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Is My Chain Trashed?

Post in 'The Gear' started by ChrisN, Nov 21, 2007.

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  1. ChrisN

    ChrisN Feeling the Heat

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    I was cutting up a large base of a backyard Oak that I scrounged the other day and I really hit an imbedded nail hard. I sharpened my chain with my files as carefully as I could, but the saw now cuts with a wicked pull to the right and the chips aren't nearly as big as normal. By visual inspection the teeth and rakers look about right..... Does anyone have any ideas how I can restore this chain, or am I doomed to buying a new one?

    Thanks, Chris

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  2. TMonter

    TMonter Minister of Fire

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    You might take it in and get it professionally sharpened and inspected. Usually only costs about $5. The same thing happened to me last year and getting the shop to sharpen it fixed the issue.
  3. Harley

    Harley Minister of Fire

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    Most likely - no real damage to the chain which cannot be corrected (assuming the chain was in good shape before). If its not cutting straight - like TMont said - drop it off and let someone true it up - it will be good as new, and it is usually about 5 bucks.

    Hand filing can be really be a little tricky - especially when you hit something hard like that. The best advice... keep a couple of spare chains. I generally just touch them up a little in between each re-fill, and then swap out to save time after 1/2 dozen tanks or so. Then during the winter when I'm not cutting - I'll just go through each one slow and careful so they are all set for the next season.
  4. Corey

    Corey Minister of Fire

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    I concur - files are usually for maintaining an edge - ie a few swipes every couple of tanks of gas. If you plow into a foreign object, it's going to take some grinding to get the chain back in shape - it's just too big of a job for a file. I have worked out some decent damage with my dremel attachment - basically a 3/16" round stone in my case. But if the damage is really bad, time to call in the pros, but the chain should be salvageable.
  5. ChrisN

    ChrisN Feeling the Heat

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    Thanks guy, I guess I'll drop it off at the dealer and have him professionally sharpen it. I'm pretty careful about keeping the chain sharpened, I run a file over it after each tank of gas. I do only have one chain though, it is a good suggestion to have a back-up.
  6. DiscoInferno

    DiscoInferno Minister of Fire

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    I've hit nails, rocks and sand both in and near wood many times. That's exactly why I bought the $29 Harbor Freight chain grinder. It's not a precision instrument but it gets me back to where I can start hand filing again.
  7. Lignums

    Lignums New Member

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    Check the bar for elongated, or warped rail guides, sometimes when hitting a nail, or metal object, the chain goes through some stress and pushes on the rail in a way it normally does not, warping the rail guides. This also causes the saw to cut crescent shaped lines. If the chain is new, it will be ground down pretty far to get all the links the same length, and most of the professional sharpeners will not file down the depth guages, also known as rakers. The distance for any chain is .025 from the tip of the cutter to the depth guage. Sometimes it is a pill to swallow, but a new chain might be in order.
  8. woodconvert

    woodconvert Minister of Fire

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    Chisel chains are far less forgiving as far has hitting something as the leading cutting edge comes to a fine point which is easily dulled by a hard object. Depending on how bad it's dinged up and how much time you have you can fix it with files or take it in and get it done. You should note that when you take a chain in and get it sharpened they do remove a lot of material. Chains don't last as long when they are machine sharpened.

    It's good to have a spare "nasty" for cutting at ground level or when you think there may be nails/staples in a piece of wood.
  9. Eric Johnson

    Eric Johnson Mod Emeritus

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    Some places that grind chains don't even touch the rakers. Take yours to a chain saw dealer (vs. your local hardware store) and tell them to grind the chain and adjust the rakers. Then buy a raker gauge ($5) for your chain and have them show you how to use it. It sounds to me like the rakers on one side of the chain are out of whack. If the chain is sharp on both sides, higher rakers on one side will restrict the cutters' bite on that side, resulting in the chain pulling in the opposite direction.
  10. woodconvert

    woodconvert Minister of Fire

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    "It sounds to me like the rakers on one side of the chain are out of whack. If the chain is sharp on both sides, higher rakers on one side will restrict the cutters’ bite on that side, resulting in the chain pulling in the opposite direction."

    I've had the same symptoms when I hit something and one side of the chisels are dulled and the other side is fine. It's one of the two that's for sure.
  11. lvfd50

    lvfd50 New Member

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    Same here. Best buy I ever made for my chainsaw. I actually don't use the files much anymore. It just seems better to throw it on the grinder and sharpen it up.
  12. silvertonfid

    silvertonfid New Member

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    Hi There...

    I run into this question all the time...here's what I tell people (for what it's worth). There are 4 reasons saws cut a curve: #1 cutter height/angle differentials; #2 raker height differentials #3 bar rail height differentials (or bent bar, or wallowed out bar rails....in other words, bar problems) and #4 human error (yes, you can force a saw to cut a curve).

    Given this...it's pretty easy to eliminate the last one, and a quick check with a straight edge will eliminate #3. As for cutters and raker, typically -- due to the fact that hand files are "cut" in one direction, and the human body "prefers" the sharpening action in one direction -- over time one side gets sharpened "differently". If you're really into it, you take take a cheap pair of calipers and actually measure your cutter length side to side. But it isn't an exact science: cutter height and angles have to be off pretty far to cut curves. Eyeballing both cutter angle/height and rakers is usually more than sufficient to keep it straight (in other words, if the heights are off by 0.002" it isn't going to make it cut bad).

    Attack angles (the angle of the top edge of the cutter from perpendicular to the bar) seem to really creep due to the above reasons. The steeper the cutter angle the easier it cuts, but the less effective and the more side-to-side force it places all components. Now take a chain with one side at 30 degrees and the other at 50 due to sloppy sharpening, and you get a chain that actually runs through the bar at an angle, slapping about, grinding the bar rail down and damaging the chain side-plates.

    An easy test is to just flip your bar and see if that affects the problem.
  13. Gooserider

    Gooserider Mod Emeritus

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    I've actually gone the other way - Originally I was grinding every 2-3 tanks, and not filing. I had a friend who is a reall old time wood guy show me how to hand file, and convinced me that he could get a better edge with his file than I could get with the HF grinder. Now, mostly I file, and just use the grinder if the chain is REALLY FUBAR'd... Saves me a bunch of time too, as I can do a quick hand file touchup in far less time than it takes me to pull the chain off, grind it, put it back on, and adjust it...

    He also taught me to run the chain much looser than the usual instructions say - the saw now runs a whole bunch faster and I don't seem to get anywhere near the wear on the bar and chain that I used to.

    Gooserider
  14. LarryD

    LarryD Member

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    I have read this thread and probably come with a different perspective.

    Saw chain is something that is highly refined and engineered. I am often amazed at the lack of understanding of thsi piece of a saw. Oregon actually has a small book that details the maintenance of all of their chain.

    1. Properly tensioned is properly tensioned. The chain should be seated in the rails (bar groove) all the way around bar. You should be able to be pull the chain away from the very center of the cutting area of the bar with minimal effort and have it go back to where you pulled it from. This is the general rule of thumb. Once you get into larger bars (over 24" in length) some different parameters will apply. If you run the chain too loose, you will over time see damage at the ends of the bar. The chain will make its way around the sprocket and be flung out from centrifical force and than slam into the rails of the bar. This usually createa a wicked bur on top of the bar just past the "strut" groove and on the bottom of the bar just after the bar tip (sprocket). Chains that are too loose are also more likely to de-rail and damage the chain catch under the sprocket. Chain saws cut the fastest with a properly sharpened and tensioned chain.

    2. Sharpening. Over the years I have tried every do dad out there. As a trainer for a large tree care company, I needed to train people with tools that were easy and lead to the most consistant results. I will say this that it is very convienient to machine sharpen, in particular for the occasional user. The rub is that most saw shops don't understand sharpening chain either. It's very easy to over heat the chain, turn it blue. Once the chain is overheated, it dulls very quickly and shatters when you take a file to it. To me firewood, up to 10 cords is occaional use. The best results come from a consistant approach. These are my suggestions.

    A. A stump vice (for in the field sharpening) Oregon makes the best one.
    B. A roller guide ( its a jig that has all the correct angles, there are 3 angles for every chain. They are specific for each pitch of chain) I think Pferd makes them.
    C. The correct file size. This varies by manufacturer. Use high quality files, I always liked Pferd. Cheap files=more time.
    D. File handles. The most comfortable that I found were made by Husqvarna. However for a non-pro a handle round in shape is better. You should rotate the file after every few strokes to get even wear on your file. The round handle makes this easier.
    E. Flat file for adjusting the depth gauges (rakers is actually not what they are)
    F. Depth gauge jig. Helps in keeping them within spec. Pferd makes a good one as does oregon.

    More on sharpening. Sharpening vs. touch up. Sharpening is when ALL of the cutters need to be addressed and depth gauges are adjusted. Touching up can/should be done as needed, not just when gassing the saw. I have seen people continue to run a saw that needs to be touched up. The saw than needs to be sharpened that much quicker. If you notice a difference in the cutting performance of your saw stop, observe and touch it up! If you are consistantly having to sharpen your saw every three tanks, I would suggest that it wasn't sharp to begin with or you really need to consider your cutting practices. Are you grounding the saw? Is the would very dirty/caked on mud? Change to chipper type chain (vs. chisel) and use a wire brush to clean before cutting.

    I can add more if you are interested!

    A sharp saw is a safe saw

    Cut safely

    Larry D
  15. Eric Johnson

    Eric Johnson Mod Emeritus

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    This is all true, and very well said.

    However, I don't think most part-time chain saw users are experiened enough to notice when their chain needs touching up, and not disciplined enough to take immediate corrective action when it does. In my experience, most people use their saws until they're too dull to cut anymore, and by then it's too late to do much about it. Everything gets out of whack. That's how grinders are sold.

    I advocate filing the chain after every tank (and I do it myself that way), in part to establish a maintenance routine that basically guarantees that attention is paid to the chain at regular intervals. A couple of swipes with the file on every cutter after every tank guarantees that you are inspecting each cutter and addressing any problems before resuming work. Obviously, adjusting depth gauges is something that should be done far less frequently, and probably not in the field if at all possible.

    People who make their living with a chain saw have a different set of motivations, work habits and levels of experience than a guy who cuts maybe 5 cords a year. The latter individual simply doesn't have the level of sophistication to successfully do what you are suggesting, IMO.
  16. LarryD

    LarryD Member

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    Eric,

    I have read many of your posts and respect your perspective

    I agree as well that there is a difference between a pro user and an occasional user. I would be more concerned that they, occasional users, cut safely. Personal expectations of the performance they get out the saw is a piece of it. I know a few very competent guys that file their saw after every tank full. I always of the mind of don't waste the chain. I file when I notice a difference in cutting performance. The most # of tanks/sharpening that I ever had (sad that I remember this. I gotta get a life) is about 27. I did touch up the chain in the course of that project. By the way the project was clearing some land for a friend so they could have a horse barn and pastures in the NE of Vermont.

    Back to personal expectations. If the individual reads this post, perhaps they may look at how they are running their saw and learn something. Thats all. I think you automatically go through that when you make your living with a saw. My guys go through about 15 gallons of mix a week when we are doing a lot of removals. When you do that much cutting, you are forced to look at how your saw performs!

    Its all good

    Larry D
  17. Eric Johnson

    Eric Johnson Mod Emeritus

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    If they get as far as this forum, then they're probably a cut above the average weekend warrior. I saw an ad for Tractor Supply on TV this morning, and some guy was buying a chain saw. "Don't do that!" I yelled, startling my wife and spilling my coffee. But it's like anything else--most of the people who buy chain saws have no idea why buying a no-name chain saw at a big box store is a bad idea. Why should they?

    So I should probably give the people on this forum more credit for chain saw sophisticaton than the average user.

    As to chain wear, I've seen far more chains ruined through nonsharpening than through over sharpening. I typically cut about 20 cords of hardwood firewood a summer, consuming about one $10 chain in the process. And that's sharpening after every tank. So, no big sacrifice.

    I enjoy your posts too. A belated welcome to Hearth.com and please keep 'em coming.
  18. Gooserider

    Gooserider Mod Emeritus

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    Depends on what saw you get at TSC - I'm not recalling any "no-name" saws at my local store (Merrimack NH) they were selling Husky (good) and Poulan (not great, but OK once you get the right size bar on them) I would say that TSC is not a bad place overall, just have to be careful what you get there.

    Gooserider
  19. Eric Johnson

    Eric Johnson Mod Emeritus

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    It's not the quality of the products (though I believe Husky reserves its better models for dealers) so much as the lack of after-the-sale support. Who at TC is going to lean out your carb after break-in? Nobody, that's who, because Nobody is the only employee who knows what that means. And Nobody is going to aggresively encorage him to buy chaps and a helmet system and other safety gear, because Nobody wants to scare off a live customer.

    I'm all for buying things online and shopping for discounts and deals, but I don't think something as dangerous as a chain saw should be sold by someone who has no clue, to someone who has no clue. You know what you want and what you're looking at, Goose, but the guy in the ad didn't. Sad to say, most chain saw customers don't.
  20. LarryD

    LarryD Member

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    Eric,

    I completely agree. One of the commercial saw shops I deal with actually won't sell certain saws to people he suspects don't have any/limited experience with a saw. I also remember a few years back, you couldn't by an 020 unless you were in the industry. I on the other hand don't begrudge someone for buying a "cheap" saw. They might not use it that much. Most of the saws at bigbox stores that are sold don't get that much use. They should however come with PPE as a part of the deal. This is getting off topic

    Larry D
  21. Eric Johnson

    Eric Johnson Mod Emeritus

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    These days even the cheap saws are pretty well equipped with safety features. That wasn't always the case, but I think it is today. I don't begrudge anyone the use of a cheap chain saw. When you get right down to it, all that matters when cutting firewoodwood is that a sharp chain encounters clean wood. All the other niceties about better saws, such as a higher power to weight ratio, only matter if they matter to you.

    My only complaint with the cheapies these days is that they are usually sold with bar lengths that far exceed the power of their engines, and people tend to burn them up by trying to cut wood that's too big. It doesn't take a very big frozen, hard maple to trash one of the cheesier little saws you can buy. The saw in the TS ad, by the way, had a bar that was at least 24 inches.
  22. ChrisN

    ChrisN Feeling the Heat

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    I've leaned a ton from this thread, thanks to all of you. I have a chain sharpening file holder that holds both the round file for the cutter and a flat file that cuts down the raker at the same time, to keep the rakers at the correct height as the cutter is filed back. This is what I use each time I sharpen the chain, which is about after every tank of gas, maybe three passes on each tooth. Do you think this is overkill? I haven't done anything with the chain yet, but after reading all this I think I'll try to restore it myself before I take it to the shop. Thanks again.

    Chris
  23. WILDSOURDOUGH

    WILDSOURDOUGH New Member

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    My 2 cents-
    Must have an extra chain (or three)-
    cuz those kind of things happen-(running into nails, bullets, barbed wire or just touching the ground).
    and when you live out in the country, you can't wait run to town every time.

    I change the chain at every gallon of mix- and sharpen it later.
  24. babalu87

    babalu87 New Member

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    I used to run my chains dull................... then I met Eric on the Internet and I love running my saw now.
    I need to take pics tommorow, I cut about 2/3 of the 2008-2009 wood today............... damn caterpillars!!!!!! killin' all my oak trees! One was a biggun
  25. LarryD

    LarryD Member

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    Chris,

    Some thoughts.

    [quote author="chrisN" date="1195978841"]I've leaned a ton from this thread, thanks to all of you. Cool! Me too. Observe mys disastorous quoting!

    I have a chain sharpening file holder that holds both the round file for the cutter and a flat file that cuts down the raker at the same time, to keep the rakers at the correct height as the cutter is filed back. This is what I use each time I sharpen the chain, which is about after every tank of gas, maybe three passes on each tooth. I think what you are referring to is a Husky sharp force (orange in color or blue if made by Pferd). My experience with these is that some of them take too much off of the depth gauges over time. If I am touching the chain up, I would take the flat file right out and use it without. It is an excellent tool! I learned the hard way and ruined (took the depth gauges down way to far on a husky 395, the saw cut way too aggressive and became unsafe to use) a chain. I noticed this with several of these tools and have given the same advice. It will lead to consistant results.

    Do you think this is overkill? Not at all. Just be aware of what I've said above. It might not be the case with yours.

    I haven't done anything with the chain yet, but after reading all this I think I'll try to restore it myself before I take it to the shop. Give it a shot. The worst thing that can happen is you have to buy a new chain and you 've learned something. I've ruined a lot of chain to learn the lessons that I've learned. Once I got a result I didn't want, I asked questions and learned.

    Safe cutting

    Larry D
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