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How to sharpen a chainsaw. A sharp chainsaw is a pleasure to use for an experienced arborist. It can feel almost effortless and easily helps to improve the accuracy of each tree cuts if you are using it for felling or pruning.
A blunt chainsaw on the other hand is hard work and dangerous as you are tempted to push down on the bar and lean into the saw more. A blunt chain also adds stress to the engine and drive chain.
Experienced chainsaw sharpeners are likely to have their own idiosyncrasies when it comes to sharpening their saws, however, it is good to learn from a solid foundation.
This blog is for people who are new to sharpening and are after a good basic technique.
How to sharpen a chainsaw – Firstly, you will be needing equipment for your chainsaw.
The following is a list of useful tools and equipment:
- A chainsaw requiring sharpening
- A vice or some way of securing the saw
- Gloves and eye protection
- Chainsaw files – both round files and flat files complete with handles
- A file guide
- A depth gauge guide
- A marker pen
- A bar spanner
- A small stick
The aim of sharpening a chain is quite simple.
The reality of it can be more challenging. Basically, you are trying to get all the cutters the same length with the same angles on the cutting faces appropriate for the type of chain you are working with.
The box that the chain came in has useful information in the back. It will tell you the file size that you need and the angle that you need to hold the file at. This information can also be found online or by talking to your local chainsaw shop mechanic.
Begin by putting on your safety gear and securing the saw in the vice.
Ensure the chain is tensioned correctly on the bar. Inspect the chain to see how worn the cutters are and use the marker pen to mark the most worn cutter.
Select the correct file and file guide for the chain and fit them together along with the file handle. You start by sharpening the shortest cutter and then try and match the rest of the cutters to it.
Stand in a strong stance next to the saw in a position where you can look directly down at the bar, it can also help to lean into the saw slightly.
You sharpen from the inside out working on just one side of the chain until all the cutters on that side are sharp before changing position and working on the other side.
Offer the file in its guide to the first cutter to be sharpened.
One hand should hold the file handle the other should pinch the far end of the file. The hand holding the far end of the file should be closest to the chain. Use the file guide to align the file to the correct angles. Some chains have a line on them to help with this.
Push the file its full length against the cutter to sharpen it whilst maintaining the same correct angle throughout. This can be the tricky bit so take your time and focus on accuracy instead of speed. You should keep a light pressure through the stroke and you should be able to feel the file removing metal from the cutter.
Make sure that the file is not touching the cutter as you draw it back to the start position; remember, you only sharpen from the inside out. It usually takes between 3-5 strokes to sharpen the cutter depending on how damaged the chain is. Once the cutter is sharp advance the chain and work on the next one. Repeat this until one side is sharp then readjust the saw and your position to work on the other side.
Remember to end up with all the cutters the same length with the same correct angles.
It can be handy to tap the file on the work bench periodically to knock any filings out of the file.
Once the cutters are sharp you need to check the depth gauges, these are the tabs of metal in front of the cutters that determine how much of the wood the cutter sees. Lay the depth gauge tool over the chain using the instructions on the packet for correct orientation.
Using a flat file, file any material that is protruding through the depth gauge tool. Repeat this for every cutter. You may find that some require more filing than others. Once you have finished the filing run a small stick up and down the chain to knock off any burs.
Your chain should now be nice and sharp and ready for action. Be patient with your self and take the time to learn good technique. A sharp chain will completely change your experience of using your saw.
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