Enterprising businessman Phil Krantz builds company based on Timberline Chainsaw Sharpener.
IDAHO FALLS, Idaho — We have all said, ‘I’ll-know-it-when-I-see-it.’ For Phil Krantz, the general manager at Timberline Chainsaw Sharpener™, the adage summed up a quest. [Note: The sharpener and
this magazine are not connected in any way.]
As a college student studying business and engineering, Krantz knew he wanted to be a business owner. Looking for an opportunity soon after graduation, he heard about the design for a portable chainsaw sharpener.
Krantz took a close look at the patented design of the sharpener and he liked it. “I basically bought the design from the inventor, refined the dimensioning and set up the manufacturing,” he explained.
“No, I’m not a logger by trade,” said Krantz. “I’ve been around chainsaws – just growing up in Idaho.” Add to observation, hands-on experience from “clearing for cabins” and “firewood processing.”
How did Krantz sharpen prior to the development of the tool that his company offers? Methods were similar to those “used by everybody else,” he said. He had experience using a Dremel, hand file, grinders; and he took saws to shops.
Consequently, at one level, Krantz knew the time that could be lost from an otherwise productive day if a saw had to be trekked to a shop for sharpening. He also knew that sharpening did not always result in a sharper chain. Sharpening could actually result in a duller chain.
The compound goal Krantz aimed for was this: good results (a sharp chain), easy to get on site. Today, efficient, simple and portable are the hallmarks of his product, the Timberline Chainsaw Sharpener.
Familiarity with sharpening methods put Krantz in a good position to tackle the due diligence on the sharpener design he and two partners now own. The “refinement” the design required was one of “dimensioning,” explained Krantz. “That just fit with my engineering background.”
The designer had a “prototype” of the sharpener, said Krantz. “Seeing the functionality of it” is what hooked him on becoming the person that would purchase the rights to the design and see it to market.
Within six months of completing his college education, Krantz was running Timberline Chainsaw Sharpener. Launching the business is something he enjoyed. But he relishes more the opportunity to sell his company’s sharpener.
The Timberline Chainsaw Sharpener has wide reach. “It’s for chainsaw users willing to sharpen their own chainsaw,” said Krantz. “It’s something a novice can use, as well as a professional – and it gets good results. It’s portable.”
Not only does the sharpener from Krantz’s company reach customers in multiple niches, it has been tapped by users across the United States — and moved into other nations. (Krantz now has several retailers in Canada as well as a distributor, Peerless Products, for Australia and New Zealand.)
We had the opportunity to talk with a few of the U.S. users of the Timberline Chainsaw Sharpener. And we share a few of their remarks:
“I’m just a firewood hack,” said John McCloskey of West Sunbury, Pa. “I heat my house with wood.” McCloskey bought a Timberline Chainsaw Sharpener one year ago.
“I’m not that involved to buy a grinding machine,” said McCloskey. In contrast, the portable sharpener was just the solution he wanted. “I’ve recommended it to several people,” he said. “It’s so simple to use.”
Most of all, it’s about results, though, explained McCloskey. “All the angles are there,” he said. “It’s quick. It’s accurate. I bought all the attachments – three attachments.”
McCloskey uses the sharpener on four saws. “My favorite is an old Stihl – 13 years old,” he said. “But I’ve got four Huskies [Husqvarna saws].”
Having had some less than satisfactory experiences with grinding shops – loss of chain, chain blue from grinding, McCloskey is genuinely pleased with the portable Timberline sharpener.
In Leicester, N.C., Paul Laws, who does a lot of firewood processing, has also found a product to recommend in the Timberline sharpener. “What’s good about it is the precision – how good it keeps the angles sharp.”
“The hardest thing when you’re hand filing is to get the angles the same on both sides,” said Laws. “It’s really an awesome [sharpener]. All you do is mount it on top of the bar, line it up. It’s like a little pencil sharpener.”
Laws added the Timberline Chainsaw Sharpener to his equipment about one year ago. “I’m pretty good at hand sharpening,” he said. “I’ve used a guide.” (He adds he was not always good at hand sharpening: “When I first started, the chain would come out as crooked as a dog’s legs.”)
The best aspect of the Timberline sharpener is that it can give a boost to anyone – expert or novice sharpener, said Laws. “Even for people who know how to file real well – freehand or with a guide – it’s sometimes hard to get angles.” The Timberline sharpener changes all that.
The sturdy design of the Timberline counts, too. “It’s made really well,” said Laws. “It’s heavy.” It is a perfect match for “the chainsaw connoisseur.” We asked Laws about his chainsaw of choice. “Husqvarna,” he said.
By day, Emory Weller is a fireman in Chambersburg, Pa. In that role, he sometimes uses a chainsaw. That would be a chainsaw with a diamond tip, which means it must be sharpened with diamond.
Outside of work, though, Weller processes firewood. And he uses the Timberline sharpener to sharpen the four Husqvarna saws on which he relies.
“I thought I was a pretty good hand sharpener,” said Weller. “But I found out I wasn’t very good at it. Since I got this [Timberline] sharpener, it’s the only thing I’ve used.”
Weller said that after sharpening a chain with the Timberline sharpener, it’s “like taking the chain out of the box new.” As for getting up to speed with the sharpener, it was easy.
“Directions are very well written,” said Weller. All of them are accompanied by completely intelligible pictures.
Finally, we caught up with one very busy Bob Oglesby from Grass Valley, Calf. who was in New Mexico at the time. “I’m a semi-retired falling contractor and general logger,” said Oglesby. “I also run a crew of volunteers who do trail clearing and general tree work for the local Land Trust.”
Oglesby said the Timberline sharpener is a “quality item” that has “worked out very well” for him on his own saws. “It’s easy to set up, fast to use and produces good results,” he explained.
“The primary use of the sharpener is with my trail crew,” said Oglesby. “[They’re] volunteers – and their chain sharpening skills vary from okay to just plain horrible. I was spending most of my time sharpening their saws. The Timberline sharpener changed all that. With a few minutes of instruction, they’re producing well-sharpened chains and I have to wait in line to use it.”
Krantz emphasized that concepts for a portable sharpener, such as the one his company manufactures, have been out there for a few decades. “There are a couple of other ideas out there,” he said.
When he discovered the design for sale, Krantz wanted to be sure it had potential that could be realized. So he put on both his business and his engineering caps. “You want to find all the problems and flaws first – solve the problems,” explained Krantz.
It was through the Idaho Innovation Center (IIC) that Krantz learned of the inventor interested in selling the basic design. The IIC is a business incubator in Idaho Falls, Idaho where people with ideas for start-up companies can get technical and business management assistance.
Once he had perfected the design for the sharpener, Krantz set about finding the right manufacturing facility. “I went through a couple of companies in the United States.” The main carbide component – “a tungsten rod,” had to be machined to exacting specifications. A company in the Golden State does the work for Timberline.
For firewood and land clearing, Krantz’s choice in a chainsaw has always been a Husqvarna or a Stihl, he said. As for running a business, so soon after completing college (at Utah State and then Utah Valley), Krantz has quite a matter-of-fact and balanced outlook.
“What I’m doing is always what I hoped I’d be doing,” Krantz said. “I didn’t want to spend all my time doing design.”
To be sure, handling customer feedback and interacting with customers is as important to Krantz as ensuring quality in his product line, which he anticipates will expand. “In terms of new products, I listen to what customers would like to see and problems that could be solved. I’m working on some new products for loggers and arborists that just like the sharpener are an improvement over existing devices.” he said.
Krantz is a native of Idaho Falls, Idaho, where his business is based. Idaho Falls is a town of 55,000 residents in the southeast part of the Gem State. It is the seat of Bonneville County.
With the Timberline Chainsaw Sharpener business just entering its third year, Krantz is a busy entrepreneur. He does find time for several recreational pursuits, however.
“I’m kind of an adventure guy,” said Krantz. “I spend a lot of time outside – anything with an adrenalin rush.” The “anything” includes mountain biking, dirt biking and skiing in winter.