Chainsaw Chain Types and Uses Explained

| Last Updated: February 8, 2021

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There are a few types of chainsaw chains out there to choose from, all of which have many separate benefits to particular chainsaw tasks.

In the article below, we'll discuss the multiple chain types along with their key features and benefits. 

TL;DR (Too Long; Didn't Read)

There are a few different types of chainsaw chain the user can pick. Below are some common choices. 

Cutter Types:

  • Full-Chisel
  • Semi-Chisel
  • Low-Profile

Chain Sequences:

  • Standard (aka Full House) 
  • Full-Skip
  • Semi-Skip

Different Types of Chains

There are many considerations and important aspects to consider when researching chainsaw chains. The two most important things to research would be cutter types and the chain sequence. Below, we'll discuss both.

Cutter Types

The cutter is the part of the chain that cuts the wood; it's the sharp teeth-like features. The edge of your cutter will impact what types of wood it can cut. The section below will explain the most common types and their key qualities. 


Full-chisel is a type of cutter that is mainly used on hardwood trees; they're great for high-speed tasks as they feature square-shaped edges. Due to the square-shaped edges, they create a rough cut, meaning they're not best on workpieces that require a smooth cut.

Due to the high speeds, it can become dull faster and even increase the likelihood of kickback injuries as it's harder to control. A user with a moderate or professional level of experience would be best suited to using a full-chisel cutter. 


A semi-chisel utilizes a circular-shaped edge, which is beneficial to those users that are cutting softwood. The round edges also make it more resistant to dulling and is usually caused by cutting through dirty trees, which is common on the full-chisel type. 

As a result of these features, kickback isn't much of an issue due to the lower speeds, meaning it's suited to those of any experience level. 


Low-profile cutters keep the beginner chainsaw user in mind. Their cutters aren't as tall as other chain types and therefore make shallow cuts. They're also suitable for cutting softwoods in either cold or dirty conditions. 

They're much lighter than your standard chain and even have unique safety features in place to protect beginners from kickback. The cutter type is relatively easy to maintain and common in most hardware stores. 

Chain Sequences

The sequence of your chain is just the distance between each cutter on the chain. There are three main sequences to choose from, and we'll discuss each in the section below. 


Standard is the most common chain sequence on the market. They're usually the fastest cutting and provide a smooth finish on the wood. 

The sequence is suitable for homeowners that do the occasional pruning. The sequence fits well with bars 24-inches or less. The only issue with a standard sequence is that it doesn't cut as fast as the full-skip or semi-skip sequences. 


The full-skip is the most efficient chain sequence for cutting; the sequence has fewer teeth but covers bars over 32-inches, allowing it to run using less energy. 

The two drive link distance between each tooth combined with the speed is what makes this sequence great for cutting through larger chunks of wood with ease. 

The cuts are rougher; therefore, they should be used if you're cutting firewood or when smooth cuts aren't important. 


There are one or two links between the teeth on a semi-skip sequence chain. The fewer teeth mean that it doesn't cut through the wood as fast as other sequences. 

The semi-skip sequence provides the user with a balance between power and efficiency as it tends to be used by professionals on specific tasks requiring a smooth cut. Semi-skip operates with bars between 24 and 32-inches. 

Understanding Chainsaw Chains

Purchasing the correct chainsaw chain relies on a few factors requiring careful consideration. Below are a few aspects that you might want to think about before buying your next chain. 

Full Chisel vs. Semi Chisel

The main difference between the full and semi-chisel is that they're used on different types of wood.

The full chisel being hardwood due to the square edges, and the semi-chisel operating best on softwood due to its rounded edges. 

The full chisel is more at risk of kickback due to the high speeds it produces compared to the semi-chisel, which reduces this risk significantly thanks to the lower speeds. Full chisel is suited for more professional use, while semi-chisel is suitable for beginner or moderate level experience. 

Do You Want a Rough or Smooth Cut? 

As we know, the sequence of the chain will determine how and what you can cut. The sequence also determines the kind of cut it makes, either rough or smooth.

If you're just felling a tree, pruning a branch for things like firewood, the standard or full skip sequence is suitable. However, if you're cutting wood for projects like construction, therefore you'd require a semi-skip sequence chain. 

What Level Of Experience Do You Have? 

Different chains will require various experience levels in terms of being able to handle them. For example, if you're using a low-profile cutter with a standard sequence, you'll be able to use it at any level. 

Low profile cutters are built with specific safety features for beginners. Whereas, if you use a full-chisel cutter, this operates at incredibly high speeds making it harder to control and difficult to stop in emergency situations, it's obvious to say that it's not built for the novice. 


Understanding the different parts of your chain and how they affect the overall performance of your chainsaw is key in order to operate at the highest efficiency and effectiveness.

Take careful consideration of your chainsaw chain when researching.