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What Chainsaw Chain Do I Need?

Not every chain you see is right for every chainsaw. There are unlimited numbers of chainsaw chains that come in varying sizes, features, and types available on the market. After using it for a while, there comes a time where you have to replace your chainsaw chain, and in order to do this, you have to be familiar with the type of chainsaw chain you need. Checking your user manual can help you with that information. But beyond that, here is a quick checklist of things to keep in mind when replacing your chainsaw chain.

What Chainsaw Chain Do I Need?

To choose your chainsaw chain you have to look to the following aspects:

  • The measurement of the chain: Pitch, Gauge, and number of drive links
  • Chainsaw Chain Arrangement: Full Complement, Full Skip, Semi Skip
  • Level of Chain Aggressiveness: Anti Kickback (low), Skip Tooth (medium), Full Skip (aggressive)
  • The type of chain: Full Chisel, Semi-Chisel, Low Profile

Now, when it comes to replacing your chainsaw chain, the entire decision-making process can be quite overwhelming, especially if you are new to it. But if you can understand the basics and get familiar with the different measurements, sizes, and types that are available, things will become much easier. In the rest of this article, you’ll see the exact measurements and numbers needed when matching chainsaw chains, and you’ll also get information on how to find them. This article also offers adequate information about the features of different chainsaw chains.

Chainsaw Chain Measurement

Finding the right chain for your chainsaw can be a simple process but it’s important to know that there are three different measurements that will fit on your bar. Knowing these measurements will help you with all of the information you need to get the perfect chain for your chainsaw:

1. Pitch

The pitch of the chainsaw is basically the measurement that defines how close together the links are on your chainsaw chain. Simply put, it is the distance between any two repeated chain links divided by 2, that is, the average distance between two successive chain links. Now the size of the pitch depends greatly on the type of chainsaw you are using. If your chainsaw is one for heavy duties, then you will have a large pitch. So, before purchasing a new chain, make sure it fits the exact pitch to avoid ineffectiveness. There are some chain saw pitches that are most commonly used. They include ¼”, 0.325”, 3/8”, 3/8” low profile and 0.404”. Once you can determine the right size for your chainsaw, then everything becomes easy.

2. Gauge

The gauge of a chainsaw is the measurement that defines how deep the groove is on a guide bar, that is, the thickness of the drive links  (the tooth-like underside of the chain that fits in the guide bar). If the gauge is higher, it technically means the chains will most likely be strong and heavy. With lighter machines, you should expect greater speed but it is not always as effective, so make sure you take note of the different characteristics of your chain for the job at hand. There are some standard gauge sizes that are often used. They are- 0.043”, 0.050”, 0.058”, and 0.063”. With this, you can easily determine the right size that fits your chainsaw. Choosing the wrong size may mean that it won’t fit your chainsaw or gain proper traction.

3. Number of Drive Links

The drive link count is the number of drive links on your chain. This feature provides you information on how long the chain is, and whether it is going to fit into your bar or not. If the number of chain links is not known, then it must be counted as this isn’t always shown in the user’s manual. It is very important to know these numbers when replacing the chain. To get a chain that is the correct size you need to count the drive links (those little teeth on the underside of the chain).

Usually, there is standard information about your chainsaw that will help you to find an accurate replacement for the chain. Most of this information is provided in the user’s manual or sometimes on the chainsaw bar. So, before you buy a chainsaw, always make sure that you note the pitch size, the gauge, and drive link count. Next, we’ll be discussing the chainsaw arrangement.

Chainsaw Chain Arrangement

● Full Complement Chains

This is also called standard chains, and they have the highest amount of cutting teeth. Typically, they are designed to be the smoothest and fastest of all the different chain arrangements. This design is often found on short or medium chainsaw bars, which makes them ideal for chainsaw users that do a lot of limbing.

● Full Skip Chains

Unlike the other chains, the cutting teeth on full skip chains are the furthest apart. These chains are suitable for prolonged cutting periods because they are stronger, especially when it comes to clearing chips from the wood. Since the cutting teeth are fewer, then it means that their number of teeth that require sharpening is also lesser. The issue with this chain is that it is prone to vibration and the chance of a kickback is higher.

● Semi Skip Chains

As the name suggests, it is the medium between full complement and full skip chain. This is because half of the teeth on the chain are close together while the other half are further apart. This type of chain seems to be more versatile, however, it is not as popular as the rest.

Levels of Chain Aggressiveness

The feature determines the speed and smoothness of a chainsaw chain as it cuts through wood. The degree of aggressiveness of a chain will depend on your skill level as well as the purpose of using the chainsaw.

● Anti Kickback (low)

This chain is the most common chain available and has been specially made to prevent kickback. Kickback is what happens when the tip of your chainsaw comes in contact with the wood you’re working on. When this occurs, the rotating chain jerks and is thrown back toward the user. This can be very dangerous to the user as it can cause serious injury and damage. However, if you reduce the amount of material to cut at once, and you cut at a slower speed, there is a less chance of kickback occurring. Low-kickback chains usually limit the amount of material to cut, hence the cutting speed occurs at a much slower pace than the more aggressive chains.

● Skip Tooth (medium)

Commonly referred to as ‘regular’ chains, the skip tooth is often used by professionals and they feature a gap between each cutting link. Due to this, the chain will have less resistance and an improved cutting rate. On the other hand, this will reduce the smooth finish that a low-kickback chain will provide. The space between each cutting link allows for a faster, grittier, and low-resistance cutting.

● Full Skip (aggressive)

A full skip chain is the most aggressive of all three. This means that it cuts quickly through the wood. Similar to the skip-tooth, the full-skip has prominent spaces between every two cutting links, and it is well suited for larger chainsaws. While it is the fastest chain for cutting, the full skip requires skills and adequate experience before it can be operated. The spacing also provides very low-resistance cutting and is for saws with guide bars of 24″ or longer. With this chain, users don’t have to bend down much to access their work area. It is important to note that these chains are for trained, professional use only. Standard users won’t have a need for this type of chain.

Selecting the Right Cutter

You also need to know the type of chisel you need for your chain. This refers to the positioning of the cutting teeth on the chainsaw chain itself, and it affects how the chainsaw cuts through the wood.

● Full Chisel Chains

A full chisel chain should only be used if you are a professional or an experienced chainsaw user, as the risks of these chains are the greatest. They come in handy for tasks involving the toughest hardwood such as oak. A full chisel chain can be easily noticed because of the cutting teeth that are squared at the corner. This type of chain, however, has the highest risk of kickback, and should only be operated by professionals.

● Semi-Chisel Chains

With this chain, the risk of a kickback is relatively smaller, however, the chains are less effective at cutting through wood. They have cutting teeth with rounded edges, and as a result, they are more visible on domestic chainsaws. Another advantage is that this design doesn’t require frequent sharpening as the full chisel chains.

● Low Profile Chains

Low profile chains are ideal options for beginners as the risk of a kickback during use is very low. Due to this, these chains are often seen on a lot of chainsaws that are sold in the retail sector.

Final remarks

As you can see, there are a lot of things to pay attention to when it comes to chainsaw chains. Their unique measurement systems and type also require that you get familiar with some terms and other technical features. The good part is that, once you take note of those numbers, then you’re good to go. We hope that this article has enlightened you so far. Good luck!