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How long does your chain last?

Post in 'The Gear' started by carpniels, Mar 8, 2006.

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  1. carpniels

    carpniels Minister of Fire

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    HI guys,

    I have started sharpening my own chains. I use a manual raker-and-tooth-all-in-one-file from Husky. It sharpens the raker and tooth in one move. Work great. I put the chainsaw on my workbench with the bar in the vise, sharpen one side, flip it upside down and do the other side.

    I file each tooth 4 times in one direction (with the tooth). After I am done, I have lots of iron filings laying around. I noticed that my teeth are getting really small. And I only sharpened it 5 times!!!

    Is that about how long a chain should last? Am I taking too much material off the teeth? Am I using too much force? Any suggestions/corrections?

    Also, how often do you buy a new round and flat file? Every year? Every x chain sharpenings?

    Thanks

    Carpniels

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  2. Eric Johnson

    Eric Johnson Mod Emeritus

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    I think you're pressing too hard, Carpniels. As long as I don't hit too many rocks or other obstacles, I can usually get about 30 tanks (15 full cords/30 sharpenings) out of a chain. I don't have a set schedule for replacing files, though I always start with a new file when I put on a new chain. If the file seems to be dull, toss it and get another one. One tip: clean the file periodically with a rag soaked in bar oil. You can squirt a little WD-40 on it before using the oily rag if it makes you feel better. A clean file will cut just about as well as a new one, IME.

    The object when filing a chain is to remove just enough metal from the cutting edge to regain its sharpness. Sometimes that's one or two swipes with the file, sometimes a lot more. In general, I would say 2 to 3 swipes is all you should need for a chain that's dull but not dinged. Push up and to the left as you move the file, but don't apply too much pressure. Watch the edge of the cutter and when it's sharp again, stop filing.

    I'll be happy to show you how I do it anytime. I think I've got a video around here somewhere. Let me check & see.
  3. carpniels

    carpniels Minister of Fire

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    Hi Eric,

    I guess my problem is with this sentence: "The object when filing a chain is to remove just enough metal from the cutting edge to regain its sharpness."


    I guess I am not experienced enough to know when it is sharp again or not. I have felt all my teeth after sharpening and some are very sharp, some a little and some not at all. I always do the last ones over until they feel right. But whether that is correct, I do not know.

    A video would be great. Otherwise I need to make a trip with my saw and sharpener and you can show me.

    Carpniels
  4. TheFlame

    TheFlame New Member

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    One trick I use to tell if a chain is in good shape is to look down from the tip of the bar at the cutters. If you can see a reflection (it will look like a very thin gray line) from the very tips of the cutters, then the chain is getting dull. Conversely, if you don't see a reflection it is still sharp.

    The reason you see the reflection is that as the tip of the cutter starts to dull, it will begin to wear the tip of the cutter into a slight / shape. You always want the top of the cutter to have a perfect | profile. This / shape is what you need to file off until it is again a | shape. Any less and the cutter will dull quickly, any more and you're wasting the cutter.

    I'll try to get you a picture about what I'm talking about to try and make it clearer.
  5. Eric Johnson

    Eric Johnson Mod Emeritus

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    That's a good way to explain it, TF. I never thought about it in those terms, but once I read what you wrote, I knew exactly what you were talking about.

    Sharpening is a little tricky at first but, like so many other things, once you've done it a few times, you start to become more comfortable. Just like getting to know a new stove.
  6. carpniels

    carpniels Minister of Fire

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    Hi TF,

    I am trying to understand what you wrote and I will look at my saw to see if I see what you mean. But a picture will make things much easier.

    Carpniels
  7. wahoowad

    wahoowad Minister of Fire

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    Yes flame, a pic would help me too.

    I feel like I have the hang of sharpening my chain with my manual file and guide - not as good as an expert but I can see the sharpened tooth and feel the difference when I put her back in the wood. My problem is how quickly it seems to dull again. I bucked up a live cherry tree and the saw seemed to strain and be dull for the last couple of cuts. This was maybe a 14" to 16" diameter tree by the time I got to the base. I know the logs are bigger there but it seemd to be the chain getting dull. I thought the new edge would last longer than 1 medium size tree.
  8. roac

    roac New Member

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    What brand chain?
  9. elkimmeg

    elkimmeg Guest

    Naturally the chain seems to cut less the larger diameter you cut the more resistance and friction. The key is to look at the sawdust chips. They should be chips and if fine sawdust is apprearing in the mix the chain is getting dull.
    I dissagree with sharpening every tank full. I judge the need to sharpen by the chips and knowing what to expect out of your saw's preformance. Just like your wood stove it takes practice to know how to get the feel of what your saw is capable of doing and learning its running characteristics
    The chain should not get dull from cutting clean wood. If sand or dirt in enbeaded in the bark then I hatchet the bark off where I will make the cut. the #1 reason for dulling a saw is grounding it. Again use common sense and experiance will help advoid grounding.
    Placing blocks or other cut logs under the existing log you are cutting. If too heavy to lift a 2/4 and block or crow bar will help lift it enough to get a block under it. Make particial cuts till you can make a clean cut and roll the length over. To the novice the original chain sharpeness it your best If you cut clean wood you do not need to sharpen it till it shows signs of dullness, ie finer chips or sawdust. Again it thake experience to learn how to sharpen it. to remove only as much of the tooth to achieve sharpeness. also to work a pattern of pressure angle and consistancy. Novice sharpening can actually make a chain duller or favor cutting at angles.
    Like anything one can over do it and wear out a chain rather quickly. It takes practice and experience. I know I can cut a full cord of clean wood and not have to file once. My chains can last for years. The other suggestion is to have a second spare sharp chain.
    After 2-3 cords I flip the bar clean the grove oil it and grese the tip In between this I dip the tip in oil I also clean the oil ports frequently and blow out the entire saw with an air compressor and blow gun. There are a lot of ways to keep your saw preforming in top notch condition good bar and tip lubrication is one way. Every oil fillup I take a cap full of oil and pour it on the chain and bar.

    Again the newspaper test I start the saw and watch the bar oil spray pattern on the newspaper. If you are not seeing a oil spray pattern then your oil ports are pludged. Time to take the bar off and clean the ports on the bar and saw base
  10. wahoowad

    wahoowad Minister of Fire

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    Damn good tips, Elk! Thanks for sharing.

    I looked for my Poloun WildThang oil ports but can't find them. I really looked hard, trying to see where it comes out because I was cleaning and wanted to check them. Where the heck are they? I know I have to add oil, so it is coming out somewhere, I just can't tell where.

    I did not hit the ground this tree, and I realize things will go slower as I make larger diameter cuts. But it still really seemed to slow down more than I would expect. I will stop back by there and look at those chips.

    I just assumed my sharpening skills were weak and my edge was wearing off too quickly.
  11. Eric Johnson

    Eric Johnson Mod Emeritus

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    I agree with elk that you can overdo the sharpening thing, or do it wrong. Either way, you'd have been better off not doing it at all. However, you won't learn how to sharpen without actually doing it, so some compromised chains early on in the process are part of the deal, IMO.

    One reason for sharpening every tank is that you can get up close and personal with your chain. A couple of nicks or a little wear that you might not notice during the course of cutting can quickly escallate into a dull chain. Once you lose the edge, the chain actually dulls rather quickly as the friction at the cutting edge increases due to the larger surface area hitting the wood. Forcing a dull chain to cut is probably the worst thing you can do to a chain, short of running it dry or into the ground. So by sharpening after every tank, whether it needs it or not, is a good way to avoid damaging it. And if you know what you're doing, you won't shorten chain life by frequent sharpenings--the opposite is actually true for the reasons just stated.

    Finally, your chain is going to get duller if you fell trees because the stump tends to contain a variety of sand, small rocks and other crap that gets into the bark from the wind and rain spashing it up from the ground. If you cut wood all day long, it's not uncommon to occasionally see small sparks when you're making a notch or felling cut. And if you're cutting in an area where livestock may once have roamed, be careful cutting the stems below about 36 inches. There could well be imbedded barbed wire or staples from an old fence line.
  12. carpniels

    carpniels Minister of Fire

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    Hi Eric,

    Thanks for the video tape. My wife hated it. It just made me all the more careful.

    I tried to sharpen with just the file and it worked fine. I used the flat file later for the rakers. The chain cut fine, until I hit some soil frozen to the log. Now I know why hitting the ground is such a bad idea.

    I have resharpened the chain so we will see how well it works.

    I do like the idea of at least inspecting the chain every tank. Small nicks can be corrected then.

    ELK, I will use your tip and remove the bark next time I encounter dirt on the log.

    Thanks

    Carpniels
  13. Eric Johnson

    Eric Johnson Mod Emeritus

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    I sell a lot of magazine subscriptions to loggers' wives by pointing out the monthly "Work Safe" page.

    Frozen dirt is just like concrete to a saw chain.

    Glad to hear the sharpening is going well. Some days it goes better than others for me. The important thing is not to get discouraged.
  14. Sandor

    Sandor Minister of Fire

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    Its all about time and effort. All good info above.

    However.... While bucking large logs its often more of a pain, strain and effort to prop the log up to avoid grounding the chain. After alot of cutting experience, I can usually tip into the bottom to finish the cut without grounding (too much).

    It takes alot less effort to sharpen my chain in a warm garage (with cold beer nearby) than to play with big logs sober.

    My Stihl chains last about 10-16 cords. In other words, years.

    And if I loan the saw to a friend, the chain is toast waayyy before that.
  15. TheFlame

    TheFlame New Member

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    Sorry guys, the Husky and Poulan are both sharp as a razor right now. I was hoping to dull the husky out pretty good this past Sunday on a huge pile of black walnut my Dad had delivered by a landscaper buddy of his, but alas, it rained all day.

    I managed to dig around on ArboristSite.com and found a good picture that illustrates the area of the cutter I am talking about.

    This picture is of a freshly sharpened cutter. The area I've circled in red is where you will get the dulling I wrote about above. It is very easy to see the dulling if you look directly into the edge of the cutter from the tip of the bar. All is takes is a quick glance down the bar at the cutters from the tip and I can tell when it is time to sharpen. Every tankful is not a bad idea, but there are so many factors involved in the dulling of a chain that other means of determining sharpness must be used, in my opinion. Elk makes a good point about the size of the chips and the amount of dust being generated. Another easy way to tell if your saw may need sharpening is if the chain is hanging loose off the bar. I say "may" need sharpening because the chain hanging off can also be a sign of bad cutting technique. Not letting the saw do the work and continually "leaning" on the bar can cause the chain to heat up quickly and stretch. Always stop and tighten up a loose chain when you see it!

    If you guys want to read about sharpening chains from now 'til kingdom come, check out the Chainsaw forum over at ArboristSite. The have a wealth of information about everything saw related.

    Attached Files:

  16. mtarbert

    mtarbert Minister of Fire

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    Greetings
    Remember guys : A file only cuts in one direction. I know they are not exspensive but, there is no scence in ruining them by sawing back and forth. files are tools that should be used correctly.
    Mike
  17. Eric Johnson

    Eric Johnson Mod Emeritus

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    Good points about loose chains and the care and feeding of your files. I always put a little bar/chain oil on my files periodically, then wipe them clean with a rag before using them. A little WD-40 is a good way to really get them clean before putting on the oil.

    Even a sharp chain that's loose won't cut right. The chain has to be securely in the groove to work properly. If you allow it to rise up out of the groove, it will lay over on one side or the other, adversely affecting your cutting angle and resulting not only in bad cutting, but damage to the chain, the sprocket and the bar. Those three components are all directly related and any abuse/damage to any one will quickly damage the other two. Always inspect your sprocket and bar when replacing a chain. If either is worn beyond spec, repair or replace it along with the chain. You can ruin a new chain pretty quick with a worn out sprocket.
  18. elkimmeg

    elkimmeg Guest

    Anyone remember the sears ever sharp saws? the had a stone that touched up the chain as it rotated by.
    To me all they did was wear out the chain. The most friction on the bar it the tip thats why I dip it in oil every gas and bar oil fillupIf I know I will be doing an hour or more cutting I check out the saw before I start I take the bar off Clean and oil the chain grove. clean out the prior sawdust and chips and blow out all areas around the body and sprocket. I also take off the sawdust filter above tha carb clean and blow it out finally I blow out the entire saw including the fins. I flip the bar about every cord. In larger diameters let the saw do the work do not push down harder if it stops you ar pushing too hard and exerting too much dowward pressure ease up again letting the saw do the work. It has been mentioned if you apply too much pressure your chain will heat up and become loose Make the adjustment to the chain and the way you are cutting. If the chain binds because it is too tight loosen it till you feel 1/8 to 1/4" space pulling down at the mid bar point If it happens again check your oil and use a newspaper to see the spray pattern .
    Chain saws are dangerous tools think about what you are doing
  19. DriftWood

    DriftWood Minister of Fire

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    When I see sparks flying instead of just chips (hitting nails or sand) or I am making saw dust instead of chips; I know its time to stop and get out the file.. (a good excuse to take a brake)

    When sharpening a chain, I rotate a round file as it loads up with filings to keep a clean surface on the chain. I then use a file card to clean the metal shavings off of the file when it’s full of filings. It’s a stiff ¼" wire, flat brush, 2"X4" designed for cleaning files. Just brush the file and it’s clean as new. Almost any wire brush should work to clean almost any thing from a file.
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