Sharpened chain but still not cutting right

  • Active since 1995, Hearth.com is THE place on the internet for free information and advice about wood stoves, pellet stoves and other energy saving equipment.

    We strive to provide opinions, articles, discussions and history related to Hearth Products and in a more general sense, energy issues.

    We promote the EFFICIENT, RESPONSIBLE, CLEAN and SAFE use of all fuels, whether renewable or fossil.

dh1989

Burning Hunk
Dec 6, 2014
130
East Bay Rhode Island
Hello,

I have an Echo CS490 with the factory chain. I believe it's referred to as a safety or anti-kickback chain which has alternating cutters. I've used it between cutting up pallets (occasionally hit a nail), bucking, and felling small trees and limbs. I have a Harbor Freight electric chain sharpener which I use to touch up the chain. Lately I've noticed that I just can't get it to cut like it used to. It's gone between won't cut at all, with me applying pressure to the saw and the wood smoking, to cutting slowly with pressure applied and throwing sawdust instead of chips. I remember when the chain was new the saw would 'pull' itself into the wood. Now if I don't apply pressure to the saw it seems to just sit there and not cut.

There is plenty of material left on the cutters and they feel sharp to the touch. I have the grinder set for a 30 degree angle. The rakers are marked 0.025" and I even brought them down to 0.03" to see if that made a difference, but it didn't do much. Am I sharpening the chain wrong or is it just time for a new chain even though there seems to be material left on the cutters?

Pictures attached. Thanks.

1.jpg 2.jpg
 

ericm979

Burning Hunk
Nov 2, 2018
208
California
That chain is nearly new. It's got plenty of life in it. But it is still dull. You can see that the hard chrome on the top of the teeth is worn away from the edge. The chrome needs to go all the way to the edge. It just needs to be sharpened more.

Either the angle of the grinder is wrong or the wheel needs to be reshaped. You're not getting into the gullet enough, it needs more curve to it. Compare the shape to a new chain and try to match that. There are specs for each chain for all three angles, you should double check the grinder is set to those. You also need to be using the correct width wheel. Usually that's 3/16 for a .325 chain. When using the grinder take small taps of the wheel on the tooth. If you let it sit there the tooth will overheat which will affect the metal. The teeth don't look blued so you're doing ok on this.

I'd suggest buying a few files of the correct size for this chain, and an Oregon sharpening guide, the flat plate kind. I think filing is a better way to go than a grinder especially a cheap one that's harder to use because it's got play in it. This is the right one if your saw has .325 chain: https://www.oregonproducts.com/en/o...r-sharpening-0-325-in-pitch-saw-chain/p/25896

Don't wait too long before sharpening. I go a max of two tanks of fuel, even if it's still cutting ok. If the chain's making dust I'll put another one on or finish with a second saw that's got a sharp chain. It's more pleasant to run a saw with a nice sharp chain, and easier on the saw and operator as well. It also makes sharpening less of a chore, just a few file strokes per tooth.
 

blades

Minister of Fire
Nov 23, 2008
3,785
WI, Leroy
need to take the teeth back further . that point is still rounded in and i also see the top edge rounded. 3/16" wheel on a .325 chain ? I think 1/8" might be better.
 

highanddryinco

Burning Hunk
Aug 2, 2014
155
Denver, CO
Yep, pretty much what everyone else is saying. The cutting edges of your teeth are not even showing. Nothing wrong with a grinder but...learn how to hand sharpen first so you learn what to look for in a sharp tooth. It takes some time, but once you learn what to look for, you'll be very pleased with your results. Go on YouTube and check out "Buckin Billy Ray Smith." He's quite the character but knows what he's doing. Be kind! Mind the Gullet!
 

armanidog

Feeling the Heat
Jan 8, 2017
403
Northeast Georgia
This guy is good on hand sharpening chains. I tried several sharpening tools (even that Harbor Freight sharpener)and now just hand sharpen. It's actually easier for me. He has a lot of videos on maintaining and fixing outdoor power equipment.



and another one on fixing a chain that cuts crooked:

 

SpaceBus

Minister of Fire
Nov 18, 2018
7,089
Downeast Maine
It took me a while to master the grinder. You will be blown away once you get the hang of it and all the cutters and rakers are the same length.
 

bigealta

Minister of Fire
May 22, 2010
863
Utah & NJ
Yep, pretty much what everyone else is saying. The cutting edges of your teeth are not even showing. Nothing wrong with a grinder but...learn how to hand sharpen first so you learn what to look for in a sharp tooth. It takes some time, but once you learn what to look for, you'll be very pleased with your results. Go on YouTube and check out "Buckin Billy Ray Smith." He's quite the character but knows what he's doing. Be kind! Mind the Gullet!
Buckin Billy Ray is the Man! (And Steve Too). There are lots of handfiling YouTube’s. Hand work is just as fast as a grinder when you get good at it. The key is understanding what sharp really is and how the cutting tooth should look when sharp. The Point of the tooth does the hardest work and takes the most abuse. It needs to be crisp. A flat guide that the file attaches to is gold. It easily keeps the file flat ( not up or down a few degrees off), at the right height, and with the angle guides 25, 30 inscribed on it makes your angle accuracy pretty easy and consistent.
 
Last edited:
  • Like
Reactions: caseywheels

armanidog

Feeling the Heat
Jan 8, 2017
403
Northeast Georgia
It took me a while to master the grinder. You will be blown away once you get the hang of it and all the cutters and rakers are the same length.
But what if you are in the woods and need to sharpen a chain? Also, it is easy to touch up a chain when you refill with gas and chain oil which keeps your chain nice and sharp.
 

SpaceBus

Minister of Fire
Nov 18, 2018
7,089
Downeast Maine
But what if you are in the woods and need to sharpen a chain? Also, it is easy to touch up a chain when you refill with gas and chain oil which keeps your chain nice and sharp.
I just take more than one chain with me if I'm away from home. There are also 12v grinders that work fairly well. If a grinder just isn't an option there are a handful of very good bar mounted file guides that will get you very close to perfect cutters and rakers. I don't care how good you are at hand filing, you won't get the cutters accurate without a jig.
 
  • Like
Reactions: SidecarFlip

salecker

Minister of Fire
Aug 22, 2010
1,876
Northern Canada
I don't care how good you are at hand filing, you won't get the cutters accurate without a jig.
That isn't true...
Hand filling will give you the fastest cutting chain,period
That is why people that race chainsaws will not let you look at their race chains.
The tricks they have for sharpening win them races.
A chain from a grinder will not win any races
 
  • Like
Reactions: bigealta

dh1989

Burning Hunk
Dec 6, 2014
130
East Bay Rhode Island
Thank you for all the replies. I do have a hand file similar to the ones shown but haven't tried it yet. I had been using the grinder to touch up the chain. I looked at some close ups of new chains and saw how the top edge of the cutters wasn't sharp on my chain. I think I was flexing the grinder (it is mostly plastic) and spending too much time making the area below the top cutting edge sharp. I carefully set up the grinder and made sure it would take off the edge of the cutters. Then I went through and re-did the entire chain, taking care to cut into the gullet area. The saw is back to pulling into the wood and throwing chips again! It was a day and night difference. I will work on touching up with the hand file and see how that goes.
 

highanddryinco

Burning Hunk
Aug 2, 2014
155
Denver, CO
Nice. That's what you're looking for. These threads can get into a, "what's the best sharpener" discussion in a hurry. Bottom line, it's all all about getting to the right end result which it sounds like you did. Good job.
 

SidecarFlip

Minister of Fire
Feb 7, 2010
5,273
S.E. Michigan
The 'best' sharpener is the one that gives you a sharp tooth. There is no best actually. I use the Stihl hand filing guide myself but it's personal preference.
 

SidecarFlip

Minister of Fire
Feb 7, 2010
5,273
S.E. Michigan
The one thing I do not like about chain grinders is... The remove way more tooth material than is really necessary if you keep on top of the chain sharpening regimen.

In my opinion (take if for what it's worth), the only time a grinder is worth beans is when the cutter teeth have encountered a foreign object like a nail or spike and really get chewed up, then a grinder will remove the bad tooth part quickly and easily, but that is it. For ordinary sharpening or tough up's, a file and guide are always the best bet.

I have one of the expensive Oregon grinders but I rarely use it, only when I have severe tooth damage.