How to Measure a Chainsaw Bar: Size Guide For Your Bar and Chain

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Chainsaws have always been a staple, especially when harvesting firewoods. Yet, no matter what model or make, bars and chains will wear. Now, the most common question users ask is the size of the saw’s bar and components.

Here, our pro woodworkers will share what you need to know in measuring a chainsaw bar and other important things to consider.

Steps to Measuring a Chainsaw Bar

A chainsaw bar’s measurement is a requisite to get the right replacement bar. However, it’s common for chainsaw owners to completely forget them, much more if it’s a second-hand purchase. 

If the machine’s user manual is still intact, check it to get accurate specifications. When computing the measurement, you should also consider the cutting length, the bar length, and which parts have been coming out already. 

Safety Tips Before You Start

Before starting any operation, whether it’s making a measurement, starting your saw, or fixing a chain, take into consideration preventative measures. 

checking Husqvarna chainsaw

First, always wear gloves and ensure it’s thick enough to protect you from debris or blade falling out and thin enough that you can still feel and handle the parts of the saw. If you’re using a lithium-ion-powered machine, remove the battery first. For corded power tools, always ensure it’s unplugged. 

Disassemble the Chainsaw

Step 1: Make sure the spark plug wire is unplugged.

Don’t start disassembling the chainsaw while your spark wire is still plugged to prevent accidents—disconnect power from the plug by pulling the wire out of the port. 

Step 2: Loosen the bolts holding the top cover on the body.

Depending on the model and make of your chainsaw, there are different bolt counts. To loosen the bolts, secure a chainsaw wrench and twist it in a counterclockwise direction to remove the cover and nuts completely. 

Secure the bolts in safe storage to avoid losing these delicate pieces you will use to tighten the case back again. 

Step 3: Remove the chainsaw bar and chain.

Hold the clutch cover, and locate the two nuts on the chainsaw’s right side. Using the same wrench, unscrew the nuts before pulling the cover off the chainsaw, exposing the inner body and the chain bar. 

chainsaw chain and guide bar

For chainsaws with brakes, always lock the position before removing the cover to avoid difficulties when putting them back.

Measuring the Effective Cutting Length

Step 1

Secure a tape measure at the tip of the bar until you get the cutter closest to the body. Make sure you’re using the same tape measure when determining the effective length and when you decide to buy a new bar to get accurate cuts. 

Step 2

Measure from where the chain bar goes inside the chainsaw body to the tip of the chain bar. The number 1 rule in determining the so-called length of a chainsaw’s bar is to lay it flat on the table. Always remember that the cutting length should be shorter than the true length.

Step 3

Round up your measurements to the nearest even number. Chainsaw bars are usually sold in even numbers, mainly by 12-inch, 14-inch, and 16-inch bars.

chainsaw bar

Upon measurement, round the figure to the even number closest to it. If you measured 11 5/8 inches, the chainsaw bar length should be 12. 

Measuring the True Bar Length

Step 1

Loosen the bolts. When determining the true length of the bar, removing the bolts is necessary to get the correct body length.

Step 2

Remove the chainsaw bar, and lay the machine on a flat surface. Level the chainsaw. Lace the end of the measurement where the bar emerges from the chainsaw casing to the tip. The true length is the actual length of the bar, and it’s always a couple of inches longer than the cutting length. 

Step 3

Measure the bar. The true length of the chainsaw’s bar should be measured from the top to the end of the bar, and it’s a precise figure, so you do not need to round this off to the nearest inch. 

measuring chainsaw bar length

The standard chainsaw bars range from 8-24 inches. 

How to Measure the Chainsaw Chain

When determining the measurement of your chainsaw chain, we recommend being keen on the chainsaw’s manufacturer and its model number. 

We don’t recommend going in on a store to purchase a new one and saying you’re looking for one with the same measure. Even chains with the same entire length vary depending on the manufacturer. 

Step 1: Measure the chainsaw pitch

The chain’s pitch is measured from a distance between the chain’s links or where the bar enters. Procure a wood ruler or measuring tape, and count the distance on the three consecutive rivets on your chain. 

Divide the count, and that’s your chain measurements pitch. Common chain pitches vary from ¼ inch to .404 inch. 

Step 2: Count the number of drive links.

It’s not complicated to gauge the measurement of the drive links. Identify the small bumps located inside the chains. Count each driver chain link on the chain, and that’s your drive link count.

counting drive links

Step 3: Use a caliper to find the chain link gauge.

Determining the chain link gauge is equally important when you measure a chainsaw bar. The chain link gauge is measured through the thickness of the drive links. 

Determine the measurement of your chain link gauge through a caliper or a multi-purpose gauge. Locate the groove and place the caliper along the chain grooves where the chain fits.

Alternative method: Use common coins if you don’t have a caliper

If you do not have a caliper on hand or a gauge, it’s still possible to assess the measurement of the chain link gauge. Use the coin method to determine the size. 

Slide either a dime( 0.050 in), a penny (0.058 in), or a quarter (0.063 in) to assess the chain gauge size. Add the pitch, and the drive links to get the required length of the chainsaw bar and chain.  

How To Choose a Chainsaw Bar

There are primary reasons why following the instructions on your chainsaw user’s manual is necessary. One, blades aren’t all the same, even with electric chainsaws. 

black chainsaw bar

It varies depending on the model and makes of the chainsaw machine. When getting replacement parts for your chainsaw bar, it’s a must to ensure that the attachment surface is compatible with the cover. 

Also, there are certain alternatives approved by the manufacturer, and only the chain and bar approved can be mounted. If you pursue using unauthorized parts, it will invalidate the warranty and lift the manufacturer of any responsibility for damages to your saw. 

Should I Replace My Chainsaw Bar?

Bars will wear brought about by continuous use. Often the side you use most to cut wears more, but if you periodically reverse the bar use, both sides will wear out evenly. Replace your chainsaw bar or chain when both sides have worn out already and the burrs are causing uneven advancement. 

Burrs must be filed regularly to maintain even advancement of the chainsaws. The decrease in the depth of the sliding guide is common and happens, but if you notice excessive wear already, we recommend replacing the bar. 

Husqvarna worn out chainsaw bar

To determine if your bar needs a replacement already, make a simple test by laying the machine flat and swinging the chain with your finger. If it swings heavily, then changing the blade is the next step. [1]

What kind of blade can I use on my chainsaw?

Use the appropriate blade for your saw, as each model is provided with a suitable blade connection. There are often different chainsaw models from the same manufacturer with the same blade connections. However, you have also to consider certain parameters when using these blades.

Consider the chainsaw bar groove width, the slot distance, and the location of the oil supply holes, as faulty parts can also permanently damage the machine. The rails with the deflection star should have the corresponding chain pitch for the chain drive sprocket. 

What do the numbers mean on the chainsaw bar?

The last three numbers and letters summarize the identification code of the saw. These are essential in choosing the chainsaw bar. 

FAQ

How do you read a chainsaw bar number?

To read a chainsaw bar number, you must know the correct sequence. The first number is the bar’s cutting length, followed by the width guide. 

The two letters after the second number are the bar model, and the letter that comes after is code for the chain pitches and teeth. 

(The bar numbers of many chainsaws are also included on the Stihl Chainsaw Bar and Chain Size Chart.)

Conclusion

Purchasing a power tool comes with different maintenance procedures, and it’s common to change parts now and then, especially if you work on a lot of DIY projects. 

Hence being well equipped with the important considerations and knowledge on how to measure a chainsaw bar is vital to keep the engine well-maintained and functional in the long run. This article should help should you need to deal with the nitty-gritty part of replacing the parts.  

Robert Johnson is a woodworker who takes joy in sharing his passion for creating to the rest of the world. His brainchild, Sawinery, allowed him to do so as well as connect with other craftsmen and women. He has since built an enviable workshop for himself and an equally impressive online accomplishment: an extensive resource site serving old timers and novices alike.
Robert Johnson

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