Do chainsaw blades come sharpened?
Chances are the chain will be sharp as most chainsaw manufacturers ensure that the chain supplied with the machine is sharp and ready to cut. You may however like to check that the tension on the chain is correct and I would suggest that the tension is checked after the first hour of operation because it will have ‘stretched.’
‘Stretch’ is not the correct word but all the rivets will have aligned one way because of the direction of the chain working and the sum of the ‘play’ in the individual rivets will have all added up making the chain longer.
Another critical element of a new chain is the relationship between the depth gauge and the teeth are correctly set. In this way, the manufacturer has ensured that the tooth is correctly set in relation to the depth gauge to take the correct amount of material without bogging down the saw.
Is there a reason to sharpen a brand new chain?
Given that the purchased saw comes with a chain sharpened by the manufacturer it is difficult to find a compelling reason to go ahead and sharpen a chain already sharp.
There seems to be a common belief that a newly bought chain is never going to be as sharp as it is on the day of purchase and this may be true. The manufacturers produce a tooth with a definitive hook by straying from the designated angle and creating a sharper profile.
This does create a sharper tooth but, as with most things, there is a price to pay. The sharper angle will create an edge that will dull a little quicker than the specified angle profile and it is a compromise.
How do I know if my chainsaw is sharp enough for use?
There are traditionally two ways to check on the sharpness of the chain, but I would like to add a third. The skilled old-timers would check the sharpness of the chisels used they sharpened by shaving some hair off their arm to demonstrate their skill.
Now I’m not going to suggest you try that with your sharpened chainsaw, but just like a correctly sharpened chisel will cleanly cut through a piece of paper a correctly sharpened chain should also cleanly cut a piece of paper drawn along the chain.
Probably the easiest way to establish the condition of the chain is to have a look at the chips the saw produces. The individual pieces should be quite large and almost square. Generally, the larger the chips the sharper the chain notwithstanding the hardness of the wood being cut.
So have a good look at the pile of what is mistakenly called ‘sawdust’ produced by the saw. If the pieces are light and their shape is clearly defined, then the chain is good but if it really is sawdust then it is time to sharpen the chain.
There is another method that is useful and that is simply to rest the bar on a log and allow it to cut without applying any pressure.
The teeth should be able to hold the bar against the log and the chain should gently move through the log in a smooth action. If, after sharpening your saw can do this, award yourself an appropriate prize.
How long should a chainsaw blade stay sharp?
Leaving professional loggers out of this question the time between sharpening the chain is going to depend on so many factors. Firstly, the type of wood that is generally cut will play a significant role but far more important is the ability of the operator to keep the chain out of the dirt.
Sand and grit will not only deaden the edge of the teeth but will also induce excessive wear on the bar track. So, rule number one is to keep the work clean especially when cutting fallen logs on the ground.
Another danger to be aware of is a timber that is ant infested because it will contain a significant amount of dirt that won’t be seen from the outside.
So how long will it stay sharp is an open question but, in my experience, cutting a range of hard and softwoods I sharpen my chain every other time I fill the fuel tank. It’s a habit that works for me but the only reliable way to establish when the chain needs sharpening is to look at the size of the sawdust.
How do I sharpen my chainsaw chain?
Saw sharpening kits are readily available from most chainsaw distributors and they normally are accompanied by detailed instructions on their use. Following the instructions is straightforward and with a little practice, it becomes easier and quicker.
If there is one tip that I would strongly suggest you follow and that is to get the filing tool that dresses the tooth and the depth gauge simultaneously. It makes things so much easier. (Stihl has a great version of this.)
Another little trick to learn is to count the number of teeth on the chain before you start sharpening, that way you will be certain to dress every tooth.
Your sharpening kit will last a lot longer if you make sure that the chain is clean before you sharpen it. The easiest way to do this is to soak it overnight in a solvent and then clean it off in the morning. Compressed air is a bonus for this.
A few light strokes with the correct file is all that is required to keep the chain slicing through the work efficiently and with minimum strain on the engine.