Chainsaw Chain Direction – Don’t Get Your Chain On Backwards!

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Getting your chainsaw chain on in the right direction right is very simple!

When viewing the chain on the top of the bar, the cutter, shown in the illustration below, must be facing toward the tip of the bar/blade. When viewing the chain on the bottom of the bar, the cutter must be facing the powerhead.

See the images below to unmistakably learn which way a chain goes on a chainsaw.

Chainsaw Blade Direction

chainsaw chain direction

Which way does a chain go on a chainsaw?

The cutter, as shown in the illustration above, is the part that cuts the wood. Keep that in mind when fitting your chainsaw chain. That should be enough to get the direction right.

A chainsaw chain spins out from the top of the saw around the bar’s tip and back under towards the powerhead. In other words, it runs clockwise.

The depth gauge is shorter than the cutter which can help you to identify which is which if you are still having difficulty.

chainsaw blade direction

In this picture, the powerhead is on the right and the end of the bar is on the left. The chain is installed so that the cutting tips are pointing toward the nose of the bar.

Here are some more images of our Husqvarna 450e to illustrate…

how to install chain in right direction

It is easy to distinguish the cutter from the depth gauge and to see which way a chain is installed on a chainsaw.

It’s the same direction no matter what chainsaw brands you are using. Whether you have a Husqvarna, Stihl, Poulan, Echo, or Ryobi, all chains are fitted in the same direction. 

Chainsaw Chain Direction Picture

chainsaw chain direction tips

It doesn’t matter what type of chainsaw chain you have.

Whether you are using a semi-chisel or a full-chisel, ripping chain, or chipper chain, they all go on with the cutter facing the same direction.

which way to put on chain

Here you can see which direction the drive link is facing.

This is what keeps your chain running along the bar.

which way does a chainsaw chain go

Hopefully, these images and diagrams make things clear so that you don’t end up with a chainsaw chain backward!

Chain On Backward

how to install chainsaw chain correctly

It is possible to put a chainsaw chain on backward, and doing so is a common mistake, especially for those new to using chainsaws.

When a chainsaw chain is installed backward, the saw will not cut effectively, if at all, because the cutting edges of the chain will be facing the wrong direction. The teeth on a chainsaw chain are designed to cut in one direction, so when installed backward, they won’t be able to bite into the wood as intended.

We’ve read stories in Facebook groups about guys who have picked up a chainsaw off of Marketplace for next to nothing because “The saw doesn’t work”. They’ve got there are discovered that the chain is on backwards!

To ensure proper installation, the cutting edges (the sharp part of the teeth) should be facing forward on the top of the chain bar. Most chains have markings or symbols indicating the correct direction that the chain should be facing.

If you’re unsure, consult the chainsaw’s manual for detailed instructions on how to correctly install the chain.

Chainsaw Chain Direction

chainsaw teeth direction diagram

What is the correct chainsaw direction?

Cutters pointing towards the tip when looking at the top of the bar – it’s that simple. The chain rotates out from the top and back in from underneath.

If you are ever in doubt, take your chainsaw to a local dealer and they will be more than happy to help you out. The fewer chainsaw accidents we have the better!

Here are more posts that might interest you if you’re new to chainsaws: how to measure a chainsaw bar or how a chainsaw works.


STIHL MS 241 Chainsaw Reviews: “The Best Groundie Limb Saws…”

Palawan Environmental Enforcement Museum And The Infamous STIHL Chainsaw Tower


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