A chainsaw should last for at least 5 years, and even longer with good care. The sharpness of the blade, however, is another matter. People often complain about how the chainsaw blade can become dull in a matter of 10-15 minutes. What’s going on and how do you fix it?
There are a few factors that determine why your chainsaw blades dull quickly. They boil down to either the blade coming into regular contact with dirt or sand – which could happen if the chain hits the ground, or the wood of a tree you are sawing into has dirt or sand caked on its bark – or you are using the chainsaw at a bad angle.
We discuss in more detail below.
Why Does My Chainsaw Dull So Quickly?
Prior to use, the chainsaw needs to be cleaned and taken care of regularly. Even so, there may be situations where it dulls very quickly. Here are some potential causes:
- Make sure that you are using a file size that is right for your chain – the user manual should guide you on this.
- The filing needs to be done properly so that the angle of the top plate and the size of the cutter is consistent throughout your chain. Filing the cutter at different angles along the chain or applying too much pressure on one side or the other will dull the chain.
- If you apply too much pressure while operating the chainsaw, it will dull quickly.
- Similarly, holding the chainsaw at the wrong angle could cause a problem.
- It is not unusual for the chain to accidentally (and/or unknowingly) hit the ground while the chainsaw is being operated. If so, it will pick up dirt and the blade will get dull.
- Similarly, the bark of a tree typically accumulates dirt, sand or other debris that can dull the chainsaw.
- In this regard, old and dried out wood will dull a chainsaw faster than raw, green wood. It also makes a difference when you are felling rather than crosscutting.
Why Does Dirt Dull the Chainsaw?
People sometimes get confused as to why dirt – which seems soft and harmless – should dull the blade of a chainsaw.
The problem is twofold:
- A sharpened edge of a chainsaw is delicate
- Dirt is crushed rock, plus other particles that are mixed in. By definition, dirt and sand are abrasive
So, if your chainsaw comes in contact with dirt or sand and picks them up, the chances are high that it will dull very quickly.
Tree bark can be very deceptive in this regard, especially if you are cutting the trunk closer to the ground or the wood has been lying on the ground for a while, as is often the case with debris you are trying to clear with a chainsaw.
What Should You Do?
Your first step in this regard is to avoid contact with, or actively picking up, dirt. There are a few simple tips which may prevent a problem before it develops further.
Tackling the Dirt Problem
First, hold the chainsaw in a way that the chain does not hit the ground. For example, if you are sawing a tree close to the ground or a log that is already lying on the ground, roll the log at an appropriate time so you do not have the tip of your chainsaw ever touch the ground.
Second, when cutting into a tree, figure out the exact area of the trunk you will be aiming for. Before you start in with the chainsaw, make sure that you remove the bark by some other means. Clear out an area above and below the point of incision, going all around the trunk.
While the above is an extra step, stripping the bark automatically gets rid of dust, sand, and accumulated debris from the surface. By the time you start in on the wood itself, you reduce the chances of the blade going dull quickly. This, in turn, means that your job will get done faster, with less interruptions. So, ultimately you come out ahead.
By the way, even after you strip the bark, you may occasionally find foreign hard objects or a particularly hard knot in the wood. Try not to tackle them head on. Instead, cut slightly above or below so your chainsaw does not dull quickly.
Maintenance is Key
As mentioned above, there are a few things to be aware of in terms of maintenance.
- Check the User’s Manual to make sure that you have the right size file for your chainsaw.
- When you file, make sure that you are filing evenly all along the chainsaw. Uneven sharpening will cause the chainsaw to apply pressure unevenly, which in turn will cause it to dull fast.
- Get a depth gauge that is compatible for your saw and use it every time you sharpen the chain. The rakers and depth gauges have to be filed properly, too much or not enough will cause problems later.
- Make sure to run a file over your chainsaw every time you run out of a tankful of gas, maybe two depending on the circumstances.
- Add bar and chain oil every time you fuel up.
Cut Down on Operator Error
This may take a bit of practice, but try to avoid cutting at an angle, going into particularly hard resistance or pressing down too hard.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Here are answers to some common questions.
#1: How Can I Ensure that my Chainsaw Tip Doesn’t Touch the Ground?
A hookaroon could be a useful tool for you if you are sawing close to the ground. Check out this article for some suggestions.
#2: What is the “Normal” Time that a Chainsaw Should Work Before it Gets Dull?
Normally, a chainsaw should be operable for at least three hours before it gets dull.
#3: What Can You Do if the Chainsaw Does Get Dull During a Task?
It’s not very difficult to fix this problem. You can use a file, or a bench-top sharpener, or a portable power sharpener to sharpen the chainsaw and continue working.
#4: Can You Recommend a Good Chainsaw Sharpener?
There are a number of decent choices, you can grab our favorite here on Amazon.
This tool has a dual function, it sharpens your saw chain cutters but also lowers the depth gauges on your chainsaw.
The Final Word
Maintaining and sharpening a chainsaw in a way that you gain the maximum possible use out of it is both a science and an art. It will take a bit of research and self-discipline, but once you focus on the right methods for maintenance and operation, you should be able to keep your chainsaw sharp and efficient for hours at a time.