Chainsaw Chain Types 101: A complete guide to the different styles

What could be worse than choosing the wrong chainsaw for the job? Picking the wrong chainsaw blades. But it can be hard to navigate all the different types of chainsaw chains available. You might be wondering what is the difference in chainsaw chains?

There are a large number of different chainsaw blades. Each type is made up from a configuration of the following 5 elements:

  1. Chain Pitch
  2. Chain Gauge
  3. Cutter Material
  4. Cutter Style
  5. Chain Arrangement

The pitch and gauge are predetermined by your chainsaw. Once you know this, you can choose from the remaining elements to design a chain.

When it comes to making sure you have the right replacement chainsaw blade, you don’t want to cut corners with your chainsaw’s chain. So we have pulled all the information together in one spot to make this the only chainsaw chain guide you will ever need!

We have made sure this guide to chainsaw chain types has enough detail to equip you to make an informed decision just like pro.

What is the difference in chainsaw chains?

We are now going to go through step by step each element in our chainsaw chain types chart pictured at the top of this blog.

We have put together the following detailed outline of the different types of chainsaw blades, and a chainsaw chain replacement chart pictured at the top of this blog.

This chainsaw chain identification chart goes through all the elements you need to consider at a high level to choose the right chain saw chain.

Read on to learn more detail about each element outlined in our chainsaw chain types chart. This will help you work out the best chainsaw chain for your wood cutting project.

First up: Choose a chain saw chain that matches your chainsaw settings!

Before you delve into all the different types of chainsaw chains. There is something vitally important I have to tell you about chains for chainsaws.

Some aspects of your chainsaw chain you can choose based on your skill levels and the type of chainsaw cutting projects. Other aspects are set by the machine you have. There are many chainsaw chain differences across the board, and there are no universal chainsaw chains.

The ‘pitch’ and ‘gauge’, and also to some degree the length of the bar, are determined by your chainsaw. You can’t choose these aspects of a chain saw chain.

Pitch and Gauge

The pitch and gauge are key compatibility components of the chain saw chain. It is for this reason that there are no universal chainsaw chains.

You need to make sure the chain saw chain you choose is actually going to fit into the part that drives the chain around the guide bar. If your chain saw chain does not match the settings on your chainsaw, the chain will jam up and won’t work, and the guide bar will lock up.

You need to know your chainsaw’s pitch and gauge

This is the first thing you need to know when working out which chainsaw chain to choose.

You should be able to find your chainsaw’s pitch and gauge marked on your chainsaw or in your manufacturers handbook. When it is marked on the chainsaw, it is usually on a label under the handle.

You can see in this picture of a Husqvarna chainsaw, the chainsaw pitch and gauge is noted as well as the length of the guide bars that can be used.

How to choose your chainsaw chain pitch and gauge

We will also go further into the different types of pitch and gauge below for those of you who are in the market for a new chainsaw.

Length of the Chainsaw Guide Bar

When it comes to the length of the guide bar you have a little bit of room for choice. Technically, any length guide bar will fit on any size chainsaw as long as the pitch and gauge match.

But…

The bigger the chainsaw guide bar the more force you need to apply when driving it into the wood. For a bigger bar, you also need more power (cc’s). Especially when you consider a bigger bar is normally used on thicker pieces of wood.

For this reason, manufacturer’s provide a recommended guide bar length for their chainsaws. It’s probably a good idea to stick with the recommendation. If you want to put a bigger bar on, we advise you to only go up one size from the manufacturers recommendation.

Ok, now you know the importance of the pitch, gauge and bar length, lets talk about what sizes and configurations are available.

Let’s now delve into the nitty gritty of the different chainsaw chain types…

Guide to the Different Type of Chainsaw Blades

So now you understand what the gauge and pitch actually are, we are going to start looking in detail about the different sizes, shapes, and styles of all components of a chainsaw blade and what each is good for.

Also, to use a chainsaw safely, you must know about the different types of chainsaw blade options, and when one is better to use than another. If you don’t use the right type of chainsaw blade, you run the risk of breaking it. This can not only cost you money but can also be dangerous.

There are a large number of different types of chainsaw blades. Various configurations of pitch, gauge, cutter material, cutter style and chain arrangement all create unique chainsaw chain types. Each chainsaw chain type has different cutting characteristics and is suited to different machines and user skill level.

chainsaw chain types

Read on to learn about each of the configurations that can be put together to make different chainsaw chain types.

1. Chain Pitch

Chain saw chains come in different pitch sizes. The pitch of the chains is the distance between the drive links.

As mentioned above, the pitch is an important compatibility component of your chainsaw chain. The pitch of the chain, the pitch of the guide bar and the pitch of the chainsaw drive sprocket need to all match.

The pitch that is compatible with your chainsaw is usually marked on your machine or is in the handbook.

So why do we need to even cover this? If you are buying a new chainsaw, you can use this information to make sure your purchase comes with the pitch you need.

In general, the larger pitch sizes equal larger and heavier chain saw chains.

Here is a quick guide to determining which size is right for your project. We’ve organized them by size from least to greatest.

1/4 Inch Pitch

The 1/4″ Pitch chainsaw chains are recommended for chainsaws with engines up to 38cc. They are extremely lightweight and will help you create smooth, clean cuts.

Pixel 3/8 Inch Mini Pitch

The Pixel 3/8″ Mini chainsaw blades are low kickback and are lightweight. They are recommended for battery chainsaws because they require less power.

3/8 Inch Mini Pitch

The 3/8″ Mini chainsaw chains are designed for smaller chainsaws. They are used by woodcutters in a high production environment. But you do not use these chains on chain saws with a higher than 45cc engine power.

Pixel .325 Inch Pitch

These chain saw chains shouldn’t be used on chainsaws without an engine power between 35cc-55cc. They are narrow and have nice low vibrations and kickbacks. They’re not recommended for heavy-duty work such as clearing trees or large branches.

.325 Inch Pitch

The .325″ chainsaw chain can handle a chain saw with a larger engine and power between 35cc-60cc. The nice thing about these chain saw chains is that they offer more power while still maintaining lower vibrations.

3/8 Inch Pitch

If you’re working in a high production environment then the 3/8 chain offers good flexibility, adequate strength, low weight and substantial cutting speed. The 3/8 chain can handle the power of a 50-100cc chainsaw engine.

.404 Inch Pitch

The .404″ chainsaw pitch is the largest and on the most aggressive chainsaw chains for heavy-duty work by professional harvesters / arborists. The .404 chains is used for cutting through the timber on a large scale. It is durable and the fastest cutting chainsaw chain for overall excellent performance.

2. Chain Gauge

The gauge of a chainsaw chain refers to the thickness of its drive links. Similar to the pitch, the gauge is a compatibility component. The chainsaw chain gauge and the groove in the guide bar must match.

If you need to find out the gauge of your chainsaw chain blade, check your machine for any labels, or look at your manufacturers handbook.

If you select the wrong size, it may be too thick to fit your chainsaw or too loose to gain proper traction.

There are four different gauge sizes for chainsaw blades:

InchesMillimeters
0.043″ Chain Saw Chain1.1mm
0.050″ Chain Saw Chain1.3mm
0.058″ Chain Saw Chain1.5mm
0.063″ Chain Saw Chain1.6mm

Note: The smaller gauge sizes are the most common chainsaw blade gauge.

3. Cutter Material / Blade Material

The cutting ability of a chainsaw chain also depends on the material found at the cutters’ teeth / tips.

Chain saw chains are usually made from a steel alloy. But the chainsaw teeth are then coated in a material that can make a large difference on how well the chain cuts.

Chrome Tipped

Most chain saw chains across the board have chrome tipped cutters. These are hard wearing, suitable for wood, and they are resistant to debris.

Tungsten Carbide Tipped

Tungsten carbide tipped chains are more durable, last longer and are really for professional applications.

A carbide chainsaw chain can take a lot more of a dirty environment than a normal chain. Carbide chainsaw chains are great for timber that is contaminated with soil or mud,

Professionals working with emergency situations may opt for the extra durability of a carbide-tipped chainsaw blade. These chains are not good with metal, but can cut through some types of walls and roofs, and icy or waterlogged wood.

The main challenge with carbide chainsaw chains is that they need a high powered saw and are a bit harder to sharpen.

Diamond tipped

For real rescue missions – you won’t be needing a diamond tipped chainsaw chains in your backyard. This is the most aggressive chainsaw chain material out there!

Diamond chainsaw chains can cut rock, concrete and metal. They can slice through a car like butter in car crash scenarios. They are specifically designed for concrete chainsaw models.

4. Cutter Style / Blade Style

Each different type of chainsaw blade / cutter, has a different shape. Some are more rounded some are more square. Then you have tall ones, and short ones and narrow ones…

The cutter styles react with the wood differently . There chainsaw blades that are suited to larger professional chainsaws and others are suited to smaller chainsaws.

Some chainsaw blade styles are even more dangerous to use, so it is best to make sure your cutter suits your level of chainsaw experience.

There are four main chainsaw blade / cutter styles, these are; square chisel, full chisel, semi-chisel and low profile. But then there are some variations of these four styles on the market, that we also go into detail about below.

Read on to see the main chainsaw blade styles and their applications.

Square Chisel Cutters

Square Chisel chainsaw blades are reserved for professionals only. That’s because they require more frequent and accurate filing than any other chain. They get dull quickly but are also the fastest cutting chainsaw chain and most aggressive chainsaw chains out there.

The square chisel cutters have square radius edges and square grind profiles. They are known for being a speciality class of professional full chisel chain. Professionals use a chisel chin grinder to accurately file these chains back to optimum performance.

Full Chisel Cutters

When using a full chisel chain you should note that while they are one of the best chainsaw chain for hardwood, there is also a high risk of kickback. Full chisel cutters have square-cornered teeth that are very efficient but not durable.

Full chisel chains also lack the safety elements that other chains have, so be careful if it kickbacks. Kickback is the most common cause of chainsaw-related injury and occurs when the rotating blades stop suddenly when making contact with an object. This causes the saw to fly back toward the operator.

You don’t want to use a full chisel chain when cutting dirty or softwood, which tends to be more fibrous than porous. It excels at cutting limbs or trees and is powerful but you should always be alert.

Semi-Chisel Cutters

You can recognise the semi-chisel chainsaw chain because of its teeth which have rounded corners. The great thing about the semi chisel chain is its reliability. Despite its slower speed, the semi-chisel cutters can handle all types of softwood.

You’ll find that a semi chisel chainsaw blade is more durable and can handle dirty or frozen wood. Semi chisel chains take a little more time to get the job done but it is versatile and also safer than full chisel chainsaw blades because they can prevent kickbacks.

Chamfer Chisel Cutter

Chamfer chisel chainsaw chains are similar to a semi-chisel chains and even perform similarly to a good semi chisel chainsaw chain.

A Chamfer Chisel Chain is similar to the semi-chisel chain design but has a small 45 degree chamfer between the plates rather than a radius. The purpose of the chamfer chainsaw chain cutters is that specifically is designed for you to cut both hard dry wood and green timber. 

Similar to a semi chisel chainsaw chains, the chamfer chisel chains saw cutter has a lower lower kick-back risk.

Chipper Cutter

Another variant of the semi chisel chain are the chipper chainsaw chains. While they are similar, the chipper chainsaw chain cutters have an even more rounded working corner.

In cross-section, a chipper chain tooth looks like a question mark, having a full radius over the whole cutting portion of the tooth, whereas a semi chisel design is more like a number “7” with the top-right corner slightly rounded.

Low-Profile Cutters

Low profile chainsaw chain types are the most common on the market. This is due to their quality as well as the fact that they are very safe to use. A low profile chain saw chain is specifically designed with safety elements around the teeth to prevent kickbacks.

While durability is somewhat of an issue with a low profile chainsaw chain, it is highly recommended for anyone who isn’t familiar with using a chainsaw. If you’re newer to using a chainsaw then a low profile chainsaw chain is a good chain to go with. Just note that it may require more frequent sharpening.

Narrow Kerf Cutters

If you are wanting to remove less wood, the narrow kerf chainsaw chain is the way to go. The whole chain saw chain is just that bit narrower than a standard chainsaw chain- which means you get a thinner, more narrow cut.

The benefits of narrow kerf cutters is that because you are in effect cutting through less wood, your cuts are:

  • faster
  • use less power

The fact that it uses less power to cut, ultimately means that you can get away with a longer bar. But, be aware that you need a special guide bar to suit a narrow kerf chainsaw chain.

You can even get narrow kerf chains with a low profile- for an ultimate lightweight, high speed cut!

Narrow kerf chains might be available under a brand name such as Husqvarna’s Pixel chain.

5. Chain Arrangement

Now that you’re familiar with the different types of chains, let’s discuss the different chain arrangements. These can work differently depending on the size of your chainsaw as well as what work you are intending to use it for.

Different types of chain arrangement

Full Skip Chain / Skip Tooth Chain

A Full Skip chainsaw chain is also known as a skip tooth chain.

It has fewer teeth on the chain which means they are wider and more spread apart. The effect is a chain that takes large rough cuts out of the wood.

The Full Skip chainsaw chain arrangement is intended for anyone looking to clear large timber with a blade over 24″ quickly and efficiently.

You will need a much larger chainsaw to use a Full Skip chain sequence, (24 inches bar or preferably longer). Larger bars work better with skip tooth chains because of the small number of teeth. If you were to put a skip chain on a small bar, there would not be enough teeth in the wood, and it would rattle around a lot and create a messy cut.

Plus, don’t expect smooth cuts with a skiptooth chain. It’s meant for clearing fallen trees and getting the job done without much finesse.

Semi-Skip Chain

The Semi Skip chainsaw chain arrangement has more teeth than the full skip chain. Basically it alternates between having a single tie strap between the two teeth, and having two tie straps between the teeth. This configuration provides more space for wood shavings to clear from the cut, but still provides more cutters than a basic skip chain.

But the semi-skip chain results in a cleaner cut. It’s used by woodcutters for specific projects usually cutting hard wood with a chainsaw blade that is over 24″.

Full House or Standard Saw Chain

The Full House chain has the most amount of teeth in its arrangement. It can cut through wood very smoothly. A Full House Chainsaw Chain is common on all guide bars that are up to 24 inches long.

These types of chain arrangments are most commonly used for milling timber. This is because it can produce smooth planks.

Chainsaw chain types explained

There are so many different chainsaw chain types out there. We hope this guide to some of the most commonly used chains saw chains will help you find the best chainsaw chain to tackle the job at hand.

chainsaw chain type guide

So now you know all about chainsaw chain types, you just need to make sure you keep them sharp! You can always pop into a local mower shop like us, and they can help you choose your chains for chainsaws, sharpen your chainsaw blade or show you how to use a chainsaw file not to mention we have the best chainsaws in Canberra.

If you found this article useful we would love to share more knowledge with you. Check out our detailed guide on 18 inch chainsaw and what they can cut.

Did you know that safety when cutting is important? It is important to have all your essential safety equipment before you start any work. See this page for more info.

FAQs

How many types of chainsaw chains are there?

There are a large number of different chainsaw chains types. Various configurations of pitch, gauge, cutter material, cutter style and chain arrangement all create unique chainsaw chain types. Each chainsaw chain type has different cutting characteristics and is suited to different machines and user skill level.

How do I know what chain to get for my chainsaw?

To choose the right chain for your chainsaw, you need to check what pitch, gauge and length is compatible. Once you have established this you can look at the different chainsaw cutter material, styles, and arrangement to suit your skill level and type of wood cutting projects.

Are chainsaw chains universal?

There are no universal chainsaw chains. This is because the gauge and pitch are determined by the chainsaw you use. To determine which gauge and pitch you need, check under the handle of your chainsaw for any labels. If not, refer to your manufacturer’s user manual.

Why won’t my chain fit on my chainsaw?

The most common reason why chains do not fit on a chainsaw is due to the chain being the wrong size and or length. First check your chainsaw for information on which gauge, pitch, and length is compatible. If these measurements match your chains, you may need to check that you do not have a specialised low profile or narrow kerf guide bar installed.

Are all chainsaw chains interchangeable?

Chainsaw chains are not all interchangeable. But chainsaw chains with the same pitch, gauge and chain length as your chainsaw are interchangeable. You can have different blade styles, arrangements and chains can even be made from different types of material.

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