When it comes right down to it, chainsaw chains are really the most critical part of any chainsaw. No matter how large the saw, how powerful the motor, or how long the bar is, without a good chain the saw is going to be pretty useless. Properly maintaining your saw chain, and replacing it when necessary, will help keep your saw cutting like the day it was brand new. It’s also going to help keep you safer, with less chance of injuries.
Sharpening your saw chain is not a difficult project if you know what you’re doing. If you’re going to do the job yourself, there are a number of sharpening kits available from companies such as Oregon, who make chainsaw chains and other accessories. These sharpening kits range from simple files that let you do the job manually to sharpeners that clamp onto the bar and sharpen the chain as it moves through.
You’ll want to ensure you sharpen the left and right cutting blades on your chain the same amount. Exactly how they need to be sharpened will depend on the chain. There are semi-chisel blades, chisel blades, and low profile blades for example and each has a slightly different profile. You’ll need to match them correctly, especially if you’re doing it by hand with a chainsaw file.
Keeping your chain sharp is critical to efficient operation of your saw. Spending the time to do it every so often will more than make up for any time you lose having to stop to sharpen. Plus, dull chains can be dangerous for the operator, since they can lead to kickback. This is the leading cause of chainsaw injuries.
When you’re sharpening your chain saw chain, check it for defects at the same time. Loose segments or other problems can lead to dangerous situations as well, so again it’s better to be safe than sorry.
Prior to sharpening your chain, it’s a good idea to clean it. You can remove all the dust and grime pretty easily. Just remove the chain from your saw and soak it in a mixture of water and household cleaner. After soaking the chain, gently scrub it with a soft-bristled brush to get rid of the tougher dirt & grime.
Once your chain has been cleaned and sharpened, it’s time to put it back on the saw. You’ll need to make sure you get the proper amount of tension when remounting it. Too much or too little tension can both lead to injuries as well as cause excessive wear and tear on the chain itself. And this means you’ll have to replace it sooner than you should.
When choosing your chainsaw chains, there are plenty of options. Most major chainsaw brands, such as Stihl, Husqvarna, Poulan, and Homelite, have their own brand of chains. It’s not necessary to use the same brand, but if you do you know you’ll get one that fits correctly.
Other brands include Carlton and Oregon, which make various sizes and styles of chain to fit virtually any brand and model of chainsaw you might have.
Prices for saw chains can vary wildly. The chains that a typical homeowner would use range from about $15, such as the Oregon S57 16 inch chain, to $25 for the Trilink 14 inch. But when you start looking at specialty saw chains, the price can rise quickly. The DCP3112SP 16 inch, 37 segment diamond chain, for example, runs almost $900 and the DCU4924SP 24 inch, 49 segment diamond chain will set you back about $1700. And that’s just the chain – you still need to buy the saw!