How to Use a Chainsaw Bar Rail Closer: A Guide

How to Use a Chainsaw Bar Rail Closer: A Guide

As an avid chainsaw user, keeping my equipment in optimal condition is a top priority. A well-maintained chainsaw is safer and more effective when tackling cutting jobs. One important but often overlooked aspect of chainsaw maintenance is closing the bar rails to keep the groove spacing tight. When the rails spread too far apart, it allows the chain to wobble and vibrate, leading to inefficient cutting, increased wear, and potential damage.

In this comprehensive guide, I’ll cover everything you need to know about using a chainsaw bar rail closer to maintain a tight bar groove. First, we’ll look at the traditional method of using a hammer and anvil compared to specialized rail closer tools. Then we’ll go over how to measure bar rail spread accurately, choose the right bar rail closer, and use proper safety precautions during the process. I’ll also provide solutions for common issues with rail closing tools and tips for overall chainsaw bar maintenance.

Whether you’re a chainsaw novice or a seasoned pro, this guide will equip you with the knowledge to keep your bars and chains running smoothly. Proper bar rail maintenance is easy when you have the right technique and tools. Let’s get started!

How to Use a Chainsaw Bar Rail Closer?

How to Use a Chainsaw Bar Rail Closer: A Guide

Maintaining the correct width of the bar groove is critical for optimal chainsaw function. There are two primary methods for closing chainsaw bar rails – using a hammer and anvil or a specialized bar rail closer tool. Here’s an overview of both techniques:

Closing the Bar Rails with a Hammer and Anvil

The traditional way to narrow spread bar rails is by carefully tapping them with a hammer on a flat anvil or block. This takes practice to avoid damaging the rails, but works well with some patience. Here are the basic steps:

  • Secure the chainsaw bar upside down in a sturdy vise. Protect the bar with rag strips where the vise contacts it.
  • Check the rail spread width with calipers and mark the target closure distance with a marker.
  • Place the marked rail section flat on the anvil surface.
  • Use light, accurate hammer taps while moving across the rail to close it bit by bit.
  • Frequently check progress with the calipers and adjust tapping force.
  • Take care not to strike so hard as to nick, gouge, or warp the rails. Slow and steady is best.
  • Once closed to specifications, polish any small rail marring with fine grit sandpaper.

This traditional method works fine, but controlling the precision while avoiding bar damage takes patience and practice. A purpose-made rail closer tool is easier for many saw owners.

Using a Bar Rail Closer Tool

Specialized bar rail closer tools make closing the rails much easier and more foolproof. Quality closer tools have an adjustable vise to securely grip different bar sizes, and a screw- or lever-powered pneumatic chamber to apply controlled, even closing pressure across the rail section. Here’s how to use a rail closer:

  • Secure the bar upside down in the rail closer vise, protecting the clamping points with rag strips.
  • Check and mark the rail spread distance that needs closure with calipers.
  • Adjust the tool guides to center on the marked rail section.
  • Activate the closer with smooth, steady pressure while aligning the guides across the bar rails. Avoid rapid or jerky movements.
  • Release pressure and re-check the spread distance until the rails reach target tolerance.
  • Finish by polishing any small marring spots from the guides with fine sandpaper.

Quality bar rail closer tools take the guesswork and effort out of rail closing. I’ll cover how to select the best model later in this guide. First, let’s go over techniques for accurately measuring rail spread.

Measuring Bar Rail Spread

Before attempting to close chainsaw bar rails with any method, you need to accurately measure the spread distance. This determines how much you need to close the rails, and when your work is complete. Here are a few techniques:

  • Use a set of bar groove calipers specifically designed to measure rail gap distance. Dial calipers are the most precise option.
  • In a pinch, a good quality set of digital or fractional dial calipers can work. Center them across the bar rails at several points along the bar.
  • For a quick visual check, sight along the bar top and note any sagging or downward bowing between rails from spread. Some play is inevitable from use, but 1/16″ or more droop indicates closing is needed.

I recommend closing bar rails once they exceed about .025″ of spread to maintain optimal function. A tight bar groove also extends the usable life of your chains and bar. Now let’s look at choosing the best rail closer for your needs.

Choosing the Right Chainsaw Bar Rail Closer Tool

With a variety of bar rail closer models on the market, it helps to understand the important features and functional differences between tools. Assess your specific needs and chainsaw usage level before choosing.

Features to Look for in a Bar Rail Closer Tool

Here are the key factors to evaluate in a quality bar rail closer tool:

  • Heavy-duty precision bearings for smooth function and durability under repeated professional use. Light tools with plastic bushings won’t endure.
  • Adjustability to fit all common chainsaw bar sizes by changing guide spacing and rail stop positions.
  • Simple and ergonomic controls for safe, effective operation. The best designs make rail closing nearly foolproof.
  • Compact storage size and durability for convenient portability to job sites as needed.

For heavy saw use, invest in a rugged, purpose-built rail closer built to last. It will pay for itself over years of reliable service.

Popular Bar Rail Closer Tool Brands and Models

Two excellent bar rail closer brands are WoodlandPRO and Forester. Here are a couple top models:

The WoodlandPRO chain saw bar rail closer is a professional quality tool with a 16-ton hydraulic cylinder that evenly distributes up to 5 tons of closing force. It has adjustable guides from .050 to .404″ wide and stopper pegs from 10 to 24″ length bars. Durable construction stands up to regular professional use.

The Forester bar rail closer provides up to 7 tons of smooth chain rail closing pressure thanks to robust dual parallel bar construction. Self-centering guides accommodate all standard size bars from 10 to 36 inches. The adjustable stopping block allows precise control of the closing section. Forester builds shop-tough rail tools.

Both of these leading bar rail closer models offer the features, durability and ease of use I recommend based on experience. There are other quality options out there as well – don’t settle for a cheap lightweight tool. With a good understanding of what to look for, you can select the right bar rail closer for your needs and budget.

Now let’s review some key safety precautions when using chainsaw bar rail closer tools.

Safety Precautions When Using a Chainsaw Bar Rail Closer

While a quality bar rail closer greatly simplifies the process of closing chainsaw rails safely and accurately, these powerful tools still deserve care and caution. Follow these tips every time you use a rail closer:

Personal Protective Equipment

Always wear appropriate PPE when operating a rail closer tool:

  • Tight fitting gloves help maintain a firm grip on the tool and protect hands from pinches.
  • Eye protection like safety glasses or a face shield prevents metal chips from bar marring from flying into your eyes.
  • Long sleeve shirts and shop aprons guard against loose closing tool components that could catch clothing.
  • Closed toe boots or shoes protect feet from accidental tool drops.

Safety gear takes just moments to put on, and could save you from avoidable chainsaw bar rail closing injuries. Make it a habit.

Proper Handling of Tools and Equipment

In addition to PPE, using proper procedures will keep you safe:

  • Securely clamp the chainsaw bar upside down in a heavy, anchored vise to prevent movement before actuating the rail closer. Pad the clamping surfaces.
  • Ensure bar rail closer tool guides are clean and smooth before use. Dirt or burrs could damage bar rails.
  • Engage the rail closer with smooth, steady pressure according to tool instructions to avoid jerking and slipping.
  • Check bar rail spread frequently during the process until the target closure tolerance is reached.

With practice and care, a quality bar rail closer tool makes maintaining proper bar rail spacing quick and easy. Now let’s go over solutions for a couple common rail closer issues.

Troubleshooting Common Issues with Chainsaw Bar Rail Closers

When used correctly, a bar rail closer should provide years of reliable service. But if problems arise, here are some potential solutions:

Tool Slipping Off the Bar

If the rail closer guides loosen and slip off the bar during operation, here are some fixes:

  • Increase the vise clamping pressure if possible to improve bar fixation. Don’t over-tighten though.
  • Check that the closer guides are properly aligned over the rail section before engaging pressure. Misalignment can allow slipping.
  • Clean guide surfaces with solvent to remove any grease, oil or dirt causing slippage.
  • Adjust guide spacing and rail stop positions to center on bar groove correctly.
  • Replace smooth worn guide pads which don’t grip properly. Most quality tools have replaceable pads.

Ineffective Rail Closing

If the amount of bar rail closure falls short of the target tolerance, try these tips:

  • Allow the rail closer to work across the full marked rail length in small increments. Don’t stop short.
  • For hydraulic models, check the fluid level and refill if needed. Low hydraulic fluid reduces pressure.
  • Let the tool completely retract guides between closure attempts. Fully resetting the mechanism improves performance.
  • Confirm the rail section needing closure is on a flat section, not over a curved nose or tail tip. The closer works best on straight areas.
  • If problems persist, contact the manufacturer, as internal seals or mechanisms may need repair. Don’t try to modify or adjust the tool internals.

With a little troubleshooting, most bar rail closer problems are easily corrected. But if you encounter an issue that can’t be fixed with the steps above, always reach out to the manufacturer for advice before further use. Their experts can diagnose any underlying mechanical or hydraulic problems.

Proper maintenance and storage of your bar rail closer when not in use will help prevent many common functionality problems down the road. Always clean and store the tool according to the included instructions.

Now let’s move on to some key techniques for overall chainsaw bar maintenance and longevity.

Maintaining Your Chainsaw Bar for Optimal Performance

Along with keeping the bar rails tightened, there are a few other important maintenance steps that will maximize the life and performance of your chainsaw bar:

Regular Inspection and Cleaning

Get in the habit of checking over your chainsaw bar each time you finish cutting for the day. Look for:

  • Rail or groove damage like burring or gouging which could impair chain movement. Use a file to smooth any minor defects.
  • Buildup of wood resin, sap and dirt in the bar groove that needs removal before it hardens. A cleaning tool scrapes buildup out easily.
  • Wear at the bar tip and uneven rail edges from running the chain over the tip with low kickback bumpers engaged. Most tips have extra thickness to allow for some wear before replacement is needed.

Also clean the bar groove periodically by soaking the bar in solvent then scrubbing out debris with a small wire brush. Proper bar cleaning and inspection takes just a few minutes and noticeably extends bar life.

Replacing the Chainsaw Bar When Necessary

Through regular use, all bars eventually reach the point where rails are too worn or damaged for further service. Here are some signs it’s time for a new bar:

  • Excessive lateral groove width prevents adequate chain tensioning. The chain will be loose and sloppy no matter how much it’s tensioned.
  • Bars shorter than the original length due to excessive tip damage and material removal. The shortened bar alters chain parasite and cutting characteristics.
  • Bending, cracking or distortion from impact or overheating damage. A bent or cracked bar is dangerous and can’t be repaired.
  • More than 1/8″ of vertical wear to the rail edges in the regular chain running area. Note that some specialized bars like hardnose have extra thickness at the tip to allow for controlled localized wear in that area only.

When you need a new bar, choose one with same length, gauge, nose style, and mounting pattern as the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) bar. Matching your saw’s specs ensures optimal function. With proper bar rail maintenance and replacement when required, you’ll get the maximum performance and working life from your chainsaw.


I hope this comprehensive guide has equipped you to get the most out of your chainsaw bars by properly maintaining the critical bar rails. Keeping them at the correct tolerance not only improves cutting performance, but also extends the usable lifespan of both bars and chains. Investing in a quality bar rail closer tool and learning proper techniques allows quick, accurate groove narrowing.

The small amount of periodic effort required to monitor and adjust rail spread pays big dividends in safety, efficiency and operator convenience. Share this guide with fellow chainsaw owners so everyone can benefit from properly maintained equipment! I welcome your comments and feedback to improve future editions. Let me know if you have any other chainsaw maintenance questions I can help answer. Now get out there, tighten those bar rails, and cut some wood!

Frequently Asked Questions

How often should I close the bar rails on my chainsaw?

Most professionals recommend checking and adjusting bar rail spread every 5-8 hours of use. Chainsaw bars on saws used daily or heavily may need rail closing every 2-3 days. The frequency depends on your specific cutting conditions and habits. Check new bars more often until you learn how quickly they spread under your normal usage.

Can I use a chainsaw bar rail closer on any type of chainsaw bar?

Quality bar rail closer tools are adjustable and can accommodate all standard size guide bars from 10″ to over 36″. Make sure to check your specific model’s size range. Specialty extended reach and bars with customized shapes may not work with universal rail closer designs. Very small bars under 10″ may also be too short for the tool guides and stops.

What are the risks of not maintaining my chainsaw bar rails?

Allowing excessive bar rail spread to persist will lead to increased vibration, chain wobble, drag on the bar tip, and uneven chain wear. Cutting performance will suffer. Letting the rails get too wide can also accelerate groove damage. Always close rails before they exceed about .025″ of spread for optimal function and bar life.

How do I know if my chainsaw bar rails are too wide?

Use a set of chainsaw bar groove calipers to precisely measure the rail gap distance. Compare this to the manufacturer’s recommended spread tolerance (usually around .025″) for your bar. Visual signs of excess spread include the chain sagging down between the middle rails and increased difficulty tensioning the chain without slack.

Can I use a chainsaw bar rail closer to fix a damaged chainsaw bar?

A bar rail closer is only meant to narrow spread rails, not repair other damage. Issues like bent or cracked bars, worn rail edges, and damaged bar tips require replacement. A rail closer also can’t correct groove damage, though light burring and marring are easily removed with sandpaper and file polishing.

Are there any alternatives to using a chainsaw bar rail closer?

While a purpose-made rail closer tool is by far the easiest and most controlled method, the traditional approach with a flat anvil and light hammer taps can work. This just requires significant care and patience to avoid damaging the rails. Some very experienced saw users can successfully close rails this way, but most find a quality closer tool well worth the investment.

How do I choose the right chainsaw bar for my chainsaw?

Always select a replacement bar with the same mount pattern, length, gauge, nose radius, and oil hole positions as the manufacturer’s original bar. Check your saw’s manual for the proper replacement part numbers. Matching your saw’s engineered bar specifications ensures good function and avoidance of issues like improper oiling or chain throwing.

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