Are Chainsaw Chains Universal? Everything You Need To Know

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By Jake Hill

Chainsaws

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Chainsaw chains come in different varieties. This makes them fulfill different cutting needs. All these chains on the many saws you find in the market are designed with various features. They can differ based on their measurements and cutters.

So, you can find whole- and semi-chisel chains. Also, you would come across a low-kickback chisel.

Many beginner chainsaw users need clarification about these types and help determine the proper replacement chains. In this blog, we’ll understand more about the different types of chains. Also, you will find the answer to the question, Are chainsaw chains universal? So keep reading.

Types of Chainsaw Chains

Chains are divided into three different categories. This categorization is based on the style of cutters, or more accurately, the chisel. Chisels can cut wood differently. Some are very sharp and built to cut fast and mercilessly. However, other chisels offer a less fierce performance to suit the needs of beginners.

1. Full Chisel Chains 

Full chisel chains are made to provide the fastest and sharpest cutting action. The cutting teeth of such chisels have a distinct shape. They have square-shaped corners. This design increases the cutting aggression. Full chisel chains are a go-to for all cutting professionals. These are meant to cut hardwood and thick trees.

Aside from the undeniable aggressiveness, this chain type is suitable for professionals for more reasons. These are very demanding when it comes to maintenance. Square-cornered cutters are prone to dirt and dust buildup. 

They are also known for being easily breakable and having higher chances of kicking back. This is why only professional chainsaw operators can efficiently handle these fierce chains.

2. Semi Chisel Chains

This chain option is more common for domestic uses. The cutting teeth of such chains have the most common shape, with round edges. These chains are more suitable for softwood trees. They show better resistance to dirt and corrosion. This chain is ideal if you are cutting unclean wood.

These teeth do not require as much maintenance as the squared teeth of the complete chisel. They can remain sharp for longer as well. These cutters could be faster in terms of motion. Also, they need help to cut through hardwood. If you force them to cut hardwood, they will break easily and won’t give any results.

Yard owners are more comfortable using semi-chisel chains, which are much safer than the full type. Such safety comes from the decreased chances of kickbacks. Moreover, they have a slower speed for cutting.

3. Low Kickback Chains

These chains are also known as low-profile chains. This type of chain is easy to find on the market. This is the best type of saw for beginners for many reasons. These chains are the safest to use, as they have the lowest chances of kickbacks.

Each one of these chains is provided with certain safety features. However, these are only meant to last for a short time without maintenance. They require continuous care to remove any debris. Moreover, they are less durable. If you neglect normal sharpening, you will likely need to replace your chainsaw chain every few months.

Compatibility

Chains are designed with specifications that make them fit certain types and sizes of guide bars. Using the wrong kind of chain is neither safer nor more productive. Bad cutting and possibly serious injuries are just a few examples of the severe consequences of such a mismatch.

If you want to end up with a suitable chain for your saw, you must know the basic measurements for these metal tools.

1. Pitch 

Understanding the chain’s pitch tells you the distance between the chain links. It is measured by calculating the space between the chain’s rivets. You must measure the space between three rivets to determine the pitch space accurately. Then, you need to divide the number by 2. 

It is crucial to get a chain whose pitch space matches the space between the bar teeth as well as the bar tip sprocket. This makes the bar and chain properly match. Usually, a chain with a large pitch would fit powerful chainsaws.

2. Gauge 

The gauge measurement indicates the thickness of the chain links. In general, these links slip and fit into the bar’s groove. So typically, the gauge measurement is associated with the bar dimensions. This means you should get them at the correct width.

Very wide gauges will create a mismatch between the bar and the chain. In addition, gauge measures that are too tiny are not suitable. In this case, the chain will be loose and might come off.

The gauge measurement can be highlighted in the manual. On some chainsaw models, you can find it on the machine. Measuring the gauge can be challenging for users, but using a vernier caliper makes the measuring more possible.

But in general, there are a couple of standard gauge measurements that you might find in all chains. The most common sizes are 0.043 and 0.050 inches.

3. Drive Link Count

In addition to the space and width of the chain drive links, their number also plays a vital role in buying a new chain. This number will determine the eventual length of the chain. This length must match the bar length too. So typically, a long chain will fit into a long bar and vice versa.

Counting the number of links is fundamental in determining the chain size. It would help to measure each without leaving any links out to get a correct chain length. To avoid making mistakes, stick a piece of tape to the link you start with. 

Universal Chainsaw Chains

Universal chains are not a thing. Chains vary in their sizes, lengths, widths, and so on. So, these different measurements make chains unique and not universal.

You will need to match these measurements with the chainsaw bar. For instance, if you have a too-long chain and your bar is short, you must get another chain. 

If you can find a universal chain that fits different models, you should check the manufacturer’s specs before purchasing, as one or more mismatched measurements can cause serious problems. 

Tips for Buying the Correct Chainsaw Chain

You will need some knowledge about chain measurements to avoid ending up with the wrong chain. These measurements make each chain work for one specific saw and not for another. If you are about to get a new chain, remember these tips.

1. Take a look at the Manual. 

This is the most straightforward way to get the best chain. You will find all the product details, measurements, and relevant chain information inside the chainsaw’s user manual. You can make a purchase based on the information you find in the manual.

2. Look at the Chainsaw.

There are various chainsaw models with their measurements written on them. So, checking the chainsaw’s outer surface is recommended to find out what information is written there. You can find the gauge and pitch numbers easily if you look carefully.

3. Know the Correct Measurements.

If you cannot get this information, you must do the measurements independently. This is not easy for many users, but things will get easier if you know how to measure each of the three measurements.

Safety Precautions

There are different chain types, but not all will work interchangeably. Each one has its own specific chain pitch and gauge that fit certain bar sizes. As a result, mismatches might occur if you select the incorrect chain. But there are far more risks associated with picking the wrong chain.

For instance, you would end up with a loose chain that is inefficient in cutting wood but is sharper in injuring you. Also, the wrong chain will stress the machine’s engine more. Subsequently, the saw might be emitting excessive black smoke.

Moreover, a mismatched chain will decrease the lifespan of the bar. You can imagine the cost of replacing both the chain and bar—no need to mention that you are wasting fuel unnecessarily by using gas-operated saws.

So, it is always recommended to be extra cautious when picking a chain. Also, you must remember proper maintenance requirements for chains while using the new tool. In case of hesitance in choosing the new chain, you should seek the help of a professional.

This professional can be a seller you trust or a reliable chainsaw operator. These individuals have proper knowledge about choosing and servicing chainsaw chains.

Conclusion

It would help if you did not get your hopes up when shopping for a replacement or a spare chain for your chainsaw. There are no universal chains or one-size-fits-all solutions. It would be best to look for a chain with specific measurements and a chisel. These elements make it impossible to find versatile or interchangeable chains.

The best way to ensure the chain’s compatibility with your chainsaw is to try it before buying. You can bring your machine along to perform this trial. This is much better than ending up with a non-fit chain. Doing so will give you an efficient replacement that is safe and productive to use. 

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