Chain geekery: Chisel Ground vs Chisel Filed

hillwilliam

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<!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <o:OfficeDocumentSettings> <o:AllowPNG/> </o:OfficeDocumentSettings> </xml><![endif]--> I put this up "on another network". Didn't get much interest, considering I'm claiming 20% gain.

Chain #0:

Factory grind Oregon 75 CL, chisel ground, full comp., 3/8 pitch, 102 DL. This is what a lot of folks call “square ground”, though it’s hard to find a square angle in the whole business. No, this chain isn’t part of this comparison, since we all know that almost any goober can round file a chain that will cut faster than this. I don’t fully understand why it’s so slow, although it’s obviously not very sharp.
DSC01220.jpgDSC01221.jpg


I will add a footnote below telling about an even less scientific test I did comparing this with an expertly ground chain and with a hand-filed chain. A stark difference.


Chain #1:
This is a sweet chain, professionally ground by an AS member. Very precise and consistent and very sharp. Fast and smooth. I wish I could get chains this sharp filing by hand – in theory I should, but it doesn’t always happen.



The top plate angle is about 15 deg. and the side plate angle is just slightly steeper than perpendicular to the bar. Aside from the obvious 45-deg. angle from the intersection of the outside of the top and side plates to the intersection on the inside of the cutter, I have no way to measure other inside angles. So I won’t pretend and make up numbers. It’s interesting how dang fast this chain is with essentially the same geometry as factory grind. Unless there is something I can’t see. (I don’t mean because the pictures are fuzzy.)
DSC01222.jpgDSC01225.jpg


An astute viewer will be able to see that I’m not making the fastest cuts possible. The idea was to be as consistent as I could and simply set the chain on the log for all cuts and let it drop straight through. That didn’t work very well, because I would have to apply a little pressure to keep the saw from four-stroking. I did my best to to be as consistent as I could for all cuts.
[video=youtube;-yshfMYCcgw]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-yshfMYCcgw[/video]


Here are the times. I think I got them timed pretty accurately, but you may come up with something differing slightly. It won’t matter, though.
Cut 1: 21.4 sec.
Cut 2: 20.1 sec.
Cut 3: 20.7 sec.
Total: 62.2 sec. Average time: 20.73 sec.

Chain #2:
This is my basic hand-filed work chain, same as I’ve done them for about the past thirty years. Otherwise, it’s identical to chain #0 and chain #1. Fairly precise and consistent and fairly sharp, but a close inspection reveals some minor irregularities. One is that some of the cutters are beaked (mini hooks). That may account for the grabbiness of this chain. And I doubt it’s as sharp as the ground chain. I can see a bit of ‘glint’ on at least some of the cutting edges – if I can see light being reflected, there is metal that’s not as sharp as it should be. And it’s not as smooth as the ground chain, either. (That said, I cut a load of wood yesterday with my old hotrodded P51 with its chain tuned exactly same way as the filed chain in the test, and it was smooth and fast. One difference, though, is that none of the cutters have beaks. Also, I just looked at that chain, and it’s good to go without even a touch-up after cutting a load of wood.) Again, this is a work chain. All I need to do is to keep it out of the dirt, and it cuts just fine all day long without a touch-up. I’m just a firewood hack anymore and haven’t cut timber for years. Maybe I ain’t as good as I usta was. Likely I was never as good as I thought I was. Probably both.
[video=youtube;mp-NEs3oRVw]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mp-NEs3oRVw[/video]



Times for the filed chain:
Cut 1: 17.9 sec.
Cut 2: 16.4 sec.
Cut3: 15.8 sec.
Total: 50.1 sec. Average time: 16.7 sec.
In case anyone is wondering, I actually did the cuts with the filed chain before the cuts with the ground chain, because that’s what was on my saw at the time. The cuts with the ground chain were therefore in slightly smaller wood, as the diameter decreased by a tiny bit.

Difference in total times expressed as a percentage:
My engi-nerd son told me the correct way to do this: Average the 62.2 sec. and the 50.1 sec. totals to get 56.15 sec. Divide that into the difference of the totals, 12.1 sec. That shows a difference of 21.55%. I suppose I’d call it a solid 20%.
It looks like we can assume the filed chain is noticeably faster. If that’s the case, then why? Cheating? I sure tried to keep it all neutral. Is it really better in some way? I don’t think it’s as good in most ways. There is, however one substantive difference in geometry, and I’ll explain why I do it that way, though my logic behind it may be wrong.


The top plate angles on the filed chain are only at about four degrees – yup, dang near straight across. What led me to that was right after I’d taught myself to chisel file (thirty-some years ago), I ran across the axiom that one should increase the top plate angle as the cutters get shorter in order to provide adequate kerf. (The angle on the top plate forces the cutter out to the side slightly.) I don’t remember to whom the credit for that bit of instruction should go, but the logic still makes sense to me.



But pretty soon, though, I started thinking about the converse of that axiom. How much kerf, and therefore how much top plate angle do I really need? It turned out, for me and the spruce and Doug fir I was cutting, not very much. At the time, I was cutting timber for a living here in CO and in WA and doing some low-level competitions. I did some experimenting with angles and built a few racing chains, and I eventually settled on the work chain geometry that I’m still using.
DSC01257.jpgDSC01258.jpg
You can see that I really hawgged out the gullets, but I always do that. For me, it makes fileing easier.


There may well be something wrong with my logic, though. I tried to measure a difference in kerf for the ground chain and the filed chain and simply could not measure any difference.


In any case, I am not at all suggesting that anyone just “copy my angles” as was suggested to me by a certain AS member. Not at all. If, in my long-gone martial arts days, I’d ever had the notion that I should try to emulate anything Bruce Lee was doing at any point in his career (no chance I could ever do any of that anyway), I would have been missing the point entirely. The point was for me to try a lot of different disciplines, learn a lot of different stuff, and to adapt/ adopt what would actually work for me. And, if I could come up with anything new on my own, all the better. I ain’t no Bruce Lee, but I think I got a few things figured out a long time ago.


There must be a number of likely reasons for needing more top plate angle than I use, and here are some that come to mind: 1) Hard wood –other than a few cuts, I haven’t cut hard wood since before I started chisel filing, so I don’t know anything, but another member has found that angles much like mine make his chain ‘grabby’ in hard wood. 2) Very pitchy wood or very stringy wood – you may well need more kerf. 3) Big wood, big bar – as an example, I’ve noticed that I seem to be getting barely adequate kerf when putting in a back cut and using all of a 36” bar. On the .404 full-skip chain that I happen to have for a 36-incher, I have the top plates at about 5 degrees. For me, though, barely adequate kerf is exactly what I want, if that’s going to make it cut faster.

Here’s the little footnote part:
I lost the video from this very unscientific little test, but I wasn’t going to post it anyway. Making cuts in a small log (before I could get into the woods this summer), the results were like this: off-the-roll chisel ground took 9 boring seconds, professionally ground chain took about 5.5 seconds, and hand-filed took about 4 seconds.


I’d better have a couple more beers now and get myself ready for replies from guys explaining all the things I’m doing wrong.
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exSW

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I am no chain filing expert. I have recently tried square ground. I'm a convert. My guy asks if I'm in hardwood or soft( I'm all eastern hardwood).I wondered if it would really make a difference on a 20" bar. It does,a lot.Dolmar 6100 w/husky branded full chisel. Like a completely different saw. Roostertails.
 

roberte

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I have too 2nd your admission about being good. ....

I run chains i file round and Sling'r chains for square grind.

Never really timed anything, just whats on the ground at quitting time.

I do like the fact that the rakers are ground vs hand jobbing.


I try to dd the dirty cutting with the stuff i file, by the same token I'll sacrifice a sling'r chain if the situation dictates
 

hillwilliam

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I embedded your vid, hope you don't mind.

A sharp chain is the best mod you can do to a saw. ;)

Thanks for doing that. Think you could do the embedding for the second inter-tube video too? I don't know how.
 

Nixon

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Excellent post . I'm a recent convert to square . i use square ground on hardwood ,and It lasts as long or longer than round chisel ,but cuts better as far as I'm concerned . If the wood is all nastied up , I'll use semi chisel .
 

Genius

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I got a hand filed chain from Moparmyway, consider me impressed.

That was my first square chain I have ever used.

I have got my round chain sharpening down pretty good I feel, they self feed pretty well (or so I thought). That was until I put on this loop of square filed....


That being said, I am not about to go buy all new square chain. I am able to get real good deals on round chain from my supplier, they don't carry round.
I don't care for filing by hand. I don't have the time.
I can't justify spending the money on a square grinder
I can't justify spending the money to ship chains out, and then pay for the sharpening.
The price of square chain is 2-3x the price of round.

Ill keep a loop or two of square around for the wow factor, but for every day cutting I can't justify it.
 

Termitebuffet

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I got a hand filed chain from Moparmyway, consider me impressed.

That was my first square chain I have ever used.

I have got my round chain sharpening down pretty good I feel, they self feed pretty well (or so I thought). That was until I put on this loop of square filed....


That being said, I am not about to go buy all new square chain. I am able to get real good deals on round chain from my supplier, they don't carry round.
I don't care for filing by hand. I don't have the time.
I can't justify spending the money on a square grinder
I can't justify spending the money to ship chains out, and then pay for the sharpening.
The price of square chain is 2-3x the price of round.

Ill keep a loop or two of square around for the wow factor, but for every day cutting I can't justify it.

You forgot about being a midget ......
 

thomas1

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Thanks for doing that. Think you could do the embedding for the second inter-tube video too? I don't know how.

Done. Sorry I missed it the first time.

To embed videos just click on the little film strip icon above the text box. A window will pop up and ask you for the url, paste your YouTube link in there and that's all there is to it.
 

trx250r180

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I got a hand filed chain from Moparmyway, consider me impressed.

That was my first square chain I have ever used.

I have got my round chain sharpening down pretty good I feel, they self feed pretty well (or so I thought). That was until I put on this loop of square filed....


That being said, I am not about to go buy all new square chain. I am able to get real good deals on round chain from my supplier, they don't carry round.
I don't care for filing by hand. I don't have the time.
I can't justify spending the money on a square grinder
I can't justify spending the money to ship chains out, and then pay for the sharpening.
The price of square chain is 2-3x the price of round.

Ill keep a loop or two of square around for the wow factor, but for every day cutting I can't justify it.

Round chisel is the same chain as square chisel ,it is the same price here ,why they nail you so much there ? I convert round to square if i end up with a round chain somehow ,they are the same chains ,just sharpened different .
 

Genius

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Round chisel is the same chain as square chisel ,it is the same price here ,why they nail you so much there ? I convert round to square if i end up with a round chain somehow ,they are the same chains ,just sharpened different .

The company I order it from only carries round. I'm not sure my Stihl dealer has square, I can't imagine what they'd charge though.. Last I looked at chain there they were wanting $15 for a 20" loop
 

roberte

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The company I order it from only carries round. I'm not sure my Stihl dealer has square, I can't imagine what they'd charge though.. Last I looked at chain there they were wanting $15 for a 20" loop



Thats probably a good price?..

Here is an example of 2 stihl/husky dealers 20 miles apart

105 dl sq, skip

Willits Power, right around $32

Rainbow Ag, closer to $40
 
Last edited:

trx250r180

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Stihl chain has normally been a dollar per inch of bar here ,and you can pick your flavor ,oregon is a little cheaper ,so a chain for a 32 inch bar is $32,if i buy a 100 foot roll ,i think i get 5-6 free chains spinning them myself for a 32 inch bar ,could always hit up redbull660 for stihl chain also most of the ones i got from him were still ready to run ,just had a couple test cuts on them ,if he nicked the dirt ,he deducts some for those ,the .404 full skip square i got ,i threw em on the saw and used as they were ,a lot of the 3/8 like 8 out of 10 chains were like off the roll still
 

hillwilliam

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I got a hand filed chain from Moparmyway, consider me impressed.

That was my first square chain I have ever used.

I have got my round chain sharpening down pretty good I feel, they self feed pretty well (or so I thought). That was until I put on this loop of square filed....


That being said, I am not about to go buy all new square chain. I am able to get real good deals on round chain from my supplier, they don't carry round.
I don't care for filing by hand. I don't have the time.
I can't justify spending the money on a square grinder
I can't justify spending the money to ship chains out, and then pay for the sharpening.
The price of square chain is 2-3x the price of round.

Ill keep a loop or two of square around for the wow factor, but for every day cutting I can't justify it.

Makes plenty of sense to me - it's what works for you.
 

hillwilliam

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Done. Sorry I missed it the first time.

To embed videos just click on the little film strip icon above the text box. A window will pop up and ask you for the url, paste your YouTube link in there and that's all there is to it.

Muchas gracias!
 

srcarr52

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There may well be something wrong with my logic, though. I tried to measure a difference in kerf for the ground chain and the filed chain and simply could not measure any difference.


In any case, I am not at all suggesting that anyone just “copy my angles†as was suggested to me by a certain AS member. Not at all. If, in my long-gone martial arts days, I’d ever had the notion that I should try to emulate anything Bruce Lee was doing at any point in his career (no chance I could ever do any of that anyway), I would have been missing the point entirely. The point was for me to try a lot of different disciplines, learn a lot of different stuff, and to adapt/ adopt what would actually work for me. And, if I could come up with anything new on my own, all the better. I ain’t no Bruce Lee, but I think I got a few things figured out a long time ago.


There must be a number of likely reasons for needing more top plate angle than I use, and here are some that come to mind: 1) Hard wood –other than a few cuts, I haven’t cut hard wood since before I started chisel filing, so I don’t know anything, but another member has found that angles much like mine make his chain ‘grabby’ in hard wood. 2) Very pitchy wood or very stringy wood – you may well need more kerf. 3) Big wood, big bar – as an example, I’ve noticed that I seem to be getting barely adequate kerf when putting in a back cut and using all of a 36†bar. On the .404 full-skip chain that I happen to have for a 36-incher, I have the top plates at about 5 degrees. For me, though, barely adequate kerf is exactly what I want, if that’s going to make it cut faster.

Here’s the little footnote part:
I lost the video from this very unscientific little test, but I wasn’t going to post it anyway. Making cuts in a small log (before I could get into the woods this summer), the results were like this: off-the-roll chisel ground took 9 boring seconds, professionally ground chain took about 5.5 seconds, and hand-filed took about 4 seconds.


I’d better have a couple more beers now and get myself ready for replies from guys explaining all the things I’m doing wrong.
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A few footnotes on your findings.
The ground chain is new and the rakers have not been touched. The filed chain is say 3/4 life and as the top plate gets shorter the cut times decrease due to more chip clearance and a more consistent bite angle of the cutter. Also the filed chain has had the rakers filed down which on softwoods you can get away with lowering those quite a bit.

Now, I'm not knocking you're filing skills, I'm just pointing out it wasn't a fair comparison. If both chains had equal top plate length and the rakers at the same depths you're results would have been way different. You would probably still win as your chain has more side plate (hook) angle and thus will probably have more underside angle because with a file you can't decouple these angle like you can with a grinder. The underside angle helps with self feeding and peeling a large chip out but a sharper angle will dull faster.
 

hillwilliam

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A few footnotes on your findings.
The ground chain is new and the rakers have not been touched. The filed chain is say 3/4 life and as the top plate gets shorter the cut times decrease due to more chip clearance and a more consistent bite angle of the cutter. Also the filed chain has had the rakers filed down which on softwoods you can get away with lowering those quite a bit.

Now, I'm not knocking you're filing skills, I'm just pointing out it wasn't a fair comparison. If both chains had equal top plate length and the rakers at the same depths you're results would have been way different. You would probably still win as your chain has more side plate (hook) angle and thus will probably have more underside angle because with a file you can't decouple these angle like you can with a grinder. The underside angle helps with self feeding and peeling a large chip out but a sharper angle will dull faster.


<!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <o:OfficeDocumentSettings> <o:AllowPNG/> </o:OfficeDocumentSettings> </xml><![endif]--> You make some valid points, and you’re right about some of it. You obviously know what you’re talking about, so your thoughts are appreciated.

But the depth gauges on the ground chain were in fact set/ ground, specifically for soft wood as requested. I’m just not the guy who prepared that chain. The rakers on the filed chain were done w/ a FOP, because that’s how I always do them. So that factor is still not actually the same.

The cutters on the filed chain are necessarily a little shorter, since that’s how far I have to go to get the top plate angle I want. So that factor is clearly not the same.

The side plate angle isn’t that much different, but I’d say they turned out a bit steeper on the filed chain. Not as steep as the hogged-out gullets make them appear, though. I like to get that material out to make my filing easier, and I’ve now hogged them out on the ground chain in anticipation of some serious filing.


And my work chains don’t dull quickly. I’ve cut three big loads of wood, and I have yet to file a chain. If they had any hint of needing it, I’d gladly do it just to get back in practice.

I still figure the one substantive difference in geometry is the top plate angle, and it’s a huge difference. Certainly not a very scientific comparison, but my objective was to compare two basic work chains with one essential difference in geometry. One of those basic work chains is the same as I’ve used for 30 years, though not my best filing job.


For this comparison to be more scientific and instructive, a guy would need to grind or file one chain with a 4- or 5-degree top plate (can you do that on a grinder?) and another chain with essentially factory angles (that’s what it appears I have here) but to the same cutter length. Then do the depth gauges the same on both chains and compare. That would tell us something, and I’d be happy to accept the results for what they are.

Another worthwhile experiment would be to gradually decrease the top plate angle on a chain in small increments and keep testing until one reaches the point of diminishing returns. That’s something I’ve advocated for years. A guy could maintain another chain with more stock angles (or whatever is desired) to use as a control in the experiment. That would tell a lot.

[FONT=&quot]My purpose was to offer some insights born of experience and to offer an alternative of radically different geometry, not to stack the deck. 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trx250r180

The Junk Peddler
Joined
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I recently tried a less aggressive grind on .404 ,seems like my saw has more power and can be leaned more on now ,and i get a couple days of cutting in clean wood ,yes if slide the table that holds the chain towards and away from the wheel can change the top plate doing square ,15 i can get ,not sure about 5 or 10 degrees though .
 

hillwilliam

Active Member
Joined
Jan 13, 2015
Messages
33
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I recently tried a less aggressive grind on .404 ,seems like my saw has more power and can be leaned more on now ,and i get a couple days of cutting in clean wood ,yes if slide the table that holds the chain towards and away from the wheel can change the top plate doing square ,15 i can get ,not sure about 5 or 10 degrees though .

Interesting. I've never used a grinder.
 

hillwilliam

Active Member
Joined
Jan 13, 2015
Messages
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Reaction score
115
This caught my eye today. This is how the side plate angle of the ground chain looks with the gullets hogged out. Appears at least as steep as the side plates of the filed chain. No other filing has been done on that chain. Yet.
Looks to me like another criticism of my admittedly less-than-scientific little experiment is out the window.
DSC01273.jpg
 

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