While there are many components important to a properly running chainsaw, the chain could mean the difference between a clean, quick cut and dangerous kickback. Chainsaws utilize a chain with sharp teeth that runs around the chainsaw bar. The chain’s teeth cut through wood with ease when the proper chain is used. Modern chainsaws use one of two types of teeth: full chisel teeth or semi-chisel teeth.
Chains with full chisel teeth are generally used on soft woods. "Full chisel" means that these teeth have sharp, square corners which are designed to cut quickly by splitting large amounts of wood. Because of the design of the teeth, these chains can cut away soft woods with ease and speed. The sharpness of the square design means that these chains are more susceptible to becoming dull quickly when used for more heavy-duty jobs. These types of chains are best for soft and "green" wood.
Semi-chisel are rounded teeth that don't dull as quickly, and are therefore better for cutting hard, dry, or frozen wood. Chains with semi-chisel teeth cut more slowly because of the rounded design, but in the long-run, they will save you time because you won’t have to stop to sharpen your chain.
Finding the Right Chain for Your Saw
Choosing the correct chain for your individual saw requires a bit of measuring. There are three main measurements that you need to determine the right chain for your saw: the pitch, the gauge, and the number of links.
1. Chain Pitch
The "pitch" of your chain is the measurement of how close the links on your chain are to each other. To get this measurement, you want to measure the length between any three rivets on your old chain, and then divide that number by 2. Most chainsaws will have a 3/8" pitch or 3/8" low profile pitch. Luckily, this number is usually displayed on the chainsaw bar. If you can't determine the pitch, it's best to bring you saw into a respected chainsaw service shop to be sure you're getting the correct measurement.
2. Chain Gauge
Gauge is the thickness of the chain, or the link width. This is important because if you get the wrong gauge, the chain won't fit into the bar properly. Again, this is a measurement that should be found on the chainsaw's bar, and could be .043", .050", .058", or .063". If you can't find it, bring your saw to a reputable service shop.
3. Chain Drive Links
Figuring out the amount of chain drive links is a bit trickier than simply looking for a number on your saw. Most likely, you won't find this number on your saw, so you will have to manually count the amount of drive links on your chain. The actually length of the chain doesn't help, because the length is determined by both the pitch and the number of links present on the chain, so it's possible to have two chains with the same length that have different amounts of links and different pitches.
As always, if you're unsure of what you're doing, it's best to bring your saw into a respected dealer and have them tell you what size chain you need.
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