Different Types of Chainsaw Chains

While there are several types of chainsaws available, did you know there are also different types of chains as well? Each type of chain can handle certain projects better than others due to being engineered for a particular cutting purpose. Let’s take a look at what makes these chains different.

The main differences in chainsaw chain types comes from 3 specific variations:

  1. Cutter Type
  2. Chain Sequence/Arrangement
  3. Specialized Add-ons

We’ll look to examine each of these differences more closely. The first thing we will look at is cutter type.

Cutter Type

The cutter type is also referred to as the “shape” of the chain. This is because it is representative of the angle of the chain’s cutter blades.

There are three 3 shapes:

  1. Chisel
  2. Semi-Chisel
  3. Low Profile Cutter

Let’s discuss these shapes in more detail.

Full-Chisel Cutters

The full-chisel cutters feature square-cornered teeth that make them very efficient for cutting at higher speeds. They are best suited for cutting hardwoods when the smoothness of the cut isn’t paramount. This type of chain excels at cutting down trees and limbs, as well as cutting firewood.

While the full chisel cutter is an efficient chain, it does have some noteworthy drawbacks. First off, they aren’t the most durable chain and can’t handle rough cutting environments such as dirty wood. Secondly, there is a greater risk of kickback due to the fact that they operate at higher speeds. As a result they don’t utilize any safety elements that other chains might feature. Lastly, as noted above, they don’t make clean cuts. Because of this, they aren’t ideal for use with softwoods.

Semi-Chisel Cutters

Semi-chisel cutters feature teeth with rounded corners. These chains operate at a slower speed in comparison to full-chisel. As a result, they excel at dealing with softwoods. They can also be used to cut in rough environments like dirty, dry, and frozen woods.

While it lacks speed, it makes up for it in reliability. Unlike the full-chisel chain, the semi-chisel is much more durable. It can also handle rough environments and cut dirty, frozen, and even dry wood. This makes it rather desirable as it can tackle several types of wood.

The semi-chisel also has a lower risk of kickback. Safety is a big issue when it comes to using a chainsaw on a regular basis and you’ll likely enjoy having a chain that can prevent a kickback from occurring.

Low Profile Cutter

Chipper cutters are one of the most common types of chain out there. You’ll find these on the commercially available options. The teeth of the chain also feature rounded teeth like the semi-chisel. This chain is designed specifically for safety. The chain features elements between the teeth that prevent kickbacks from occurring. They can handle various kinds of wood but are not capable of reaching higher speeds like the full-chisel.

The chain is best for those who don’t have much experience using a chainsaw. This chain does require sharpening more often than other types so durability can be a bit of an issue. However, if you’re just starting out, this is a very good beginner-friendly chain to use.

Chain Sequence/Arrangement

The chain sequence or arrangement is essentially the spacing between the cutters or teeth on the chain. It’s important to note that this is different from the pitch of the chain. Pitch is the distance between the links and not all links include a cutter. The chain’s sequence is the distance between the chain’s cutters.

There are three main chain sequences that are used:

  1. Full Skip
  2. Semi-Skip
  3. Standard/Full House

Each of these sequences are used for different applications. Chain arrangement makes a difference in the safety of operation as well as how the chainsaw cuts. Let’s take a look at the different types of arrangements.

1. Full Skip Chain

This type of chain arrangement is extremely efficient for cutting. The full skip chain features fewer teeth but the bar is larger (24 inches or more). You might think that fewer teeth would result in less cutting power, but this isn’t the case. Due to their faster operational speed and arrangement of teeth, they are able to take out larger portions of wood, faster.

While the full skip chain can cut faster, the cuts aren’t as smooth. As we noted, it’s efficient for cutting firewood, cutting limbs, and other tasks where smoothness isn’t important.

It’s also important to note that this type of chain is best suited for larger chainsaws. Due to how the teeth are arranged and the larger bar, a smaller chainsaw isn’t practical.

2. Semi-Skip Chain

The semi-skip chain is a mid-grade chain arrangement. The teeth are arranged where there are one or two links between the cutters. Unlike the full skip chain, it can’t cut through wood as quickly. However, that’s not to say that is isn’t powerful.

This type of sequence is mostly used by professionals who need this chain for specific jobs. While it doesn’t cut as fast the the full skip, It offers a solid balance between power and efficiency with much smoother cuts.

3. Standard / Full House

The Full House or Standard saw chain features the most teeth which makes for extremely smooth cuts. A full house chain is essentially a full skip chain on a larger bar. This chain is used on chainsaws that feature a guide bar that is up to 24 inches.

The main downside of the standard chain is that it does not cut wood as quickly as a full skip or sem-skip. With that said, it is very efficient in terms of the types of cut. The full house chain is best suited for situations that require a clean finish like timber used for building.


Hopefully this post has answered your chain-related questions. There are other options available, however these are usually for specialized requirements like carbide tipped and chipper chains.

Picking the right chain can be a bit elusive if you don’t know what to look for. You should factor in your experience with chainsaws as well as your intended usage. After doing so, you should have a chain that’s best suited for your requirements.

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