I’ve been using chainsaws for years to help maintain my property, and one lesson I’ve learned is that having the right length of chain is absolutely critical. An improper chain length can lead to all sorts of issues, from decreased cutting performance to accelerated wear and even safety hazards. That’s why I always reach for my trusty chainsaw chain length calculator before replacing a worn or damaged chain. In this guide, I’ll explain everything you need to know about properly measuring your chainsaw chain and determining the right replacement length. Stick with me, and you’ll be measuring chains like a pro in no time!
Chainsaw Chain Length Calculator
Understanding the Purpose of a Chainsaw Chain Length Calculator
As the name suggests, a chainsaw chain length calculator allows you to determine the proper length replacement chain for your specific chainsaw setup. But why is getting the length right so crucial in the first place? There are a few key reasons:
- Ensuring proper chain fit – Chains that are too short can come loose from the bar while cutting, creating a dangerous situation. Chains that are too long will be loose and sag, which can also impact function and safety.
- Maintaining cutting efficiency – With the wrong chain length, the chain either won’t seat properly on the bar or will have reduced tension. Both scenarios negatively affect how smoothly and quickly you can make cuts.
- Preventing premature wear – Improperly fitted chains experience more friction and strain. This can quickly degrade the chain’s performance and longevity.
By using a chain length calculator, you remove the guesswork and can get a chain that’s tailored to your exact saw setup. The result is optimal chain function and life, not to mention peace of mind regarding safety.
Measuring Chainsaw Chain: Key Components
When using a chainsaw chain length calculator, you’ll be asked to enter certain dimensions and values from your existing chain. These measurements allow the tool to determine the proper replacement chain length. The most important factors are pitch, gauge, and number of drive links. Let’s review what these terms mean and why they matter.
The pitch of a chainsaw chain refers to the spacing between each of its rivets. Specifically, it is the distance from one rivet hole to the next, measured in inches. Pitch helps determine the overall size and cutting characteristics of the chain. Some common pitches include:
- 3/8″ – All-purpose pitch found on many consumer chainsaws
- .325″ – Lower profile pitch for faster cutting and smoother operation
- 1/4″ – Smaller pitch ideal for light-duty electric or cordless saws
Knowing the pitch is crucial because a replacement chain must match the pitch of your existing chain and bar groove. Mismatching pitches can prevent the chain from fitting and rotating properly around the bar.
The gauge measurement specifies the thickness of the actual drive links making up the body of the chainsaw chain. This impacts the strength and durability of the chain, as well as how quickly it can cut. Some examples of gauge sizes are:
- .050″ – Thinner gauge well-suited for softwood cutting
- .058″ – One of the most common sizes for all-around use
- .063″ – Heavier gauge for chainsaw chains meant for dense hardwood
As with pitch, replacing your chain with one of a different gauge is a no-no. The new chain must match the gauge of the old one to work safely and effectively.
Number of Drive Links
Finally, the overall length of a chainsaw chain is determined by the number of drive links it contains. Drive links are the interconnected metal segments that make up the section of chain that fits into the guide bar groove.
Counting the exact number of drive links on your existing chain is crucial for the calculator to figure out the right replacement length. In general, more drive links translate to a longer chain. We’ll discuss the best way to measure drive links later on.
Now that you understand those fundamental chain measurements, let’s move on to actually determining the right chain for your saw using that data.
How to Determine the Right Replacement Chainsaw Chain
When it comes time to swap out a worn or damaged chainsaw chain, selecting the proper new chain is imperative. You need one that fits your specific saw setup and bar length. By carefully measuring both your existing chain and chainsaw bar, then inputting those measurements into a chain length calculator, you can identify just the right replacement. Here are the steps involved:
Measuring the Chainsaw Bar
The length of the guide bar on your chainsaw will dictate the minimum length of chain required. On most bars, this “cutting length” is printed directly on the side. Use a tape measure to confirm this length in inches.
Be sure to measure just the bar itself, not including the rounded tip at the end which the chain doesn’t pass through. The called-out bar cutting length is the first key piece of data for the calculator.
Measuring the Chainsaw Chain
Next, carefully examine the existing chain to gather the other required inputs – pitch, gauge, and number of drive links. Use a caliper tool for precision when measuring pitch and gauge. Counting drive links can be done visually.
If the chain is still mounted on the saw, make sure the engine is off and chain brake is on before inspecting it. Safety first!
Using a Chainsaw Chain Length Calculator
Now for the fun part – generating the actual chain length specification that matches your saw. Here is a simple step-by-step guide to using one of these handy calculators:
- Input chain pitch – Select or enter the chain pitch measurement you recorded from your existing chain.
- Input number of drive links – Type in the total number of drive links that you counted on the chain.
- Input bar cutting length – Enter the labelled cutting length of your chainsaw bar.
- Click the calculate button – After entering the required data, click the button to compute the proper chain length.
- Compare calculated length to actual chain – Does the calculated chain length closely match the physical length of the chain already on your saw? If so, you have confirmed the correct size to search for.
That’s really all there is to it! The chain length calculator does the heavy lifting, while you provide the key specifications required to zero in on the right replacement chain for your make and model of chainsaw.
Finding the Right Saw Chain
Now that you have your specified chain length and details like pitch and gauge, it’s time to track down the exact chain you need. Here are some tips for finding and purchasing the right saw chain:
Saw Chain Specification Chart
Most chainsaw manufacturers provide specification charts to help you identify the proper replacement chain for your saw model. Find the model name/number and the chart will show the matching chain pitch, gauge, and lengths available.
Matching Saw Chain and Guide Bar
Be sure to get a chain designed specifically to pair with your guide bar model. The chain cutters must properly align with the bar groove for smooth, efficient function and extended bar life.
Customer Service Assistance
If you have any trouble matching a replacement chain to your saw’s bar, reach out to the manufacturer’s customer service department. Providing your saw model, bar part number, and the chain measurements you gathered will help them determine the correct part number and specifications.
Taking the time to carefully measure your existing chain, run the calculations, and source the right new chain will keep your saw running like a dream for years to come. But to complete the picture, let’s look at some key factors involved when physically measuring chainsaw chains.
Chainsaw Chain Guide: Measurements, Sizes, and Types
Now that you understand why proper chain length and specifications are so crucial, let’s drill down into some specifics on physically measuring the key chain characteristics:
As discussed earlier, the chain pitch must be matched precisely when replacing a worn or damaged chain. Use a caliper tool to accurately measure pitch by spanning it across one rivet hole to the next adjacent hole. Remember standard pitches are .325”, 3/8”, and 1/4″ typically.
Similarly, use the caliper jaws to determine the actual gauge diameter on a couple of the chain’s drive links. You want an exact measurement, as even slight gauge mismatches can prevent proper function.
Drive Link Measurement
Visually counting the number of drive links that make up the chain loop allows the calculator to determine overall length. Count carefully! It can help to mark the first/last link to avoid losing track.
Accurate pitch, gauge, and link count measurements allow you to hone in on the perfect replacement chain. Keep that data handy when researching chain options.
Let’s wrap up with answers to some frequently asked questions about chainsaw chains:
What is the difference between low profile and regular chains?
Low profile chains have a reduced depth gauge height, allowing them to cut faster and smoother compared to standard chains. They are ideal for professional use on clean wood.
How do I know if my chainsaw chain is worn out?
Signs of a worn chain include looseness, sagging, dull or damaged cutters, increased sawdust when cutting, and decreased cutting speed.
Can I use a different chain length on my chainsaw?
While you can run a slightly different chain length than stock, it can negatively impact tension and chain retention. Stick with the OEM length for optimal function.
What are the safety precautions when using a saw with a new chain?
A sharp chain can be dangerous, so keep the chain brake on when not cutting. Let the saw idle to test the new chain before full throttle use. Also wear protective chaps.
How often should I replace my chainsaw chain?
With proper lubrication and maintenance, a quality chain should last several months for a homeowner. Professionals tend to replace chains more frequently.
Can I sharpen my chainsaw chain instead of replacing it?
Yes! Using the proper sharpening tools and technique can extend a chain’s life significantly while restoring lost performance. But chains do reach an end of life eventually.
What are common chain problems and fixes?
Issues like rust, bent cutters, loose rivets, and stiff or stretched links can often be repaired. But severe damage like cracked side plates may require total chain replacement.
Whether you’re a homeowner or professional, a properly sized and fitted chainsaw chain is a critical component. Take time to measure your chain and bar, then leverage the invaluable tool of a chain length calculator to determine the right replacement. A few minutes invested upfront can prevent headaches down the road while also boosting cutting efficiency and operator safety. Here’s to happy sawing with a perfectly measured chain!
Michael Boyle is the founder and main author of Chainsaws Finder, boasting over 20 years of experience in the chainsaw industry. Hailing from Texas, Michael combines his extensive knowledge and hands-on expertise to provide reliable advice and top-notch service. His vision is to empower chainsaw users to tackle any project with confidence, making Chainsaws Finder a trusted resource in the field.