How Many Times Can You Sharpen a Chainsaw Chain? Full Guide

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By Jake Hill

Chainsaws

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A chain is a critical part of operating any chainsaw. This component must be sharp to ensure efficient, smooth, and fast cutting. Many users wonder how many times they can sharpen their chains. Many think a chain needs to be replaced once it is dull.

However, this part can be sharpened several times and be as good as new. Sharpening the cutting chain is a cornerstone of proper saw maintenance. If you wonder how many times you can sharpen a chainsaw chain, keep reading this blog post. We will explain everything related to this question.

How Chainsaw Chain Works?

A chain is often believed to be the part doing all the cutting. However, this is not true. A chain is only responsible for removing the cut materials. 

The sharp series of teeth and the chainsaw blade are the actual cutters. To understand how the chain works, you will need to know the basics of the chain anatomy.

1. Drive links

They are also known as chainsaw drives. These are responsible for making the chain revolve around the bar. These drives come in different numbers. Typically, the number is determined by the length of the chain bar.

2. Tie straps

Sometimes, these are called ratchet straps. These are tiny metal plates. They are generally responsible for holding and connecting the drive links.

3. Cutters

These are the teeth that do all of the cutting. The most crucial component of a chain is the cutter.

4. Rivets 

They have a similar task to the straps. They connect and fasten the cutters and the links tightly without leaving the slightest space.

5. The Guide 

It is another critical component of the chain. It does not participate in the cutting process, but it does participate in guiding the cutters to the targeted pieces of wood. It is located right in front of the cutters. It is usually made of stainless steel.

How the Chainsaw Chain Works

When all these components are intact and do not have excessive wear, the chain can efficiently perform its task. But before operating the chain, you must ensure the proper chain tension. This means that the chain is adequately tightened.

If all these elements on your checklist are alright, you can start on the saw and disengage the chain brake. You will see the cutter/teeth continuously spinning around the chainsaw bar. Each tooth will cut a piece of wood, and the chain will keep it away from the saw’s body.

How to Sharpen a Chainsaw Chain

The most straightforward way to sharpen a cutting chain is by using a file. This tool is simple and fast for performing this task. The file you are using must have a matching size to your chain’s size. For instance, your chosen file must be 5/32 inches if you have a low-profile chain.

Ensure the chain is properly tensioned, and the saw is placed upside down and held correctly by a tabletop stump vise. Start with the shortest one of the chain teeth and mark it with a market to know the starting point. Correct positioning of the file must be inside the cutter or tooth notch.

It is recommended to check the user manual to double-check the chainsaw sharpening angle chart for the correct file placement. Once you are done positioning, you can easily slide the file to sharpen each tooth. Remember that this must be done quickly and three or four times until the tooth is even and sharpened.

Factors that Affect the Lifespan of a Chainsaw Chain

Chainsaw chains are built to last for a few years. Typically, you can’t expect them to last for decades. However, proper maintenance and responsible use positively affect the lifespan. For instance, the lifespan will typically be shorter if you are a heavy chainsaw user.

Still, the good news is that you do not have to replace a chain once the blades go dull. You can sharpen the chain many times before the need for a spare chain comes. Here is an overview of the factors that can shorten a chain’s

1. Type of Wood 

Cutting thick and tough tree logs will place more stress on the chain. Softer wood from trees like cedar and pine is less demanding. So, thick wood will make you sharpen and replace the chain faster than usual. It is always better to use the chain on softwood.

2. Cutting other Materials 

Chainsaws are designed to cut wood. However, some owners may believe it can cut ice, plastic, or other materials. This is another way to place more stress on the blades. Getting in contact with rocks or other unexpected metal objects will weaken the chain and may even break its teeth. It is not safe for the user.

3. Lack of Proper Lubrication 

Using adequate chain oil is mandatory for maintaining any chain. Keeping the chain’s oil reservoir filled with the recommended fluid can improve the chain’s performance. It can also make it more resistant to normal wear and tear. Moreover, improper lubrication makes a chain saw overheat and emit black smoke.

4. Improper Sharpening

Using the right chainsaw sharpening tools that match the size of the chain is essential for increased lifespan. Also, finding the correct sharpening angle saves you much time and effort. But you should aim for a 30- or 35-degree angle to get the proper angle.

However, it would help if you did not leave things until they get dull. You will need to sharpen the chain before it turns dull. 

How to Determine when it is Time to Replace a Chainsaw Chain

When your chain is no longer functioning properly, there will be many signs to warn you. Once you spot one or more of these signs, consider getting a new chain.

1. The Need to Apply Force to the Chain to Cut Wood

Chains are made to pull smoothly into the wood. So, when you find difficulty in this process, the chain becomes faulty.

2. Spotting Black Smoke

If your saw emits excessive smoke, there would be many reasons. However, you should suspect the chain’s lifespan if everything is properly maintained. This smoky situation affects the efficiency of cutting and your safety.

3. Curved cutting

A chain in perfect condition will cut fast and sharply. If your saw cuts otherwise, you must consider a new chain. One or more dull teeth could be the reason for uneven cutting. 

You can try sharpening, but replacing is more efficient in this case. This is more suitable if you have used the same chain for a long time.

Despite the seriousness of these signs, they can be easily avoided. If you regularly inspect the components of your chainsaw, you will easily spot the slightest change in the chain or any other part. So always watch your chainsaw, especially after operating for longer hours.

How Many Times Can a Chainsaw Chain Be Sharpened? 

Cutting chains can be sharpened around 8–10 times. That said, you can’t exceed 10 times of sharpening, no matter what. You will need a replacement by then. The frequency of sharpening depends on the type of user you are.

If you are a heavy user, you should get your chain replaced every 4 or 5 years. A chain can last a decade if you are not a heavy user.

The frequency of sharpening depends on the factors that closely affect the lifespan of a chain. This includes the nature of the wood you cut, getting in contact with rough substances, and taking proper care of the chain.

Conclusion

Cutting chains with gas or electric chainsaws is durable. They can last for many years when given proper care and regular maintenance. Sharpening is the most crucial part of the maintenance process for chains.

You can sharpen the chain about 8 or 10 times before getting a replacement. However, it would help if you watched the chain to observe the earliest signs of tooth dullness.

Moreover, pulling the user’s manual to see the instructions related to sharpening techniques and frequency is always recommended. You can rely on it to find the right file placing angles too.

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