If you’re planning on purchasing a replacement chainsaw chain, there are several things you need to consider. There’s 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.
Several important components 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’s inserted into the chainsaw’s guide bar.
You need to match the gauge of the chain with your tool. A gauge that’s too wide won’t fit into the guide bar, and a gauge that’s too thin will slip out. The gauge of the chain also tells users about the strength of the drive links.
Thicker drive links are heavier but stronger. 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 wider .063″ chains found on older models.
What is the Drive Link on a Chainsaw?
Another term you’ll commonly encounter when selecting a replacement chain for your chainsaw is drive link. Drive links are opposite the cutting teeth of the chain, and you’ll find them on the bottom. They are the part you insert into the groove of the guide bar. The drive links engage with the chainsaw, allowing it to rotate rapidly around the guide bar.
While the drive links of your chain are an important mechanical feature, they’re also what you to determine the length of the replacement chain 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. So 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. First, we’ll talk about the different kinds of chain teeth, and then we’ll spend some time talking about the different types of chains available.
Semi Chisel Cutters
Semi chisel cutters are one of the most popular kinds of teeth for chainsaw chains. This kind of chain 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 grind edge, allowing for easy sharpening. While they cut slower than full chisel teeth, the rounded design allows them to stay sharper for longer periods of time, even when used on hardwood or in gritty conditions.
They retain their sharpness very well and are very forgiving when it comes to sharpening inaccuracies, making them the perfect all-around chain. They’re great for soft woods or demanding situations.
Low profile cutters are one of the most popular kinds of semi-chisel chains on the market. 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; 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 it comes to tackling dirty wood. 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 used in construction. 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. They’re found on many chainsaws measuring over 24″ in length. They also require less sharpening time since there are fewer teeth. But don’t let the fewer teeth put you off – they’re 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 the standard and full skip chain. They have more teeth than a full skip model but still cut faster than a standard chain. This makes them great for anyone looking for a perfect balance between speed and smooth performance. The 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. Unlike motor oil (which uses weight classifications), it’s 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 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 when the temperature begins to drop.
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 you don’t have to swap out lubrication products when the weather changes.
With so many options for 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 it, finding the chain that’s right for you can be incredibly simple.