Different Saw Chain Types, Explained

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Did you know that not all types of chainsaw chains can accomplish the same cutting tasks? These tools are sold in different chain arrangements, making it difficult for beginner chainsaw users to find the right chain for their unit.

It’s easy to fall victim to the wrong saw chain types, but that won’t happen if you read this short chainsaw chain guide by our engineers. 

How are the Chainsaw Chains Different?

If you scan the power tool market as we did, you’ll realize that chainsaw blades highly differ in how their chains operate. You can distinguish each chainsaw chain type through crucial configurations like chain gauge, pitch, cutting teeth arrangement, length, style, and material. 

Choosing a Chain For Your Chainsaw

Besides chain specifications, most types of chainsaw chains also differ in cutting mechanisms and safety elements. Because of this, you must consider your skill level before buying any new chain.

On top of that, not all chainsaw chain types will suit the cutting machine you have in the toolbox. Remember that each chainsaw is manufactured with specific settings, which means the one you’ll purchase must also match the unit’s chain bar length.  

chainsaw chain and guide bar

The number of drive links will determine if the chain length is long enough to match the overall chainsaw bar size

Different Chainsaw Blade Configurations

Pitch

As you already know, the chain pitch is the average distance of drive links from one another. If you want it to work with your tool, you must ensure that the pitch matches the configurations on the drive sprocket and the guide bar. 

Typically, the larger the pitch is, the heavier and bigger the chainsaw chain will be. Here are the pitch sizes you’ll encounter in different types of chainsaw models. 

1/4 Inch Pitch

Chainsaw chains with ¼-inch pitch specifications are designed with light construction. Thanks to this, the chain cuts smoother and cleaner than other options. 

1/4 pitch chainsaw chain

We highly recommend using these saw chain types for units equipped with motors no more than 38cc. 

Pixel 3/8 Inch Mini Pitch

If you have a battery-operated cutting tool, you can consider using chainsaw chains with pixel ⅜ inch mini pitch configurations. Unlike standard chainsaw chain types, they don’t need much power and weigh less. It’s also the reason why these chains inflict low kickbacks.   

3/8 Inch Mini Pitch

Among different types of chainsaw chains, the ones with ⅜-inch mini pitch settings are commonly installed in smaller models. Its tight design makes it compatible with woodcutters used in high-production cutting projects. 

However, we don’t recommend using this if your chainsaw houses a motor with power higher than 45cc.

Pixel .325 Inch Pitch

At first glance, anyone can tell that units with pixel 0.325-inch pitch settings are different from any standard saw chain because of their narrow construction. Although these options offer lower vibrations and kickbacks, they’re not ideal for heavy-duty tasks. 

Pixel .325 Inch Pitch

It’s also best if you don’t equip these chains with power tools that don’t fall into the engine power range of 35cc to 55cc. 

.325 Inch Pitch

Despite delivering more power, chainsaw chain types with 0.325-inch pitch configurations operate with minimal vibrations. It can handle models with larger engines delivering a power range of 35cc to 60cc.

3/8 Inch Pitch

While some chains work at slower speed settings, chainsaws pitched at ⅜ inches move at a substantial pace. It’s flexible and strong enough to last in a demanding, fast-paced cutting environment. On top of that, its reliable configuration matches powerful engines set at 50 to 100cc. 

.404 Inch Pitch

If you’re into heavy-duty work, you’ll need a massive and more aggressive tool with a pitch of 0.404 inches. Chains with this setting can cut faster and are durable enough to handle large-scale timber-cutting operations. 

Gauge

Another chain terminology you should know when shopping for chainsaws is the chain gauge. You may not know, but this configuration signifies how thick the chain links should be. 

chainsaw chain and bar

You’ll have to check its compatibility with the bar gauge, or you’ll be at risk of buying incompatible components. When that happens, it can be too thick or too loose for your chainsaw. We suggest checking the user manual and labels to prevent this incident. 

For your reference, here are the gauge sizes you can find when shopping for new chains. 

Gauge by InchGauge by Millimeters
0.063 inches1.6mm
0.058 inches1.5mm
0.050 inches1.3mm
0.043 inches1.1mm

Cutter and Blade Material

Most chainsaw teeth are made of durable steel alloy [1], but not all blades are coated with the same material. With our hands-on experience using different chainsaw chain types, we can assure you that the durability of cutting teeth could affect how well they can cut.  

setting up saw chain on bar

Tungsten Carbide Tipped

If you’re cutting logs wrapped in soil or mud, the best options to purchase are the ones that are durable and long-lasting, like Tungsten carbide-tipped chains. 

These components can handle harsh environments, making them a reliable tool for professional applications. 

Unlike a standard chain, it can cut through metal, frozen wood, or soaked logs. The only downside of this material is its high power requirements and difficult sharpening procedure.

Chrome Tipped

Typical chainsaws in today’s market are categorized as chrome-tipped cutters. Although not as durable as the previous option, chains with this material won’t wear that fast and will resist damage caused by any debris. 

Diamond Tipped

Not all chainsaws can cut through stone, metal, or concrete unless equipped with diamond-tipped blades. These materials are durable and aggressive, so they’re best suited for concrete chainsaws. 

chainsaw chains

Cutter and Blade Style

If you intend to do different projects, you should know that chainsaws come in various blade styles. There will be tall, short, and narrow designs sold in the market, and each of these chains has specific materials they can handle. 

In your seach for the right chain, expect to encounter four style variations: narrow kerf chains, low-profile cutters, semi-chisel cutters, and full-chisel cutters. 

Square Chisel

Chisel cutters with square grind designs are more geared for professional users as they need precise and regular filing more than other blade types. Although they offer more aggressive mechanisms and faster cutting time, it’s important to note that they get dull more quickly. 

This blade style is the specialty version of a typical full-chisel chain. Because of this, most professionals for accurate chain filing to set the chainsaw in optimal performance.  

Full Chisel

Upon closer look at a full chisel chain, one of the first things you’ll notice is its square-cornered teeth. Thanks to this distinct design, you can rely on it for cutting hardwood materials. 

full chisel chainsaw chain

The downside of using full chisel chains for your unit is its vulnerability to kickbacks. It also lacks some safety features, so it’s not wise to use it if you’re a beginner.

On top of that, you should also avoid using full chisel cutters on soft and dirty wooden logs as they contain more fibers than other materials. 

Semi-chisel

Unlike a full chisel cutter, a semi-chisel chain includes rounded corners. Despite being slower, it works well in cutting softwood. 

And because semi-chisel chains are more durable, you won’t have difficulty cutting frozen or dirty logs. They also prevent kickback occurrences, making the semi-chisel design a safer option than its alternative. 

Chamfer Chisel

Although this blade style has the same semi-chisel chain design, it has a chamfer set at 45 degrees between the plates. Trust us when we say that you’ll find this feature helpful, especially if you’re getting rid of hard and dry wood. 

Chipper
chainsaw chains on white surface

Another type of semi-chisel chainsaw chain is the one with a chipper cutter. The only difference between a chipper chain from the standard chisel cutter version is that it has more rounded edges.

Chipper chains are also shaped like question marks, which can cover the whole cutting portion of the tooth.

Low-profile Cutter

Safety is one of the reasons why many users prefer using a low-profile cutter. It has safety features wrapped around the teeth that aid in preventing potential kickbacks.

It may not be as durable as other options, but it’s easier to use for chainsaw newbies. However, don’t forget that this cutter type requires more frequent sharpening. 

Narrow Kerf Cutter

If your task requires cutting thinner and narrow wood pieces, narrow kerf cutters should fulfill your needs. Given that these chains remove less material, they use less power and move faster. It may need a special bar component, so we highly suggest purchasing ones under Husqvarna’s Pixel Chain. 

Chain Arrangement

Your chainsaw’s chain sequence may vary depending on where you use it. Let’s discuss how different these options are and how chain arrangement can affect the cut’s quality.

chainsaw chain

Full Skip Chain or Skip Tooth

True to its name, a full-skip chain includes more skips or distance between each tooth. It also features fewer teeth, making the chain sequence wider. Considering its full complement chain design, it can execute rough cuts without hassle. 

Don’t use this chain on small-bar units, as this would cause wobbling and produce inaccurate cuts. The ideal chainsaw for full skip chains is around 24 inches or longer.

Semi-Skip

Compared to the previous option, a semi-skip chain is designed with more teeth. Its construction alternates between single and double tie straps. Through this setting, users can take advantage of a wider shaving space.

Semi-skip chain options are also known for delivering a cleaner cut. In fact, woodcutters often use this type of chainsaw chain for cutting hardwood.  

Full house or Standard

Most 24-inch chainsaws in the market are equipped with this component. It also has the most teeth count among the three, so we don’t doubt that a full-house chain can deliver more seamless and smoother cuts. 

Milwaukee M18 Chainsaw

Special Types of Chainsaws

Ripping

These are semi-chisel specialty chains, but they cut along the grains and not against them. You can use a ripping chain when milling planks at a high volume.

Square Ground

It’s similar to a full-chisel model that can cut materials faster than regular chainsaws. However, it’s not easy to maintain.

FAQ

How do I find out the best chain to use for my chainsaw?

You can find the best chain for your chainsaw by crosschecking its compatibility with the unit’s pitch, gauge, and length specifications. On top of that, you should also consider your skill level and the project you’re embarking on.  

Are chain sizes universal and interchangeable?

No, these sizes are not universal or interchangeable. When you buy a chainsaw, its pitch and gauge compatibility are all predetermined upon production. Because of this, you’ll need to compare the labels. 

Why can’t my chain fit on my chainsaw?

Typically, it means that it’s not compatible with the unit. There could be a mismatch in the chain pitch, length, and gauge. 

How many types of chains are there?

There’s a wide range of saw chain types in today’s market. Besides the configurations, style, and arrangements, these components offer different cutting mechanisms, machine compatibilities, and skill requirements.

Conclusion

We understand the frustration of finding the perfect chain to finish your cutting tasks. As much as you want to grab whatever’s available on the shelves, we suggest considering the features we discussed above to avoid spending money on the wrong purchase. 

Hopefully, this guide eased your worries and helped you on narrowing your choices. 

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. 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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