It's probably been ages since you've had to sharpen a pencil. But if it's been almost as long since you last sharpened your chainsaw's chain, it might be time to give it a fresh new edge.
How do you know when you need to sharpen your chain? These are some telltale signs:
Your saw makes a crooked cut
Your cuts produce sawdust instead of wood chips or flakes
You see smoke wafting from the cuts
Sharpening your chain is an efficient way to save money over buying a new chain, and there are several ways to do it with or without a specialized chainsaw sharpener.
Which method is right for you? It all depends on the equipment you have available and the amount of time and money you want to spend on the task.
Filing Chain By Hand
Using handheld metal files, you can sharpen each cutter on your chain and also file down the depth gauge, which is the part of the chain that determines how deeply the chain will cut. Both the cutters and the depth gauges should be filed every time you sharpen.
Use a round file to sharpen your cutters and a flat file to reduce the depth gauges. With a good bar-mount filing guide, you can get consistent and accurate results across each cutter without having to disassemble your chainsaw.
Often you can find good advice and hand-filing instructions directly from manufacturers. No matter whose instructions you follow, there are several handy pieces of advice you should keep in mind:
Find either the shortest cutter or the most damaged cutter, and file that one first so that all other cutters can be filed to match it
Try to remember the number of strokes you use to file each cutter, to help file each one evenly
Start at the inside of your cutter, and move your file toward the outside
Hand-sharpening with a chainsaw file is the most labor-intensive option, but it's also the most cost-effective option.
Sharpening with a Grinder
For professional-quality chain sharpening that doesn't leave your arm limp with exhaustion, you can use a heavy-duty chain grinder.
A chainsaw grinder features a clamp that holds the chain in place while a grinding wheel is lowered down to smooth the teeth to a razor-sharp finish. Most chain grinders can be mounted to a bench for stability and comfort.
Grinders come in handy for professionals and dedicated property owners alike who sharpen their chainsaw chains frequently.
PowerSharp Sharpening Kits
If convenience is the factor that keeps you from maintaining a sharp chain, you might benefit from a PowerSharp Sharpening Kit.
Each kit includes four parts that work together as a system:
The bar is specially made to attach to the sharpener mount. While the chain moves around the bar, the cutters pass along the sharpening stone and get honed to a fine edge.
Each replacement chain comes with a new sharpening stone. PowerSharp Kits are available in several sizes, so be sure to check that a kit is compatible with your chainsaw before purchasing.
A Sharp Decision
Keeping your chain sharp is one of the most effective ways to make sure your chainsaw continues to operate at peak performance. You might even find it beneficial to have a spare replacement chain on hand so that you can sharpen your dull chain at your leisure while continuing to work with sharp cutters.
Now that you know how easy it is to sharpen your chain yourself, will you be able to keep your chain sharp? There won't be a test; you don't have to sharpen your #2 pencil. But you probably know the correct answer.