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Bob Vila Radio: Screen Repair Made Simple

Holes in window or door screens are not only unsightly, but they also invite flying insects into your home. Fortunately, it's a simple fix, whether your screens are metal or fiberglass. Read on to learn how it's done.

Ever notice how pesky bugs manage to find their way through even the tiniest holes in your screens?

How to Fix a Window Screen

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No need to fret. Repairing the little holes is easy, especially if you catch them before they grow into big holes.

For metal screens, make a patch (using the same screening material) that’s about an inch larger than the hole. Next, unravel about a half inch of fringe around the edge of the patch and bend it at a right angle. Place the patch on the hole, push through the fringe wires, then bend them back to secure the patch.

For fiberglass screens, push the fibers of the screen back toward the middle of the hole, then apply a bit of clear nail polish to bond the fibers together.

For larger holes, head to the hardware store and pick up a self-adhesive patch that’s a snap to apply.

Bob Vila Radio is a newly launched daily radio spot carried on more than 75 stations around the country (and growing). You can get your daily dose here, by listening to—or reading—Bob’s 60-second home improvement radio tip of the day.


5 Things to Consider When Choosing a New Roof

According to GAF, North America's largest roofing manufacturer, your roof can contribute 40 percent or more to the look of your home. Choose wisely and you'll create something that not only protects your home for the long-term, but immediately enhances its overall beauty and style.

Choosing the Best Roofing Material for Your Home

Photo: GAF Sienna Shingles in Habor Mist

Every homeowner knows that a sound roof is an absolute must to protect your investment. That’s why routine roof maintenance—from cleaning out gutters to checking for missing shingles and leaks in the attic—is so important.

In general, roofs last between 15-20 years depending on the original materials used. So, if yours is approaching that age, it might not be a bad idea to have a professional roofer conduct an evaluation. If the inspection indicates a new roof is in order, you’ll have one of two options: installing the new roof directly over the old, or replacing it entirely.  In either case, you’ll have the opportunity to redefine and reinforce your home.

MATERIAL
While roofing is available in a wide variety of materials including wood, metal, tile and slate, far and away the most popular choice for homeowners is asphalt shingles. Today’s relatively lightweight and flexible shingles are typically made from a fiberglass mat, covered in asphalt and colored with mineral granules.  With manufacturing innovations that include everything from superior-strength Micro Weave™ Core construction to granules that lock in color and provide valuable UV protection against the sun’s damaging rays, you won’t have any trouble finding a good-looking, high-performing asphalt shingle to suit your home and budget.

Choosing the Best Roofing Material for Your Home - Timberline Shingles

Photo: GAF Timberline American Harvest Shingles in Nantucket Morning

STYLE
Although driveways, lawns, siding and front doors get most of the attention when we think about curb appeal, the roof actually contributes mightily to the look of a house.  If you are considering a new roof, look for the shingle that best suits your home’s architectural style. You’ll also want to factor in the surface area, pitch and angle of the roof to determine whether a standard three-tab, dimensional or artisan-crafted shingle will deliver the look you want.

As you’ll discover, it’s no longer about choosing a standard square shape in a few different shades. Asphalt shingle products have evolved into a wide variety of patterns and colors so that your roof can truly elevate the appeal and longevity of your home.

One of the more interesting style choices today is Sienna® because the shingles are cut in a classic, old-world diamond shape. Part of GAF’s Value Collection, they carry a Class A fire-rating and feature unique Diamond Cut™ granules that reflect light, adding more depth to each shingle.

COLOR
Like style, color is also an important consideration when choosing a new roof.  Selecting a coloration that compliments your home’s exterior palette and surroundings will create a harmonious and elegant look. In general, if a large portion of your home’s roof is visible from the street, you might want to keep things subdued, as larger roofs look better in neutral tones. Also, avoid using a heavily patterned roof on a home that has brick or stone facing to keep things from getting too busy.

The palette for the Timberline® American Harvest™ line was designed specifically to complement a home’s exterior color scheme. Created exclusively for GAF by color-industry expert, Patricia Verlodt, the shingles feature subtle blends of contrasting colors that add an unexpected depth and beauty to the roof.

Choosing the Best Roofing Material for Your Home - Grand Sequoia

Photo: GAF Grand Sequoia in Weathered Wood

DURABILITY
You’ll want to make certain that the roof you choose stands up to the elements and provides lasting beauty over the course of its lifetime.  One way to be sure—shop quality and brand.  When you install a GAF Advanced Protection Shingle, you are getting the very best combination of weight and performance that modern technology and testing can deliver.  With over 185 individual tests, GAF is the first manufacturer who can say all its shingles pass the AC438 requirements for long-term durability, wind-driven rain performance, and long-term extreme temperature resistance.

In addition to the shingle’s durability, you’ll want to check the manufacturer’s warranty. GAF offers a Lifetime Limited Warranty (that includes wind damage coverage of up to 130 MPH speeds*) on many of its premium products.  Since the warranty is transferable to the next owner, the roof can become a desirable selling feature to prospective buyers.

PRICE
Without a doubt, asphalt shingles are the most affordable and arguably the least maintenance-intensive option of covering your home’s roof.

Among these types of shingle you’ll pay more for extended lifespans, more robust warranties, and unique patterns and finishes—but not always much more. Case in point: Woodland® Shingles from GAF. Designed to imitate the look of hand-cut European shingles, they cost only pennies-a-day more than standard architectural shingles.

Thanks to web tools, like Virtual Home Remodeler, you can now test out which shingle best suits your house. Simply choose the style of your home—or upload a picture of your actual house—and try out different roofing products to find the one that fits the look you’re trying to achieve.

*Maximum wind coverage requires special installation. See Limited Warranty for complete coverage and restrictions.

This post has been paid for by GAF. Its facts and opinions are those of BobVila.com.


Bob Vila Radio: Track Lighting Trends

Thanks to innovations in design, track lighting is more versatile than ever and complements virtually any decorating style in any room of the house.

If the mention of track lighting conjures up visions of bulky white cans jutting out awkwardly from a thick rail, you haven’t seen the chic takes on track that have hit the market in recent years.

Track Lighting Trends

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Track lighting has a number of selling points, but versatility may be one of its greatest. Depending on how the heads, or fixtures, are mounted and directed, track lighting can provide accent or task lighting as well as some general illumination—although a traditional ceiling fixture gives off a more diffuse, ambient glow. Now, with the advent of slender, flexible monorail tracks, compact low-voltage fixtures, and a rich array of styles from colorful cans to quirky pendants, track lighting is more versatile than ever. Track systems are particularly well suited for use in the kitchen, brightening an island or breakfast bar. But you can find a track style that works with almost any interior design scheme in any room of the house.

Like much lighting these days, track systems are available in standard 120-volt as well as low-voltage designs. There are even standard line-voltage tracks that approximate the flexible curves and smaller profiles of their low-voltage siblings. Some line-voltage tracks can hold transformer-equipped low-voltage fixtures—an innovation that opens up a world of options in fixture sizes and styles.

Bob Vila Radio is a newly launched daily radio spot carried on more than 75 stations around the country (and growing). You can get your daily dose here, by listening to—or reading—Bob’s 60-second home improvement radio tip of the day.


How To: Grow Potatoes

So filling to eat, so versatile to cook with, and so satisfying to plant, the lowly potato is a rewarding crop for any backyard or container gardener—even a beginner!

How to Grow Potatoes

Photo: shutterstock.com

If you’ve never tasted homegrown potatoes, prepare to be amazed. A hundred days or so after planting—more or less, depending on the variety you choose—you’ll have an abundance of spuds. Of all vegetables, these are among the easiest to grow, making them a good choice for gardening neophytes—but even veterans would do well to observe the following guidelines for success.

TOOLS AND MATERIALS
- Seed potatoes
- Hoe
- Garden container (optional)
- General-purpose compost
- Watering can

STEP 1
Though it’s sometimes possible to grow crops from store-bought potatoes, it’s best to purchase chemical- and disease-free seed potatoes. Doing so gives you the power to choose a specific variety, something that’s important because different potatoes have different needs. Whereas some varieties mature in 90 days and can be planted more closely together, others mature in 110 days and should be spaced farther apart. Knowing what variety you’re planting means you can meet its specific requirements. Generally speaking, the best time to plant potatoes is two or three weeks before the final frost, once the soil first becomes workable.

How to Grow Potatoes - Detail Plant

Photo: shutterstock.com

STEP 2
Potatoes are hardy and are able to adapt to different soil types. If you can, however, it’s wise to add compost to the soil in the fall, several months before you actually put the seed potatoes into the ground. When you’re ready to plant, clear away all weeds and use a hoe to break up the soil surface. Adding a few handfuls of general-purpose compost per square yard at this stage will further improve the nutrient value of your soil.

STEP 3
Plant each seed potato about six or eight inches into the prepared ground. As mentioned previously, the ideal distance between each seed potato depends on the variety of potato. A rule of thumb: Potatoes that take longer to mature often need more growing room. Before planting an individual seed potato, make sure that it has at least two eyes—bulbous protrusions from which roots grow. The eyes should face up. Cover each seed potato with three or four inches of soil, leaving the area slightly below grade.

STEP 4
As hardy as potatoes are, they are quite sensitive to drought, so remember to water on a consistent basis—once a week should suffice. If your region sees an exceptionally sunny period, however, water more frequently. By the same token, if it rains, lay off for a few days; it’s best not to let the soil become soggy.

STEP 5
Before they bloom, when the potato plants are about six or eight inches high, rake or hoe soil against the base of each plant. Known as “hilling,” this process not only supports the plants, helping them to stay upright, but it also cools down the soil in which the roots are growing. Two weeks after your initial hilling, replenish these mounds with another few inches of soil. Then—or in lieu of the second hilling—lay down a loose layer of breathable mulch (for example, leaves or straw) to protect the vines from insects.

STEP 6
The last step—perhaps the most satisfying—is to harvest your crop. For new potatoes, harvest two or three weeks after the plants flower. Harvest all mature potatoes once the plant vines have died back and lost most of their color. Bear in mind that it’s easiest to dig on a dry day, when the soil isn’t moist from watering or recent rains. Depending on the quality of your soil, you can dig with your hands right off the bat, or you may need to use a tool to loosen the ground first. The potatoes will be four to six inches below the surface, ready to be brushed off and stored in a cool, dry, dark place.

Additional Tips
- If in doubt as to when it’s appropriate to harvest, pull up one plant and assess its growth.

- About two weeks before you harvest, cut the leaves off at ground level. That gives the potato skins time to toughen, which makes the vegetables easier to store.

- Because washing potatoes shortens their storage life, don’t rinse a potato under the faucet until you’re actually ready to use it in your cooking.


Bob Vila Radio: Maintaining Brick

Of all the commonly used materials in homebuilding, brick ranks among the most durable, but in order to look and perform its best, occasional maintenance is necessary. These tips can help you clean brick, whether it's inside or outdoors.

Stately and strong, brick has been a popular building material for centuries. Though it seems impervious, brick needs occasional attention to ensure its longevity and structural integrity.

How to Clean Brick

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Once a year, clean your brick exterior with a garden hose fitted with a spray nozzle. If you notice moss, mold, or mildew—typically in low-sunlight areas—use a scrub brush to apply a solution of bleach (one cup) and water (one gallon). Give the brick a thorough soaking first to help prevent it from absorbing the bleach. Protect your plantings and use a natural- or synthetic-bristle brush. Don’t use a wire brush that could leave behind metal that would discolor the brick.

As you clean, check to make sure the weep holes are clear. These are typically vertical breaks in the mortar at intervals above the foundation (and often above and below windows and other openings). Also, be on the lookout for water damage, whether it’s soft or cracked mortar or flaked or chipped brick. Efflorescence—a white, chalky coating—can also be a sign of moisture. Water damage may be the result of weather, improper drainage, or rising damp (water wicking up the porous brick). Whatever the cause, it’s made worse by freeze-thaw cycles, so don’t wait long before having damaged brick replaced and repointed.

Bob Vila Radio is a newly launched daily radio spot carried on more than 75 stations around the country (and growing). You can get your daily dose here, by listening to—or reading—Bob’s 60-second home improvement radio tip of the day.


How To: Use Wood Filler

Use wood filler to repair scratches, chips, gouges and other surface imperfections in the furniture and trim work around your home, effectively and efficiently.

How to Use Wood Filler

Photo: suemartinteam.com

Scarred flooring, rotted window frames, chipped furniture—common problems like these can be time-consuming and expensive to repair. Or they can be dealt with quickly and affordably by homeowners who know how to use wood filler. If you’ve never worked with this stuff before, get excited: It might soon be your favorite item in the toolbox. Simple in concept and easy to apply, wood filler works wonders to remedy surface imperfections in a vast, varied range of household items.

Which type of wood filler should you use? The answer depends largely on the job. As the name suggests, stainable wood fillers are receptive to staining so that once you’ve applied the product, you can stain over it to ensure the repaired section matches the rest of the piece that you’re fixing. Typically, water-based wood fillers may also be stained (or painted), but unlike other products in the same category, these are specially formulated for use indoors. Common applications are molding, paneling, and cabinetry. Heavy-duty solvent-based wood fillers are meant primarily for outdoor use and perform well on exterior siding and trim.

MATERIALS AND TOOLS
- Sandpaper
- Shop vac (or tack cloth)
- Wood filler
- Putty knife
- Polyurethane sealer
- Paint or stain

How to Use Wood Filler - Exterior Detail

Photo: diyadvice.com

Working with wood filler may at first blush strike you as messy and haphazard, but precise results are not only possible, they are in fact rather easy to achieve. It’s important to note, however, that wood filler is intended strictly for superficial issues, such as scratches and gouges. If the damage calls for a proper repair, wood filler is no substitute. That said, there’s no shortage of ways in which to use wood filler to improve the look of both practical and decorative elements that have seen better days.

STEP 1
Start by preparing the surface to which you are going to apply wood filler. For one, that means removing any loose chunks of wood or flaking paint. Next, sand any rough edges in or immediately adjacent to the damaged area you wish to repair. Finally, clear away all lingering dust and debris by means of a shop vac or moistened tack cloth (if you use the latter, wait for the area to dry completely before you proceed).

STEP 2
Now, apply the wood filler using a putty knife. Start at the edge of the damaged area, pressing the wood filler into the depression. Overfill slightly to allow for the fact that the filler shrinks as it dries. Once you have applied as much filler as necessary, smooth over the filled area with a clean part of the putty knife.

STEP 3
Allow as much time as needed for the wood filler to dry. Depending on the depth of the application, that could take anywhere from 15 minutes to eight hours. Once dry, sand the filled area so that its height is flush with the surrounding wood. When you run your hand over both the undamaged and freshly filled parts of the item you are fixing, you should feel only the slightest difference between the two.

STEP 4
Having sanded the area smooth, complete the project by applying your choice of finish. In most cases, the goal will be to make the repair virtually unnoticeable. So if you’ve been working on a baseboard painted white, concealing the fix is simply a matter of painting over the filled area in the same shade.

Stained pieces are trickier to deal with. For the best possible match, it’s recommended that you dab some wood filler onto a piece of scrap wood. Wait for it to dry, then test the stain to see how it looks. Depending on the test results, you may then choose to thin out the stain, use a different color, or (if you got a close enough match) proceed to apply the stain to the item that you’ve now successfully fixed—cheaply, easily, and possibly in less than an hour.


Bob Vila Radio: Sites for Compost

What are the best sites for compost piles on your property? These guidelines can help you decide where to deposit the kitchen and yard waste that go into creating nutrient-rich soil.

Composting puts your yard and kitchen waste to work creating nutrient-rich soil for your garden. It’s a true win-win, and it’s not hard to do. For greatest success, however, use care when choosing a site for your pile.

Sites for Compost

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First, check with your homeowner’s association or other municipal authority. Some have regulations stipulating where compost piles can be placed; others forbid composting outright. In the absence of restrictions, your best bet is to put your compost pile on a sunny, level area with good drainage. Ideally, it should sit on top of earth rather than concrete. This will aid drainage and encourage earthworms, bacteria, and other beneficial microbes. Keep the pile within reach of a hose so you can give it a spritz if it’s too dry.

Heat is important, but you also want to avoid extreme cold. Shelter your compost pile from the winds to keep things decomposing even as the temperature dips. Barriers or smart landscaping can also be a courtesy to your neighbors by shielding your pile from view. While smell shouldn’t be a problem—a properly maintained compost pile doesn’t stink—do be concerned about wildlife. Access doors should latch shut, and any meshing should be made of metal and be fine and strong enough to keep out rodents and other foragers.

Bob Vila Radio is a newly launched daily radio spot carried on more than 75 stations around the country (and growing). You can get your daily dose here, by listening to—or reading—Bob’s 60-second home improvement radio tip of the day.


Weekend Projects: 5 Delectable DIY Picnic Tables

Whatever your aesthetic, whatever your needs, there's a DIY picnic table for you. Don't miss these five creative takes on a backyard classic. One is bound to suit your summer style—and your budget.

There’s nothing nicer than enjoying the company of friends and family over food and drink in the summertime. But do you have room to seat everyone on your deck, porch, or patio? If not, consider adding a picnic table to your suite of outdoor furniture. Though it has a relatively compact footprint, a picnic table provides plenty of seating, possibly even enough for every member of your crew. Plus, it doesn’t have to cost much. If you’ve got the time and a little lumber, you can make a DIY picnic table for hundreds less than you’d pay for a brand-new setup. Scroll down now to see five favorite DIY picnic table designs!

 

1. GET BENCHED

DIY Picnic Table - Benches

Photo: instructables.com

Compared with a stand-alone picnic table, a design with detached benches offers more versatility. Because the pieces need not travel together, the table and benches can be put into service in different places, for different purposes. Visit Instructables for a guide to making the model pictured above, complete with sleek profile and mitered corners.

 

2. REPURPOSE PALLETS

DIY Picnic Table - Pallets

Photo: diycozyhome.com

These days, people are using plywood shipping pallets to make all sorts of nifty furniture. Here, a handful of pallets have been combined—with only slight modifications—to create a DIY picnic table. The simple, utilitarian design can be enlivened with the addition of paint in your favorite bold, summery hues.

 

3. PACK A SUITCASE

DIY Picnic Table - Suitcase

Photo: momentarilyyoursevents.blogspot.com

Equip yourself for impromptu picnics with the ultimate in upcycling—a vintage suitcase that can not only carry snacks and beverages, but also convert into a table at a moment’s notice. Oh, and did we forget to mention the speakers? Yup—expect conversations with strangers wherever you take this ingenious creation.

 

4. PIPE DOWN

DIY Picnic Table - Plumbing Pipes

Photo: 4men1lady.com

Easier to build than it looks—and a minimalist complement to any outdoor living area that sports a modern vibe—this industrial-chic DIY picnic table involves two very different materials that, when united, manage to look elegant and perfectly paired. For convenience, add casters to make the piece effortless to move.

 

5. FOR THE KIDS

DIY Picnic Table - Kids

Photo: kidfriendlyhome.com

Prime your patio for pint-sized play by building this DIY picnic table, a scaled-down version of the classic design found in so many parks and yards, today as well as in years past. For kids ages 3 to 10, this bright-painted construction is destined to be home base for everything from meals to arts and crafts.


Bob Vila Radio: Wallpaper Borders

Wallpaper borders are strips of varying widths, typically used as the finishing accent in traditionally wallpapered rooms. But did you know that you can also employ wallpaper borders on their own? Try it!

A wallpapered room has a rich, distinctive look—but hanging wallpaper can be an intense, painstaking job. You can add some of the texture and patterns of wallpaper to any room—without going the whole nine yards—just by adding a wallpaper border.

Wallpaper Borders

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Border strips, which come in a variety of widths, were once used almost exclusively at the top of a room (where a wallpapered wall met the ceiling) to finish off the look and hide any goofs at the top of the wallpaper. But there’s no reason you can’t add a border alone at the top of a painted wall to add visual interest. A colorful pattern raises the eye, making a room appear larger than it is. If you have very high ceilings, you may want to place the border a few inches below the ceiling to bring the eye down a bit.

Running a border around the room as a chair rail is also a nice decorating idea. It allows you to paint the lower half of the walls a different color than the top. Or wallpaper just the bottom of the walls. Don’t stop there: Wallpaper borders can be used to create picture frame molding effects on large walls, to accent a soffit or a dormer, even to make a kitchen island a real standout. You can completely frame a door or window, accent your fireplace, or come up with your own original ideas for using wallpaper borders.

Bob Vila Radio is a newly launched daily radio spot carried on more than 75 stations around the country (and growing). You can get your daily dose here, by listening to—or reading—Bob’s 60-second home improvement radio tip of the day.


How To: Sharpen a Chain Saw

A chain saw with a dull, poorly maintained chain won't cut cleanly or effectively—and it's a safety hazard to boot. Follow these guidelines to sharpen a chain saw sharp and keep your trusty tool in good working order.

How to Sharpen a Chainsaw

Photo: shutterstock.com

Like any other tool in your arsenal, a chain saw must be properly and consistently maintained in order to perform effectively. Of course, you can hire a professional to sharpen your chain saw, but most do-it-yourselfers can handle the job on their own, saving some money in the process. So if you’ve noticed that your chain saw no longer cuts as easily and cleanly as it once did, read on to learn how to sharpen your chain saw and keep the tool in good working order.

Chain saw maintenance requires a basic understanding of the tool’s component parts. The models owned by average homeowners typically include the following:
- Engine
- Drive mechanism
- Guide bar
- Chain

Lubricate
Different chain saws operate slightly differently and have different maintenance requirements. Study the manual that came with your chain saw to understand the needs of your specific model. That said, it’s almost invariably true that every part of a chain saw either must have or would benefit from lubrication. Besides occasionally inspecting the motor and chain, confirm on a regular basis that there’s a sufficient quantity of oil in the tool’s reservoir. Also check the guide bar, which holds the chain in place. It can become twisted or bent during use. Avoid problems by ensuring the integrity of the guide bar before you start up your chain saw, each and every time. Even while you’re working, it’s wise to occasionally spot-check this crucial part of what is, after all, a powerful and potentially dangerous tool.

How to Sharpen a Chainsaw - Detail Blade

Photo: shutterstock.com

Sharpen the Chain Saw
There are two approaches to sharpening a chain saw. You can handle the task by means of an electric sharpener—and if you fell trees frequently, electric sharpeners are an indispensable convenience—or you can accomplish the same result manually, using a combination of muscle, sweat, and sharpening files. Electric sharpeners are used mainly by tradesmen, so these tips focus on the manual method, which is more accessible to DIYers.

The chain comprises a series of teeth. You are going to need a file that precisely matches up with the size of an individual tooth in the chain. For reference, the most common sizes are 3/16″, 5/32″, and 7/32″.

Once you’ve obtained a file of the correct size, begin work by thoroughly cleaning the chain, removing all oil, dirt, and debris. (Depending on the condition of the chain, mineral spirits may be either essential or excessive.) Look closely at the chain as you’re cleaning it. If any of the teeth are damaged, the chain may be unsafe to use, in which case you should repair it (if possible) or swap in a new chain.

For best results, you need to firmly stabilize the chain saw before attempting to file the chain. Some choose to place the chain saw in a vise, with the clamps holding the guide bar in such a way that the chain can rotate freely. Alternatively, you can enlist a helper to keep the tool steady while you work.

Locate the shortest cutter blade on the chain (the cutters are the ones with flat tops). This is where you should begin sharpening. If all the cutters are the same height, then you can start with any tooth on the chain, but remember to mark—with a pencil, marker, or even nail polish—the first one that you sharpen.

Set the file into the notched section at the head of the cutter. Holding the file at an angle—the same angle at which the notch was initially ground or most recently filed—slide the file across, twisting it somewhat so as to create friction. From that initial cutter, proceed to file every second cutter around the chain. Now reverse the saw and proceed to file each of the teeth that you left alone in the course of your first pass. When you’ve finished, the flat tops of all the cutters should be more or less precisely the same length.

Finally, inspect the depth gauges (these are the curved links between the cutters). Each depth gauge, or raker, should be shorter than the adjacent cutter. If you find a depth gauge whose height exceeds that of the closest cutter, file down the raker so that it sits about 1/10″ below the height of its cutter counterpart.

Now that you know how to sharpen a chain saw, bear in mind that the more frequently you use the tool, the more often it’s going to need maintenance. In fact, if you are using the chain saw for hours on end over the course of a day, you may need to pause at some point in order to restore the chain’s sharpness. Also, be aware that chain saws are likely to show wear in some areas more than others. Pay special attention to the area near the tip of the saw, particularly if you often use it for cutting tree limbs.