Different Chainsaw Chain Types

June 11, 2021

Chainsaws are mechanical saws that are portable. They usually cut using a set of teeth that are attached to a rotating chain, and this rotating chain runs along a specific guide bar. The primary purpose of a chainsaw is to fell, limb, buck, and prune trees. They are also used for cutting firebreaks in case of a wildland fire. Moreover, they can also be used to cut trees for harvesting firewood. With these myriads of applications, the chainsaws have also evolved into various sorts. At present, there are different types of chainsaws on the market, and there are also many types of chains used in a chainsaw.

If you are an occasional user of chainsaw, there is no need for you to know the different types of chains used in the chainsaw. If you are one of those users who regularly use a chainsaw, it is necessary for you to be cognizant of the different types of chainsaw’s chains. This is important because if you don’t use the right chain, you may end up damaging your chain while endangering yourself along the way. Hence, it is critical that you understand and know the different types of chains.

In this article, you will learn about these different types of chains.

Chain Classified Based On Teeth Arrangement

Chains can be classified based on the arrangements of teeth on the chains. Here are the different types of chains based on teeth arrangements:

1) Full Complement Chain

Chains that belong to this type has a drive link, right cutter, left cutter, and drive link arrangement. This chain is used for almost all applications.

2) Skip Chain

This type of chains is characterized by a drive link, left cutter, and right cutter arrangement. This type of chains also has 1/3 fewer number of cutting teeth and is designed for use on long bars of around 24 inches or more for extra chip clearance or when you are using a bar that is longer than the usual or ideal length appropriate for a given power head. The logic is that with fewer teeth, you will use less power for operation.

3) Semi-skip Chain

The semi-skip chain is characterized by one or two drive links in between pairs of cutters. It provides excellent performance and is characterized by skip arrangements.

6 Different Types of Chains

As chains can be classified based on the arrangement of teeth, they can also be classified into six different types. The following are these six different types:

1) The Full-chisel Cutters

The full-chisel cutters are characterized by square-cornered teeth that can efficiently cut. These chains are mostly used for cutting hardwood. They are also excellent for cutting trees or limbs. However, they are less durable. Moreover, they are not designed for cutting rough wood’s surface like those of the dirty woods. They are also prone to kickback. This is because these chains lack the usual safety elements that are present in other chains.  If you want to go for excellent cutting, this one is a good choice. But if you are concerned with safety precautions, this one is a risky option. This chain is not advisable for cutting softwood for it is not designed for it. You should stick to hardwood if you intend to use this chain. Moreover, you should be wary of kickback when using the full-chisel cutters to prevent any untoward accident.

2) Semi-chisel Cutters

The semi-chisel cutter is characterized by round corners of teeth. This chain is also less quick in finishing a cut as compared to a full-chisel. However, this one is very efficient when cutting softwood. Furthermore, it can deal with any softwood. It readily compensates for its lack of speed by being able to cut reliably. Moreover, it is very durable in comparison to the full-chisel one. As mentioned above, it basically can deal with any softwood, including those of the dirty wood, dry wood, and frozen wood. This is, therefore, a great choice for its reliability and usefulness.

If you also want a safe chain, you should go for this one for it has a lower rate of kickback as compared to the full-chisel ones. If your main concern is safety, you should go for this one because chains which don’t initiate kickback are safer. Overall, this type of chains is considered efficient, safe, and well-balanced. Moreover, the semi-chisel cutter can tackle various types of jobs whether these jobs be small or large. This type of chains, therefore, is highly recommended for regular users of chainsaws.

3) Low-profile Cutters

The most common type of chains is the low-profile cutter. You would often find this type of chains in many commercially-used chainsaws. This type of chains functions safely and reliably. Its design is enhanced by safety features between the chain and the teeth, thus, it is designed to prevent kickbacks during operation. Moreover, this type of chains necessitates no constant sharpening as compared to other types of chains. Because it does not require frequent sharpening, it may easily compromise the durability of the chainsaw. But if you are simply new in the use of the chainsaw, you should opt for this type of chain.

4) Chipper Chains

The chipper chains are somewhat the same with the semi-chisel chains. However, they vary in the size of the working corners of the radius. Chipper tooth’s cross section appears somewhat like a question mark, while the semi-chisel ones have designs that appear to be like a number seven. Moreover, they have a slightly rounded top-right corner.

5) The Carbide Chains

The carbine chain is a type of chain that is fashioned out from very durable and hard material. However, it may show a kind of brittleness that can easily break or shatter when hit by a strong force. However, in comparison to other chains, the carbide is superior in durability. They can also be costlier than the other types of chains for they are designed for use in environments wherein cold weather, sand, dirt, and other factors may play a critical role in wearing out the chain. The tradeoff, however, when opting for this type of chains is that this type of chains tends to cut slow and become less sharp after constant use.

6) Self-sharpening Chains

The most critical demand for chainsaw users is the sharpness of the chains. It is demanding to sharpen the chains, and for this reason, most chainsaw users usually avail of the service of those who are experts in sharpening chains. It is a good thing therefore that there are self-sharpening chains. These chains have features that keep their teeth filed as the teeth pass along the guide bar. With this type of chains, you can lessen your dependence on the service of chainsaw shops and save money along the way.

One caveat, however, is this—that this feature does not always assure you that the chain will be evenly sharpened. For this reason, you need to touch up the teeth manually occasionally. The good thing with the use of this self-sharpening chains, however, is that you can expect to have a sharp chain for a longer time.

Factors to Consider When Replacing Chains

There are many considerations that you should bear in mind if you intend to replace your chainsaw’s chain. First, you should carefully consider the chain’s size and the type of chainsaw you are using. Having compatible chainsaw and chains depends on knowing the right measurements of chains. Figuring out the chain’s measurement, however, is more complicated than sorting out the different accessories of other power tools. Chains likewise have a unique way of measurements. Hence, it is imperative that you know how chains are measured if you intend to replace your chainsaw’s chain.

Moreover, once you have figured out how to measure the chains, you will also be required to choose from among the different features and types of chains. So, once you have the correct measurements of the chain, you would also find it easy to figure out the right chain. There are three measurements that you must be cognizant of to find the right chain, and these measurements are the pitch, gauge, and the drive links’ number.

1) Pitch Measurement

This measurement tells how close together the chain’s links. You’ll get the exact measurement of the pitch by dividing by half the distance between 3 rivets of the chain. This measurement, however, does not let you know how many links are there, nor does it tell you the length of the chain.

2) Gauge Measurement

This measurement is often shown on the chainsaw. You can see this measurement at the guide bar’s user-end. It pertains to the parts of the chain that readily fit into the guide bar of the saw, and it is called the drive links. The number may be jumbled with many other numbers. Hence, you should have a clear idea of what to look for if you want to get exactly the gauge measurement.

3) Number of Drive Links

To figure out the number of drive links, you should count each drive link in the chain. This is necessary if you want to get the right chain for your chainsaw.


The right chain for your chainsaw may be a bit elusive if you don’t know how to figure out the three important measurements when replacing your chainsaw’s chain. You can never entirely rely on the length of your chain to correctly determine the right replacement for your chain. Moreover, measuring the chainsaw’s chain is not a reliable method to figure out the correct replacement. As long as you know, however, the three valuable measurements of pitch, gauge, and the number of links, you will never be at a loss when replacing the chain of your chainsaw.