Chainsaw won't cut straight (pulls to the right)

aries339 Posted By aries339, Nov 15, 2012 at 4:09 PM

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  1. aries339


    Dec 22, 2010
    Chicago Area
    I've searched and read some threads on Hearth as well as an arborist forum, but I'm hoping someone can offer me some specific advise based on my particulars...

    I'm new to chainsaws. I bought a Poulan 18" and it cut like a knife through butter the first 2 days I used it. Ever since, it angles to the right as it cuts. After I cut a full bar's width, it curves and I can't rock the saw in the groove. Then it either jams, or the chain spins but doesn't "sink" and cut.

    The bar seems to be straight... and the chain is only 5 days old so I don't think it's dull yet. Can anyone tell me what I'm doing wrong, or what I did to cause this problem??

    Thanks a ton in advance!

  2. jdp1152

    Minister of Fire

    Oct 4, 2012
    You sure you're not getting pinched from the weight of the wood on each side?
  3. ScotO


    sounds to me like the cutters on one side are either dull, or you may have hit dirt or a nail in your wood. Can you post a close-up pic of the chain in question from the top view?
  4. raybonz

    Minister of Fire

    Feb 5, 2008
    Carver, MA.
    Sounds like it is sharpened incorrectly I would take a good look at the chain..

  5. eclecticcottage

    Minister of Fire

    Dec 7, 2011
    I'll bet on the chain. Did you get into dirt with it? That'll dull it out like nobody's business.
  6. Trundle


    Feb 12, 2011
    Western MT

    Howdy. No offense meant but with you being new to chainsaws (welcome to the world's funnest club, by the way) I'd bet money that your chain is, in fact, very dull. Even in clean wood the cutters on your chain will start to lose their 'keen'. Two or three swipes with a file every 2nd or 3rd tank will keep you smiling. Most chain has a line etched into the top of the cutter that helps keep the angle correct. There are plenty of file guides that take the guess work out of sharpening but you'll find, after a while, that muscle memory kicks in and you can quickly freehand your way to a very sharp chain. Rakers are another issue. Again, you can get a raker guide to get you started. The rakers are the flat vertical tab immediately in front of the cutter. They protect you from doing overly serious damage to the cutters, mitigate kickback potential (very important not to get them too low in relation to the cutter) and generally are the deciding factor in whether your chain cuts smoothly or not. If your some of the cutters are damaged and dull, that could explain the pulling to the right. I'd start off with getting the chain sharp and even. If it still pulls, I'd take the bar to the shop and get it trued up (pretty easy to get a bit of a tweak in some bars). One last thing about bars. Every third sharpening or so you should take the bar off and flip it over to keep wear pretty even. Additionally, every time I do this, I'll take the flat file that I use on my rakers and smooth off the burr that develops around the tip of the bar. If you don't do this, after awhile that burr will protrude out and make it tough to cut with the end of the bar. Sorry for too much info. Be safe, Have fun.
    Soundchasm and oldogy like this.
  7. Bacffin

    Minister of Fire

    Jan 2, 2012
    30 Miles Northwest of Boston
    This happend to me before but only after sharpening by hand. I am right handed and guess what, all the right hand cutters were smaller than the left. The bar would constantly pull to the right and know matter how I tried to fix it, it would still pull until I made the left side equal in cutter length. Have you sharpend it?
  8. bogydave

    Minister of Fire

    Dec 4, 2009
    So Cent ALASKA
    Most common is the chain is dull on one side.
    Takes one little "tick" of the chain on a rock, dirt, hidden nail & it's dull.
    I touch mine up after 1/2 to 3/4 cord with a file.
    Look close, I bet you find some shiny cutting tips on one side.
    oldogy and raybonz like this.
  9. aries339


    Dec 22, 2010
    Chicago Area
    No offense taken at all, Trundle. Tell me like it is.

    I just want to reiterate that the saw (and blade) has only been used like 5 times total, no more than like an hour each time. I'll be honest though, I was cutting close to the ground and even though I was being careful, I did hit the dirt once - barely. It was just as the pass was complete, so I wasn't like I was running it through dirt and not realizing it.

    I will take a closer look at the chain and maybe sharpen it (with guides - I'm a noob still...).

    Thanks a lot everyone, I appreciate it!
  10. aries339


    Dec 22, 2010
    Chicago Area
    Hey BTW - if it pulls to the right, does that mean it's the right side that's dull?
  11. oldogy


    Oct 28, 2012
    SE TN
    Five hours use? You hit the ground once. IMHO it is past time to sharpen it. Like said, any dirt can quickly dull a chain.
  12. Boom Stick

    Boom Stick
    Feeling the Heat

    Oct 26, 2011
    Capital Region, NY
    Being a relative newb with a chainsaw I have to say that one has to be paying attention to several things at one time while using a saw. Sometimes I have cut a round and I scratch my head and say "how the hell does it look like that?" Sharp chain is a must have. Also how you position yourself and the saw to the log.....Another thing that has opened up my chainsaw work and bucking is a few tools. I carry two stihl wedges and a hammer or hatchet to bang them absolutely useful tool......I learned this after getting my saw stuck in wood that was impossible for me to get it out.....don't forget that you can wreck your bar trying to wiggle it out of wood. A ten dollar wedge and I no longer have this issue although a couple times my saw has made contact with my wedge but it is hard plastic so who cares. A big learning curve but go out to your dealer and get a wedge....Oh and take it slow.........rushing was another issue I had. Now I am safe and slow. Good footing, escape route, always trying to plan two steps ahead, Good Luck!
    Soundchasm likes this.
  13. red oak

    red oak
    Minister of Fire

    Sep 7, 2011
    northwest Virginia
    Pretty much what he said, and I agree that the chain seems dull. Dirt will cause the chain to go dull pretty quick, plus I would sharpen after 5 hours anyway.
  14. mossycup


    Dec 4, 2010
    Northern Illinois
    Uneven cutters or one side is duller than the other. Unless you are ambitious about sharpening your own chain, find a trusting, reputable mom & pop shop that can help you get it sharpened and equal the cutters out. Beware that some shops are very good at selling new chain... (aka, over grinding and killing cutters).

    Don't forget to flip your bar after a sharpening or chain swap.
  15. StihlHead



    5 hours is a long time for a chain. Depending on the cutter type, the type of the wood and the environment you are cutting in, a chain can go dull in an hour's use or less. It can also go dull hitting the ground only once. All it takes is one hit to rock a chain (serious chain dulling hitting a rock or nail). I usually sharpen my chains after every use. It mostly depends on the cutting. Noodle cutting rounds in clean wood along the grain and a chain will stay sharp for a long time. Like several hours. Cutting across the top of a log the hard way and a chain will cut slowest and dull pretty fast. Like in a hour or less. Cutting in any kind of crud, mud, sand, or dirty wood will dull a chain really fast, like gleening firewood from a slash pile, or cutting stumps. The type of chain and how it is filed and how it is used will also effect how long a chain will stay sharp. A semi-chisel chain will stay sharp longer and is better for cutting in crud and dirty wood. It also cuts slower than full chisel chain though. A full chisel round filed chain will cut faster, but it will also dull faster, and it will dull really fast in any kind of crud. Finally there is full chisel square filed chain, but that is for racing and only intended for cutting clean wood and fast.

    Run your fingers lightly along the chain perpendicular to the cutter edges before using it to make sure it is sharp. Same way to check a carving knife to see if it is sharp (which drove my ex nuts, seeing me do that). It should feel sharp and drag on your skin. I always take a spare sharp loop with me when I am cutting in the woods or on a job, and usually a spare saw as well. I flip my bar over every other chain sharpening, and I true the bar every time I flip it letters right side up (every other flip). I also grease the sprocket tip and check for any burring or dings. I hand file my chains with an Oregon bar-mount sharpener, and I file most of my chains round (semi-chisel and full chisel). If I am cutting in crud or dirty wood, I use semi-chisel. In the clean stuff I use square chisel. I also keep chains that are almost shot for cutting in potentially naily wood or close to the ground stump cutting. If I rock them or hit a nail, no big deal.

    Finally make sure your chain is adjusted correctly. On a Stihl, with the saw cold, loosen the bar nuts and pull the nose of the bar up until it stops. Then adjust the tensioner so that the sag in the chain at the bottom of the bar just seats into the groove. Tighten the bar nuts and you are set. The chain should slide nice and easy back and forth with the brake off. Do not tighten a hot saw chain this way, or you will likely bend the bar when the chain cools and shrinks.
  16. stacks


    Dec 3, 2008
    sw mich
    This happened to me once with a cheaper chain (cheap metal). I resharpened the chain. Still pulled to the right. I bought a new better quality chain and my saw cut efficiently and straight. a good chain, proper tension, proper lube.
  17. Wood Duck

    Wood Duck
    Minister of Fire

    Feb 26, 2009
    Central PA
    When I started using chainsaws I was surprised how quickly the chain gets dull. Those movies where the psycho hacks through the front door with a chainsaw then immediately hacks up the teenagers are purely hollywood fiction - he'd have to stop and sharpen in between door and teens.

    I'd try learning how to sharpen the chain. I use a round file with a guide, and you can get one at any hardware store or home improvement center. It really isn't hard to do an OK job and it will keep the chain cutting well. You should be getting big chips from the chain, not sawdust. If you are getting sawdust your chain is dull. Softer woods give bigger chips, but even with oak or locust you shouldn't get sawdust.
    raybonz likes this.
  18. tymbee


    Dec 2, 2011
    Upstate NY
    I'm afraid I have to disagree. Even after hacking through a door with your chainsaw (hardly an effort) you should have no trouble at all hacking up any teenagers you might encounter. I mean, it's not like you'd be all that concerned with a perfectly straight cut or that the hacked pieces were of any particular length. The goal simply being to create as much blood spattering guts & gore as you can to facilitate a shockingly graphic image for viewers. Personally I've found that a 16 inch chipper type chain to be most effective, but your mileage may vary... ==c
    Soundchasm and raybonz like this.
  19. mecreature

    Minister of Fire

    Dec 16, 2010
    Sharpen your chain way before it becomes a problem.

    it's faster and easier all the way around
  20. PapaDave

    Minister of Fire

    Feb 23, 2008
    Northern MI - in the mitten
  21. osagebow

    Minister of Fire

    Jan 29, 2012
    Shenandoah Valley, VA
    ....and make sure you buy the right size round file!
  22. firefighterjake

    Minister of Fire

    Jul 22, 2008
    Unity/Bangor, Maine
    . . . plus it would be a lot of soft tissue . . . should be easier than cutting through white cedar even!
  23. jeffoc


    Oct 3, 2008
    Blandinsville, IL
    Do you yell Tymbee instead of timber when you fell a teenager?
  24. dolmardan


    Nov 11, 2013
    Make sure your chain gauge matches the bar. For example, an .050 gauge chain on an 0.58 gauge bar will not cut straight (trust me).
  25. Bigg_Redd

    Minister of Fire

    Oct 19, 2008
    Shelton, WA

    Your saw is new which means your chain is new. New chain stretches. Even good chain. I'm guessing your chain stretched and is now loose. A loose chain will lay over one way or the other and cause uneven wear on your bar, which will cause your saw to angle more in the cut. It's a little feedback loop.

    I'm going against the grain here but I don't think your chain is dull, per se. If it were rocked or gounded it wouldn't cut at all.
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