Carbide chainsaw chains are used in professional, industrial and emergency applications where a normal chainsaw chain would quickly be rendered useless. Such environments include frozen or dirt-encrusted logs, sandy areas, or where foreign materials are present. Home users occasionally purchase carbide chains because of their longer life.
There are several types of carbide tipped chainsaw chains. Some are designed for standard wood cutting, while others are designed to use a ripping action when removal of the material is more important than a clean cut. All are manufactured by soldering or brazing carbide teeth on a fairly standard chainsaw chain base.
The carbide cutting surfaces used on carbide chainsaw chains are not designed for superior sharpness, but for durability. Carbide is an incredibly hard and durable material that is better suited for longevity than standard materials used for chainsaw cutting surfaces. Carbide cutting tips perform the same function as regular chainsaw cutting surfaces, in that they chisel and remove bits of material, and take them away from the immediate area of the cut.
Standard chainsaw chains are designed for cutting green or recently felled timber. For this application, a standard chainsaw chain is preferred. Unfortunately, not every material a chainsaw is used on can be cut so easily. In a professional environment, a chainsaw may be used on difficult-to-cut materials, such as dirty or frozen timber. In the fire and rescue fields, chainsaws are used to make an opening in the side of a house or through a door, where metal, pipes and wires may be present. Such hazards would immediately render a standard, but not a carbide-tipped, chainsaw chain useless.
Carbide chainsaw chains are not invincible. The cutting surface is far more durable than a standard chainsaw chain, but the tips are only as strong as the silver solder or brazing used to anchor them. Carbide is a very brittle material and will shatter if impacted on another hard surface, such as rock or metal. Carbide chainsaw chains are designed for durability, but are actually not as sharp and fast-cutting as a standard chain saw chain when working with recently felled timber.
For home use, a carbide chainsaw chain is only worthwhile if the cutting environment warrants it. Carbide chains typically cost 4 to 10 times as much as a standard chain, and are very difficult to sharpen once they become dull; special diamond tools are required to sharpen carbide-tipped chains. Chainsaws equipped with carbide chains are also more difficult to operate; they tend to kick back and bounce while cutting.
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