How to Choose the Best Chainsaw Sharpener
Typically, for general DIYers, when a chainsaw chain goes blunt it signals one of two things: that it’s time to buy a new chain, or that it’s time to take the chain to a professional for sharpening.
Whilst that’s all well and good for very occasional users, as soon as the machine starts getting used more frequently, these costs can start to add up.
Fortunately, chainsaw sharpeners – be they manual or electric – allow chains to be sharpened at home. This generally means that the money spent on purchasing the sharpener is made back in very little time.
Choosing the best chainsaw sharpener will depend on how you prefer to work, and your chainsaw itself. See the information below for more advice:
The Benefits of Using a Chainsaw Sharpener
Primarily, owning a chainsaw sharpener has two main benefits: saving time and money.
A lot of decent electric sharpeners now cost under £100. They’re not professional tools, but they are sufficiently powerful and effective to get old chains performing like new.
Seeing as the cost of taking a chain to a professional to be sharpened can range from approximately £5 – £15, it doesn’t take long for a household chainsaw sharpener to earn its keep – especially given that some machines actually cost only two or three times the cost of professional sharpening.
Additional savings are also made through not having to spend petrol on taking the chains to a workshop, or having to pay postage on new chains.
Finally, if you have a manual sharpener (further information in the next section), you can sharpen your chainsaw whilst away from the garage. This can be useful for DIYers and professionals alike.
Manual vs. Electric Chainsaw Sharpeners
In the past, manual sharpening with files was the only way to go. Even in later years, with the introduction of electric sharpeners, you wouldn’t have had a unit it the home.
Now you’ve got the choice, and there are pros and cons to each style. Ultimately, your decision may come down to personal preference, but here’s more information about each type of sharpener.
These work by holding the chain in a locked position, and moving a fast-spinning grinder over the edge of the tooth that needs sharpening. The sharpening angle can be adjusted, and the chain needs to be manually moved along in order to work on the next tooth.
It’s good practise to mark the first tooth that you work on, with some form of indelible pen, so that you know when you have done a full circuit and all of the links have been sharpened. You’ll then need to sharpen the second side of the tooth, which uses an opposite angle.
Whilst this might sound a little complicated, these machines are generally quite intuitive to use. Getting the angle right can take a bit of practise – information on the filing angle and required file size for your specific chain can generally be found 1) on the chain’s packaging, 2) in your chainsaw’s user manual, 3) on the internet.
Different size grinding wheels are available for different size chains. Electric sharpeners often come with one grinder, for standard chain sizes. It is possible to buy a new grinding wheel and replace the existing one, if necessary. You will need to check what size grinding wheel is required for your specific chain.
Manual sharpening tools will generally come as a set. A combination of tools is required to sharpen chain teeth, these include: round files, flat files, file guides and depth gauges.
The packaging of the chain, or the user’s manual, will have information on what size file to use. It’s good practise to start by sharpening the bluntest tooth first. This way, you can count how many strokes it takes to sharpen, and use this as a guide for the rest of the teeth.
Use a pushing motion, moving the file away from you as opposed to pulling it over the teeth.
Generally, the file guide will do most of the hard work for you. As long as the file has been set up properly, and you are holding it level, it will produce the correct angle.
Using a manual sharpener may take longer than an electric machine, but there are also a couple of benefits to this process.
Firstly, you often get an assortment of file sizes in a manual sharpener set. Therefore, you may be able to sharpen more chain sizes than you would with a single grinding wheel. Manual tools can also be used whilst away from home, whilst on the job, if necessary.
When to Sharpen a Chainsaw Chain
Whilst some people choose to regularly sharpen their chains as a form of general maintenance, there are some signs to look out for to let you know that it’s really time to give that chain some attention:
- If the chainsaw is creating fine dust when cutting, as opposed to uniformly-sized wood chips, this is a sign that the teeth are blunt.
- If the chain is getting stuck and snagging on the chainsaw, it needs sharpening. It should always move smoothly around the chainsaw.
- If you hit a nail or the ground, there is a high chance that one or more of the teeth will be blunted.
Chainsaw Sharpener FAQs
How do I sharpen a chainsaw manually?
To file your chainsaw manually you will need a filing kit made for chainsaws, protective gloves and eye wear. Always ensure that the chain is cool before you attempt to sharpen it.
Chainsaw sharpening kits come with detailed instruction on how to use them. You should follow these instructions carefully for the best results and to ensure safe use. You will need to use a round file of the correct size (check with the packaging of the chain or the chainsaw’s user manual) and a file guide. The round file is used for the sides and tops of the cutting teeth. You will also need to use a depth gauge, and a flat file. A flat file is used to file the raker height of each tooth. A good tip is to use a dab of Tippex, or an indelible marker. to mark the point where you start sharpening so you can see when you have gone all the way around the chain.
How do I sharpen a chainsaw with an electric sharpener?
Electric chainsaw sharpeners come with detailed instructions on how to use them. You should follow the procedure carefully for the best results. It is particularly important to follow the safety guidelines to avoid any accidents. You should ensure that the electric sharpener is securely attached to a bench or vice before use to prevent slipping and accidents.
You will need to know what size grinder to use to sharpen your chain as well as what angle to file it at. This information will be detailed on the packaging of the chain and also in the manufacturer’s guide for the chainsaw.