A chainsaw can be a vital piece of equipment for a farm or homestead. Although you can go it the old fashioned way with a crosscut hand saw a chainsaw can make short work of tree trimming, cutting firewood, cutting railroad cross ties for a raised garden bed, etc. If you don’t know how to care for your chainsaw your investment will be wasted and you’ll be right back to using that hand saw. Before beginning to work on or use your chainsaw please remember safety first. Safety glasses and gloves are a must for working on your chainsaw and leather chaps, a hardhat, and hearing protection should be utilized when using your chainsaw.
First thing (and probably more obvious to those who own a chainsaw but still worth mentioning) is that chainsaws use a gas and oil mixture. Check your chainsaw manual to make sure that you use the correct ratio. You can either buy 2 cycle engine oil and mix it with your gas in a gas can (make sure to mark the can so you don’t accidentally use it on your lawn mower or vehicle) or you can purchase pre-mixed 2 cycle gas/oil. The pre-mix stuff is good but it can be pretty expensive.
While we are discussing fuel I should also mention that if you have any engine that is going to be sitting for any significant amount of time without being used (usually more than a couple weeks is my rule) than you should either drain the gas out and run the carburetor dry or use a fuel stabilizer in it. 2 cycle engines are especially susceptible to gumming up the carburetor because there are such tiny holes in there for the gas to travel through (trying to not get too technical on the engine mumbo-jumbo). I use this brand but I am not endorsing it. Only mentioning it.
Always make sure that your chainsaw has chain oil in the reservoir. Without it the chain will experience high heat from friction that will cause damage to the chain and bar.
Before using your chainsaw and periodically during use you should sharpen your chain. This might seem like a daunting task (many people remove their chain and pay someone to sharpen it for them) but I promise, if I can learn to do it so can you. It takes me only a few minutes to sharpen my chain and has significantly extended the life of my chain and sped up my cutting. You can tell that your chainsaw is in need of sharpening if your saw dust becomes fine. Chainsaw “dust” should be more like small chips of wood. (This saw dust is actually from my table saw and two different blades but is a good representation of what I am talking about.) The dust on the left would be a good indication for the need of a sharpening. The dust on the right is much closer to what you should be seeing while cutting.
You can get all the tools you will need to sharpen your chainsaw chain for around $20-$30. I keep mine stored in a small nylon pencil bag.
To sharpen you need to either mark a link so that you will know when you are back to your starting point, or if you have a different colored master link like I have on my chain you can just use that as your starting point. You can see here that my master link is a lighter silver color rather than the black color of the links around it.
We will start by sharpening the teeth that face us (for lack of a better term) like the one to the right of the master link in the above picture. We will lay the round file (with the angle guide installed) against the tooth until the file rest across the angle of the tooth and then find out which angle it matches on the guide. In my case it is 35 degrees. You can see that the file is laying against the angled edge of the tooth and the 35 degree line is in line with the side of the tooth.
To sharpen simply push the file away. However, do not file by pushing and pulling, only by pushing the file away and then lift the file away from the tooth. Count the number of strokes. Unless your chain is in very rough shape 3-4 strokes should do it. You should notice a visibly shinier tooth face like this.
Continue sharpening each link that is facing you until you get back around to your starting point. Now flip the saw around and do all the other teeth that WERE facing away from you and ARE NOW facing you. Once all the teeth are sharpened you can file down the risers if needed. I only do this every 3-5 times that I sharpen the teeth. To file the riser use the flat file and the rise guide. Place the riser guide over the teeth allowing the riser to stick up through the hole in the guide. The picture on the top shows the guide positioned incorrectly. The picture on the bottom is correct. Notice that in the top picture the tooth is visible through the hole in the guide but in the bottom picture only the riser is visible through the hole. File the riser down until the file rest on the sides of the guide hole.
At this point you are all done. I know that this post is long and makes this seem like a lengthy process but I promise you that it will only take a few minutes the first time and will become a very quick process after the first few times. For the price of a few professional chain sharpening visits you can own your own tools, sharpen your own chain, and keep your saw in top shape. Remember safety first whenever using power tools, especially chainsaws. Have a great day and God bless!