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Thread: Saw chains

  1. #1
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    New question here. Saw chains

    Time for new chains for my saw. I've had good luck with Stihl semi chisel chains in the past, my question is whether to get the "green" low kickback or the "yellow" standard chain.

    Most of what I've read is that "yellow is just better, always get yellow if you can" but I'm looking for some real world opinions. It appears the only difference is in the raker, and that with proper sharpening both chains should cut the same, if that's the case then I see no benefit to the "yellow" unless you do a lot of plunge cutting. I rarely need to plunge cut, and haven't had an issue doing it in the past with a properly sharpened green chain, though I'm sure it's slower than a yellow chain.

  2. #2
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    I've used nothing but the anti-kickback chains. The performance is adequate for my needs, 30-50 fallen trees per year.

    My technique for cutting trees laying on the ground is to saw from the top down about halfway, then plunge through the tree at ground level and pull up into the top cut. I find this prevents ground contact pretty reliably, but it does expose me to more possibility of kickback during the plunge phase of the cut. I've never had a problem with the green chains and I don't intend to trade off performance for safety given how I prefer to use the saw.

    Walt

  3. #3
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    The difference between the two is probably in the depth of cut per tooth pass which is controlled by the depth gauge/raker (that little protrusion in front of the cutter on the same chain link). It keeps each cutter from trying to remove more wood per pass than a person could safely handle.

    If one chain has half the depth of cut per tooth as another chain, the saw should be able to make the cut in roughly twice the time. If you can find the difference in depth of cut of both chains you could make a good estimate on cut time differences.

    The cutting performance will probably be a bit slower for the green anti-kickback chain but I would personally go with that option unless there were a specific reason not to. I would choose the anti-kickback chain especially if I were running a big saw where the chain forces generated are much higher. The type of wood being cut is also going to have an effect on the chain forces and should be factored into the decision. Soft woods like pine generate less cutting force than a wood like oak and could be used with a chain which has a larger depth of cut. Common raker offset or depth of cut for softwoods is 0.030" and 0.025" for hardwoods.

  4. #4
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    ^^^^What he said!! rake controls depth of cut! Yellow definitely cuts faster than the green, I personally prefer the yellow...but I do keep my chain brake in good working order and generally practice safe cutting methods.

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    I won't buy another green chain. It probably depends on what tree you are cutting too.

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    So who can compare cutting speed between a green and yellow with properly filed rakers?

    As far as I know both chains use the same cutter design, the only difference being the "extra" raker on the green chains that protrudes more when the chain goes around the end of the bar. So in theory they should cut at the same speed on a down/upward cut, with the green being slower at plunge cutting because the tooth is being shrouded by that "extra" raker. But we all know that sometimes the real world is different than theory...

    Most of the stuff I'm cutting is blowdown, both hard and softwoods, ranging from twigs up to about 3' in diameter. I've been doing this sort of thing for a long time, and have always used a "green" chain, but if a "yellow" chain is that much better now is the time to switch.

  7. #7
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    There's no difference in the depth of cut between a "homeowner" (green) or a "professional" (yellow) user chain. Depth of cut is an issue whether the powerhead can pull a chain through wood at a desired chain speed. .025" is pretty much the standard. It's all about chain speed. The bumper links that are installed on the green chain are there exclusively to drastically reduce the depth of cut to near zero in the kick-back danger zone where the chain changes its direction of travel in the 12 o'clock to 3 o'clock position on the bar tip as viewed from the right side of the bar. It's actually an ingenious design but rears it's ugly head when the green chain has been sharpened a few times. To maximize the chains cutting performance, it requires that the bumper links be ground down just as the depth adjusters are which requires a great deal more time and effort that many don't follow through on. You could and should expect a loss of chain speed from a green chain just because it's dragging more weight and parts around the bar.

    You'll notice all chain tooth top plates have a relief angle that angles down. The more you grind the chain and shorten the tooth, the more work needs to be on the depth gauges on both yellow & green chains. The green, with the bumper link, just requires a great deal more effort to maintain a factory sharp condition than a yellow professional chain. A lot of homeowners will trash their chains thinking they are toast after a few sharpenings but the reality is, the more you sharpen a chain, the better its performance CAN be if sharpened correctly because the top plate offer less and less friction offering higher precious chain speed. Ever watch a "Hot Saw" competition? They usually take a brand new chain and grind it down till here's just a little chunk of tooth left that way they get the maximum chain speed possible and therefore the highest cutting performance.

    So, to the OP. If you have a firm understanding of chain saw safety and performance and are super aware of what causes kick-back of a chain saw, go with the yellow chain and ALWAYS be highly aware of where that 90 section of bar tip is while cutting. As soon as it makes contact with ANYTHING, kick back can occur and, trust me, you can't think and /or react fast enough to prevent injury. It's humanly impossible.

    FYI - Qualifier, 25 years as an Arborist / Owner / Operator and I sharpen chain for others on the side. Numerous certifications and schooling through Oregon Chain's Safety and Sharpening Schools, the largest manufacturer of saw chain in the entire world.

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    Sack pretty much has it. I spent some time running a tree service at one point, and from a stand point of having the proper safety gear, always operating the saw in the safest way possible, and making certain things were properly maintained, we were on top of everything. We DID use the yellow chains because of exactly what Sack mentions - the time it can take to make certain the depth gauges are where they're supposed to be. We could shoot a substantial amount of time sharpening chains, and adding the extra work of ensuring proper depth gauge height - well, when you looked at all the other precautions that didn't necessarily cost us any time, and then that - time was money. So we ran the yellow chains, all the time. I personally still DO run the yellow chains, for very much the same reason, even though it's not a matter of time is money any more, it's still a matter of what I want to take the time to do. I'd rather spend my time operating in as safe a way as I can than filing depth gauges. But you need to do what you think is best for you. If the green chain makes you more comfortable, use it, but don't treat it like it's going to save you and start acting silly. You still have to exercise caution. That saw doesn't care a lick about you, and it'll kill you no matter which chain you put on it, if circumstances allow.

  9. #9
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    Great info "Oh My Sack". Check out the photos of these two Stihl chains which clearly shows it isn't the depth of cut which is the difference.

    Professional chain:
    Name:  CorpMain.png
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Size:  80.5 KB

    Anti-kickback chain:
    Name:  CorpMain.png
Views: 253
Size:  80.5 KB

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    Thanks for the info. I'm familiar with filing the rakers, and it does take longer on my green chains, but since I don't do this professionally a few extra minutes has never bothered me that much.

    I mainly asked the question to get some real world feedback on cutting speeds, as it seems anytime anyone asks the green vs yellow question everybody is quick to say yellow without giving any sort of reason as to why (other than "it cuts faster"). I suspect this is because a yellow chain is more macho or something, or they have only used improperly sharpened green chains.

    On another note, has anyone run into a land manager that requires low kickback chains?

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    If you have a day where you are doing a lot of sawing you are going to have to field sharpen the saw and it is easier to keep the yellow sharper. I'm always surprised how much people over look the key to cutting fast is always to have a sharp saw. I normally will carry two sharp chains into the woods when I have extensive sawing to do that way I can cut quickly and make the most out of available day light. Then I sharpen that night or the next day so I'm fully ready for whenever the next work day occurs.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by mtbikerTi View Post

    On another note, has anyone run into a land manager that requires low kickback chains?
    No, the closest I came was working for the COE one time. They required helmets, face protection, eye protection under that, ear protection, gloves, safety chaps, and steel toed boots. Probably part of the reason we got the contract is we were one of the few local crews that had all of the gear. Beyond that, they had a safety inspector who verified the first day we were there that all of the saws had working chain brakes, etc.

  13. #13
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    The key to keeping a sharp chain is simple. Keep it out of the dirt!

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by Oh My Sack! View Post
    The key to keeping a sharp chain is simple. Keep it out of the dirt!
    Especially if there are a lot of rocks in the soil. Soft organic dirt is not as big of a deal but rocking your chain will f it up real quick.

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