Chainsaw sharpening with Harbor Freight electric sharpener

Discussion in 'Tutorials and Tips' started by Jeff Jilg, May 29, 2005.

  1. Jeff Jilg

    Jeff Jilg

    Joined:
    Apr 9, 2004
    Messages:
    1,287
    Location:
    Austin, TX
    Home Page:
    (addition on 6/5/05 - paragraph added to Sharpening - Adjustments #1)

    Last year I took 2 chains to the local Stihl dealer for sharpening. They were sharp when they returned them. But the adenoidal high schooler who probably sharpened them wasn’t paying attention. He cut each tooth to half its original size. Why pay for that???

    I recently purchased the Harbor Freight (HF) electric chainsaw sharpener to sharpen the chains for the chainsaw (pic #1 at the end of this posting). I am not very good at hand filing - one side always comes out different causing curved cuts. This sharpener produces homogeneously sharpened teeth.

    Note - pictures for this post are contained in this posting and the next posting.

    Assembly

    The sharpener is trivial to assemble (see pic #2). You just have to screw on the movable base to the lower half (1 minute max). Then you have to install the pink grinding disk after removing the protective cover. That took about 5 minutes.

    Then you bolt or clamp the unit to a bench so it will be stable while you sharpen the chain(s). In picture #2 below I used a bolt on the right side (existing hole in my bench) and a clamp on the left side. You need the chain to have some clearance, so it is easier to install it on the corner of a bench.

    Upon plugging in the unit and turning it on, the grinding wheel fluttered quite a bit. The plastic arbor in the unit and/or the grinding wheel on my unit was out of round. I put the grinding wheel on the ways (bed) of my lathe since the lathe bed is dead flat. I determined the grinding wheel was flat.

    To partially remedy this situation I kept the grinding wheel off and then lightly pared down the plastic arbor on the chainsaw sharpener with the unit powered on. I used a very sharp spindle gouge and just feathered off some of the material. That squared off the arbor enough to remove most of the flutter.

    Most of the unit is plastic, so I didn't expect much.

    Sharpening

    Safety is important. Either use goggles, or use a facemask to protect your eyes. In addition I use ear muffs (with a radio) to protect my hearing. You should wear gloves also - the chains are sharp.

    The sharpener is setup so that you sharpen every other tooth (on one side) of the chain, then you sharpen the other 50% of the teeth on the other side of the chain. The grey movable base must be set at the appropriate angle. There is a set of angle markings on the orange base 0 - 35 degrees in 5 degree increments (pic #5).

    Adjustments:
    The chain is then set into the holder and you must then make 2 adjustments.

    1) Adjust how much of the tooth will be removed with the length adjustment knob. This is done with the knob and locking nut indicated in picture #3. Adjust the length so that a minimum amount of tooth will be removed (i.e. a hair). The setup allows you to move to the next tooth (i.e. slide the chain to the right) and the stop lever will drop down behind the tooth. Then you can lock the chain down so secure it for sharpening via the lock lever.

    When adjusting the length find the shortest tooth and grind them all to that length. When setting up that tooth you want the grinding wheel to just kiss the tooth. Don't try to grind a whole lot off at once. If you turn the tooth blue it won't hold an edge. If you grind one half (i.e. right half) of the teeth longer than the other half of the teeth, the saw will cut a curve instead of cutting straight. Make sure that you grind all the teeth to the same length.

    2) The depth adjustment is located on the pivoting arm with the grinding wheel (pic #6). Adjust the depth so that it just barely hits the bottom of the tooth when you bring the arm down to sharpen.

    All of the above setup may sound and look complex, but it only takes a few minutes. Prior to actual sharpening, mark the initial tooth so you can remember where you started. I used masking tape on one tooth.

    Actual sharpening consists of the following steps.
    1) With unit turned on, bring down the grinding wheel and sharpen the tooth.
    2) Loosen locking lever
    3) Advance the chain by 2 teeth until it passes the stop lever
    4) Exert slight pressure against the stop lever while locking the locking lever

    Then repeat the sequence.

    Results and Comments

    Ensure that you are sharpening across the top bevel of the tooth, and the side as well. The sharpener produced consistent results on all 4 chains that I sharpened. See picture #7 for a closeup of a sharp tooth. The chains look factory fresh (except for a little dirt), and the teeth are quite sharp. Each chain took 12-15 minutes. Maybe it will get faster after I get more experience.

    There is a little bit of play in the entire unit. When you bring down the spinning grinding wheel to sharpen a tooth, there is some play. It might take a little more off some teeth if you are not careful. However, this is not rocket science or even computer science; it is chainsaw sharpening. The teeth do not have to be perfect. The teeth just have to be sharp and the unit performs well.

    There is no setup to grind down the bumpers/guards. They recommend a file to do that. Why do manual labor when you can use power tools!?!? I used a dremel tool on the chains while they were mounted in the sharpener.

    Overall I like the sharpener. I got it on sale from Harbor Freight for $55. (I'm a "Preferred Member"....i.e. they prefer to have my money). The sharpener should be good for at least 100 sharpenings without any problems. That's $0.55 per sharpening. And it can probably last longer than that. If you have multiple chains, you can sharpen them all in one session. For me, this system works great, it’s easy to use, and it can be stowed away after usage.
     

    Attached Files:

    Last edited: Jun 5, 2005
  2. Jeff Jilg

    Jeff Jilg

    Joined:
    Apr 9, 2004
    Messages:
    1,287
    Location:
    Austin, TX
    Home Page:
    additional pictures

    pictures 6 and 7 for the chainsaw sharpening tip
     

    Attached Files:

  3. Clem Wixted

    Clem Wixted

    Joined:
    Mar 17, 2005
    Messages:
    105
    Location:
    Jonesboro, Arkansas
    Good Thread

    Jeff,

    Thanks for the posting. I have been considering one of these for quite some time. Now I will keep my eye open for a sale (I'm my own preferred customer, I prefer to keep my money :) ) and get one.

    I can cut some real smooth curves in my logs but would prefer nice straight cuts.

    I have three chain saws, does this unit handle different types of chains?

    Clem

    P.S. Did you have a good cookout party?
     
  4. Jeff Jilg

    Jeff Jilg

    Joined:
    Apr 9, 2004
    Messages:
    1,287
    Location:
    Austin, TX
    Home Page:
    The sharpener is currently on sale for $65, which is the lowest price I've seen it in the past 6 months. It will sharpen 1/4" and 3/8" chains. The chain size is not located in the manual but is located in the paper ads they send out.

    The cookout is this weekend.....and I'm still working in the 250 sq ft deck.
     
  5. bonsaipeter

    bonsaipeter

    Joined:
    Jul 28, 2004
    Messages:
    63
    Harbor Freight Chain Saw Sharpener

    This Harbor Feight electric chain saw sharpener is currently on sale at our local Harbor Freight store (Roanoke, VA) for $49.99!!! You may want to check for a store in your local area, or contact Harbor Freight and see what the price is currently by mail order.
     
  6. Clem Wixted

    Clem Wixted

    Joined:
    Mar 17, 2005
    Messages:
    105
    Location:
    Jonesboro, Arkansas
    Thanks!

    I'll check locally

    Clem
     
  7. Erwin Nistler

    Erwin Nistler

    Joined:
    May 10, 2004
    Messages:
    102
    Location:
    minnesota
    I have 3 chain saws and each requires a different size file. How does this machine account for this? Do I need different size grinding wheels?
    The stehl uses an odd size that I can not get at discount stores. Must get from stehl. Or should I spell that steel?
     
  8. Jeff Jilg

    Jeff Jilg

    Joined:
    Apr 9, 2004
    Messages:
    1,287
    Location:
    Austin, TX
    Home Page:
    You might be referring to a "stihl" chainsaw. As for different sizes, the grinding wheel on the power sharpener works differently from the files. The grinder will grind a flat face onto a single chainsaw tooth. As long as the grinding wheel is smaller than the distance between the tooth tip and the bumper guard on the chain, then it can sharpen the tooth.

    Files are designed to create a curve in the tooth, and they conform to that shape. A larger file can't fit between the tooth tip and the bumper guard on smaller chains.
     
  9. Erwin Nistler

    Erwin Nistler

    Joined:
    May 10, 2004
    Messages:
    102
    Location:
    minnesota
    You are right Jeff. Stihl.
    Does the chain cut as well with a flat front as compared to the round factory front?
    How does it effect kickback?
     
  10. Jeff Jilg

    Jeff Jilg

    Joined:
    Apr 9, 2004
    Messages:
    1,287
    Location:
    Austin, TX
    Home Page:
    I have not found any difference in the way the chain cuts after I sharpen them with the power disk.....except that the cuts are true and straight. It puts a very sharp edge on each tooth - enough so that you can easily cut your finger just handling the chain.

    I have not noticed any difference in kickback activity after sharpening. To my knowledge kickback mostly occurs based on how you use the saw. I'm using non-pro chain, so it has kickback resistance built-in via the bumpers. The next 2 chains I buy will be pro-chain however. Pro-chain cuts more aggressively, but kickback is a stronger possibility as well. (You can read into the above that I don't like the slower cutting consumer chain.)
     
  11. Erwin Nistler

    Erwin Nistler

    Joined:
    May 10, 2004
    Messages:
    102
    Location:
    minnesota
    Some time ago I was going to order a chain with a very short angle, ( about 10 degrees) for cutting with the grain. When I read the fine print it stated for use in mills only because of the likelhood of kickback. I didn't try it.
    I have more time to spare then blood.
    We had a worker, years ago, that had a bad kickback and cut a wicked slash across his face. Didn't loose an eye but OH MY!!! Not done on the job.
     
  12. sundance

    sundance

    Joined:
    Sep 20, 2004
    Messages:
    15
    Location:
    Elyria, OH
    How long does it take to sharpen a chain?
     
  13. Jeff Jilg

    Jeff Jilg

    Joined:
    Apr 9, 2004
    Messages:
    1,287
    Location:
    Austin, TX
    Home Page:
    It takes about 10 minutes to do the initial setup. Then it takes ~5 minutes to sharpen each chain. I don't do the sharpenings in a particular hurry and don't watch the clock, so it may be 10 minutes per chain. But the sharpening time compared to the wood cutting time is very small.
     
  14. quartlow

    quartlow

    Joined:
    May 15, 2004
    Messages:
    46
    Location:
    New Springfield Oh
    I had that same sharpener for about two hours, it went back. I added more cash to the pile and bought the Oregon grinder. The problem I was having was the HF one would grind the the teeth shorter on one side than the other. not a good thing unless your cutting circles.

    That was 3 years ago, I haven't used it in 18 months, wifes cousin gets lots of use out it though. I bought a Husqvarna Sharp Force File Guide. It files the tooth and the Raker at the same time. I can sharpen the chain in the amount of time it takes to get it off the saw. The trick is to touch it up often and not let it get dull. That and try not to hit anything with it. :)

    IF the stone on a grinder is shaped correctly and your grinding to the proper depth a file will fit right in the tooth just like its always fit
     
  15. Jeff Jilg

    Jeff Jilg

    Joined:
    Apr 9, 2004
    Messages:
    1,287
    Location:
    Austin, TX
    Home Page:
    Hi Robert - interesting that you had that experience with the sharpener. The depth of the cut is adjustable for either side. I don't recall if I had to adjust it for both sides the last time I used it. But the teeth were the same length on both sides.

    I agree with you that keeping a chain sharp on a regular basis makes it much easier to sharpen (and to keep it sharp). If it gets real dull then it can take forever to put it back in shape by hand.
     
  16. quartlow

    quartlow

    Joined:
    May 15, 2004
    Messages:
    46
    Location:
    New Springfield Oh
    I think the one I got Jeff was miss cast when they made. I futzed with it and couldn't get it right. set it up to sharpen the left side teeth and it would want to cut too much off of the right side teeth. That tells me the the swivel for the chain holder wasn't in the right place. I figured if one was like that all the ones at my local store probably where.

    Then considering what I've spent on support equipment for the lathe the price of the Oregon grinder didn't seem so bad :D
     
  17. Turnenman

    Turnenman

    Joined:
    Sep 20, 2004
    Messages:
    4
    Location:
    Puyallup,wa
    chain sharpener

    Hi Jeff,
    I just purchased the Harbor frieght chainsaw sharpener and it works GREAT.. it only takes about 5 minutes to sharpen a chain and Iam sure it will get quicker..


    Turnenman :cool2:
     
  18. Jeff Jilg

    Jeff Jilg

    Joined:
    Apr 9, 2004
    Messages:
    1,287
    Location:
    Austin, TX
    Home Page:
    Robert - it is easy to see how some of the HF sharpeners could be miscast. While HF makes some quality equipment I probably wouldn't put that claim against their chainsaw sharpener. It feels a little bit cheap, and has some slop in the main pivot. Maybe I was lucky and I accidently got a decent one. It works for me.

    In the meantime I've also started to become a bit more proficient in handsharpening in the field with a file. The last time I was out cutting, my landscaper/tree trimmer buddy noticed that the file I was using was dull as ground squirrel trying to cross a busy freeway. So I replaced that file and the new one seems decent. I tend to file better on one side than the other side though.

    Turneman - glad your copy of the HF chainsaw sharpener is working good! It's great when equipment can make our lives easier. I agree that it is pretty fast to sharpen a chain.
     
  19. Clem Wixted

    Clem Wixted

    Joined:
    Mar 17, 2005
    Messages:
    105
    Location:
    Jonesboro, Arkansas
    A sharp chain cuts faster and better.

    I finally found a grinder similar to the Harbor Freight model. This one is marketed by Nick the Grinder. It's a lightweight grinder but runs out true. I got it at a wharehouse/flea market place for $10. New in the box. I think it came from Harbor Freight and the guy bought it at auction. It was marked $20 but was on the 1/2 price table. The box was pretty beat up but the machine was fine.

    The best part is it works. Thanks to you Jeff, I put it together, set it up and sharpened a chain. Then I put the chain on the saw and it cut so much better than the old chain I think I'm pretty good at sharpening. My neighbor who operates a lawn/yard care business came over to see what was happening and now wants me to sharpen his chains for $4 a chain. I told him I will sharpen a few more of my own before I commit.

    Thanks again, Jeff, for the excellent instructions, the pictures to go along with them and the encouragement to DIY.

    Clem
     
  20. Jeff Jilg

    Jeff Jilg

    Joined:
    Apr 9, 2004
    Messages:
    1,287
    Location:
    Austin, TX
    Home Page:
    I'm glad the tip helped you out Clem. It kinda makes chain sharpening a bit more fun and more reliable.

    In my initial experience with a chainsaw I sawed until it got dull and kept sawing. Now I recognize when a chain gets dull and field dress it or put on a sharp chain. To tell the truth, I used to dread chainsawing but now it's kinda fun. I can cut off corners or chunks and really decrease the amount of roughout time on the lathe.

    If you spend too much time with your tree trimmer buddy you'll probably start looking at his lightweight branch trimmer Echo (or other brand). One of those might be in my future for taking little cuts. They sure are light.
     

Share This Page