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Chainsaw Chain Measurements, Sizes, and Types

This article explains exactly what numbers and measurements are needed when matching chainsaw chains, and it also explains how to find them. In addition, this article also offers information about chainsaw chain types and features.

Pitch Measurement

Chainsaw chains are available in almost limitless combinations of sizes, types, and features. This is because chainsaws themselves also vary greatly in size and application.
When it’s time to replace a chain, it is especially important to have all the right information regarding the chainsaw and its chain size. Matching the right chain to a chainsaw is easy if you have the right measurements, however, matching the right chain to a chainsaw is a little more complicated than finding other power tool accessories, because of the unique way that chainsaw chains are measured. The information below explains exactly how chainsaw chains are measured, the difference between these measurements, and how to quickly find the measurement numbers needed to order the correct chain. After matching the right size of chain there is still a host of chainsaw chain types and features to choose from and match to the application, but that’s usually much more straight-forward than finding measurements. Finally, this article also provides step-by-step search instructions for finding the correct chainsaw chain on eReplacementParts.com. Our search filtering features make finding the right chain extremely easy when customers have the necessary measurement numbers. But first, let’s talk about the three measurements that are absolutely necessary for matching chainsaw chains.   The 3 Necessary Chainsaw Chain Numbers There are three measurements that every chainsaw user must know ahead of time to match the right size chainsaw chain to their chainsaw:1. Pitch2. Gauge, and3. the numberof drive links (yes, they must be counted) The following is a complete explanation of how these qualities are measured on chainsaw chains, what the most common measurements are, how to find these measurements, and how to measure them when they cannot be found.1. Pitch Measurement The pitch of a chainsaw chain is a measurement that describes how close together links are on the chain. It does not tell you how many links are present, or what the overall length of the chain is.Pitch = the distance between any 3 rivets on the chain, divided by half. (see picture below)
Yes, that’s kind of a complicated measurement, but luckily, most chainsaws display this measurement somewhere on the tool or in the user manual. Chainsaw chains are available in the following pitch sizes, measured in inches:

1/4″, .325″, 3/8″, 3/8″ low-profile, and .404″. 3/8″ pitch chains are the most common pitch size, and 3/8″ low-profile pitch chains are even more common than regular 3/8″ chains. 3/8″ low-profile chains displace a smaller amount of the material being cut, because their “kerf” (the width of material removed in cutting) is more narrow, reducing the power needed for cutting. 3/8″ low-profile chains typically fit chainsaws whose guide bars are 18″ or shorter in length, which are the majority of medium-use, non-professional application chainsaws such as a homeowner might own. .404″ pitch chains are normally for larger, professional-grade chainsaws often used by the likes of firemen and rescue workers. The greater distance between links makes for more aggressive cutting. When a chainsaw chain’s pitch measurement is displayed on the tool, it is usually on the guide bar, towards the user-end of the tool. Sometimes the measurement is displayed very clearly, and sometimes it is mixed in with a bunch of other numbers, so you have to know what to look for. When a pitch number can’t be found on the tool or in the user manual, pitch can be measured, but because a high level of accuracy is needed to tell the difference between .325″ and 3/8″, for example, it is often a better idea to take the saw to shop to be measured. If you decide to measure the pitch yourself, just remember to measure between the middle points of 3 rivets on the chain, and then divide the number by 2. So, for a 3/8″ pitch chain, the measurement between three links would be 3/4″ (.75″), which is 3/8″ (.375″) when divided by 2.

2. Gauge Measurement The parts of chainsaw chains that fit into the saw’s guide bar are called the drive links. The drive link is the bottom part of the chainsaw chain (see picture below).

Drive Links

Gauge measures the thickness of the drive links if you were to look at them along the length of the chain.

Gauge Measurement

Obviously, it is important to match the right chain gauge to the saw so that the chain will fit into the guide bar correctly. Chainsaw chains are available in the following gauge measurements, also measured in inches:

.043″, .050″, .058″, and .063″. .050″ is the most common gauge. Like the pitch measurement, the gauge measurement is often displayed on the chainsaw, usually towards the user-end of the guide bar. Also like the pitch measurement, the gauge measurement can either be displayed clearly or jumbled in with a bunch of other numbers, so it’s important to have an idea of what kind of numbers to look for. Because gauge measurements are so small, it is not recommended that users measure gauge themselves if the measurement can’t be found on the tool or in the user manual. However, if a pair of accurate calipers are available, measuring gauge is a cinch. Without calipers, we recommend taking the saw to a shop to have the chain gauge measured (some toolmen are so familiar with these chains that they will be able to identify its measurements by sight).

3. Number of Drive Links To get the right chainsaw chain, the number of drive links on the chain must be counted if the count is not already known. Overall length measurements of chainsaw chains (such as “a 2 foot chain” etc.) are not helpful for finding the right chainsaw chain. This is because the overall length of chainsaw chains is determined by a combination of pitch (distance between links) and the number of drive links. This is the most accurate way for chain manufacturers to keep all the different sizes and types of chains in order. The number of links on a chain is normally not displayed on the tool like pitch and gauge, or listed in the manual. This is why the links must be counted.

Drive Links

Chain-Matching Search Steps The following are steps that should be taken before beginning a search for a matching chainsaw chain.

1. Get the pitch measurement of the chain either by finding it on the tool, in the user manual, or dividing the distance between 3 links by 2 (recommended that this be done by a shop).

2. Get the gauge measurement of the chain either by finding it on the tool, in the user manual, or by measuring the thickness of the chain’s drive links with very accurate calipers.

3. Count the number of individual drive links in the chain. No exceptions. Now for the good news:the rest is easy. If you have those three numbers, matching the right replacement chain only takes a moment.