Chainsaw Chain Types Guide: Understanding Chainsaw Chains

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Understanding chainsaw chain types does not need to be complicated.

Most chainsaw users will require only a few standard chains. Other types of chains are for commercial or professional use.

Different chains are available for different purposes, including uses, cutting speeds, skill levels, and safety requirements.

This guide will help you to wrap your head around chainsaw chain terminology and understand chainsaw chain types.

Types Of Chainsaw Chains

We recommend watching this video for the best overview of the different types of chainsaw chains.

Corey Thayer, a pro tree feller, explains the different types and parts of a chainsaw chain.

He explains the basic (but important) terminology to discuss chainsaw chains and understand how they work.

When looking to buy a new chain for your chainsaw, it’s always best to bring the old one to the store—especially if you’re unsure about what you need. Most dealers won’t mind you bringing the entire saw in, either.

Chainsaws are high-risk machines that need to be treated with respect and diligence. Getting the wrong chain could have dire consequences.

Another way to ensure you choose the correct chain is to check the chainsaw bar. Usually, the bar will have the necessary chain specifications on it.

Understanding Chainsaw Chains

chainsaw chain types

There are three main measurements you need to know when buying a new chain:

  • Gauge
  • Pitch
  • Length

Chain Gauge

The chain gauge is the thickness of the drive links.

The drive links slip into the groove of the chain bar and come in different widths.

It’s important to have the correct chain gauge width because if it’s too wide, it will not fit in or run smoothly. Too small, and the chain will be loose and dangerous.

The gauge is usually measured in thousandths of an inch. Common measurements include  .043, 0.50, .058, and .063.

Chain Pitch

The chain pitch is the average distance between rivets.

This measurement is calculated by dividing the distance between 3 rivets by 2.

The chain pitch tells us how close together the chain links are on the chain. Common measurements include .325 and 3/8 chain pitch.

Chain Length

The chain length is simply the number of drive links.

The length of your chain will depend on the size of your bar. Longer bars require longer chains, while shorter bars require shorter chains. The measurement of a chainsaw bar is different from a chain length measurement.

Chainsaw Teeth

types of chainsaw chains

A chainsaw chain is made up of many different parts.

This might be more information than you need or want to know, but it’s helpful for understanding chainsaw chains.

A chain and cutter include:

  • Drive link – holds chain on the bar
  • Tie strap – connects chain parts
  • Gullet – the area between the cutter and raker
  • Cutter – cuts through the wood
  • Top plate – cutting surface on top of the cutter
  • Depth gauge/raker – determines how much wood is cut
  • Rivet – holds the different parts of the chain together
  • Body, toe, and heel – for reference

You don’t need to know all the different parts of types of chainsaw teeth, but the basics can help you to know how a chainsaw works and how to order a new chain.

Chainsaw Chain Typeschainsaw blade types

There are two main types of chainsaw cutters:

  1. Semi-chisel
  2. Full-chisel

As this illustration shows, a semi-chisel chain has a cutter with a rounded angle. The full-chisel chain has a square 90-degree angle.

Different types of cutters (full chisel vs. semi-chisel) are used depending on the different use cases and levels of user experience.

1. Full Chisel Chain

The full chisel chain is best for commercial use in forestry and logging.

It runs faster, becomes dull sooner, and requires more experience to sharpen (though using tools like the Granberg Chainsaw Sharpener can help). The cutting teeth are more sensitive to dirt and debris and will lose sharpness even sooner in these conditions.

It’s a popular chainsaw chain for farming, for frequent use on hobby farms, and for chainsaw enthusiasts.

This type of chain cuts wood faster as it takes out larger chunks through the wood.

2. Semi Chisel Chain

The semi-chisel chain is common on home chainsaws.

The cutting teeth stay sharper for longer, are easier to sharpen, and are better for use on dirty wood.

A semi-chisel chain is less aggressive than a full-chisel or chipper chain and is less likely to kickback. It does cut slower, but for home and hobby applications, this isn’t usually a problem.

3. Specialty Chains

There are other types of chainsaw chains as well, including:

  • Low-profile cutters – safer to use for beginners, must be sharpened more frequently
  • Carbide-tipped cutters – stay sharper longer, and better in dirty conditions, though must be machine-sharpened
  • Chamfer-chisel – faster cutting with high-powered saws
  • Chipper chain – even more rounded than the semi-chisel chain
  • Ripping chain – a semi-chisel chain for cutting with the grain rather than against

Chains For Chainsaws

This is another helpful video about chainsaw chains from Yanasa TV.

Here are the important points to remember:

  • The average chains from Lowes and other big-box retailers are generally semi-chisel, low-kickback chains
  • Low-kickback chains are good for less experienced users for yard clean-up, branch pruning, and firewood processing
  • Semi-chisel chains may produce more wear on chainsaws
  • The full-chisel chain will cut much more quickly but have more opportunity for kickback
  • More suitable for experienced users and frequent use
  • Most Stihl or Husqvarna chainsaws from dealers will come with full-chisel chains
  • The ripping chain is designed for use on a chainsaw mill while held in place

Different Types Of Chainsaw Chains

chainsaw chain types chart

Always remember that if you are new to chainsaw chains and are looking for your first replacement, it’s best to go to your local dealer.

A specialist chainsaw dealer will know exactly what you need for your:

  • brand of chainsaw
  • bar size
  • use case

Whether processing firewood or dropping trees, you need the right chain for the right job. It’s not worth taking the risk of getting the blade you think you need.

If you want to order a new chainsaw chain online and can’t make it into a store, the best place to go for advice is Facebook.

There are many large chainsaw groups on Facebook with tens of thousands of active members ready and willing to answer any questions.

If you post some photos of your chainsaw and what you want to use it for, there’s no doubt you will find a consensus on what type of chain you need to get!

These groups are great for all types of chainsaw advice, from the best chain and bar oil substitutes to recommendations on buying a secondhand chainsaw. Make sure you join a few today!

Some of our other chainsaw chain guides:

Or, check out this round-up of the best chainsaw sharpeners – we’ve got a range of options, including bar-mounted, manual filing kits, and bench and wall-mounted models.

Look after your chain, and it will look after you!

What Is Chainsaw Kickback? What Causes It And How To Prevent Accidents


4 thoughts on “Chainsaw Chain Types Guide: Understanding Chainsaw Chains”

  1. What is the advantage of different gauges. Most my saws have a .050 gauge, but my new saw is a .058. Is there any disadvantage of changing from .058 to .050. It would be nice to use the same chain gauge throughout. All saws are Husqvarna. My .050 saws are a 55 rancher and a 460 rancher. My .058 is a 395xp.

    • Your saw power head itself can interference between the two different guages. However it’s not just as simple as the . 058 dulling on you and you’ve only got a few cuts left and it’s getting dark quick so you just want to switch to the 050 to finish up and just want to pull off the old chain and throw the new one on finish your job. The gauge is the thickness of the slot on the bar that the chain fits into. If you notice the point 050 will fit into the bar on your new saw but not vice versa 0.058 will not work on a 050 bar simply because thickness is different. However because the chain fits doesn’t mean it will work properly the amount of play will either cause damage to the bar the chain itself not cut good at all and possibly come undone and cause an injury. So if you want to run the different size chains on the same power head you’re going to have to make changes with the bar to fit the different size chain and also possibly the sprocket on your saw power head to company the different size bar and chain gauge thickness hopefully that clears it up for you.


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