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Chainsaws are useful things to have around if you’ve got a lot of trees. They can bring big ones down to provide firewood, they can cut up fallen ones, and they can prune limbs to keep trees still standing healthy.
The key to this is the chain. If your chain is worn out and dull, it’s dangerous. It can slip or kick back, resulting in unwanted wood cuts or injury. The first step in using a chainsaw safely is keeping its chain in tip-top shape, and the first step to that is recognizing when the chain is dull. From there, it’s a matter of choice. Do you sharpen the chain or do you buy a replacement?
In general, a top-quality chain backed by a powerful engine is going to cut through softwoods such as pine like a flaming sword through warm butter. It’ll be able to do that for a much longer time, too, than a smaller engine with an inferior chain cutting hard, dense wood.
Stay aware of what kind of work you’re asking your chainsaw to do. It’ll eventually go dull regardless, but if you’re cutting a lot of softwood, it’ll stay sharp for longer. If you’re taxing the engine’s limits, it’ll wear your chain out a little faster, too.
While it’s in use and after you’re done working, make sure the chainsaw is properly lubricated, cleaned, and stored. This is true of anything, but it’s especially important given the inherently dangerous nature of using a chainsaw.
When chainsaws cut, the teeth dig into the wood and pull the chain into it, setting up the work for the next tooth. Here are some clear symptoms that your chain is getting dull.
When your chainsaw starts to show signs of a dull chain, inspect the bar and chain carefully. You don’t necessarily need to replace a dull chain. There is a chance that you can sharpen the existing chain to get the most for your money.
If the chain has missing or damaged teeth, unfortunately, you’ll need to replace the chain. You want chains with full sets of teeth in pretty good condition to use a chainsaw safely.
If the chain sags when you turn the chainsaw on, turn it off immediately, then replace the chain. The ties that hold it on might be damaged, and this is potentially very dangerous.
Just because your chain is dull doesn’t mean you need to replace it. Depending on the kind of work you do with it, you can sharpen a chainsaw chain anywhere between three and five times before it’s just exhausted.
You can either sharpen the chain by hand or with an electric sharpening tool. Sharpening by hand can either involve an unpowered hand tool or an attachment to a rotary tool like a Dremel. It costs less than buying a standalone tool, and if you only use a chainsaw occasionally, it’s also more economical. Electric sharpeners are faster and better at getting a chain with teeth of consistent size and sharpness.
When sharpening, you only want to take off as much as you need to prolong the chain’s life. Eventually, you run out of blade and sharpening will start cutting into the chain itself. When that happens, it’s time to get a new chain.
Safe use of a chainsaw starts with a properly maintained chain. Knowing the signs of a chain that’s wearing out is key to staying alert for signs that your chain is starting to dull. Some of those signs include smoking, more difficulty using it, or it having a hard time gripping the wood.
Just because it’s dull doesn’t mean you have to replace it. You can extend the life of your chainsaw chain by sharpening it if possible. If it has damaged or missing teeth or the chain is just flat-out exhausted, you’ll need to replace it.
Header and featured image credit: 5617024, Pixabay