All About Chainsaw Chains
How Do I Figure Out My Chain Type & Size ?
To order the correct chain you need 3 pieces of information
Often your chainsaw bar has all the data you need written on it, like the Stihl bar pictured below. But your guidebar may be old and worn and the data could be unreadable, or maybe it's just not that user friendly !! Don't worry we can figure it out.
The PITCH is the distance measured between the centre of three link rivets, divided by 2.
The GAUGE is the width of the groove in the chainsaw bar.
The LINK COUNT is determined by counting the driven teeth (sometimes called Tangs) of the chain, these are the bits that run in the groove, meaning that the Gauge is also the width of the driver teeth.
OK , NOW I KNOW WHAT PITCH/GAUGE/LINK COUNT ARE, BUT WHY DO THESE MATTER?
A chain with the wrong gauge for the bar may not physically fit. A thicker gauge of chain than the bar was made for simply will not fit in slot (unless bar is quite worn), though a thinner (smaller) gauge chain will fit on a larger gauge bar, this is not safe practice as the chain can twist in groove, both bar and chain could be damaged which could have serious injury consequences for the user should the chain become so worn that it snaps in use.
The pitch of your chainsaw's sprocket (the drive gear attached to engine) must match both the sprocket in the end of bar and the chain pitch (if a sprocket type bar is in use, there are types with no sprocket in bar end e.g. Oregon Laser Tip or Stihl Duromatic bars). If the pitches do not match the teeth of the drivers will not mesh with those on sprocket(s), the chain will jam instantly and/or be thrown off bar, very dangerous and likely to cause expensive damage to your bar and/or chainsaw.
Your chainsaw sprocket will not care what gauge of chain you run on it, only the pitch matters if you are replacing both bar and chain. Your bar should outlast several chains (just turn it over anytime you remove chain to even out wear on the pressure side - bottom edge - of bar) and a sprocket may well last for a couple or even three bars, though I always replace sprocket at same time as bar on my own saws.
There are four pitches of chain in common use today 1/4", .325", 3/8" and .404".
Of these by far the most common are .325" and 3/8". Inexperienced users are unlikely to have a .404" pitch saw, only the largest professional saws have chains of this pitch. 1/4" pitch is commonly found on small saws, both electric and petrol, electric Lopper machines and the likes, and is used most often on specialist chainsaw carving bars. The majority of users need .325" or 3/8" chain. A good ruler will enable you to determine the pitch of your chain by measuring as described earlier.
Four gauges are usually found on modern handheld saws, these are 0.043" (1.1mm), 0.050" (1.3mm), 0.058" (1.5mm) and 0.063" (1.6mm). The 0.043" (1.1mm) gauge is only ever found with 3/8" pitch chain and is fitted mostly to electric saws and some small Stihl petrols eg Stihl 017/018 , Stihl call this chain Picco Micro.
All the other gauges are found in all pitches. Finding gauge manually is very difficult, a micrometer helps obviously.
LOW PROFILE CHAIN
Sometimes called LP chain (or in Stihl speak Picco) is only ever found in .325" and 3/8" both with 0.050" gauge (the .325 version is less common, Husqvarna call it Pixel) in reality you mostly see this stuff in 3/8" 0.050" (though the 0.043" Picco Micro is indeed Low Profile). It is vital that you fit LP chain if your bar requires this. The nose radius on a LP bar is smaller than a standard bar, normal chain will not fit round the sprocket properly as cutters are too high/deep. You can fit LP chain to a standard bar with no ill effects (but standard chain cuts faster). BEWARE Oregon chain Type numbers ending LP eg Type20LP are NOT Low Profile chains, the LP is a chain designation by Oregon meaning it's a Full Chisel chain, Low Profile Oregon types are 90, 91 and 95. Husqvarna call Low Profile Pixel, but its the only .325 .050" chain they market and can be safely used on normal or standard profile bars (their chain is actually manufactured by Blount Cutting who make Oregon - and SARP and Windsor and Laser and Dolmar/Makita and others).
A WORD ON BAR LENGTH
Chainsaw bar length is correctly quoted and referrred to as CUTTING length of the bar, not the overall length of the item. The overall length of a 20" bar will typically be about 22" for example, the 20" bit is what is refferred to in chain size terms and would be a 20" chain (if it was .325" pitch it would be 78 links long).
I STILL HAVE NO IDEA WHAT SIZE I NEED, HELP !
Right, now we have to get down and dirty, looking at the old chain very closely. In general we are looking for numbers/letters stamped on the driver teeth (the bit that goes in slot remember). Info is usually stamped on one side only of these. It can be a single number (1 or 2 digits) or a number and letter combination. It also helps to notice if it has a maker stamped on side of the links, Husq for example is Husqvarna chain, Oregon is Oregon chain etc etc.
First we will consider STIHL chains, since they are very easy to size correctly. On the cutter there will be a number, 1/4, 325, 3/8 or 404, that is the pitch. Simple. If the number on the cutter is a single digit then use the list below to i.d. the pitch. On the tang or driver there will be another single digit number that is the gauge the list below will identify this for you.
Cutter number 1 = 1/4"
Cutter number 2 = .325"
Cutter number 3 = 3/8"
Cutter number 4 = .404"
Cutter number 6 = 3/8" Picco
Driver number 1 = .043" (1.1mm)
Driver number 3 = .050" (1.3mmm)
Driver number 5 = .058" (1.5mm)
Driver number 6 = .063"(1.6mm)
Other brands are identified purely by the number on the Tangs.
NB: SARP G30 and OREGON 95 are the equivalent of Husq H30 Pixel (LoPro)
If your chain is 1/4" Pitch then the likely makers marking on tangs will be:
Stihl 1/4 on cutter & 3 on tang