Getting the Best From Your Chainsaw Bar

Over the years I’ve tried lots of different chainsaw bars. Sugihara. Husqvarna. Stihl. And more!
I found some brands have a bad reputation and are often avoided – including Sithl. However, I’ve had a Stihl bar that lasted four years!
What I’ve discovered is that when it comes to chainsaw bars, it isn’t so much about the brand you buy. Rather, its longevity is about how you look after it. That’s why I put together this blog with a few things I’ve learned about getting the best from your chainsaw bar…

Photo shows a wood sculpture of a bearded man to the left with a stihl brand chainsaw bar and chainsaw being used to refine the beard. The image is part of a blog on getting the most from your chainsaw bar by artist simon o'rourke.

Anatomy of a Chainsaw Bar

Getting the best from your chainsaw bar starts with understanding its ‘anatomy’ or design.
The tip of the bar has two ‘rails’ and looking after these is really the key to making a chainsaw bar last. They’re the most vulnerable part and suffer the most heat build up (even when running a slack chain) so a bit of TLC in this area makes all the difference.

Below is an image of a new bar, and you can see the rails are parallel and flat.

close up of a chainsaw bar tip showing parallel, flat rails

Getting the Most From Your Chainsaw Bar: Understanding Wear & Tear

Now we’ve established what the bar SHOULD look like, the next key thing to getting the most from your chainsaw bar is understanding how they wear.
Basically, as we use the chainsaw, the bar wears out in a v shape, creating inverted slopes. This means extra pressure is then put onto the slope and over time fault lines and cracks will appear. The tips will eventually bend outwards like an open mouth, although the bar often splits before this.
When this happens the bar is basically useless – and probably your chain too!

Close up of a chainsaw bar where the rails are sloped due to excess wear

Remedying a Sloping Chainsaw Bar

The key to preventing that kind of sloping wear is being diligent to check the bar. Before you use it, remove the chain and check for slopes and burring. If you notice a change of shape, use a diamond file to file it flat again, using a vice to keep the rails parallel if necessary. have a great range of tools for maintaining chainsaw bars by the way!

The photo below gives an idea of what burrs look like. If you intervene at this stage, you’ll still get much more wear from your bar!

close up of a chainsaw bar where slopes are forming and burrs appearing.

Check the Chain!

The next key in making a chainsaw bar last is to check the chain. As heat builds up, the contact points on the chain often begin sloping too. This adds extra pressure and heat to the bar and can lead to ‘stiff slack syndrome’ and most often results in a snapped chain. There’s a blog with LOADS on information about stiff-slack syndrome HERE, but for now, just know that you need to nip it in the bud and it’s time to change the chain and work on those rail tips!

close up of a chainsaw chain showing wear on the tie straps

Fit for Use!

My next tip for chainsaw bar longevity is making sure it’s fit for use. First, make sure it’s clean! So simple, but it really makes a difference.

Next, oil helps keep the tip cool so check all the oil-related parts of your bar and chainsaw:

  • check the oils holes are clean so oil can flow freely
  • check the filter isn’t blocked
  • check the pump is functioning properly

These are key to allowing oil to flow which will help prevent heat building up at the tip and the subsequent slopes forming.

close up of a wood sculpture being created with a chainsaw

Adjust Your Technique and Check Your Speed!

Technique also has a part to play in how long a chainsaw bar lasts. As you push the bar into the timber it can be tempting to lever the bar to remove wood. I’ve done it! It weakens and bends the bar though and can cause it to snap. Rather than levering the bar, my advice is to bring the bar in and out, changing the angle as needed.

I’ve found it’s also good to consider the chain speed to make a chainsaw bar last. Very simply put, when it’s too fast, it creates more wear on the bar. It can be tempting to customise bars and chains to try and get more speed, and there are advantages to this for sure. I have a couple of my own!
However, I’ve found that the bars wear out much more quickly, and the best way to make a bar last is, where possible, to stick to ‘factory settings’!

close up of chainsaw carver simon o'rourke creating a bust of a bearded man wearing a large hat and glasses. he's using the stihl MSA220c

Go Cordless!

Lastly, if you can, go for a battery (cordless) saw. I find that as well as all their other advantages, they vibrate less, and less vibration means less heat and wear on the bar. In the photo I’m using the Stihl MSA220c and you can also read my blog about why I like the Stihl MSA200. BUT! Stihl recently brought out the MSA300 and although I don’t have my own (YET!) I was fortunate enough to be able to try it last year at Hillhead Show (pictured below), and I absolutely recommend it! It’s a pretty revolutionary bit of kit!

simon o'rourke uses a stihl msa300 to create a wooden sculpture of an american bald eagle at hillhead show.

Final Thoughts

I hope you’ve found this blog helpful in considering how you can be getting the best from your chainsaw bar, regardless of the brand. If you’re after a bit more help, have a video I’ve put below that gives a bit of a clearer demonstration and I have another chainsaw bar maintenance blog HERE.

Thanks for reading, and what other tool tips and tricks are you interested in learning about?