Stuff about chain saws.
As a young man, I used little 12" bar and big chain saws up in the trees
and on the ground. I've used the old two-man saws, alone and with
another person, and many brands of saw. After hundreds and hundreds of
trees, oak, pine, wild cherry, poplar, and clearing land, I have learned
a lot about chain saws.
As far as cutting to the right or left, some cheaper chainsaws aren't
center balanced but are motor weighted to the left, and will drive you
nuts anyway. If your saw is balanced, the follow info applies.
I've mostly changed my own bars and chains, and sharpened my own chains
by hand, except when a saw was in for engine repairs.
The secret of maintaining a good chain is to have the proper tension and
oil, oil, oil. We used to buy the cheapest motor oil by the gallon and
even when a saw had an automatic oiler, constantly pumped the manual
oiler. Before you cut a log, you should be able to see some oil being
flung off the chain onto the wood. the chains are metal on metal and oil
is the only cooling agent. If you are cutting a 24" or larger log, you
should stop occasionally and pour some oil into the cut while the saw is
still in it. Then continue. If you are cutting a stump, some are pretty
large and you will be at it for a while. No matter what, don't touch
dirt with the chain blades. Clean around the stump and cut it high to
save your saw. We usually kept an older saw with a well used chain for
stumps, because touching dirt with the blades instantly dulls them and
the heat will start building up on the bar.
If you have the right size rat tail file for the blades, you can touch
the blades up evenly, any time you want. Keep them sharp. You don't need
a machine sharpener. Ever. The machine sharpeners tend to sharpen
conservatively, straighter across than I like. An angle is nicer.
Sharpen from the concave cut, across and finishing with an upstroke up.
You don't want to cause a deep concave groove in the blade or it will
"dig" to much and slight differences on right or left blades will
exaggerate any left or right pull. Sharpen the cutting blades on one
side first, then the other. Then if you experience left of right cutting
direction, you simply touch up the side that isn't as sharp. It will
Don't push a chain saw through a log. You can rock it, but let the saw
do the work. If properly sharpened it will simply "dig" itself through
The cutting depth guides that are part of the little cutting teeth and
are in front of each one determine the depth of cut. These are filed
down with a flat file when necessary. It is not necessary very often.
Here's why. Cutting different types of wood will make the chain saw work
differently. If you are cutting something soft like pine, willow, palm,
poplar, etc, a sharp saw will go through like butter, and if the guides
are filed down, it will throw large chips. If you then cut hardwoods,
the chain will bite too much and the saw will work too hard, the bar
will heat up, and bind a little. If you are bucking (cutting up from
underneath the wood), the saw will throw itself back at you.
Use the flat edge of the flat file across the top of the teeth to see
how far down the guides are when new, and keep them at that depth,
If you break a tooth off, get rid of the chain. Sometimes you will find
pieces of metal buried and grown into trees from decades ago, and will
damage a chain. It is important to get rid of the damaged chain. A chain
with a missing tooth will still cut softwood, but, if you buck from
under a hardwood, the chain skipping the missing tooth will catch the
next tooth and slam the saw upward into your hand or face. It gets
messier from there. Brush cutting is even more dangerous with a missing
When you check the tension of the chain, it should sit comfortably,
unexpanded with all the chain guides seated in the bar. It shouldn't
hang to where the guides along the bottom of the bar are not seated, but
you may see a portion of a few guides. The chain will loosen after the
first use, so tighten it a little when it does. You should be able to
pluck the top part of the chain upward, and see the guides trying to
leave the bar grove, without doing so entirely. If you aren't stretching
the chain pulling upward, but there is the same amount of play you would
leave in a wheel bearing, you've got it.
Remember, you can never use too much oil on a chain, and occasionally
shut the saw off and clean the sawdust away from the oiler port at the
back of the blade.