Chainsaws are some of the most versatile tools around. They’re capable of tackling a variety of jobs like pruning heavy bushes, trimming branches, cutting down trees, and removing stumps. But as powerful as your tool might be, the real muscle behind the tool is the chainsaw chain (click for the top 10). Without a sharp chain, cutting wood is exhausting, inefficient, and downright dangerous.
While some chains are more durable than others, even the best chains on the market will lose their sharpness and grow dull eventually.
Have you ever wondered how you can recognize when it’s time to sharpen your chainsaw chain? Well, you’re in luck! In this article, we’ll share a few ways to tell if it’s time to sharpen your chain.
Poor Cutting Performance
A sharp chainsaw chain slices through wood easily. When your chain’s teeth are sharp, the tool will pull itself down into the wood you’re cutting, spitting out long, wafer-like wood chips as it works its way through the object.
If you find yourself trying to force the tool through the wood and notice that the chain is spitting out sawdust instead of wood chips, then your chain is in need of a good sharpening.
The performance of a chainsaw should be smooth and fluid. Sure, there’s lots of friction happening during the cutting process, but if your tool’s chain lubrication system is working and the chain’s tension is properly adjusted, your chainsaw should be perfectly able to cope with this friction.
If you notice smoke seeping out from the cut, it’s because the teeth are probably dull and are causing too much friction and heat build-up. This doesn’t only affect the efficiency of the performance; it can also damage your chainsaw. So, if you see smoke, it’s time to sharpen your chain.
Uneven Cuts and Shaky Performance
A sharp chainsaw chain cuts clean and precise, smoothly pulling itself through the wood. If the cut you’re making is digging deeper on one side, it’s because the teeth are uneven or dull on that side.
Keep an eye on the “feel” of your tool while it’s operating. If it’s bouncing back towards you, or if rattling prevents you from getting an accurate cut, then it’s likely time to sharpen – or even replace – the chain.
How to Replace a Chainsaw Chain
Replacing your chainsaw chain is one of the most common maintenance tasks for this type of tool. That’s why it’s essential to learn how to replace the chain on your own. Luckily, this job can be completed with a model-specific wrench or just a flathead screwdriver and a socket wrench.
The first thing you need to do is remove the side panel of your tool’s guide bar. This plate is usually held in place by two nuts which you’ll need to remove with your wrench.
With the nuts removed, take off the plate so you can access the chain. Take note if your chainsaw has a brake attached to the side plate. If there is a brake, make sure that you unlock it before removing the side plate.
Next, pull the nose of the guide bar away from the tool’s housing to release it from the tensioner. This step will release the tension from the chain, allowing you to remove it quickly. Next, work with the slack and pull the drive links from the guide bar, slipping the other end of the chain over the clutch drum of the tool. With the old chain gone, it’s time to install the replacement.
Find the tensioning screw located on the inside side of the guide bar and loosen it with a flathead screwdriver. Now, simply thread the new or sharpened chain around the clutch drum, ensuring the drive links are engaged with the sprocket. Then, thread the rest of the links along the groove of the guide bar and over its nose.
Once the chain is threaded along the guide bar, pull the nose away from the tool’s housing to add some tension to the chain, ensuring that the guide bar is seated on the saw’s adjustment pin.
With the guide bar in position, you can replace and secure the side plate by lightly tightening the nuts. Don’t make them too tight, though! Adjust the tensioning screw to the proper setting. Finally, once the tension is set properly, tighten the side plate nuts, and your chainsaw is ready for action.
How to Tighten a Chainsaw Chain
When you replace your chain, you’ll have to adjust the tension as well. And since chains stretch and get loose during use, there’s a good chance you’ll need to know how to perform this task long before it’s time to replace your chainsaw chain. The good news is that this is a relatively simple task you can perform in a few minutes.
You can do it with the combination screwdriver and wrench that comes with many models, or you can just use a flathead screwdriver and a socket wrench. The first step is to loosen the nuts found on the side plate of the chainsaw.
If your chainsaw has a brake attached to the side panel, ensure it’s unlocked before removing the plate. Then find the tension adjustment screw located on the lower part of the side of the chainsaw’s guide bar.
Adjust the tension with the flathead screwdriver. To tighten the chain, tighten the screw. To loosen the chain, loosen the screw. To test the tension, pull the chain slightly. It will provide some slack, but the drive links should remain engaged with the guide bar. If the drive links separate from the guide bar, the chain is too loose.
Once you’ve achieved the proper tension, lift the nose of the chainsaw while reinstalling the side plate and tightening the plate’s bolts. With the side plate secure, your chainsaw is officially back in service.
How Many Times Can you Sharpen a Chainsaw Chain?
Tearing through wood can wear down even the toughest chainsaw chain, but by sharpening your chain, you extend its life and help it perform efficiently and safely. The important thing to remember is that chains can only be sharpened a certain number of times before they lose their temper and need to be replaced.
While there is no set number, most chains can be sharpened between 3 to 5 times. This number varies greatly depending on usage, operating conditions, and how well you’ve maintained the chain and bar. Other factors to keep in mind are the type of wood being cut and whether your chain constantly strikes dirt and hard ground.
Working in demanding conditions and neglecting the tool will cut down the number of times you can sharpen the chain. But for most users operating in good conditions, you can expect to get an average of 3 to 5 sharpenings before it’s time to replace your chain.