The importance of having a good chainsaw sharpener
It doesn’t matter whether you have an electric chainsaw, a petrol chainsaw , or even a cordless chainsaw. One of the most important things you need (after safety gear of course) is a chainsaw sharpener. These tools are absolutely vital for ensuring that your saw keeps working at maximum efficiency, and keeps cutting reliably and safely.
Using a file looks simple, but takes a lot of practice to master. Working freehand like this can also be risky, as a slip often results in deep cuts to your knuckles. If you have a workshop area, try clamping the chainsaw bar in a vice to hold it steady while you work, and remember to work with slow, even strokes. You should feel the teeth of the file cutting smoothly with every stroke - if not, your file might be blunt or you are not following the correct angle.
A dull or blunt chainsaw chain is not only going to waste power, time and your energy, it can also potentially be dangerous – kind of like using a blunt knife, you’re more likely to apply excess force, and become frustrated when the chainsaw doesn’t cut well. This is the time when accidents happen.
If you’ve never sharpened a chainsaw before, get ready to take some notes! Although there is a science behind it, it does take practice and a few mistakes to learn to sharpen the saw well. Let us take a quick look at how a chainsaw chain cuts.
Unlike a regular fixed point saw, a chainsaw blade consists of a series of sharp blades which are designed to each scoop out a small amount of wood. If you look closely at a chainsaw cutting link, you will see that each little blade is kind of scoop shaped, and sort of hooks around – in order to sharpen it, you need to use a round file, or other contoured sharpening device.
The simplest way, and also the cheapest is to simply use a round chainsaw sharpener file. Although this can be quite effective, it is also the hardest method to master, much more difficult than using an electric chainsaw sharpener. It’s almost like free-form carving – you need to know, and be able to feel the correct angle to sharpen at. The best thing to do is to actually watch somebody who knows what they are doing, and then try and copy them. A round chainsaw file only costs two or three dollars, and is by far the cheapest chainsaw sharpener you can have.
A good way to improve your manual chainsaw sharpening skills is with a sharpening guide. These come in various different shapes and sizes, and basically consists of a small angled jig which you can clamp to your chainsaw bar. This is useful, because you can set it to the precise angle which you want to run your file at. This way you don’t need to guess the correct angle, and can simply align your file with the angle of the guide. These chainsaw sharpener guides can range in price from $10, up to about $50. They are an excellent way to sharpen, and a great for use in the field. Because they are quite small and lightweight, you can just keep one in your chainsaw tool bag.
To the ultimate way to sharpen your electric, petrol or cordless chainsaw is with an electric chainsaw sharpener. These sharpeners take all the hard work, and the guesswork out of the task. They generally use a small electric motor (this can be mains powered or DC voltage powered, so you could run it off your car battery) to spin a diamond grinding wheel, which puts a perfect edge on your chain cutting links every time.
The two most popular types of electric chainsaw sharpeners are those which are small enough and portable enough to be used while you were in the field (these are the ones that generally run off a 12 V car battery), and larger models which commonly are designed to be permanently attached to a bench or counter top. These larger models are mains powered, and best suited for use in a workshop or machinery shed.
Electric chainsaw sharpeners can range in price from about $50, to well over $200. Most professional chainsaw mechanics will use one of these larger mains powered sharpeners to quickly and effectively sharpen clients saws. Using an electric chainsaw sharpener can save you a lot of time, with many professionals being able to sharpen a link in as little as two or three seconds. This means you could sharpen an 18 inch or 20 inch chainsaw chain in as little as a couple of minutes.
An electric chainsaw sharpener costs more, but will give you professional grade results
So what kind of chainsaw sharpener should you buy? For the average consumer, who just wants to sharpen their chainsaw for home use, you are probably best off buying a small DC powered sharpener. These chainsaw sharpeners are very effective, and although they are not as fast as the professional grade mains powered models, they are more than good enough for light duty use. If you can justify the extra expense though, a mains power sharpener would be great anytime.
Even so, I would strongly advise you to always keep one or two chainsaw files handy. The case may be that you are working to far away from your vehicle workshop, or that you accidentally strike an obstacles and damage just one or two links on your chain. In this case it might not be worth getting your electric chainsaw sharpener, and be faster and easier to just touch up the damage manually using a file. in addition, it can be nice to do something as tactile as sharpen by hand once in a while…it’s actually quite relaxing after the noise and vibration of using a saw after a while.
Would you like to hear a gory little chainsaw story? Don’t worry, it’s not too bad. One of the most annoying injuries I’ve ever incurred while using a chainsaw actually happened while the saw was not even running. I was working in the rain, which is always a bad idea, and a long way from my vehicle. I had to sharpen the saw, and the only thing I had was a chainsaw file in my pocket…This is fine – I don’t mind sharpening chainsaws by hand in fact I find it quite satisfying. So I put the saw down, and start sharpening away. Low and behold, after a few strokes my hands slips on the wet file, and instead of running the file over the saw tooth my hand goes across instead. The result? Deep gashes down to the knuckle bone, and not much work done for the rest of the day!
A word on safety
It doesn’t matter what sort of chainsaw sharpener you are using, you still need to exercise due caution. Even when dull, chainsaw chains can still cut you deeply, and you should always wear leather gloves were sharpening them. As you can see from my little anecdote, sharpening with a file can be particularly dangerous because you are applying a lot of force using your fingers.Put those chainsaw gloves to good use – at least wear one glove (on the hand which is going to be closer to the chain!) And save yourself a lot of pain and lost time.