Chainsaw Chain Types: A Thorough Guide

There is an almost endless variation of chainsaw chains. There are many types available. Certain chains are better for certain projects, while most chains are standard. The chains you find on any chainsaw you order from the internet or pick up at your local hardware store are going to be pretty basic, and probably the lowest level of aggression.

There are two things we need to look at. The type of cutter, which is the part of the chain that actually cuts through the wood. The sequence, meaning how the cutters are arranged. First, let’s check out the different types of cutters.

Chain Cutter Type

chainsaw chain typesThere are three types of chain cutters. You will always recognize the cutter on your chainsaw because it looks kind of like a wave, and it ends with a sharp hook that is very clearly made for biting through the wood.

Full-Chisel Cutter

Full-chisel cutters are super-efficient for cutting at very high speeds. These cutters are good for hardwood, cutting firewood, and slicing apart trees and tree limbs. Full-chisel cutters are efficient but not that durable. In fact, these cutters can have a bit of a problem in dirty environments or with rotten wood.

These cutters can cause a lot of kickback because of how fast they cut. Full-chisel cutters make messy cuts, but they are excellent at biting through the hardest types of wood. These are not great for small yard applications.

Semi-Chisel Cutter

Semi-chisel cutters have teeth that are slightly rounded on the corners. These cutters will operate at a slow speed and are better for cutting through softwood. They are also really good for cutting in dirty environments where mud and grime can get inside them.

While these cutters are not super fast, they are very reliable. They are durable and built for rough applications. You can use these to cut wood when it is dirty, frozen, dry, or brittle. These types of cutters are extremely common and can be used for cutting through most types of wood.

You also get less kickback with semi-chisel cutters, which makes them safer and better for less-experienced individuals.

Chipper Cutter

Chipper cutters are the most common type.  You will find these on the chains of almost every commercially available chainsaw. The teeth are rounded and designed for your safety. There are even pieces between the teeth that prevent any excess kickback. These are definitely the weakest of all the cutters but are still efficient.

Chipper cutters handle all of the types of wood. They can do softwood or hardwood but never reach the kinds of speeds that you get with professional cutters. If you don’t have a lot of experience with a chainsaw, or if you are just doing random work on your property, this is the type of cutter you need on your chain.

The only drawback here is that you will probably need to get your chain sharpened, as these cutters can get dull pretty quickly. All said and done, you will probably never use any other cutter in your life.

I should note that when I talk about cutters, I am really talking about your chain. One chain will only come with one type of cutter. So, if you have chipper cutters on your chain, it means you have a chipper cutter chain.

Chain Sequence

chainsaw chain sequenceHere is where it gets even more complicated. The chain sequence is basically how many cutters are on your chain. It is the spacing between each cutter that dramatically impacts how your chainsaw works.

Just like how some cutters are used for more professional types of work, the same can be said for the sequence of the cutters. There are three types, and each type is a little more brutal than the last.


This type of chain sequence is simply crazy. You will probably never encounter it in your life unless you are using chainsaws with a bar that is bigger than 24 inches. Basically, the full-skip chain has the fewest number of teeth on it. There is a giant gap between each cutter, which works to chop out massive chunks of wood with each rotation of the chain.

This chain cuts faster but the cuts are not smooth. These are used to cut down big trees in the forest because it does not matter so much about smoothness or finesse. Only real lumberjacks and loggers are using this type of chainsaw chain, and if you tried without any experience the kickback would probably do you some serious damage.


These chains are a little less brutal. They are right in the middle in terms of toughness. They still have fewer teeth than a standard chain, but they are evenly spaced apart in a special design that works to efficiently slice through wood. With this type of chain, you get about one or two links between each cutter.

chainsaw chain Again, this type of chain is strictly used by professionals for cutting thick wood. This chain gives professional workers a nice balance between efficiency and power, without the kickback from a full-skip chain.


Standard chains are what you find on pretty much every chainsaw sold commercially. There are no skips between the teeth, which means this kind of chain has the most cutters on it. It is the smoothest chain that you can use, and it offers the least amount of kickback.

Unless you are a serious outdoors person looking to bite through big tough trees, which you probably aren’t if you are reading an article about different chainsaw chains, you will not need to use this chain.

Chainsaw Chain Types: Final Thoughts

In fact, you will never really need to worry about the different kinds of chains for chainsaws if you are only using your chainsaw for residential jobs around your property. Even if you are cutting medium trees, you will never need to switch from a standard chain. These are efficient and reliable, and they are standard for a reason.

Randy Peterson Cutter Life

Randy Peterson

Randy is a chainsaw enthusiast and an experienced lumberjack. He'll most likely be found cutting, chopping, and trimming trees, usually working with a wide variety of tools. Randy likes the outdoors and socializing with friends.