Since chainsaws vary greatly in size and their intended application, chainsaw chains need to be just as diverse. This is why chainsaw chains come in a wide variety of sizes, styles, and feature combinations. One of the easiest ways to identify a cutter chain is to look at the numbers displayed on the packaging, the guide bar, or the chain itself.
Why is it so important to know what these numbers mean? Because when it’s time to replace your chainsaw chain, you must have the right measurements. Purchasing the wrong chain means it might not fit onto your chainsaw at all, or – even worse – it might be too loose. This could even cause it to fly off, injuring the user.
Once you have all the correct measurements, there are still other decisions you have to make. You’ll have to choose from a variety of features and styles designed for specific applications. Luckily, this step is much easier. That’s why the first thing we’ll discuss is what three measurements are absolutely vital when you’re looking for a replacement chainsaw chain.
The three numbers we mean are the pitch, gauge, and the number of drive links. These numbers describe the various aspects of each chain. You need to ensure that they’re compatible with your chainsaw if you want your tool to run safely and efficiently.
This number has nothing to do with the length of the chain or the number of links. Instead, it simply measures the space between the links. Most chainsaws will have this number stamped on the tool or mentioned in the user manual. If you can’t find it, don’t worry! We’ll explain how to calculate the pitch of your chain later on in this article.
Chainsaw chains come in one of several pitch sizes: ¼”, .325″, 3/8″, 3/8″ low profile, and .404″. The most common pitch today is a 3/8″ low profile followed by a regular 3/8″ pitch. These chains make narrow kerf cuts, removing small amounts of material at a time, allowing them to work well with less power. If you own a chainsaw measuring less than 18″ that’s designed for home or light commercial use, there’s a good chance your chain has this pitch size.
Compare this to wider .404″ pitch chains, which feature a larger space between links. Due to this design, chains with a .404″ pitch are great for fast, aggressive cutting work. This is why you’ll typically find them on the top professional chainsaws as well as models used by fire departments and first responders.
The chain is secured by drive links that fit into the tool’s guide bar. You’ll find the drive links on the bottom of the chain, opposite the cutting teeth. The gauge of your chain is simply how thick the drive links are. You need to make sure you choose the right gauge. A replacement chain with a gauge that’s too thick won’t fit, and one with a gauge that’s too small will simply slip off the tool.
The chain’s gauge is measured in inches and can come in one of 4 sizes: .043″, .050″, .058″, and .063″. The most common size on the market is .050″. This number will be displayed on the chain packaging, and you can normally find it stamped onto the chainsaw’s guide bar as well.
If you can’t find this number on your tool, it’s best to look in your instruction manual instead of trying to determine the measurement on your own. This is because the difference between these measurements is incredibly small. It’s very tough to get the right measurement without the appropriate tools, like a pair of calipers.
Another important number you need to know is the number of drive links on your chain. We mentioned drive links when discussing the gauge of a chain. While chainsaws are sold based on the length of their guide bar, the best way to ensure you’re purchasing the right replacement chain is by the number of drive links you need.
Some chainsaws will have this number printed on the tool or listed in the user manual. But if you’re unsure, you can simply take the chain off and count the drive links yourself. Since the overall length of a chainsaw chain is determined by using a combination of pitch and the number of drive links, this is a very important step to take if you want the right chain for your tool.
How Do You Measure the Pitch of a Chain?
Earlier in this article, we talked about the pitch of a chainsaw chain. While most manufacturers make it easy to find this number, others don’t. Luckily, it’s straightforward to take this measurement yourself.
If you can’t find the pitch number printed on your tool or in the user manual, measure the distance between the middle points of any three consecutive rivets on the chain. Once you have this number, divide it by 2. That’s the pitch number of your chain!
For example, a chain with a pitch of 3/8″ would have a measurement of 3/4″. So once you divide that measurement by 2, you’ll have a pitch of 3/8″.
What is a Full Chisel Chainsaw Chain?
Besides the chain’s measurement, another thing you need to consider is the type of chain. There are several styles available, but one of the most popular types on the market is the full chisel chain. A full chisel chain delivers impressive, fast-cutting performance. These chains feature square-cornered teeth that take big chunks out of soft and hardwood.
While full chisel chains are very popular, you need to keep in mind that, like any style, they have some advantages and disadvantages. The main advantage of a full chisel chain is that it cuts faster and more aggressively than any other option.
These chains have the sharpest teeth, allowing them to handle even the most demanding cutting conditions with ease. But due to their design, there are also some disadvantages when using a full chisel chain. The main issue has to do with their teeth.
While full chisel chains have the sharpest teeth available, they also dull faster than the rounded corners found on semi-chisel chains. Due to this poor edge retention, full chisel chains aren’t suited for cutting dirty wood and are more sensitive to dirt and hard objects like rocks.
Also, since these chains cut faster and more aggressively, they have a higher risk of kickback. This is where a tooth binds in the wood, causing the tool to bounce back towards the user. Despite these disadvantages, if you’re looking for a chain that can tackle clean hardwood with impressive power and speed, a high-quality full chisel chain is one of the best purchases you can make.
Can You Put a Chainsaw Chain on Backwards?
Installing a replacement chainsaw chain is relatively easy. But one of the most common installation mistakes is accidentally putting the chain on backward. At first glance, you might not notice the difference, but you’ll know something is wrong when you put your tool to work and notice that it isn’t cutting into the wood.
The best way to ensure you put your chainsaw chain on correctly is to do a quick visual inspection. When you’ve installed a chain correctly, the sharp edges of the teeth on the top portion of the chainsaw’s guide bar will point away from you. The sharp edges on the bottom of the bar will be pointing to you.
As long as the edges point in this direction, you can rest assured that you’ve installed the chain properly. Now you’re ready to tackle whatever task you throw at it!