How often should chain be sharpened?

Stegman Posted By Stegman, Nov 23, 2012 at 5:47 PM

  1. Stegman

    Feeling the Heat

    Jan 4, 2011
    Sterling, MA
    Spent about three hours bucking some logs today and it got me wondering if there's a rule of thumb for how frequently one should sharpen the chain. Mine was fine after three hours - still throwing chips and cutting the wood with ease. But I didn't know if there was some rough guideline like every 3/5/10/whatever hours of use.

    I've got a little bit more cutting to do tomorrow, and I think I'll give her a sharpening when I'm done so it's good and ready the next time I need it.
  2. Pallet Pete

    Pallet Pete

    Usually I touch it up one pass per tooth every tank of gas and that keeps it nice and sharp. I will take 2 or more chains on a big cut day and swap them because its faster then bring them home dull and hit them on my bench sharpener as well.

    f3cbboy likes this.
  3. NH_Wood

    Minister of Fire

    Dec 24, 2009
    southern NH
    I rotate 3 chains - as soon as one feels dull, I either stop cutting and sharpen, or switch chains if I still have work to do. The best advice in my opinion is to stop cutting when you feel like you are 'pushing' the saw into the wood. If the saw isn't pulling you into the cut and you are working the cut too hard, time to sharpen/switch chains and give the saw a break. No need to make the saw worker harder than it needs to. Cheers!
    BrianK and f3cbboy like this.
  4. Halligan

    Feeling the Heat

    Jan 19, 2012
    Southeastern Massachusetts
    Depends on the wood you cutting, cleanliness of the wood, making sure your keeping the chain out of the dirt, and so on. I do mine as needed following what NH_Wood said above.
  5. MasterMech


    When you are no longer happy with the performance of the chain, sharpen.

    The "official" rule of thumb is to touch up after every tank of gas but honestly, I can say while bucking up large trunks, I'll burn a helluva lot more than 1 tank before I notice the chain getting dull. Then again, I've had trunks that I had to sharpen/swap several times and not even burn 1 tank. :mad:
  6. bogydave

    Minister of Fire

    Dec 4, 2009
    So Cent ALASKA
    Rough guideline?
    Get used to "your saw" with a sharp chain. Look, listen & feel. How's it sound, the chips look long & big,
    You have to hang on when you pull the trigger, it wants to pull hard. Cutter tips look & fell sharp.

    Performance: cutting time has dropped off on similar sized rounds. If easy to pull the saw out of the cut when running, getting dull.

    Sound: RPM stays high when in the meat of the cut where before it would get that low growl & just eat wood.
    Many here can be out cutting & hear another saw running & know it has a chain problem from the sound ;)

    Eyeball: Look at the chips it's spitting out now & then, saw dust is not good, should be spitting out chips.
    wood chips stack up fast with a sharp chain, Chips not saw dust.
    Tips of the teeth are hard to see, no shiny spots usually mean it's sharp. See shiny tips, time to sharpen.
    Smoke or steam off the cut or chain means it's getting hot, which many times means dull.

    Best way is monitor all 3. Know what each is like when the chain is new & sharp.
    Will get to be a habit, you'll notice it getting higher rpm, you'll feel how the sharp saw wants to pull into the cut & when dull it don't. Seeing saw dust is a sure sign it's dull.

    After a while you won't even think about it, You'll know you have a dull chain. You'll decide if you want to finish up with a dull chain ,
    or have enough left to cut that it'll be faster if you sharpen or change it out ;)

    1/2 cord or so from tree to rounds, a touch up with a file never hurts. Justifies a well earned break too. ;)
  7. jeff_t

    Minister of Fire

    Sep 14, 2008
    SE MI
    Well said, Dave.

    I bucked a maple trunk over the summer that had me touching up after every round. Of course, I was refueling as well. It was a five footer, and I couldn't make two cuts on one tank ;)
    MasterMech likes this.
  8. Thistle

    Minister of Fire

    Dec 16, 2010
    Central IA
    Roughly 70% of what I cut is dead Red/Black Oak,with another 20% White/Bur Oak,with a little Shagbark Hickory & Mulberry for good measure.Most is very dry & quite abrasive on chains.Normally the chain gets 2-3 strokes per tankful,but on most of that stuff the teeth get touched up sooner.On the really dense stuff the chips arent as big even with a new or razor sharp full chisel chain.I know semi- chisel holds an edge longer in that stuff,but I still prefer the faster cutting a full chisel gives you.Its nice to take a 5 minute break when cutting,few passes with the file is actually relaxing to me.
  9. Kenster

    Minister of Fire

    Jan 10, 2010
    Texas- West of Houston
    I touch up with every other tank of gas. That guarantees a ten minute break for me. Everything I cut is oak: Water oak and Pin Oak, mostly. By the second tank, the chain needs to touched up. I do all my sharpening by hand but take the chains to nearby Stihl shop after several hand sharpenings.
    $5 per chain makes them like new again.
  10. EatenByLimestone

    Minister of Fire

    Jul 12, 2006
    Schenectady, NY
    As a general rule, I resharpen when I refill gas and bar oil. It keeps the chain real sharp, but more importantly it keeps me from getting over tired. The last thing I want to do when over tired is toss around a chainsaw with a spinning chain. Mistakes happen when you are tired.

    Thistle likes this.
  11. greg13

    Minister of Fire

    Jan 5, 2012
    You will learn the feel of the saw with both a sharp & dull chain. One touch with the ground or a rock in the bark throws the one tank rule out the window, but it is a good guide if all goes well.
  12. EatenByLimestone

    Minister of Fire

    Jul 12, 2006
    Schenectady, NY
    I agree. I helped a friend clear a pasture and was shocked at how long a sharp chain lasted compared to city/town wood. Your saw will act much differently when the chain is sharp vs. dull.

  13. Dakotas Dad

    Dakotas Dad
    Minister of Fire

    Mar 19, 2009
    Central Kentucky
    Lately, we have been bucking up a bunch of logging "off cuts".. have needed to sharpen after only a couple cuts sometimes. The bark is full of crap from having been dragged out of the woods by a skidder..

    But today I bucked two big maples, 18" - 36" rounds, made about 40 cuts I guess, chain was still pulling big chips when I was done.

    (hey, who doesn't like big wood pics...)


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