If you’re planning heavy use for your chainsaw then you’ll need the right tool for the job. With chainsaws, this means choosing a model with an aggressive chain.
An aggressive chainsaw chain is one that has a higher cutting speed than other chains, and usually has full chisel teeth on a full or skip chain. Experts say the chainsaw brand that makes the best aggressive chains is Stihl, with Husqvarna and Oregon a close second.
Join me as I consider in more detail exactly what an aggressive chainsaw chain is, and look at the brands that make them. We’ll also discover the best types of chains for various cutting scenarios. It’s time to put some real teeth into your chainsawing 🙂
What is An Aggressive Chainsaw Chain?
Good question! Do you mean there are some chainsaw chains that aren’t “aggressive”? What does that even mean? Are they slow? Easy going? Time out – let’s have some explanations.
A chainsaw cuts with a chain spinning very fast – 55 miles per hour or so – in a clockwise direction around the bar of the chainsaw. The bar is the long part that sticks out from the body of the chainsaw. Bars are between 10 inches and 36 inches. Most home use chainsaws are in the 10-to-20-inch range.
Is the bigger the bar the better? Not always. If your yard is full of smaller trees, then a big chainsaw with a big bar will be overkill. Bigger chainsaws are heavier, and more expensive, as well. The rule of thumb is to add two inches to the largest diameter tree you need to cut down. That’s the best size of chainsaw bar for you.
Your chainsaw came with an all-purpose chain. It worked great, but now you need a replacement. How do you choose?
Turns out, there are at least 9 chainsaw chain types. Sure, chains must be certain lengths and widths to fit on your saw. But other than size, important chain differences are the types of teeth and the chain arrangement.
The Four Basic Types of Chainsaw Chain
Chainsaw chain teeth come in four basic types: full chisel, semi-chisel, micro-chisel and low-profile. Full-chisel teeth have square corners. The square corners cut aggressively but also tend to dull easier in “dirty” conditions – like when the wood has been laying on the ground and has dirt or sand on it.
Full chisel teeth need more sharpening but are the most difficult ones to sharpen. Full-chisel teeth cut rougher and have a higher risk of kickback. They are not ideal for precision or small-scale cutting – more for felling big trees. Full-chisel teeth chains are usually used by professionals on large saws.
Semi-chisel teeth are rounded, so the risk of kickback is less, and they stay sharper longer. Semi-chisel teeth cut slower but are a better choice in dirty wood than full chisel.
Semi-chisel teeth chains are a good option for home users and are the preferred choice of professional woodcutters. Some semi-chisel teeth chains are ANSI rated for reduced kickback.
Micro-chisel teeth are rounded like semi-chisel teeth but smaller. They are also a good option for dirty wood and home use. Micro-chisel chains cut soft woods easily but will cut hardwoods more slowly than either semi- or full chisel teeth chains. Micro-chisel chains usually meet ANSI low-kickback standards.
Low-profile teeth are rounded as well, but don’t stick out as far as semi- or micro-chisel teeth. Developed in the 1970s, these chains are made with the beginner chainsawer in mind. They are the safest choice for chainsaw chains. The low profile reduces the risk of kickback.
Low-profile cutters, also called “chipper cutters” or “Picco”, are the most popular choice for home chainsaws. Because these chains are the lightest weight, they don’t require a high-power chainsaw.
Low-profile cutters aren’t the fastest saws, but they are suitable for many soft and hardwoods. Almost all of these chainsaw chains meet ANSI low-kickback standards.
Another distinguishing feature of chainsaw chains is the arrangement of the chain. The main types of chain arrangements or sequences are full complement, skip chain and semi-skip chain.
A full complement (or standard) chain has the highest number of teeth. It consists of a left cutter, a drive link, a right cutter, a drive link, etc. For an explanation of these terms, check out this website with extremely helpful videos. Full complement chains are commonly sold on short or medium bar home use chainsaws.
A skip chain (“full skip” or “skiptooth”) has two drive links between each cutter instead of only one. Skip chain sequences will be right cutter, drive link, drive link, left cutter, etc. Doing the math here, the skip chain configuration results in one third fewer cutters than a full complement chain.
Skip chains are generally available for chainsaws with bars over 24 inches. Skip chains don’t normally come on standard home-use chainsaws, only heavy-duty, professional-grade ones. Because the cutting teeth are farther apart, the chain is harder to clog. Debris gets thrown out.
The disadvantage to the skip chain arrangement is that it’s not ideal for short cuts, it’s prone to vibrations and it has kickback risk.
Semi-skip chains are the hybrid of full complement and skip. Semi-skip (or half-skip) chains are rare. The configuration here is left cutter, drive link, right cutter, drive link, drive link, left cutter, etc. The semi-skip chain also requires a professional grade, long bar.
In addition to teeth and chain arrangement, the pitch, gauge, and number of drive links will be important when buying chain replacements. These three numbers are often printed on the side of the chainsaw bar. Check your chainsaw manual for all the chain details.
So What is The Most ‘Aggressive’ Chainsaw Chain then?
Finally, we can answer the questions. What does “aggressive” mean in the world of chainsaws? Answer – it means that the chain has a higher cutting speed as compared to other chains.
What is the most aggressive chainsaw chain? Answer – ones with full chisel teeth on a full or a skip chain.
Which Chainsaw Brands Make The Best Aggressive Chains?
Expert opinion is that the chainsaw brand that make the best aggressive chains is Stihl. Husqvarna and Oregon are close seconds.
The three brands make long-lasting chains with high cutting speeds. They are high performance, low vibration, and quiet chains.
What Type of Chainsaw Chain Cuts The Fastest? (Is it Skiptooth?)
The fastest cutting chain type if one with full chisel teeth. Experts do not recommend these for non-professionals.
The fastest type of chainsaw chain is the square, full-chisel chain made by Oregon. The Oregon Power Cut™ saw chains are low vibration, full chisel cutters. These chains fit bar lengths of 16 inches up to 36 inches.
For this Oregon chain, some pitch/gauges, the chain arrangement is full (or standard) and for some pitch/gauges, it is full skip.
What’s The Difference Between Chainsaw Chains? (Are They Universal?)
Chainsaw chains are absolutely not universal. No way, no how.
Before you order a different chainsaw chain, do some research. Check your manual for replacement options. Check out the bar on your chainsaw. Many times, the numbers you need are stamped right there.
Here are the important numbers to have when looking for a chainsaw replacement chain:
- Bar size.
- Pitch (inches). Common home use chainsaw pitch dimensions are .325 inches or 3/8 inch.
- Gauge (inches). This is the chain thickness.
- Number of drive links (or lugs or drivers or may be abbreviated as DL).
Here’s an interesting video with lots of good tips on how to find the right numbers on your chainsaw.
What is The Best Chainsaw Chain For Cutting Firewood?
Experts say the best chainsaw chain for cutting firewood is the Husqvarna High Performance 18 inches, 0.05 gauge, 0.325 pitch chain. It is a low kickback, low-vibration chain. This chain works on most lightweight chainsaws (but check your manual). This micro-chisel chain meets the ANSI low kickback requirements.
This chain has wonderful reviews from thousands of customers.
What is The Best Chainsaw Chain For Cutting Hardwood?
Experts say the best chain for cutting hardwood is the Oregon S62 Advance Cut 18-inch, 0.05 gauge, 3/8 inch, low profile chain. This chain works on many home use chainsaws (but check your manual). It cuts smoothly using a semi-chisel chain. Meets ANSI low kickback requirements.
This chain also has many excellent reviews from hundreds of customers.
If you’re a pro or heavy chainsaw user and regularly cut various types of wood, then this article should have helped you work out which chains are best for different cutting scenarios.
As far as the most aggressive chains go – to reiterate, these have a higher cutting speed than other chains, and usually have full chisel teeth on a full or skip chain. You can buy top quality aggressive chains from Stihl, Husqvarna and Oregon.