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Chain Saw Chains

Post in 'The Gear' started by wg_bent, Nov 21, 2005.

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  1. wg_bent

    wg_bent Minister of Fire

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    A few weeks ago I decided that my chain (the original that came with the saw) had been sharpened enough times, plus I wanted another so I would not have downtime. So I purchased a replacement chain for my Husky 136 (Their bottom end consumer saw) Since at the same time I had the old chain sharpened, I hadn't put the new one on. I did notice that the new chain looked a little different in that the little depth restrictors seemed, well....just different. I put the chain on yesterday after I touched the dirt and killed the old chain's edge. WOW....The saw NEVER cut this well. I had always been sort of dissapointed in the cutting performance of the saw compared to my fathers REALLY old homelite. I attributed the issue to the chain being a safety chain. The new chain us supposed to meet the specks for a replacement chain, but there is no way it's the same animal. Cutting a peice of 12" oak I know this weekend, I know the old chain would take 30-40 seconds...now like 15 seconds. The saw bogs down a lot less and now I can just rely on the saw weight to move through the wood. I cut down and cut up a whole tree that was 12 inches across in about 1/2 hour. I hope this chaing doesn't kill my clutch, but I might not care.

    So if your saw isn't performing well, maybe it's your chain. I was thinking I needed a new saw...not any more!!

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  2. quads

    quads Minister of Fire

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    Ah yes, the difference between a safety chain and a REAL chain!
  3. Eric Johnson

    Eric Johnson Mod Emeritus

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    Good modern safety chain is just as good as older versions that weren't so safe.

    Here's a tip: Always sharpen your chain between tanks of gas. You should always try to be sharpening sharp chains, not dull ones.

    Good sharpening is a hard skill to master, but it's worth the effort. It's much easier to maintain a good edge (and the proper angle) if you file chains before they go dull. Something to shoot for, anyway. And use a file, not a grinder.
  4. wg_bent

    wg_bent Minister of Fire

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    Eric, so right!!! I have to buy a file. The place I go for sharpening charges liek 8 buck to sharpen, plus they carve out so much of the teeth I only had it sharpened twice and I think the chain is close to being toast. The other annoying thing is that once they sharpened it the saw would always cut a slight arc. The new chain cuts perfectly straight through the log.
  5. Eric Johnson

    Eric Johnson Mod Emeritus

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    Don't ever let anyone sharpen your chain with a grinder. They do a poor job in general, and I've heard that the grinding wheel embeds little fragments of stone in the cutter metal, making it difficult or impossible to sharpen with a file after that. Plus, they never take down the rakers, which should be done with a flat file every 4 or 5 sharpenings. The pros all use files to sharpen their chains.

    If you're serious about sharpening, you should get a copy of "The Good Woodcutters Guide" by Hearthnet member Dave Johnson (relation). You can get a copy on Amazon. Ignore the bad reviews--it's a good book with a great section on how to sharpen a chain.
  6. Eric Johnson

    Eric Johnson Mod Emeritus

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    For anyone who doesn't know what a raker is or what it does, it's that little protrusion in front of the cutters. The rakers regulate how far down into the wood the tooth can cut. Without rakers, your saw would jam into the wood because it would take too much of a bite. The reason that rakers need to be filed down is that as the cutter is sharpened (becomes shorter), the raker level has to be adjusted accordingly. You do this with a special flat file that is smooth on the edges to avoid damaging the cutters when you slip.

    Filing your rakers too far down can be dangerous, however, as too much bite from the cutter can stall the saw and send the bar back at you, aka "kickback." The rakers need to be filed to a uniform height, and NOT filed down too far. To determine how much to file, you use a simple tool called a raker gauge, which rests on the tooth and allows the raker to protrude up through a slot in the gauge. Here's a picture of a raker gauge in action. The "HARD" designation on the gauge refers to the slot because there are two: one for hardwood and frozen wood, and another one for softwood and non-frozen wood.

    Files and raker gauges are available at all reputable saw shops. Some less-than-reputable shops may carry them as well. Pick up some safety gear while you're there.

    Attached Files:

  7. wg_bent

    wg_bent Minister of Fire

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    excellent. Thanks for the tips Eric.
  8. DavidV

    DavidV New Member

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    I replace the chain and bar on my 14 inch Poulan with an Oregon chain and bar 2 weeks ago and I was stunned at the way this thing cuts now. It really goes thru the wood. I'm cutting Oak, hickory, beech and a few other odds and ends and I have been very happy with the way it shoots thru it 12+ inches thick. At some point I have to suck it up and buy myself a bigger saw, but for now, the old green poulan is doing the job.
  9. Eric Johnson

    Eric Johnson Mod Emeritus

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    A chain saw has really two distinct elements: the cutting side and the power side. A good bar, chain and sprocket on a crappy saw will cut just fine as long as the powerhead stays lit, starts and has enough guts to drive the chain through the wood you're trying to cut. So, you buy a good saw for things like reliability, power, safety, etc.

    Conversely (as everyone who's ever used a chainsaw knows first-hand), the best saw in the world will be essentially useless if the cutting side is in poor repair.

    It's clearly best to have both a good saw with a good cutting side. But if you have to choose between the two, go for the new bar, chain and sprocket. For a 16" set-up, that's probably a $60-$75 investment. If you play your cards right, the bar will fit your next new saw, giving you a spare.
  10. Husky Dan

    Husky Dan New Member

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    I joined after reading your comment on the "Good Woodcutter's Guide". I have had it check out of the library for the last month now and while I'm no expert I think it's a great resource. I can't imagine anyone that has really read it giving it a poor review. It might be plainly written but it's not a novel. I like it and will buy my own when I have to return it. Dan
  11. WoodMann

    WoodMann Minister of Fire

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    I just learned my raker lesson. I thought I'd tak'em down and really get a good bite. Well, just as described; the bogged and got stuck, I really had to feather it, and it still dodn't zoom thru as when the rakers were at the proper height. Not that big of a deal really as there's hardly any meat left on the teeh and I have a new chain on the way. Wes just kinda bummed that I couldn't continue my woode cutting after a filing. Lea.
  12. kevin j

    kevin j Minister of Fire

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    eric, I agree wholeheartedly. There are good safety chains and junk safety chains. The good ones approach the efficiency of the non safety chains. Some can supposedly even bore cut, although I have not done it.
    That is heresy among the real saw fanatics. About like arguing for motorcycle helmets or quiet exhausts at the local bar. But like most things, the right tool depends on the application.

    The biggest difference I see is between full chisel and semi chisel (called chipper around here, although not really the right term). So often a person pitches the safety chipper and puts on a yellow chisel chain, then sees a huge improvement, and attributes it only to the safety non safety difference. Or compares a safety box store chain with a good pro chisel chain. (On longer bars chip clearing becomes a big issue with safety chain. I am only referring to shorter homeowner bars here.)

    I run a safety semi chisel on the low end saw that is most likely to be used by a novice helping out. More likely to hit dirt, and tip control is more of a concern because I don't know their skill level.

    I run a safety semi on my top handle one hand saw, because it sees dirt, nails, and lots of one hand use.

    Both of those are Stihl I think. Stihl doesn't stock safety chisel at my local dealer.

    On my bigger saws I run non safety semi chain because of dirt grown into trunks (ag and suburban area).

    If I was cutting big wood, green, away from civilization/nails, and especially softwoods, for sure I would run full chisel only. But that is not what I get.

    I have full chisels for each saw just in case, and have one set up with full chisel. If I am cutting large green wood where the time savings would add up, and where I am almost 100% sure there are no fence wires or nails, I will use that one. But when within 8 feet of the ground, the chisel goes back to the truck.

    To the OP: learn to file. If you have only sharpened it twice, you are running a very non sharp chain. Not necessarily badly dull, but not sharp. To me ground chain is a better edge, but you cut from 100% sharp down to 30% sharp when you take it off to have it ground again. Your average cutting day is maybe 50% sharp and you ‘get by’. With filing, you cut from maybe 90% sharp, to 75% sharp, touch the edges, and are back up to 90% sharp again. Your average day is maybe 85% sharp. Every tank or two, two or three strokes is all it takes unless you rock the chain. Then it is replace it and have it ground.

    The difference between not really dull and really sharp is huge. Eric explained it well. A good chain well maintained can make a wild thing cut like your dreams. A poor chain works on a good saw only because sheer hp pulls it through. A good chain on a good saw, well that is a precision tool and a joy to use. And much safer to use.


    kcj
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