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Guide bars are often overlooked but they are an important component that provide the deep cuts and square corners that only diamond chainsaws can produce. It is best to think of the guide bar as the railroad track that the chain runs on. If the railroad track is excessively worn or uneven it will affect the saws cutting performance and ability to create straight cuts.
Six Simple guide bar practices
- Select the shortest possible bar
This seems obvious, but it seems like just the opposite occurs in most situations. A 12” bar will cut straighter, last longer, tension chain easier and extend chain life by significant amounts versus bars of greater than 15 inches. It is worth the time to use shorter bars and only switch to long bars when needed.
- Provide adequate water supply
Wet cutting with concrete chainsaws is always required because of the frictional interface between the bar and diamond chain. No water or insufficient water will generate excessive heat and quickly damage rail surfaces. This can happen in as little as 30 seconds operating time. Water pressure is also key to the life of the sprocket nose bearing assembly. Even with the special and unique design features of ICS guide bars, 20 psi (1.5bar) of water pressure is still required for acceptable use. Additionally, clean water is a must. Dirty water will clog the guide bar water passages.
- Keep rails square
There are 3 ways to do this.
- Grind them square with a bench-mounted sander. It does not matter if the bar appears wavy from the side so long as the two rails are parallel and square with each other.
- Flip the guide bar. This is the best remedy out on site and should be done at least every chain.
- Replace the guide bar. This is the best solution. Keeping your bar rails square is essential for cutting straight and maximising chain life.
- Maintain after each job
Spray the entire bar with light, penetrating lubricant such as WD40 after every use to disperse water from the nose sprocket bearings and to keep surfaces in good condition. This practice eliminates rust and is a sure money saver.
- Check your nose
A loose, rough or seized bar nose will render a guide bar out of service. Excessive chain tension will cause several concrete chainsaw problems, but will also accelerate bar nose bearing wear and failure. Plunge cutting with the bar nosed buried combined with a low water supply will also accelerate bar nose bearing wear and failure. The nose sprocket should spin freely with no side-to-side movement. Check your bar nose sprocket after every job and replace the bar as needed.
- Handle with care
Remember that a used bar may have razor-sharp edges along the rails so handle with caution and wear gloves when the chain is not mounted.
As a general rule of thumb, you should expect 2-3 chains per guide bar. Different applications and regular maintenance can double this estimate of lifetime. Remember that a guide bar is worn out and should be replaced when the diamond chain drive links begin to wear from touching at the bottom of the guide bar groove.
Guide bars are often the most overlooked element of concrete chainsaws. Simple practices as outlined above will allow you to cut straighter, more efficiently and will save you time and money.