How Do I Differentiate Between Various Chainsaw Chain Types?

So, you’ve recently acquired a chainsaw, but now you’re faced with the daunting task of figuring out the different types of chainsaw chains. Don’t worry, you’re not alone! With countless options available, it’s no surprise that it can be quite overwhelming to know which one to choose. But fear not, because we’re here to help simplify things for you. In this article, we’ll walk you through the process of understanding and differentiating between various chainsaw chain types, making your decision-making process a breeze.

Understanding Chainsaw Chains

A chainsaw chain is a crucial component of a chainsaw. It determines the cutting performance, efficiency, and ease of use. Understanding the different parts and types of chainsaw chains is essential for choosing the right one for your specific needs. In this article, we will explore the various aspects of chainsaw chains, including their key characteristics, tooth configurations, applications, safety features, maintenance requirements, popular brands, factors to consider when buying, and where to purchase them.

Knowing the Basic Parts of a Chainsaw Chain

Before delving into the different types of chainsaw chains, it is crucial to familiarize yourself with the basic parts that make up a chain. A chainsaw chain consists of four main parts: the drive links, the cutting teeth, the tie straps or rivets, and the drive links. The drive links are the part of the chain that fits into the guide bar’s groove, allowing it to rotate. The cutting teeth are the sharp blades that do the actual cutting, and they come in different shapes and designs. The tie straps or rivets hold the chain together, and the drive links engage with the chainsaw’s drive sprocket, enabling the chain to move.

Different Types of Chainsaw Chains

Chainsaw chains come in various types, each designed for specific applications and cutting conditions. The most common types of chainsaw chains are:

Identifying Key Chain Characteristics

Several key characteristics determine the performance and suitability of a chainsaw chain for a particular task. It is essential to understand these characteristics to make an informed decision when choosing a chain. The key characteristics include:

Chain Pitch Measurement

Chain pitch refers to the spacing between the drive links on a chainsaw chain. It is measured by determining the distance between three rivets, then dividing this measurement by two. Common chain pitch measurements include 3/8 inch, 0.325 inch, and 0.404 inch. Choosing the correct chain pitch that matches your chainsaw’s guide bar is crucial for optimal cutting performance.

Gauge Measurement

The gauge of a chainsaw chain refers to the thickness of its drive links. It determines the chain’s ability to fit into the guide bar’s groove. Common gauge measurements include 0.050 inch, 0.058 inch, and 0.063 inch. Selecting the right gauge ensures a proper fit and prevents damage to both the chain and the guide bar.

Number of Drive Links

The number of drive links in a chainsaw chain is an essential factor to consider when replacing a chain. It determines the length and compatibility of the chain with the chainsaw. The number of drive links needed depends on the length of the guide bar and the specific chainsaw model.

Cutter Shape and Design

The cutter shape and design determine the cutting efficiency and performance of the chainsaw chain. Different cutter shapes, such as full chisel, semi-chisel, low-profile, and micro-chisel, are suitable for various cutting applications. Understanding the pros and cons of each cutter shape can help you choose the right chain for your needs.

Exploring Chain Tooth Configurations

Chain tooth configurations play a significant role in the cutting performance and durability of a chainsaw chain. Here are the most common tooth configurations:

Full Chisel Chain

A full chisel chain features sharp, square-cornered cutting teeth. It is designed for fast cutting in clean wood conditions. This type of chain excels in applications that require high cutting speed, such as felling trees and bucking logs. However, it is more prone to dulling when in contact with dirt, rocks, or other foreign objects.

Semi Chisel Chain

A semi-chisel chain has rounded cutting teeth with rounded corners. It offers better durability and stays sharper for longer periods compared to full chisel chains. This type of chain performs well in tough cutting conditions, such as cutting dirty or frozen wood, and is less likely to become dull quickly.

Low-Profile Chain

A low-profile chain has a reduced kickback potential and is designed for professional arborists and homeowners who prioritize safety. It features a low-profile cutter that reduces the risk of kickback, making it suitable for beginners or those who value ease of use and safety above all else.

Micro Chisel Chain

A micro chisel chain combines the benefits of both full chisel and semi-chisel chains. It features a rounded tooth with a small corner radius, offering a balance between cutting speed and durability. This type of chain is versatile and suitable for a wide range of cutting applications.

Choosing the Right Chain for Specific Applications

Different chainsaw chains are designed to excel in specific applications. Understanding their intended use can help you choose the right chain for your needs and achieve optimal cutting performance. Some common types of chainsaw chains for specific applications include:

General Purpose Chains

General-purpose chains are designed to handle a variety of cutting tasks, including pruning, limbing, and light to moderate firewood cutting. These chains strike a balance between cutting speed and durability, making them suitable for everyday use.

Low-Kickback Chains

Low-kickback chains prioritize safety and are designed to minimize the risk of kickback, which can be hazardous. These chains feature special safety features, such as anti-kickback contoured depth gauges, to reduce the likelihood of kickback incidents. Low-kickback chains are perfect for beginners or users who prioritize safety over cutting speed.

Specialty Chains

Specialty chains are designed for specific cutting applications that require specialized features. For example, carving chains are specifically designed for wood carving, and rescue chains are used in emergency situations to cut through various materials. If you have unique cutting needs, a specialty chain may be the best choice for you.

Understanding Chain Safety Features

Safety should be a top priority when operating a chainsaw. Chainsaw chains are equipped with various safety features to minimize the risk of accidents and injuries. Here are some key chain safety features to look out for:

Anti-Kickback Features

Anti-kickback features, such as anti-kickback contoured depth gauges and low-kickback cutters, help reduce the chance of kickback incidents. These features play a crucial role in ensuring the safety of the user by preventing the chainsaw from suddenly and violently jerking backward.

Bumper Drive Links

Bumper drive links are special drive links with a larger diameter than regular drive links. They serve as a buffer between the chainsaw body and the guide bar, reducing the risk of kickback. Bumper drive links can absorb part of the kickback energy, providing an added layer of safety during operation.

Depth Gauge Clearances

Depth gauge clearances, also known as depth gauge settings, regulate the bite size of the chain. Proper depth gauge clearances ensure smooth and consistent cutting performance while reducing the risk of kickback. Regularly checking and adjusting the depth gauge clearances is essential for maintaining safe chainsaw operation.

Considering Chain Maintenance

Proper chain maintenance is crucial for ensuring optimal cutting performance, prolonging the chain’s lifespan, and promoting user safety. Here are some essential aspects of chain maintenance:

Lubrication Requirements

Chainsaw chains require proper lubrication to reduce friction and heat buildup. Lubrication helps prevent premature wear and extend the chain’s lifespan. Ensure you use the recommended chain oil and regularly inspect and adjust the chain oiler to ensure proper lubrication during operation.

Sharpening and Filing

Regular chain sharpening and filing are necessary to maintain the chain’s cutting performance. Dull chains can cause excessive heat and kickback, making them dangerous and less effective. Learn proper sharpening techniques, use a suitable file or chainsaw sharpener, and maintain the correct angles to keep the chain sharp and efficient.

Replacing and Tensioning

Over time, chainsaw chains may become stretched or damaged, affecting their cutting performance and safety. Regularly inspect the chain for signs of wear, such as damaged or missing teeth, and replace it when necessary. Additionally, proper chain tensioning is crucial to ensure safe and efficient cutting. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for tensioning the chain to prevent excessive slack or tightness.

Comparing Popular Chainsaw Chain Brands

Several reputable brands produce high-quality chainsaw chains. Here are three of the most popular brands:

Oregon Chainsaw Chains

Oregon is a renowned manufacturer of chainsaw chains, known for their durability and cutting performance. Oregon chainsaw chains are available in various types and configurations to suit different cutting applications. They are widely used by both professionals and homeowners alike.

Stihl Chainsaw Chains

Stihl is another well-known brand in the chainsaw industry, offering a wide range of high-quality chainsaw chains. Stihl chainsaw chains are manufactured to meet strict standards, ensuring durability and excellent cutting performance. They are favored by professional loggers and arborists worldwide.

Husqvarna Chainsaw Chains

Husqvarna is a trusted name in the outdoor power equipment industry, offering a range of reliable and durable chainsaw chains. Husqvarna chainsaw chains are designed to withstand demanding cutting conditions and provide exceptional cutting efficiency. They are a popular choice among both professional and casual users.

Factors to Consider Before Buying a Chainsaw Chain

When purchasing a chainsaw chain, several factors should be taken into account to ensure compatibility and optimal performance. Consider the following factors before making your decision:

Bar Length Compatibility

The chainsaw chain’s length must match the length of the guide bar. Chains that are too short or too long may not fit properly, leading to potential safety hazards and reduced cutting performance. Always refer to your chainsaw’s user manual or consult with an expert to determine the correct chain length for your guide bar.

Chainsaw Power and Capability

The power and capability of your chainsaw will influence the type of chain you need. High-powered chainsaws require chains with more aggressive tooth configurations to handle heavy-duty cutting tasks. On the other hand, smaller or less powerful chainsaws may perform best with chains that prioritize ease of use and safety.

Experience and Comfort Level

Consider your experience and comfort level when choosing a chainsaw chain. If you are a beginner or inexperienced user, opting for a low-kickback chain with enhanced safety features is advisable. However, if you are familiar with chainsaws and have advanced cutting skills, you may opt for a chain with a more aggressive cutting profile.

Where to Buy Chainsaw Chains

Once you have determined the type of chainsaw chain you need, you need to know where to purchase it. Here are three common options:

Local Dealers and Retailers

Local chainsaw dealers and retailers often carry a variety of chainsaw chains. They can provide expert advice and guidance, helping you find the right chain for your specific needs. Visit your local chainsaw dealer or check with outdoor power equipment retailers in your area to explore the available options.

Online Marketplaces

Online marketplaces, such as Amazon and eBay, offer a vast selection of chainsaw chains from various brands and sellers. Shopping online provides convenience and allows you to compare prices, read customer reviews, and access a wide range of options. Be sure to verify the seller’s credibility and read product descriptions carefully to ensure you are purchasing the correct chain.

Specialty Chainsaw Stores

Specialty chainsaw stores are dedicated to all things chainsaw-related. These stores offer a wide range of chainsaw chains, accessories, and expert advice. They cater specifically to chainsaw users and can provide in-depth knowledge and personalized recommendations. If you prefer a hands-on shopping experience and want professional guidance, visiting a specialty chainsaw store is a fantastic option.


Understanding the intricacies of chainsaw chains is vital for optimal cutting performance, safety, and overall satisfaction with your chainsaw. By knowing the basic parts, different types, key characteristics, tooth configurations, applications, safety features, maintenance requirements, popular brands, factors to consider before buying, and where to buy chainsaw chains, you can make an informed decision and select the right chain for your needs. Remember to prioritize safety, choose appropriate chains for your cutting tasks, and regularly maintain and inspect your chainsaw chain to ensure longevity and peak performance. Happy cutting!