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.

Mistakenly selecting an unsuitable saw chain is a common pitfall, but fear not, for I have prepared a concise chainsaw chain guide to ensure you make the right choice.

How are the Chainsaw Chains Different?

If you scan the power tool market as i 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

It’s crucial to note that beyond chain specifications, various chainsaw chains vary in their cutting mechanisms and safety features. This is why it’s essential to assess your skill level before investing in a new chain.

Furthermore, it’s worth emphasizing that not every type of chainsaw chain will be compatible with the specific cutting machine you have in your toolbox. Each chainsaw is engineered with distinct settings, so the chain you choose must align with 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


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 boasting a ¼-inch pitch specification are meticulously crafted with lightweight construction. This particular attribute enables the chain to execute smoother and cleaner cuts compared to alternative choices.

1/4 pitch chainsaw chain

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

Pixel .325 Inch Pitch

Upon initial observation, it may seem that chainsaw units featuring a pixel 0.325-inch pitch setting stand apart from conventional saw chains due to their slender build. 

While these choices indeed offer reduced vibrations and minimized kickbacks, they may not be the most suitable option for more demanding, 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. 


When you’re in the market for chainsaws, it’s essential to familiarize yourself with another critical chain terminology: the chain gauge. This specification indicates the thickness the chain links should possess.

chainsaw chain and bar

Always check the compatibility with the bar gauge before buying any components. Otherwise, you risk getting parts that are either too thick or too loose for my chainsaw. I’ve found it best to consult the user manual and labels to avoid such issues.

These are the gauge sizes you’ll come across 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 a durable steel alloy [1], and the coating material on the blades can vary. Having worked with different types of chainsaw chains, I can attest that the durability of the cutting teeth really does impact their cutting efficiency.

setting up saw chain on bar

Tungsten Carbide Tipped

When faced with the task of cutting logs encrusted with soil or mud, my expert recommendation leans toward the durable and long-lasting options, such as 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 get 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. 


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 me, you’ll find this feature helpful, especially if you’re getting rid of hard and dry wood. 


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

When I’m cutting thinner and narrower wood pieces, I usually turn to narrow kerf cutters. Because these chains take away less material, they draw on less power and operate more quickly.

However, they might require a specific bar component. From my experience, I’d recommend going with the ones from 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. For optimal performance, I recommend employing full skip chains with a chainsaw boasting a bar length of around 24 inches or longer.


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 of the 24-inch chainsaws I’ve come across are equipped with this component. It also boasts the highest teeth count among the three, so I’m confident that a full-house chain can produce more seamless and smoother cuts.

Milwaukee M18 Chainsaw

Special Types of Chainsaws


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.


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.


I know how frustrating it can be to find the perfect chain for your cutting tasks. As tempting as it might be to just grab whatever’s available on the shelves, I’d recommend considering the features we discussed earlier. This way, you won’t end up wasting money on the wrong purchase.

I hope this guide has put some of your concerns to rest and assisted in narrowing down your choices.

Robert Johnson is a passionate furniture maker & carpenter, sought after for his knowledge on the craft.
You've probably seen his down-to-earth wisdom in USA Today, Bobvila, Family Handyman, and The Spruce, where he has shared commentary and guidance on various woodworking topics.

Robert is the brain behind Sawinery, where he aims to share tips, tricks, and a passion for all things carpentry.
Robert Johnson

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