Chainsaw Chain Types

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There are many different chainsaw chain types for you to choose from, and it's not one-size-fits-all when it comes to finding the correct chain for your saw.

How do you find the right one for your chainsaw - and does it even matter?

Finding the right chainsaw chain is essential since it will influence how well your chainsaw operates.

Here’s what you need to know.

What Are The Different Chainsaw Chain Types?

You’ll find chainsaw chains with all kinds of cutter types and designs.

Below you'll find some of the most common and popular options to choose from.

Full Chisel Chain

A full chisel chainsaw chain is one that’s ideal for high speeds, particularly when working with hardwoods

This kind of chain leaves behind a rough area where it cuts, so it might not be ideal for making a smooth or perfectly level surface.

Oregon Powercut Full Chisel Pitch Saw Chain

It also dulls and becomes dirty more quickly, meaning regular chainsaw sharpening and maintenance are ideal.

You also have to be warier of kickback.

Semi-Chisel Chain

A semi-chisel cutter has rounded edges rather than square. 

It’s better when you’re working with softwood trees since it operates at a lower speed

It doesn’t dull as quickly and can be more durable.

Kickback is also less likely.

Low-Profile Chain

A low-profile chainsaw chain (something we will discuss in more detail below) has rounded edges like semi-chisel cutters, meaning you can cut all kinds of softwood trees.

They’re ideal for beginner chainsaw operators and are exceptionally safe.

Low-profile chains tend to be some of the most common.

When selecting a chainsaw chain, you’ll also want to pay attention to the chain arrangement.

Full Component Arrangement

A full component arrangement will have a bar of 24” or more and less teeth than other chainsaw chain types.

Ideal for larger chainsaws, it’s better at cutting wood quickly but leaves behind rough surfaces.

The skip chain is more or less the standard arrangement on most chainsaw chain types. 

It cuts slower than most other types but is better at creating a smoother surface.

Semi-Skip Chain

The final option is a semi-skip chainsaw chain arrangement. 

Though not as common as the other two options, it is a good choice for a professional operator.

Finding The Right Chainsaw Chain Type

When you are looking for a new chainsaw chain, you’ll need to learn a few new words and phrases.

When you’re measuring a new chain or bar, you’ll need to know not just the number of drive links that the old chain had but also the pitch of the old chain (which is the distance between the drive links) and the gauge (or the width of its bar groove).

In addition to regular chainsaw chains, there are also specialty chains to choose from, including low profile chainsaw chains, narrow kerf chains, and ripping chains (the latter of which is one of the best for milling up logs into planks of wood).

What Is The Most Aggressive Chainsaw Chain Type?

When you’re looking for an aggressive chainsaw chain, you’ll typically want to look for one with a higher cutting speed and full chisel teeth on a full or skip chain.

Stihl is the manufacturer who tends to make the most aggressive chains but other good choices include Husqvarna and Oregon.

What Chainsaw Chains Cut The Fastest?

If you’re looking for a chainsaw chain that will help you get the job done in a hurry, you may want to consider using a narrow kerf chain.

These have cutters that are more narrow than those found on a standard chain so that you’ll achieve a thinner, narrower cut.

You’ll remove less wood but you can cut more quickly and use a longer bar with a full-sized chain (even if you’re running a saw with low horsepower).

Just make sure your bar is designated as kerf chain-friendly before you decide to go this route.

Best Chainsaw Chain For Hardwood

When working with hardwood species like maple, oak, birch, hickory, or cherry, you’ll be best off using a chainsaw chain with semi-chisel cutters. 

This will help the cutter stay sharper for longer.

These kinds of chainsaw chains can also be useful when you’re cutting any wood that is frozen or dirty, since a semi-chisel will maintain its sharpness longer than a full chisel.

Best Chainsaw Chain For Softwood

For cutting softwood, you can’t go wrong with a full-chisel cutter.

Its sharp edge will rip through softwood quickly and efficiently - as long as the wood is clean.

Again, if the wood is dirty, you may want to use a semi-chisel cutter to avoid having to stop constantly to sharpen your saw.

What Is The Best Chainsaw Chain For An Electric Saw?

If you’re using an electric chainsaw, you may want to consider investing in a low-profile or “lo pro” chain.

These kinds of chains utilize cutters that aren’t quite as tall as the cutters found on standard chains, making a more shallow cut.

While they might not be as well-suited for more heavy-duty work, the benefit of these kinds of saws is that they are more lightweight, making them ideal for electric saws as well as for those that are lower horsepower.

They place less strain on the engine this way.

You can usually find these chains with ⅜” pitch and .050” gauge. 

Just note that if your saw has a bar that needs more than 72 drive links, a low-profile chain will not fit the bill.

What Type Of Chainsaw Chain Should I Use?

So what type of chainsaw chain should you buy?

It depends.

In many cases, it might make sense for you to pay a visit (with your saw) to your local chainsaw shop to see what they recommend.

A general recommendation is to avoid using a full chisel chain unless you are a bit more experienced with using a chainsaw.

These chains are the riskiest and present the highest likelihood of kickback.

Consider the tips above when trying to find the right chainsaw chain type for your saw - but remember that there is no one-size-fits-all solution.

Not only will you need to consider the type of chainsaw you have, but you’ll also need to consider how and for what purpose you are using your saw.


About the Author

Nick Greenway

Obsessed with firewood, Nick is behind over 350+ of Firewood For Life's articles, as well as countless reviews, guides and YouTube videos to help readers like you reduce heating costs and create the perfect fire.