Chainsaw Chain Types Explained

Table of Contents

Are you interested in learning about all of the different chainsaw chain types?

Then this post was written for you.

Below, you’ll find a detailed description of the different types of chainsaw chains.

The purpose is to give you a complete overview of every type of chain that’s used on chainsaws to cut wood.

And when you’re done, be sure to check out my best budget chainsaw reviews. That page shows you the top chainsaws you can buy for the lowest prices. Or if you want to see the best of the best models, visit my best rated chainsaw reviews.

Chainsaw Chain Types

Cutter Types (Tooth Design)

Full Chisel

Full chisel cutters are great for cutting hardwood trees at high speeds due to their square-shaped edges. Because of their shape, they will leave a rough surface where they cut, so they are best used in situations where there is no need for smooth or level surfaces.

Compared to other cutter types, full chisel chains tend to become dull rather quickly. This is especially true when used on dirty or particularly rough wood.

Routine sharpening and chain maintenance is required for full chisel cutter types. For quick sharpening while in the field, consider one of my best manual chainsaw sharpener picks.

Be very away of kickback with this chainsaw. The high speed operation can make it more difficult to control should kickback happen, so it is not the safest option for beginners to use.


Unlike the full chisel cutter’s square-shaped edges, semi-chisel cutter feature edges that are rounded. This makes them ideal for cutting softwood, because they operate at a slower speed.

With rounded edges, the semi-chisel cutter is also great for cutting through dirty and dry surfaces without becoming especially dull in the process. It can be used on several different types of trees and wood in any environment. They are exceptionally more durable that full-chisel cutters.

Kickback is far less likely to happen with a semi-chisel cutter because of the lower speed of operation. This makes is a safer option when compared to a full chisel cutter, and it is a more beginner-friendly option.

Low Profile

Low profile cutters have round edges, similar to semi-chisel cutters, so they are ideal for cutting various types of softwood trees in cold or dirty environments.

Made with beginner chainsaw users in mind, low profile cutters were designed to be exceptionally safe. They have special elements placed between each chain that help prevent kickback from happening. This is the best type of cutter for beginner chainsaw users to try.

Regular maintenance and sharpening of the blade is required, but this cutter is still the easiest to use and the most common to find.

Chain Arrangement (Sequences)

Full Component

A full component chain arrangement features a bar of at least 24-inches and fewer teeth than other chain types. It is best suited for larger chainsaws, due to the large bar size. Despite the fewer teeth, this type of chain sequence is incredibly effective at cutting through wood and doing so quickly thanks to a fast speed of operation. The spaces between the teeth are actually great for removing wood from the tree quickly and with force.

This arrangement of teeth does leave extremely rough surfaces, so it is best used when a high volume of wood needs to be cut but smooth surfaces don’t matter, like when cutting timber or firewood.


A skip chain arrangement is considered the standard arrangement. It features the most teeth of any other chain, which leaves surfaces much smoother than any of the alternatives. They are used on bars of up to 24-inches long.

Skip chains cut much slower than other types, but they are the best option when a smooth surface is needed on the cut wood. They are great for builders for exactly this reason. They are a pretty common chain sequence type and great for more precise projects.

Semi Skip

Semi skip chain arrangements are less common than the previous two mentioned are often used in more professional settings. In these chainsaw chain types, one or two links are left between each of the cutters. This allows the chain to be powerful while still producing a decently smooth surface as it cuts.

However, the semi skip arrangement does not allow for fast cutting, to it is not a great option in situations where a high volume of wood needs to be cut quickly.

Special Chainsaw Types

Square Ground

Square ground chainsaws feature a full chisel chainsaw chain types and are specially made for use by professionals. This chainsaw cuts more effectively than chainsaws that use round-edged cutters, and this special saw can cut extremely fast. It is ideal for use in high-volume, professional situations.

Although they don’t dull particularly fast, square ground chainsaws so require routine sharpening and maintenance. However, they can be difficult to sharpen with regular equipment and often require the use of a bench grinder or other professional tools.


A ripping chainsaw features a semi-chisel cutter with specially angled cutters that are made shallower than any of the other options out there. This chainsaw chain type serves one purpose and was specially designed for use in chainsaw mills where planks are being cut at high volumes and at high speed.

Because the angle of the cutter is only 10-degrees and shallow, this chainsaw is ideal for creating very smooth surfaces as it cuts.

Choosing the Right Chainsaw

Now that you know all about the different types of chainsaw chains, you may want to start checking out what chainsaws are available for your needs.

Take a look at my best budget chainsaw reviews to find the best chainsaws for the cheapest prices. Or visit my best rated chainsaw reviews page to see the top 10 chainsaws available regardless of price.

I hope this guide answered all of your questions on chainsaw chain types.

Happy sawing!

Your pal,
Chainsaw Larry