What is a Chain Gauge?

If you’re planning on purchasing a replacement chainsaw chain, there are several things that you need to consider. There is a limitless variety of chains on the market and between the different specs, lengths, measurements, and uses, choosing the right cutter for your tool can be rather confusing. But by keeping an eye on a few key elements, you can find the chainsaw chain that’s perfect for your needs.

There are several important measurements and components that make up a chainsaw chain. But one of the most important is the chain gauge. The gauge of a chainsaw chain refers to the thickness of its drive links. This number is found by measuring the part of the drive link that is inserted into the chainsaw’s guide bar.

This measurement is important because you need to match the gauge of the chain with your tool. A gauge that is too wide won’t fit into the guide bar and a gauge that is too thin will slip out of the guide bar. The gauge of the chain also tells users about the strength of the drive links.

Thicker drive links are heavier but stronger. This means that while the drive links are durable, they won’t maximize cutting speed since the weight will affect the chain’s speed performance. That’s why most models today have shifted towards thinner gauge chains measuring .050″ rather than older models that once used wider .063″ chains.

What is the Drive Link on a Chainsaw?

Another term that you’ll commonly come across when selecting a replacement chain for your chainsaw is drive link. Drive links are simply the portion of your chain opposite the cutting teeth of the chain. You’ll find them on the bottom of the chain and they are the part of the chain that you insert into the groove of the guide bar. The drive links engage with the chainsaw, allowing it to rapidly rotate around the guide bar.

While the drive links of your chain are an important mechanical feature, they’re also what you use in order to determine the length of replacement chain that you need for your tool. While knowing the guide bar’s length can give you a general idea about the length of the chain, the only way to ensure a perfect fit is to match the number of drive links on a replacement chain with the number supported by your chainsaw.

Some models might have this number stamped on the guide bar or listed in the user manual. But if you can’t find this number written anywhere, the simplest way to determine the number of drive links needed is to remove the old chain and count them.

What Type of Chainsaw Chain Do I Need?

There’s a lot more to consider when purchasing a chainsaw chain than just the gauge or drive links though. While knowing these two numbers is essential to finding the ideal cutting chain, you also have to figure out which style of chainsaw chain is right for your needs.

Let’s discuss some of the most popular options on the market today. We’ll first discuss the different kinds of chain teeth available and then we’ll spend some time talking about the different types of chains available.

Semi Chisel Cutters

One of the most popular kinds of teeth for chainsaw chains are semi chisel cutters. This is the kind of chain that is found on most home and intermediate professional chainsaws that you’ll find online or at the hardware store.

Semi chisel teeth are designed with a rounded edge and a round grind edge, allowing it to be sharpened with ease. While they cut slower than full chisel teeth, the rounded design allows them to stay sharper for long periods of time, even when used on hardwood or gritty conditions.

Thanks to the fact that they retain their sharpness very well and are very forgiving when it comes to sharpening inaccuracies, they are the perfect all-around chain and are great for soft woods or demanding situations.

One of the most popular kinds of semi chisel chains on the market is the low profile cutter. These
chains feature the same rounded edge as a semi chisel chain and are very easy to use, install, and file.

Full Chisel Cutters

These teeth are similar to semi chisel models but feature a square edge and round grind profiles. They’re the sharpest teeth around and the square edge tears through hardwood quickly and easily. The downside to full chisel teeth is that the edges grow dull fairly quickly.

This makes them a poor option for extended, heavy-duty cutting or when tackling dirty wood since debris will only cause the teeth to wear down even faster. If you’ve decided which kind of tooth you need for your chain, the next thing to consider is the type of chain that’s right for your needs.

Standard Saw Chain

A standard saw chain, also known as a full house chainsaw chain, cuts through wood with impressively smooth performance. These types of chains are perfect for cutting timber that is used for construction since they make rather smooth planks and are commonly found on most guide bars that measure less than 24″ in length.

Full Skip Saw Chain

A full skip chainsaw chain is designed with fewer teeth than any other option and is found on many chainsaws measuring over 24″ in length. They also require less sharpening time since there are fewer teeth and are designed to take large bites out of wood for quick, aggressive performance.

This makes these chains perfect for anyone tackling large projects that don’t require smooth results. The disadvantage of full skip chainsaw chains is that they leave rough edges and since they cut through wood so quickly, they have a greater tendency to kickback or bounce on the user.

Semi Skip Chainsaw Chain

You can think of the semi skip chain as a hybrid of a standard and full skip chain. They have more teeth that a full skip model but still cut faster than a standard chain. This makes them perfect for anyone looking for a perfect balance between speed and smooth performance. The only catch is that these chains are only found on square chisel cutters.

What Kind of Oil Do I Use for a Chainsaw Chain?

With the right chain equipped, the next thing you need to consider is lubrication. Sawing through wood creates plenty of heat and friction. Without the right lubrication, you can damage your chain and your guide bar. So let’s take a closer look at what kind of oil is used for protecting a chainsaw chain. Bar oil is made to stick to the bar and chain of a chainsaw and, unlike motor oil which uses weight classifications, is rated for either winter or summer use.

Using the right chainsaw oil is important because it extends the life of your tool while allowing it to perform efficiently and safely. Cold weather causes oil to thicken while warm weather thins it out. This is problematic since either of these conditions will cause your chain to dry, damaging your saw.

To combat this, companies have designed bar oils that correspond to the air temperature that you plan on operating the saw in. In warmer months, simply use a thicker bar oil rated for summer use and use a thinner winter-rated bar oil when the temperature begins to drop down.

Vegetable oil-based lubricants are another option and are quickly gaining popularity. Unlike petroleum-based bar oil, vegetable-based chain oils don’t harm the environment. They also work well regardless of the temperature meaning that you don’t have to swap out lubrication products when the weather changes.

With so many options when it comes to chains, teeth, and lubrication, chainsaw chains are just as versatile as the chainsaw itself. But with some thought into your personal preferences, the size of your tool, and how you intend to use your tool, finding the chain that’s right for you can be incredibly simple.

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