Saw chain sharpening: how do you do it?


Old 10-05-16, 06:41 PM
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Saw chain sharpening: how do you do it?

In the past I've either had my saw chains professionally sharpened or replaced with new because I was using the saw infrequently.

Lately I've been using it a lot more as I am clearing trails on my wooded property and I am considering sharpening the chains myself.

So, for those chainsaw users out there: what method do you use and why?

If it matters, I run a stihl MS180CBE (16") and have been using the standard stihl anti-kickback chain.

I need a method that is fairly fool-resistant
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Old 10-05-16, 06:58 PM
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I also have a Stihl and use it a lot. For field sharpening I use a rounded file and follow in the angle of the inside "C" under the cutting edge making sure the file is parallel and touching the underside of the cutting edge. A couple of swipes and I move to the next one. In the end it is sharper but not anywhere close to what the professionals do...When really dull, head to those who do it for a living (my approach). Hope this helps...I seem to remember that the manual talks about field sharpening. Enjoy
Old 10-05-16, 07:24 PM
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I have been running chain saws for over 25yrs. I used to put up 5 chords of wood per winter in the PNW. I have also repaired and worked on saw for over 15yrs and have never had a sharpening machine of my own. Have worked for including now, places that have them, and while I can run them I rarely do.
I always hand file my own, and those of customers who want a sharp chain. Most "Pro's" that use a machine never cut much wood in my experience. The one thing machine sharpening does do is make it all exactly even and can repair some scrapes with steel or concrete being exact it can help with the chain trying to run off to one side or such on a cut.

My advice, go to your stihl dealer and ask for the correct file and a guide for your chain. It should take no more than 3-5 swipes with a file on each tooth, and you will learn the feel. The guide keeps the depth correct, and it has angle marks on it. Can be done in the field on a tailgate or cut stump. In the shop I would mount the saw in a vise by the bar. Mark your starting tooth with a soap stone or sharpie, rotate through all, then reverse for the other side.

I actually challenged my counterpart in the shop since he does all the machine sharpening, took a 4" wallnut log, which chain could cut the thinnest slice the fastest. Well my chain , his
Old 10-05-16, 07:26 PM
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Forgot to mention, I can do it in about 5 mins, which was quicker than the machine even if it needed no set up.
Old 10-05-16, 07:46 PM
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For the last 20 years, I give my employees 2 hours to read and understand the attached prior to letting them use the saw. (The original is pretty close to the attached except for the nicer graphics).

This is an excellent starting guide, you can then tailor it to your own desires as you get more proficient.

I have found the place most people error at is the filing of the rakers, which is just as important as the filing of the teeth.
Old 10-06-16, 04:34 AM
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I always sharpen the chain myself. I always sharpen the angle by eyeball. Yrs ago I'd take the chain to a pro to sharpen it about halfway thru the chain's life to make sure I didn't get off track but haven't done that in over 20 yrs. The appropriate sized stone is quicker/easier than a file but I believe a file does a better job. Yours probably takes a 5/16" file but you need to check to make sure.
Old 10-06-16, 05:18 AM
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I have a small tool bag that I take along when cutting wood. I keep a round file and a flat file in the bag to touch up the chain while cutting. I eyeball it. I do have an Oregon clamp-on file guide but I seldom use it.
Old 10-06-16, 05:27 AM
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I have a sharpening machine. It's not the Oregon brand machine but a cheap Chinese copy. It works OK but it is slower than using a file. One big reason is that the chain must be removed from the saw for sharpening. I do a lot of what I call combat cutting. Disassembly of old buildings hitting hidden nails or brush clearing with a lot of cuts close to the ground or on the ground which leads to a lot of rock hits so the chains get pretty messed-up. If you are just doing normal cutting I would learn to hand file. It's pretty quick and easy once you get the hang of it and you don't have the expense of a sharpening machine or the hassle of where to store the sharpening machine when you are not using it.
Old 10-06-16, 06:31 AM
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Field sharpening is a must as keeping the edge in great shape sure makes cutting easier. As you lose the edge you will spend more time in the wood getting less results. That will increase the heat generated and accelerate the decline.

As BFHFixit said "It should take no more than 3-5 swipes with a file on each tooth, and you will learn the feel." And you will notice the difference. If you wait too long the teeth will pick up a temper and the file will skate across barely cutting. Then you have to take a lot more than 3 to 5 passes.

Old 10-06-16, 06:44 AM
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Chain Sharpening

I sharpen my saw chains using a vise to clamp the bar. I hold the file with both hands. One hand on the file handle and the other on the outer tip of the file. This helps prevent the file from changing angle as it passes through the tooth.

I have never been able to do a decent job of sharpening in the field. I carry a spare, sharp chain. Changing the chain is faster than sharpening in the field, also.
Old 10-06-16, 07:42 AM
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Thanks for all the advice from experienced hands! I will learn to hand file. I like the idea of the Stihl 2 in 1 file/guide, think I will give that a shot. From reviews seems to work well and seems sufficiently fool-resistant...
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