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Author Topic: Chainsaw 101  (Read 441 times)

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Offline Rob in NC

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Chainsaw 101
« on: January 24, 2019, 08:51:31 AM »
ok - heres my question but ill throw some background first. Ive run stihl saws around the farm, storm cleanup etc. for about 10 years now but since buying a sawmill and getting into some more advanced sawing then just grab and cut firewood ive started looking at these chainsaws and scratching my head thinking how little I know about this stuff (sprockets, chains, tuning, bar lengths, performance mods, chain types and brands, etc.)
I would like to better understand chains and whats best for the application and if it makes sense for me to buy rolls at a time and build my own. I would also like to know if theres easy upgrades I can throw on my stock stihl saws for better performance. I don't need a hot rod but if I can change out a muffler, buy a different sprocket or buy a better brand chain etc. to make everything run better I would like to know what would help. On the other hand I don't want to modify this stuff to the point of blowing a head etc.

Like I said I have run these saws for years but my knowledge is limited past basics - fuel mixing, bar oil and re-sharpening existing chains. All I have bought to this point is stock stihl chains 5 at a time (for discount) and re-sharpen on my grinder until worn to unusable. I currently own a 290 and 311 but will probably end up with something larger to throw in the collection in the future.

Right now im just cleaning up areas on the farm and prepping logs for the mill - I haven't done any chainsaw slabbing - possibly in the future but for now im felling and bucking 99% of the time. I just want to know im using these saws to their full potential.
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Offline lxskllr

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Re: Chainsaw 101
« Reply #1 on: January 24, 2019, 09:21:05 AM »
There's a lot of potential stuff you could do, but it'll vary by saw. You could browse web forums to get an idea of what's possible. If you want to get started, maybe pick your primary saw, and ask here if you can do anything.


Regarding chains... Semi chisel is good all around chain, especially for farm work where you'll be cutting under varied conditions. It's slower than full chisel, but more forgiving with dirty wood. Less time spent sharpening. Full chisel would be better for falling trees, or bucking up clean wood that hasn't been skidded. Cuts faster, but will dull faster under less than ideal conditions. I have no idea about milling.


If there was any one thing you could do to improve performance, it's become adept at sharpening, and keep your chain sharp through the day. Maybe you already are, but I imagine almost everyone has room for improvement.

Offline Old Greenhorn

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Re: Chainsaw 101
« Reply #2 on: January 24, 2019, 12:37:58 PM »
I agree with lxskllr and would even expound on that thought. True, you can do some simple things to improve the efficiency of the saw though tuning, porting, exhaust mod, etc. but as you seem to be aware, there is some risk and a learning curve as well as potential damage cost involved. My opinion is that starting with the chain will give you the best bang for the buck and cost you little. it's a hard to make a 'mistake'. You need to do 2 things: learn all about chains, tooth forms, sharpening patterns, etc. and then you need to find out what works best for YOU. Everyone is different, has different needs, and gets different results for any given choice they might make.
 Lxskllr made the comment that full chisel dulls faster under less than optimal (clean) conditions. I have heard this many times over the years. I am beginning to think this may be the case with full chisel which is round filed, but not square filed.
 My experience is that my square filed full chisel non-skip chain cuts like a bandit and holds up quite well. I settled on this after a lot of reading and messing around. Then I found a 40 year logger who took the time to show me how to square file and I spent a couple of hours in the yard converting my first chain from round file to square and tweaking my technique by doing tests cut and filing again. It didn't take me long. Some will tell you as they told me, that you have to ruin about 5 chains before you can hope to get the square filing to work correctly. That was not the case with me, but I have 45 years experience as a toolmaker/machinist and maybe that helped a little. I love what I have landed on and don't plan on changing anytime soon. It took a lot of learning and trying along the way and all that stuff I learned but don't use is still useful to help others. Chains are fun to play with too. When you have a chain that cuts well, it requires less horsepower, less back strength, and is also safer to work with because you have more control. The saw runs better, cooler and longer.
 So my whole point here is to ask around, read a lot, find some true experts (not guys like me) and then take what they can teach you and see how it applies to what YOU do. Fair warning: anybody that says there is only one right way, or something 'will never work' or 'will always work' is most likely not speaking accurately. Move on to the next guy.
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Offline MAF143

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Re: Chainsaw 101
« Reply #3 on: January 24, 2019, 01:13:04 PM »
Fully agree on keeping your chains sharp at all times no matter what method you choose to use.  I'm a round file quick sharpening every tankfull or at least every other tank depending on what I'm cutting.

I'm not sure on your model saws and the age of them, but muffler mods are simple and low cost ways of giving many models of saws a nice pick me up power boost.  HOWEVER, you must also be able to adjust the carb after that mod to ensure you aren't running lean.  If your carb has a limiter on it, it will have to be removed to allow adjustment.

Look at your mufflers closely, if the exit hole on the muffler is way smaller than the exhaust port a muffler mod may work well for that saw.  Both my saws benefitted nicely with muffler mods and I did have to remove the limiters from the high jet screws on both of them.  Both saws (MS250 & MS391) both needed about half a turn out on the H screw to get them tuned in after the muffler mod.  I did nothing fancy on my muffler mods, no welding or separating seams...  

The 250 just got a step drill used on it to open up the exit hole of the main body under the output cover / spark arrestor and a regular drill bit and needle nose pliers to open up the inner baffle.  The outer exit cover I just simply pried the louvers open a little more.  I did keep the spark arrestor screen in place under the output cover louvers.

The 391 had no inner baffle and it's exit hole was tiny.  I simply cut slits in the front along the grooved stiffener bends and pried them open a little with screw driver.  

Clean up the edges and blow out or even wash out any metal shavings before putting the muffler back on...  you don't want any of them getting back into the exhaust port...  BAD PIZZA!!!

From what I understand it is a good thing to get the output hole(s) of the muffler to roughly equal the size of the port at the input of the muffler.  That is what I targeted any way and it worked good for me.

Both saws are like totally different animals.  faster in the cut and start better.  BUT, I have no close neighbors to grumble at me Saturday morning at 7:30 cuz these are louder now...  (sound great)

If your saws are a little older and not choked down by a restrictive muffler, these mods may not do much.  My older 041 is fine with out a mod.


Always having a great day!
MS 391, MS 250, HM-126, Ferguson TO-35, '97 Ram 1500 wood cuttin' truck, splitter, Woodland Mills Grindlux 4000 sharpener, Vogelzang Ponderosa keeping us warm

Offline Inaotherlife

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Re: Chainsaw 101
« Reply #4 on: January 24, 2019, 01:32:51 PM »
I'm wanting to buy a Stihl 2 in 1 sharpening kit. Mainly to help me with the rakers.
I've balked at the price so far, but it's probably a worthwhile investment.

As far as mods. I think that on a lot of saws a muffler mod is a reasonable thing to gain performance if you don't mind the increased noise. Especially on smaller saws to stretch their capabilities and speed in the cut.
And learning to keep your carb in tune.

On my largest saw, a 372xp, I don't know if I personally would actually benefit from a muffler mod. The saw is already fairly noisy, and powerful.

Other mods, like porting, may be ok if you know how to do it yourself. But for me, not worth the expense to pay to have it done.
More for the racing and enthusiast crowd, than just a normal guy with a chainsaw addiction or for a work saw.

I might be tempted to try a base gasket delete, to raise compression. And the accompanying mild porting that might be necessary to keep the port timing correct.

On saws that it's an option, and especially ones that might benefit from freshining up, rejugging to a larger cc would be one of the bigger mods that I'd consider.

Offline lxskllr

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Re: Chainsaw 101
« Reply #5 on: January 24, 2019, 01:37:59 PM »
I'm wanting to buy a Stihl 2 in 1 sharpening kit. Mainly to help me with the rakers.
I've balked at the price so far, but it's probably a worthwhile investment.
I've read mixed reports on the 2n1. I use the metal multipurpose bar tool to check raker depth. I'll count my file strokes til the depth is good, then do the next 3 or 4, checking with the tool. If my count gives consistent results, I quit checking, and just file each raker a fixed number of times. Goes pretty quick that way.

Offline Inaotherlife

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Re: Chainsaw 101
« Reply #6 on: January 24, 2019, 01:50:49 PM »
I'm wanting to buy a Stihl 2 in 1 sharpening kit. Mainly to help me with the rakers.
I've balked at the price so far, but it's probably a worthwhile investment.
I've read mixed reports on the 2n1. I use the metal multipurpose bar tool to check raker depth. I'll count my file strokes til the depth is good, then do the next 3 or 4, checking with the tool. If my count gives consistent results, I quit checking, and just file each raker a fixed number of times. Goes pretty quick that way.
Thanks for the tip. I will look into the metal multi-purpose bar tool.
Just using a flat file for the rakers doesn't seem as easy as it should be for me.

Offline MAF143

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Re: Chainsaw 101
« Reply #7 on: January 24, 2019, 01:54:04 PM »
I just ordered 12 packs of Oregon files for both of my saws (that I use regularly).  Good sharp files cleaned out on a piece of hardwood and kept from rubbing on stuff in storage are important parts of keeping your chain sharp.  A light touch with the file will also help them last.  I have abused them in the past but I'm getting much better at storing them and showing them the respect they deserve.
Always having a great day!
MS 391, MS 250, HM-126, Ferguson TO-35, '97 Ram 1500 wood cuttin' truck, splitter, Woodland Mills Grindlux 4000 sharpener, Vogelzang Ponderosa keeping us warm

Offline Pine Ridge

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Re: Chainsaw 101
« Reply #8 on: January 24, 2019, 07:40:33 PM »
A muffler mod will help most saws. There is a thread here somewhere about muffler modding a 361 stihl, and adding a deflector from a 288xp husqvarna. That mod works great on a 361 stihl, and looks neat and clean, not that much louder. You might check into it, may work on your 290 and 311 .If not there will be other ways to modify them so they breathe better and run cooler.
Husqvarna 550xp , 2- 372xp and a 288xp, Chevy 4x4 winch truck


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