How To Sharpen a Chainsaw

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Take a good deal of care and maintenance to keep your chainsaws working safely and at optimum performance. Probably the most important element in looking after your chainsaw is ensuring your blade (or the chain) is always sharp.

How do you know when your blade is blunt?

Well, the most obvious pointer will be the fact that you will be finding the job more difficult to do. If the chain is blunt you will need to exert pressure to get your work done. This is due to how the teeth on the chain are designed. There are depth gauges located at the front of each tooth which regulate how far the chain is cutting into the wood. When the chain is sharp the teeth will cut as far as the gauge will allow. However, this mechanism will not work when the blade is blunt and you find yourself having to press the machine deeper to create the cut.

You can also tell if your blade is blunt by the “residue” the cuts you are making are producing. A fully sharpened chain will produce large square type shaped chips, while in comparison; blunt chains create small chips that resemble sawdust.

Two options for sharpening the chainsaw

There are two options here: take your chain to a saw sharpening company (many reasonable DIY stores offer this service) or conversely you can sharpen the chainsaw yourself. The advantage of the latter, although it can be tedious and time consuming, is it will certainly work out more cost effective. So lets look at how to sharpen the chainsaw at home.

Tools you will need

You can gather the following tools individually or you can buy special chainsaw sharpening kits from your favourite DIY store or online shop. You will need:

  • A pair of protective gloves – to protect the owner from the blade
  • A chainsaw file gauge – to checks three things: the angles on each tooth; the tooth cutter length and the depth gauge setting.
  • A round chainsaw file the same gauge as the chain on the saw – to get the correct sharpening of the chain
  • A flat file – to attain the correct height of the depth gauge on the teeth
  • A stiff brush – to clean the chain before sharpening
  • A can of resin solvent – when applied to the chain this will clean and lubricate at the same time

Safety before you start

You are about to work on a very powerful machine which may be blunt for working, but will still prove to be very sharp. Therefore remember reach time to follow these simple rules:

  • Always wear your protective gloves
  • Ensure the machine is off and unplugged
  • Make sure the chainsaw is on an even sturdy surface
  • Check that the chain is correctly tensioned otherwise it could slip and cause an accident and it will also make your job doubly hard.

Effective sharpening

This task will require you cover three areas: filing the top plate to the correct angle; filing the side plate to the correct angle; the depth gauge needs to be filed to the correct “bite”. You will be sharpening what is known as the “working” corner. This is the top area of each chain. By placing the chainsaw file gauge over the tooth you will see the marked angle the tooth needs to be sharpened at. Now place the round file against the tooth and align it with the markings on the gauge. As you push the file against the tooth, be sure to keep it aligned with the alignment mark. On the back stroke, release the pressure before making another stroke.

You need to continue filing the chain until any tiny nicks or damages in the metal are removed. You will know your job is done when the corner of the cutting blades on the teeth are clean and have a thin chrome edge. Always work on the teeth on one side before changing the angle to work on the other side of the chain.

You have now finished sharpening the blade of your chainsaw. You can do this as many times as you wish but it is advised to let a professional check it over every so often to ensure you are sharpening the teeth to the correct angles.

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