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Author Topic: Sharpening a chain. Why so difficult  (Read 4483 times)

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Offline Kwill

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Sharpening a chain. Why so difficult
« on: January 30, 2019, 01:46:38 PM »
Ive tried and tried for years to learn how to sharpen a saw chain. Ive bought guides and holders and even a electric sharpener. None have worked. The chains never work right. Even when i take chains to have them sharpened they never cut that great. There was a older guy who use to hand sharpen and they cut great after he was done with them. He is no longer around. My chains most of the time never need much just a file ran across them. I just cant seem to get the angles right. 
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Re: Sharpening a chain. Why so difficult
« Reply #1 on: January 30, 2019, 02:05:52 PM »
Just takes time I guess, and it varies per person. Cutting a mess of filthy wood got me lots of practice filing, and I think I do a pretty good job, especially when I try. I don't always try, especially when the wood's dirty. No point in spending a lot of time when you'll be doing it again shortly. That Carlton manual Old Greenhorn linked is pretty good with regards to filing, and what you should look for. I'd study that, and keep practicing.


http://carltonproducts.com/pdfs/CarltonSafetyMaintManual_EN.pdf

Offline Ianab

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Re: Sharpening a chain. Why so difficult
« Reply #2 on: January 30, 2019, 02:25:12 PM »
Thing I find is to have a good close look at a NEW chain, and see how the angles are set up. How the top and side plate are angled, and the cutting point. Then, try and make the cutters look like that again. 

Common mistakes are running the chain too long, so the cutting edge gets badly rounded over. Then it takes a lot of filing to get back to the razor edge again. Sharpen as soon as you notice the cuts slowing up, and you only have to remove minimal material. The outside of the cutting edges needs to be perfectly clean, if there is any round-over or chipping in that outer chrome layer, keep filing until there isn't. If the outside edge isn't perfect, the cutting edge isn't the hard chrome layer, it's in the softer steel below. This doesn't cut as well, and what edge you do get on it dulls much faster.

With a bit of practice I can get a chain pretty much cutting "like new". An actual expert can get it cutting better than that... 
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Offline thecfarm

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Re: Sharpening a chain. Why so difficult
« Reply #3 on: January 30, 2019, 02:33:18 PM »
My Father could sharpen anything and make it cut good. I wished that would of been passed down to me.  ::)  I watched him file many chains. Finally I took a log and said I will get this. Took me a while. And a whole chain. ;D   :o  ::) I could get it to cut,but not straight. Finally I figured it out. The solution I am about to post will not make sense,but I have been doing it that way for more than 30 years.  ;D   I usually take at least one more swipe when the saw head is on the right. Somehow I can't get it right without doing that. And there is times when I get done,it starts to go off to the side. I stop and sharpen that side again and all is good. Must be doing something right,I can hang onto the rear handle and it will draw itself into the wood.
And Ianab is right,copy what is there. Keep the angles the same. Should be witness marks on the chain.
Are you putting the bar in a vise? Set yourself up to make it comfortable for you.
I can put the chainsaw on the ground and sharpen it just as well in a vise. Or I think I can. But I always use to be the bar in a vise.
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Offline Somewhat Handy

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Re: Sharpening a chain. Why so difficult
« Reply #4 on: January 30, 2019, 02:35:54 PM »
Have you been filing the depth rakers as well as the cutters? Some people forget that or were never told. Supposedly, Stihl makes a filing guide that holds a flat file next to a round file so that you can cut both at the same time, consistently. Wranglerstar put up a video on these, for what it's worth. I don't know if this would work for all chain pitches, though....


Offline HolmenTree

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Re: Sharpening a chain. Why so difficult
« Reply #5 on: January 30, 2019, 03:05:32 PM »
First rule is good eyesight or you're lost without it.
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Offline Pulphook

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Re: Sharpening a chain. Why so difficult
« Reply #6 on: January 30, 2019, 03:09:37 PM »
That's the new and improved 2in1 Stihl hand sharpener from German PFERD. We have the older models that have to be turned and set for each chain side.
It is simple and reliable. In one pass following the chain "witness line" angle seen on top of each new chain, it does the tooth AND raker with each pass.
It comes with the correct round file and flat file for every kind of chain.
Easy, accurate and better than most electric grinders since you cannot 'burn' the chain by hand like with electric grinders used badly.
They are so easy to sharpen in the field with a stump vise when you hit barbed wire, dirt, or a round. :-[
When I can afford that new and improved Pferd model ( and give up the fortnightly Laphroaig 1/5 :o) I will get them. Not yet.
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Offline Kwill

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Re: Sharpening a chain. Why so difficult
« Reply #7 on: January 30, 2019, 03:14:28 PM »
Sounds like i need to look into this stihl tool. I never have filed the rakers and id say thay may have been the problem.
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Offline Somewhat Handy

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Re: Sharpening a chain. Why so difficult
« Reply #8 on: January 30, 2019, 03:21:40 PM »
Yeah, if you don't file the rakers then the "throat" through which the material passes gets smaller every time you file those cutters. Once they are dead even with or taller than the cutters you are basically skipping along the cut instead of biting. It's kinda like "jointing" for hand saw teeth, but not really, because you don't want the rakers and cutters dead even on a chainsaw.

Offline Ianab

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Re: Sharpening a chain. Why so difficult
« Reply #9 on: January 30, 2019, 03:31:08 PM »
Have you been filing the depth rakers as well as the cutters? Some people forget that or were never told. Supposedly, Stihl makes a filing guide that holds a flat file next to a round file so that you can cut both at the same time, consistently. Wranglerstar put up a video on these, for what it's worth. I don't know if this would work for all chain pitches, though....


They make several different sharpeners for the different chains they sell. Same as having different size files for different chains. I don't use one, but a friend got one with her little MS180, and it seems to "work as advertised". 
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Re: Sharpening a chain. Why so difficult
« Reply #10 on: January 30, 2019, 03:37:10 PM »
This is what I use to check raker height...


Filing Aids for sharpening a saw chain | STIHL | STIHL


That's about all I use it for, but the bar groove cleaner works too. I keep them a hair lower than the gauge says; between the top and bottom of the plate.

Offline Kwill

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Re: Sharpening a chain. Why so difficult
« Reply #11 on: January 30, 2019, 04:14:33 PM »
Im liking the looks of the stihl 2 in 1 tool
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Offline Old Greenhorn

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Re: Sharpening a chain. Why so difficult
« Reply #12 on: January 30, 2019, 04:57:37 PM »
Kwill I had the hardest time learning too. You are not alone. I don't use round files anymore, but when I did, or if I go back, THIS is the guide I would use: Husky Guide They come in different sizes based on pitch. They set the file at the proper angle and height (the latter being very tricky for most folks. It also has the raker guide right on it. It's a small thing. You need to understand the angles, and everyone has a different way of visualizing this. Take a file a lay it in the tooth of a new chain nestling it in tight against the area you would file. Note these 3 things: 1) the angle of the file to the axis of the chain (bar), some call this the face angle and it is usually 30-35 degrees depending on the tooth form, 2) the angle of the file (in the vertical plane) to the face of the bar which is usually 75 to 90 degrees depending on the tooth form, and 3) the height of the top of the file (high spot) above the top plate of the tooth, usually 1/5 or 20% of the file diameter. If you match these, you can't go wrong. All of this is covered in that Carlton booklet which also has a great section on troubleshooting chains and cutting or driving problems.
Cfarm mentioned having trouble getting both sides the same, he offered good suggestions about being comfortable. I have the side to side issue also. For me, I put the saw on a table, stump, or tailgate and lay my chest on the trigger handle looking down the bar of the saw. I file the right teeth, right handed, from the right side, and the left teeth, left handed from the left side. I hit the rakers last, as everyone should, from the side with a simple raker gauge. ( I use .03, some use .025".) It took me a while to learn this way well, my left hand not being so well educated as my right, but I got there.
I use a square file, I find it easier to get a sharp tooth, I like the full chisel tooth better, and my teeth are more more consistent. I would not recommend trying this without a guru to get you through it. If you think round filing is a challenge, square could send you screaming into the night if you don't have a coach.
Be patient, take you time, use good lighting and maybe a magnifying glass until you figure out how it should look. I did this for a while to check my work. You will get it.
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Offline Pulphook

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Re: Sharpening a chain. Why so difficult
« Reply #13 on: January 30, 2019, 05:00:51 PM »
Rare that something simple and cheap does exactly what it is supposed to do. Like my pulphook, the PFERD sharpener is perfect and near brainless ( for me at least :( ).
Get the correct size for pitch.
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Offline wild262

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Re: Sharpening a chain. Why so difficult
« Reply #14 on: January 31, 2019, 08:37:17 AM »
      I'm not ashamed to say I still have trouble at times.  And I've cut since I was 13yrs old.  Mostly its when I get in a hurry.  Don't do what I do, take your time starting out.  Speed will come on its own.  I use the File-O-Plate made by Husqvarna.  Works good for me.  Has a swing-out raker gauge.   Probably the best advice on here is after you do get it sharp, don't put off touching it up when it needs it.  I've been known to re-file several times a day when I'm cutting.  Felling especially, as you pick-up all kinds of abrasives on butt  cuts.    Trust us when we tell you, its a whole lot easier to keep your chain in good sharp condition when its not allowed to get very dull.  Only takes just a swipe or 2 per cutter and your done.  Learn to do this in the field of course.  I use a stump vise or tailgate.  Only takes a few minutes, and pays big time in the long run. :)

Offline Weekend_Sawyer

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Re: Sharpening a chain. Why so difficult
« Reply #15 on: January 31, 2019, 09:15:20 AM »
Simple things in life bring me pleasure.
I like the fact that I can sharpen a saw chain with a round file.
I use the file holder pictured and clamp my saw bar in a 6" vice.
I sharpen each tooth with 2 strokes of the file unless they are damaged.
(In eastern WV I tend to hit a rock now and then.) always filing away from the engine.
About every 3rd to 4th sharpening I'll hit the rakers with a flat file. I don't use a guide for this, just eyeball it.
My chains are sharp and cut straight so I must be doing it right.
... or pretty close to right.

 
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Offline ButchC

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Re: Sharpening a chain. Why so difficult
« Reply #16 on: January 31, 2019, 11:12:44 AM »
Its easy to correct mistakes when watching a person do it but can only guess when answering a question. Most common mistake is the work not held ridged. Several have touched on it but I want to make it clear that it is near impossible to sharpen a chain correctly unless it is held ridged, either off the saw or on the saw. In the shop I sharpen on the saw in the big bench vise. In the field a stump vise is a nice thing to have in the tool box. Lacking that make a bore cut in the stump and stick the saw in it.   Fix that situation first. Next is your files, a surprisingly large amount of people think they last forever, dull file equals bad work. Buy a few new ones and always remember you push it and lift it out to return. Do not drag it back and forth like your running a hand saw,or you ruin the file in a hurry. There are numerous crutches to assist hand filing and when I use one I have yet to see or use one that beat the simple flat plate type as sold in many places including the box stores. I use the ones Stihl sells as they still have the thumb screw to hold the file tight. When in the shop and everything is held perfectly I just use a bare baked file. Learning how to use that guide is as easy as going to Oregons web site and watching the video. Adjusting the depth gauges is important only after you have sharpened the chains a few times about 1/3 of the way gone is when I reset them. If you are not getting results on the first filing of a new chain depth gauges are NOT your issue. 
As for saw shops not getting the chains right,, common problem and why I learned how to hand file myself.
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Offline Weekend_Sawyer

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Re: Sharpening a chain. Why so difficult
« Reply #17 on: January 31, 2019, 12:15:47 PM »
 Very good point, If your file is dull throw it away!
I have a stump vice, I like it.
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Offline HolmenTree

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Re: Sharpening a chain. Why so difficult
« Reply #18 on: January 31, 2019, 12:27:32 PM »
Always hand file the right hand cutters first because if your file slips out of the right hand cutter's gullet your index finger knuckle will get sliced to the bone on a freshly sharpened left hand cutter. And the thickest leather gloves won't save your knuckle.
Here's how I like to file my chain, comfortable,  good view of the cutting edges, free hand supports the cutters  from wobbling and firm grip on the saw. Got my reading glasses on too ;D
Works the same sitting on a log or stump.


 

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Re: Sharpening a chain. Why so difficult
« Reply #19 on: January 31, 2019, 12:34:38 PM »
Always hand file the right hand cutters first because if your file slips out of the right hand cutter's gullet your index finger knuckle will get sliced to the bone on a freshly sharpened left hand cutter. And the thickest leather gloves won't save your knuckle.
Here's how I like to file my chain, comfortable,  good view of the cutting edges, free hand suppirts the chain from wobbling and firm grip on the saw. Got my reading glasses on too ;D
Works the same sitting on a log or stump.

(Image hidden from quote, click to view.)
 
(Image hidden from quote, click to view.)

That's pretty much how I do mine. Either in my lap, or on a tailgate. Chaps keep the saw gunk off your pants  :^D


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