Types Of Chains For Chainsaws

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A chainsaw is basically a portable mechanical saw. It can be electric or run on a two-stroke engine and use gas. There are many types of chainsaws as well as many types of chains for them. Each type of chain does a different function. If you use a chainsaw on a regular basis, you will need to have different types of chains. Otherwise, you could damage your chainsaw as well as put yourself in danger of being hurt.

Chainsaws are mainly used to cut trees that have fallen or need pruning. They are great for clearing foliage and cutting fire breaks as well as to harvest wood. They can also be used to cut ice in regions that need this sort of work done. Chainsaws can also be dangerous and should only be used by professionals.

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Full Skip Chain


A full skip chain is very efficient for cutting. There are fewer teeth on the chain, but they are placed on a bigger bar. Each one of the teeth takes out a bigger piece of the wood you are cutting, making cutting much faster. For those who have big projects to work on such as a fallen tree or a lot of timber to cut, this can be the perfect style chain arrangement for you.

It can make short work out of a big job with ease and do it quickly, but there is a downside to using this style of chain arrangement. It is made for larger chainsaws. This allows for the space between the teeth. A smaller chainsaw won't won't work well with this type of chain arrangement. This is a rough chain, meaning that the resulting cuts will be rough.

Don't expect to get a smooth cut with the full skip chain arrangement. You can, however, expect the job to be easier and to go faster.

Semi-Skip Chain


The semi-skip chain is the middle-of-the-road option for chain arrangements. Unlike the full skip, this one cannot cut through wood quickly. It is powerful in its own way and can get a project done, but it will be a slower process. This type of chain arrangement is used for specific types of projects done by professionals. It offers a balance of efficiency and power without doing too much or too little. The teeth are closer together than on a full skip.

Cutting is efficiently done but not as fast as a full skip. There is a cleaner finish on the cuts, making it good for projects that require this.

Different Types Of Chains 

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Full-Chisel Cutter


These have square-cornered shaped teeth that are good for cutting. They are mostly used for hardwoods and are great for cutting tree limbs. They are not very durable and can't handle rough cutting such as wood that is dirty. There is a high risk of kickback, because this type of chain is missing safety elements that other types of chains have.

The full-chisel is great at normal cutting, but it can be risky. Don't try to cut softer woods with this style of chain, as you'll end up having to replace the chain. Always be alert when using this style in case of kickbacks.

Semi-Chisel Cutter


The semi-chisel cutter has rounded cornered teeth. It is slower at cutting than a full-chisel cutter, but it is still an excellent choice. It is great for softer woods and can cut all types. It lacks speed but makes up for it with reliability. Unlike the full-chisel cutter, it is more durable. It can handle dirty woods and even dry woods. It's useful for nearly all cutting.

The semi-chisel cutter has a lower kickback risk than the full-chisel cutter. When safety is an issue when looking for a chainsaw and types of chains, you will enjoy having a type of chain that won't be at risk for kickback. This style is good for most people and for big or small projects.  It's reliable in tough situations and safer due to the low kickback risk.

Low-Profile Cutters


Low-profile cutters are the most common on the market. You'll find these types of chains used on most commercial chainsaws. While they are a good chain, they are also safe. They are designed with safety elements in between the chain teeth to help prevent kickbacks. These types of chains are best for beginners. They will require sharpening more than other types of chains. Durability can also be an issue. For those who are starting out, this is a good choice of chain to use just for the safety factor alone.

Ripping Chains


ripping chains

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Ripping chains are special purpose chains with shallow-angled cutters. They are used in saw mills and for cutting planks of wood. These types of chains offer a smooth finish due to the angle-cutting style they offer.

Skip Chains


Skip chains should be used with 66cc chainsaws or larger. The cutters have two blank links in between them. They can take out larger pieces of wood in a cut. This requires more pressure on the chainsaw, so it will need more power to operate. These larger gaps mean there is less chance of clogging the chain and more room for waste materials to exit.

Square Ground Chains


These are used by professionals and are sharpened with a flat file but mostly with a triangular file. They are very fast but difficult to sharpen.

How To Choose Which One Is Right For You

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Depending on what type of wood you are cutting, it is best to go with a full or semi-chisel chain design when doing non-professional work with a chainsaw. Don't use a ripping chain unless you are working in a saw mill or a square ground chain if you are an amateur. Chainsaws should be handled with extreme caution as they are powerful and dangerous tools.

How Do Chainsaws Work?

Engine


The engines used on a chainsaw are either a 2-stroke gasoline engine or an electric motor. The engines are designed to work in different positions such as upside down or at 90-degree angles.

Drive Mechanism


They use a centrifugal clutch and sprocket design. When the saw is idle, the chain doesn't move. When the clutch is engaged, and the chain stops, it will protect the engine and the operator.


Cutting Chain


Each segment of the chain, similar to a bicycle chain without the rollers, features sharp teeth that cut though wood. There are two cutting edges. Full compliment chains have a tooth in every two drive links and a full skip chain has one tooth for every three links. Each tooth has a depth gauge that determines the depth of the cut.

Tensioning Mechanism


The tensioning mechanism allows you to adjust the tension of the chain. Tension is correct when the chain can be easily moved by hand and is not hanging loose.

Safety Feature


There are a number of safety features on modern chainsaws to protect the operator such as:

  • Chain brake - the chain brake is used when there are kickbacks. The chain brake is released with the wrist or hand by the upper handle. It will stop the chain in milliseconds.
  • Chain catcher - the chain catcher prevents the chain from hitting the operator when the chain derails and swings underneath the chainsaw toward the operator. It looks like an aluminum hook and is located between the clutch cover and the body of the chainsaw.
  • Rear handle guard - this protects the operator's hand when the chain derails.
  • Chain - when the chainsaw is full of chips, the chain will lift and run slower.

Maintenance


Two-stroke engines require oil in the fuel for lubrication. Electric engines need no additional lubrication. Chain or bar oil is used to lubricate the chain and bar. These oils are quickly depleted from centrifugal force and by sawdust which soaks it up. A common source of damage to chainsaws is not lubricating them properly.

The chains must be kept sharp to perform at their best. They will quickly dull if they come in contact with stones, metal, or soil. Less effort is needed when using a sharp chain. Special hardened chains made from tungsten carbide are used where soil is likely to come in contact with the chain (such as when cutting roots). Signs of a blunt chain are vibration and the chain pulling into the wood without pressure.

The air intake also needs to be kept cleared as it can clog up with sawdust occasionally.

Conclusion

One of the things you should consider when looking for types of chains and chainsaws is the type of job you will be doing and the results you are looking for. You should also consider how often you will be using it as this may impact your decision to pick one that is more durable if it will be getting a lot of use. But, if you are only an occasional user, durability won't be such a big issue. You should look for something that is good for small projects. Knowing what you will use a chainsaw for will help you to get the best deal and the best tool for the job.

Robert Martinez
 

Robert writes electronics, tools and home improvement related articles. Robert lives in New York City and is tall for no reason. In real life, Robert is afraid of basements, bees, and going up stairs when it is dark behind her. Let’s face it...

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