file with a file guide.
  18. golfandwoodnut

    golfandwoodnut Minister of Fire

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    I have one of these units too. It is a little odd the first time you do a chain, but then you get the hang of it. I am not sure what you mean by flexing. There is no real give to it. I am sure pro units are more exact. They try to tell you to turn it off and on with each tooth, but I do not think anyone does that. I still find hand sharpening faster because you do not have to take the chain on and off. So I hand sharpen until the blade does not seem up to par then sharpen on the HF. I keep several chains. I have found you can buy new ones for $13 on EBAY and they are brand name. So it is hard for me to pay $8 to get one sharpened.
  19. Cascade Failure

    Cascade Failure Member

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    I have the Chicago Electric sharpener pictured and I am not real happy with it. Too much play in the manner it holds the tooth in relation to the grinding disk. I went back to the old hand file and vise and only use the CE when I have done some serious damage to the teeth where I need to remove more metal a bit quicker, such as hitting a rock.
  20. OhioBurner©

    OhioBurner© Minister of Fire

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    I just bought one of these today infact. I should have came here for some reviews first but I didnt think about it. Dang I got to remember that everything has been talked about on here before!

    I hope this unit works ok, from the sounds of it it should. I bought the Stihl sharpening files, and have been running those files on the saw after say 2 hrs of continuous use. Now both my chains have been sharpened probably 5 times each, and just dont seem to cut like new after filed anymore. So my plan is to sharpen both with the HF electric grinder and then touch em up in the field as needed with file.

    Is there anything about the HF grinder I should be aware of before I use it the first time? FWIW I'm using the RMC3 Stihl chains - yeah I'd like to step up to the more aggressive ones but thats just what came with the saw.
  21. TMonter

    TMonter Minister of Fire

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  22. CTYank

    CTYank Minister of Fire

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    What I've found to work best for 30+ yrs now, for guided filing of chains on 7 of my saws & numerous others, is a Granberg G-106B.
    Clamps on bar and more lightly clamps the chain. Indexed to back side of cutter- simple stop that swivels up on advancing chain.
    You insert file (5/32" or 7/32" typ) and tighten clamps.
    You set angles- about vertical axis (typ 30 deg) and about horizontal axis (typ 0 deg). You set height so nominal 1/5 of file is above cutter top. File cutter until sharp, then repeat same # of strokes for the rest of the cutters on that side.
    Set angle about vertical for opposite side cutters, and file them.
    You can insert a small flat file to set depth gauges every X times you sharpen the cutters.

    Enables minimum removal of metal from cutters, easily carried on the job, consistent results. $30 @Amazon. What's not to like?
  23. firefighterjake

    firefighterjake Minister of Fire

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    I can't seem to get my Granberg to work really well . . . I can cut one side with no issues and it does a nice job (although it is a bit awkward and takes more time to set up than hand filing).
  24. Highbeam

    Highbeam Minister of Fire

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    Once you adjust the chain clamping mechanism on the HF sharpener it clamps the chain securely. That is, the 3/8" stihl chain, not sure what happens with smaller sizes.

    All of these electric sharpeners ahve a long arm and a pivot. That pivot and long arm will always allow some play or flex. I actually use that to my advantage if I think a particular tooth needs a touch more than the "no-flex" setting. Flex sounds like a bad thing but it is unavoidable and a benefit so long as it is not excessive. I do not find the flex to be as bad as I thought it would be based on reading reviews. Those negative reviews are almost always from someone that has purchased a different grinder for an obscene amoutn of money.

    It's like the guys with one ton trucks saying that a half ton can't do any work.

    I worry that going back and forth between hand filing and a grinder can cause trouble. The grinder leaves a certain profile to the tooth that isn't perfectly round. If you hit that ground tooth with a round file then you will be reshaping the profile more than sharpening. All that work will be undone the next time you grind. Your chains will last longer and your sharpening effort will be reduced if you stick with one or the other I would think.
  25. oldspark

    oldspark Guest

    I could not find the older post about the flexing, I cant get my chains as sharp as I use to but could never get them as sharp as the shop, maybe I should try the HF unit as I might be in their store in a little over a week.

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