Habit 7 (of highly effective people) – Sharpen your saw

I have spent a lot of time cutting wood at the sawmill and in the shop with bandsaw, chainsaw and circle blades. I have found a sharp blade to be imperative. Probably all of you know this already, so I am preaching to the choir. But I wanted to add a few things that you may not know.

A sharp bandsaw blade will overcome almost all of its other shortcomings. Your blade may not have the proper set, may be tracking to the left or right, or have other issues that will cause crooked or wavy cuts, but once sharpened it will always improve. I can’t tell you how many times I have had a blade that started out strong and cutting perfectly, only to find that the cuts quickly became wavy. I would tell myself that I must have a problem with the saw, maybe with the blade guides, because I haven’t used it that long and it just couldn’t be dull yet. And, though one time I did have a blade guide issue, every other time the blade was just dull. Dull and nothing else. I probably hit a rock and didn’t know it. Here I was, worried about the set of the teeth and it has never been the set. Now, I don’t question it. If the saw isn’t cutting right I put on a newly sharpened blade and all is good.

A sharp circular blade will overcome almost all of its other shortcomings. See a theme yet? Not long ago, I owned a circle mill with a 48″ bottom blade and a 30″ top blade. These big blades are set at a slight angle to the feed of the log so that the trailing side of the blade is out from the cut just a bit. The saw guide on the front would keep the blade in the right place, but only if the saw was sharp. If it wasn’t sharp, the blade would dig in, cut crooked, warm up and cut more crooked until finally it became shaped like a big salad bowl. With a sharp blade the tolerances of the setup were much less critical. As long as it was sharp, and the kerf was still wide enough, it would just cut… and cut… and cut.

A 12-volt electric grinder, like this one from Oregon, quickly and accurately sharpens chainsaws.

A sharp chainsaw blade makes life worth living.There is nothing better than a chainsaw that cuts fast. It makes the job enjoyable and a lot less like work. I sharpen my chainsaw a lot. If it is not throwing out big chips at a fast rate I stop and sharpen. I sharpen my chain on the bar with a hand-held electric grinder until the teeth get so worn they break off. I highly recommend this type of sharpener. It uses your car battery for power and will sharpen a 20″ bar in just a couple of minutes. If you use a chainsaw and don’t have a sharpener like this, get one.

“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.”
Abraham Lincoln–

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About wunderwoods

Hi! My name is Scott Wunder and I am the owner of WunderWoods Custom Woodworking. We build wine cellars, built-ins and furniture from local woods, here in St. Louis, MO. Recently, I finished a three-year term as the President of the St. Louis Woodworkers Guild, which had me writing a monthly article for our newsletter. I love to write, especially about wood, and found that I still had more to say. Every day I run into something wood related that I realize some of my customers don't know and this seems like a great forum for sharing what I have learned (instead of telling the same story to each person). The main thing to remember is that I try to keep it light and as my wife always reminds people that have just met me, "He is joking."

2 responses to “Habit 7 (of highly effective people) – Sharpen your saw”

  1. john l w says :

    sharp fixes a lot—I should make that a t shirt

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