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Types of Chainsaw Chains

The chainsaw, an invaluable tool in many industries such as logging, construction, and gardening, is as effective as the chain it uses. The chain plays an essential role in determining the performance, ease of use, and safety of the chainsaw. Understanding the different types of chainsaw chains can help users select the most suitable chain for their specific needs.

6 Common Chainsaw Chains:

1. Full-Chisel Chains

Full-Chisel Chains

Full-chisel chains are arguably the most aggressive and fastest cutting chains. They feature square-cornered teeth, which allow for a rapid, smooth, and efficient cut. These chains are ideal for clean wood, especially hardwood, and are commonly used in professional logging and heavy-duty cutting tasks.

However, the square-cornered design of the teeth makes them quite vulnerable to kickback, a sudden and potentially dangerous reaction that can cause the chainsaw to lurch back towards the operator. Additionally, full-chisel chains dull quickly when they encounter dirt, metal, or other contaminants. Therefore, they require frequent sharpening and are not recommended for beginners or for cutting dirty or gritty wood.

2. Semi-Chisel Chains

Semi-Chisel Chains

Semi-chisel chains feature rounded-corner teeth, which make them slower cutting but more tolerant of dirt and other contaminants than full-chisel chains. As a result, they stay sharp longer and are less prone to kickback, making them safer and more versatile, especially for less experienced users or for cutting dirty, dry, or frozen wood.

These chains are commonly used for general property maintenance and firewood cutting. While they may not cut as quickly as full-chisel chains, they offer a good balance of performance, durability, and safety for most users.

3. Low-Profile Chains

Low-Profile Chains

Low-profile chains are designed for light-duty use, such as pruning, trimming, and cutting small trees or branches. They feature smaller, guard-link teeth that reduce the risk of kickback, making them safer for inexperienced users or for use with smaller, less powerful chainsaws.

However, the smaller teeth also make these chains slower cutting and more prone to dulling. They also require a special file for sharpening. Nonetheless, for light-duty or occasional use, low-profile chains can be an excellent choice.

4. Skip Chains

Skip Chains

Skip chains, or semi-skip chains, have fewer teeth than standard chains. The teeth are "skipped," with a greater distance between them, which allows for greater chip clearance and less friction, resulting in reduced power demand and longer bar life.

While they cut slower than full-chisel or semi-chisel chains, skip chains are ideal for larger chainsaws or longer bars, especially for milling or cutting large, softwood trees. They also stay sharp longer and are easier to sharpen due to the fewer teeth.

5. Carbide Chains

Carbide Chains

Carbide chains feature teeth that are tipped with carbide, a material that is much harder and stays sharp much longer than the typical hardened steel used in other chains. This makes them ideal for cutting hard or abrasive materials, such as dirty wood, frozen wood, or even concrete and metal.

However, carbide chains are more expensive and harder to sharpen than other chains. They also tend to cut slower due to the hardness of the carbide. Still, in harsh conditions where other chains would quickly dull, carbide chains can be invaluable.

6. Safety Chains

Safety Chains

Safety chains are designed with additional features, such as guard links or bumper ties, to reduce the risk of kickback. These features create a gentler cutting action and help to guide the chain more smoothly through the cut.

Safety chains may cut slower and require more frequent sharpening, but for less experienced users, or for use in situations where kickback could be particularly risky, they can provide an additional layer of protection.


Choosing the right chainsaw chain is crucial for ensuring effective, efficient, and safe cutting. The best chain for a particular job depends on several factors, including the type and size of the wood to be cut, the power and size of the chainsaw, the experience and skill level of the user, and the specific cutting task.

No single type of chain is the best for all situations. Full-chisel chains may be best for professional loggers cutting clean hardwood, while semi-chisel chains may be more suitable for general property maintenance or cutting dirty or frozen wood. Low-profile chains may be ideal for light-duty pruning or trimming, while skip chains may be preferred for larger chainsaws or longer bars. Carbide chains can be invaluable for cutting hard or abrasive materials, and safety chains can offer an additional layer of protection for less experienced users or risky situations.

By understanding the strengths and weaknesses of each type of chainsaw chain, users can make more informed choices and get the most out of their chainsaws.

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