It’s a good idea to be familiar with the saw chain parts before sharpening a chainsaw. And really, it’s good to understand the function of the different saw chain parts just for using a chainsaw.
Saw chains are composed of cutters (which do the cutting, of course), drive links (which engage the drive sprocket to propel the chain), and tie straps (which connect the cutter links and drive links). And rivets are used to tie the pieces together.
There are both left-hand cutters and right-hand cutters. If you look at a chainsaw chain, you’ll see that the left and right cutters alternate. A right-hand cutter follows a left, which follows a right, and so on.
This is so that both sides of a cut are worked, helping the saw to work through the wood cleanly, and without pulling to one side.
When it comes to chainsaw maintenance – particularly chainsaw sharpening, we’ll be most concerned with the cutters.
But that doesn’t mean that we’ll only be focused on the sharpness of the cutting edges.
Because the cutters serve a dual purpose. They do the job of cutting the wood, obviously, but they also determine how large a bite the saw will take. The rounded leading edge of each cutter is called a depth gauge, and that’s the part that controls the depth of the cut.
And the depth gauge part of the cutter is as critical as the cutting blade.
If the depth gauge is too high or too low, the saw will not cut properly – regardless of how sharp the cutting edges are. If the depth gauges are too high, the chainsaw will cut very slowly. But if the depth gauges are too low, the chainsaw will try to take too much of a bite. This can cause the saw to jam, and even increases the risk of kickback.
So when you’re sharpening your chainsaw blade, you’ll need to pay attention to the depth gauges, too. It’s as important that the depth gauges set the proper depth as it is for the cutting edges to be sharp.