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Chain sharpening

Post in 'The Wood Shed' started by Oww My Back Hurts, Jun 23, 2013.

  1. Oww My Back Hurts

    Oww My Back Hurts Member

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    Just wondering, how long do you usually use a chain before it needs to be sharpened again? What does it usually cost you (if you don't do it yourself)

    I had my blade sharpened about 2 weeks ago and I've cut about 2 or 3 cords of wood with it and it's dull again. Just wondering if that is normal or if I am doing something wrong. They charge me $10 to sharpen the chain

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  2. ScotO

    ScotO Guest

    Get yourself some files, and watch some youtube tutorials. Sharpening chains isn't hard to do at all......just need to learn the fundamentals.
    I make sure my chains are sharp before every job I do. Makes the cutting much easier, and much funner, when you don't have to fight the saw.....it does the work for you.
    Believe it or not, if you hit a lot of dirt (and even the minerals in some species of wood) will dull your chain super fast.

    BTW, 10 clams for a sharpened chain? That's pretty darned expensive, IMO. Send them in a box to me, I'll do it for half that price!!
  3. thewoodlands

    thewoodlands Minister of Fire

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    Like Scotty said get yourself some files, I had a sharp chain on today when cutting an old downed maple but parts of it had dirt in the middle, I ended up filing it twice.

    When I started cutting I hardly ever sharpened in the woods, that was a mistake so I hand file more, it also gives you a small rest.
  4. wesessiah

    wesessiah Member

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    i sharpen after every time i use it, whether i use a whole tank of gas, or half a tank. i can never get it quite as amazing as a brand new chain though... which i find frustrating, because when it comes to sharpening knives i'm a wizard. i haven't seen a manufacturer yet that gets a blade as sharp as i do, and i only go as high as 1000 grit.
  5. Nick Mystic

    Nick Mystic Minister of Fire

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    I use one of those sharpening gizmos that you clamp onto your chain bar and has a file that slides along a rod assembly that holds it at the proper angle and height for the chain. It is pretty quick and easy to set up and does a good job sharpening the chain. I think it cost less than $10 and you need to replace the file after maybe 20 sharpenings. It works best if you have a workbench with a vise that allows you to clamp the chain bar in the vice as you do the sharpening, but you can use it anywhere. As for how often I sharpen - whenever the blade gets dull. That can happen in the first few minutes of use if I hit a rock on a downed log or get the blade into the dirt. Or I might go through several tanks of gas before the blade gets dull if I'm cutting softer woods that are up off the ground. When I'm cutting oak, which is what I most often do, I usually end up sharpening the blade after each tank of gas.
    PapaDave likes this.
  6. Macpolski

    Macpolski Member

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    When storms went through our area last June, there were trees downed aplenty. I learned a tidbit last year via another wooburning/woodcutting website - "sharpen before it gets dull"; this is the greatest tip I can relay. In addition, around these parts, $10 is what is typically charged to sharpen a chain. I will only use their service if I rock a chain pretty good. For me, good files and a guide work pretty good. I'm no expert, but am happy with my own results.

    http://www.oregonproducts.com/pro/products/accessories/AssembledFileGuide.htm

    http://www.husqvarna.com/us/accessories-old/product-accessories/filing-equipment/combination-gauges/
  7. JP11

    JP11 Minister of Fire

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    I'll echo the sentiments above. It's much easier to KEEP it sharp than to sharpen it after it won't cut worth a damn.

    JP
    PA Fire Bug likes this.
  8. smokinj

    smokinj Minister of Fire

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    Whats worse than cutting Oak with a dull chain? (Hedge) :)
  9. WellSeasoned

    WellSeasoned Guest

    Ive asked the same question 6 mos ago. Now I'm a pro.... +2 on filing before a chain is dull.
    Joful, Shane N and zap like this.
  10. ScotO

    ScotO Guest

    Cutting with the chain on backwards!! A buddy of mine did that once!! Don't ask me how, but he called me up and explained what it was doing. I figured he'd hit metal or a rock or something. He brought the saw to my shop and sure enough...........the chain was on BACKWARDS!!
  11. Woody Stover

    Woody Stover Minister of Fire

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    Agreed, sharpen your chains before they get dull. It only takes a few light strokes to bring 'em back. I usually hand-sharpen twice (need to pick up a file holder, been free-handing 'em) then use the clamp-on guide the third time to true up all the angles. It takes time but you'll save a lot of money if you cut a lot of wood. There was an old boy who once offered to sell me a grinder...need to ask him about that again....

    You might find some good threads in the Gear Forum....
  12. Bspring

    Bspring Feeling the Heat

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    I sharpen mine by hand. My file slides into a holder about 1" wide that helps me get the angle right. I mount the bar in a vice. I use about 3 strokes per tooth. It took several months to get where I am now but I can do a decent job in a short amount of time; not as good as a new one. I have learned to make sure your file is good. Your can hear the difference on a sharp and dull file.
  13. smokinj

    smokinj Minister of Fire

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    I seem someone do it on a milling chain. Its was about 20 out and the winds where gusting at 30mph. It was supposed to be a quick run. :eek:
    Thistle and ScotO like this.
  14. bogydave

    bogydave Minister of Fire

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    +1 from above.

    How fast they dull has a lot of variables.
    Touch the ground when cutting, chain is dull.
    Dirt on the wood, chain dulls pretty fast.
    Dirt , dust , foreign material in the wood (we have glacier silt in the wood here)
    Type of chain, some handle dirty wood better.

    Learn to file by hand or
    buy 4 or 5 chains take them to get sharpened, R&R the dull chain , drop 2 or 3 off to get sharpened.

    I file after each trip out cutting & carry an extra chain or 2 to the field. Swap if needed when out & sharpen in the shop.

    Not always happy with the local sharpening outfits. Some (most ) grinders over heat the cutter tips, change the temper of the steel , & the chain dulls even faster.
    Filing is not always perfect but after a while you get better at it.
  15. bogydave

    bogydave Minister of Fire

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    Backwards ?
    Waiting for some one to come out with a chain that is sharp on both sides of the cutter. :)
    When one side gets dull, turn it around. LOL :)
    PapaDave, Trilifter7, smokinj and 3 others like this.
  16. Backwoods Savage

    Backwoods Savage Minister of Fire

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    My back hurts too. As for sharpening, I learned to sharpen chains without a holder; free hand all the way. Many years later I tried on of the file holders but didn't like it. Then my hands got so bad and hurt so much while filing that I broke down and got a grinder, like a dremel. Stones are cheap and you can get the grinders sometimes at $10 but most are around $30-$40. Well worth it. Mine came with clamps so I'd just clamp it on the battery of the atv when out in the woods. Sometimes I would sharpen before I went to the woods but if you cut for long you should sharpen again. One good rule of thumb is to sharpen after every tank of gas or at most, every other tank of gas. Doing it like this, the time required is very little. Just a couple minute job. As for how well these things work, they work very well once you do a couple of them. The only thing you have to be really careful with is to not hold that stone on the tooth very long. Heat can do bad things. But I've been using one of these tools for maybe 15 years or possibly more and love it. Wish I'd got one sooner and it is a whole lot cheaper than taking it somewhere to be sharpened.

    By the way, I also own only one chain per saw. I won't buy another chain until the one I have is worn out. I just can't see much sense in tieing up all those dollars on chains, especially when it takes so little time to sharpen one.
    NortheastAl and nrford like this.
  17. Boom Stick

    Boom Stick Feeling the Heat

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    I started sharpening by hand and initially I just used a round file with no guide. It worked well enough but eventually the chain will need to be put on a machine to sharpen it.....I went and bought the stihl kit with a guide and am getting a way better hone on my chain. I will always use the guide as it works awesome. No need to pay for what you can do in 5 minutes and for a lot less.
    Trilifter7 likes this.
  18. Oww My Back Hurts

    Oww My Back Hurts Member

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    Wow, thanks for all the great info, I'm glad I asked because I've been going through probably 15 tanks of gas between sharpenings -- basically until the wood I'm cutting starts to get burn marks from friction with the saw. I've picked up a sharpening kit & will start sharpening way more often.
    Backwoods Savage likes this.
  19. Corey

    Corey Minister of Fire

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    +1000 for sharpening/touch up every tank of gas - or even more if the chain needs it. If it's not sharp, you're just wasting time, effort, gas and increasing the risk of an accident from trying to push the chain or getting fatigued while waiting the extra time for it to cut. Also, I always put my saw away oiled, sharpened and gassed up - you never know when you might need to cut your way out of an emergency...storm damage, tree blocking road, tornado, zombie apocalypse, etc.

    Files are always good to have. But I love my Dremmel stones, even though they seem to have a bad rap on here. They should have a stone for most any size chain. I find using the dremmel allows me to focus more on the angles and goes as fast or faster than a file.. especially if I need to take extra off if the tooth is dinged up. A very light touch and a few quick passes is all it generally needs, but you can always add just a slight amount of pressure and make more passes to clean up a bad tooth.

    Also note, the files themselves will get dull - so prepare to replace them when they don't seem to cut as well. The dremmel stones also wear out with some regularity, but $5 for two stones and maybe 6-8 full chain sharpenings per stone, you're in the 30 cents per sharpening range.

    Some additional discussion:

    http://www.hearth.com/talk/threads/chain-saw-sharpening-with-a-dremel.85074/
    Backwoods Savage likes this.
  20. osagebow

    osagebow Minister of Fire

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    hahaha...did that several weeks back.:rolleyes: only took a sec to figure it out, though.
  21. Trooper

    Trooper Guest

    Looks like I am in the minority here, but I have about 10-12 chains that I cycle through, by swapping them out when one gets dull. I keep the dull ones in a box, and when I get about 6 of them I head out to the garage and fire up the HF chain sharpener. I find that process more workable than sharpening each time I cut.
  22. Backwoods Savage

    Backwoods Savage Minister of Fire

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    Another rule of thumb is if you have to muscle that saw rather than let it cut, it needs sharpening. I've seen guys really using muscle to force that bar into the log. Not a good habit at all.
    ScotO and Macpolski like this.
  23. Ram 1500 with an axe...

    Ram 1500 with an axe... Minister of Fire

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    This is what I use, it seems to work very well, I thank a friend that gave it to me.... image.jpg
    Backwoods Savage likes this.
  24. NortheastAl

    NortheastAl Minister of Fire

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    I have the Dremel style one myself. Makes short work of sharpening a chain that hits a buried nail. Too long a time to do that by hand.
    Backwoods Savage and ScotO like this.
  25. Joful

    Joful Minister of Fire

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    Perhaps stopping to file a chain every 1 - 2 tanks of gas works for those with the leisure to work on their own property, but it's definitely not for me. When I'm out felling and cutting, I'm on someone else's land (often with them helping me), and the goal is maximum cords per hour. I take at least a half dozen chains with me of each size (I carry a full toolbox of individually-boxed chains), and just swap the chains out as they become dull. I'll usually go thru 3 - 6 chains in a day, between my 3 saws, felling, limbing, skidding, bucking, loading, and cleaning up from perhaps 3 cords.

    Then one night later that week, when things are quiet and I have some time, I'll sit down and run thru them on the bench-mounted chain grinder. This works much better for me, than wasting valuable time in the woods fiddling with a file! Put on a good radio show or podcast, and do it at home, after the kids are in bed.


    You work cheap! If you'll sharpen my 28" chains for that price, I'm sending 'em all your way! ;)

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