Full Chisel Chain vs Skip Tooth Chain: A Comparison

Full Chisel Chain vs Skip Tooth Chain: A Comparison

As a chainsaw owner, selecting the right chain is crucial for optimal performance and safety. Choosing between a full chisel chain and a skip tooth chain can be confusing for those new to chainsaw maintenance. In this post, I’ll compare these two popular chain types so you can determine which is better suited for your needs.

Understanding the key differences between full chisel and skip tooth chains allows you to pick the ideal chain for the wood you’ll be cutting and your experience level. Factors like cutting speed, kickback risk, sharpening needs, and compatibility with different bar lengths all come into play. With the right information, you can choose a chain that will help you work efficiently and safely.

Full Chisel Chain vs Skip Tooth Chain: What’s the Difference?

Full Chisel Chain vs Skip Tooth Chain: A Comparison

Full chisel and skip tooth chains have distinct designs that make them better suited for certain applications. Here’s an overview of how these two chain types differ:

Full Chisel Chain

Full chisel chains feature square-cornered cutter teeth that take aggressive bites out of wood with each cut. This straight-line cutting action makes them ideal for felling trees and cutting dense hardwoods.

The key benefits of full chisel chains include:

  • Faster cutting action – The square teeth can rip through wood quickly.
  • Ideal for hardwoods – Full chisel chains efficiently cut dense woods like oak, maple, and hickory.
  • High productivity – Their rapid cutting means you can get more done in less time.

However, there are some downsides:

  • Increased kickback risk – The aggressive cutting can lead to more chainsaw kickback if you’re inexperienced.
  • Sensitive to dirt – Debris buildup in the square corners will rapidly dull the chain.
  • Requires frequent sharpening – The fast wear means you’ll need to sharpen full chisel chains more often to maintain peak performance.

Overall, full chisel chains work best for experienced users cutting hardwoods in clean conditions.

Skip Tooth Chain

In contrast to full chisel chains, skip tooth chains have alternating wide gaps between the cutting teeth. This gives two key advantages:

  • Less power required – The skip pattern allows sawdust to clear out, reducing drag on the chain.
  • Suitable for longer bars – Skip tooth chains can run smoothly on bars over 18 inches.

Additional benefits include:

  • Lower kickback risk – The spaced-out teeth are less grabby, making skip chains safer for amateurs.
  • Durable cutting edges – Debris falls through the gaps rather than dulling the teeth.

The tradeoff is that skip tooth chains cut slower than full chisel. Their wider tooth spacing leads to a less aggressive bite. While acceptable for softwoods, they aren’t ideal for rapidly cutting dense hardwoods.

Overall, skip tooth chains excel at cleanly cutting lumber with reduced strain on chainsaw motors. Their mellower cutting action also makes them a smart choice for beginners.

Pros and Cons of Full Chisel Chain

Let’s examine the prominent advantages and disadvantages of using a full chisel chain on your chainsaw:


  • Faster cutting speed – The square chisel tooth design rips through wood aggressively. This maximizes cutting efficiency.
  • Effective on hardwoods – Full chisel chains make quick work of dense woods like oak or maple. Their robust cutting handles these tough materials.
  • High productivity – Fast cutting action lets you complete more work in a shorter timeframe.


  • Increased kickback risk – Grabbing too much wood too quickly can lead to dangerous kickback, especially for amateurs.
  • Sensitive to dirt – Debris clogs the square tooth corners, rapidly reducing cutting sharpness.
  • Frequent sharpening needed – The fast wear means you’ll need to sharpen full chisel chains more often to maintain their aggression.

While excellent for experienced users cutting hardwoods, full chisel chains require proper handling and frequent maintenance. Their lightning-fast cutting power comes at the cost of increased kickback risk and sharpening needs.

Pros and Cons of Skip Tooth Chain

In contrast to full chisel chain, skip tooth chain provides some key advantages:


  • Less strain on saws – The spaced teeth reduce drag as sawdust easily clears out of the gaps. This puts less load on chainsaw motors.
  • Suitable for longer bars – Skip tooth chains can run smoothly on bars over 18 inches in length.
  • Reduced kickback – The less aggressive tooth design is less prone to sudden kickback compared to full chisel chains.
  • Durable cutting edges – Debris falls away rather than dulling the teeth, extending chain life.


  • Slower cutting speed – The spaced-out teeth don’t take as big a bite, decreasing cutting rate.
  • Not ideal for hardwoods – Skip chains have more difficulty efficiently powering through dense oak or maple.

Overall, skip tooth chains provide a safer, low-kickback cutting option suited to softwoods and longer bars. However, their mellower tooth design does trade off some cutting speed compared to full chisel chains.

Factors to Consider When Choosing a Chain

Selecting the right chain involves evaluating multiple aspects:

  • Type of wood – Dense hardwoods call for an aggressive full chisel chain, while softer woods work with mellower skip tooth chains.
  • Working conditions – Skip chains better handle dirty conditions, while full chisel chains require clean wood for optimal sharpness.
  • Chainsaw power – More powerful saws can handle the increased loads of full chisel chains, while skip chains suit lower powered saws.
  • Bar length – Full chisel chains work best on shorter bars under 18 inches. Skip tooth chains are preferable for longer bars.
  • Safety – Those newer to chainsaws may want to choose a lower kickback skip chain until they gain experience.
  • Sharpening habits – Skipping regular sharpening? A durable skip chain may be a better choice over a fast-wearing full chisel chain.

Considering these factors will ensure you select an appropriate chain for your specific needs and conditions. An ideal chain complements your saw’s power output and bar length while suiting the types of cutting you need to perform.

Tips for Maintaining Chainsaw Chains

To keep your chain running safely and efficiently, be sure to:

  • Sharpen regularly – This is especially important for full chisel chains. Use a file guide for consistent results.
  • Properly clean – Use a stiff brush and solvent to remove sawdust, sap, and dirt after each use. This prevents buildup from impairing cutting.
  • Replace when worn – Chains stretched over 0.5% of their length or with visibly rounded teeth require replacement for optimal performance.

Proper chain maintenance helps any chain achieve its maximum cutting potential while extending its usable lifespan. Don’t neglect caring for this critical component!

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the main advantage of using a full chisel chain?

Full chisel chains cut wood extremely quickly thanks to their robust square tooth design. This makes them ideal for experienced users cutting hard, dense woods.

What is the main advantage of using a skip tooth chain?

Skip tooth chains distribute the cutting load over more space, reducing drag on chainsaw motors. This also allows them to run smoothly on longer guide bars over 18 inches.

Which chain is better for cutting softwoods?

Softwoods don’t require as robust a cut, making full chisel chains overkill. Skip tooth chains have an easier time handling the reduced density of softwoods.

Which chain is more prone to kickback?

Full chisel chains’ aggressive cutting increases the chances of sudden kickback, especially for amateur users. Skip tooth chains’ mellower action reduces this risk.

How often should I sharpen my chainsaw chain?

It depends on the chain type and use frequency, but expect to sharpen full chisel chains after every 1-3 uses. Skip chains can go longer between sharpenings.

Is a full chisel chain suitable for inexperienced chainsaw users?

No, the high potential for kickback makes full chisel chains a poor match for amateurs. Skip tooth chains are safer for novice users.

Can I use a skip tooth chain on a short bar?

Yes, skip tooth chains can work on shorter bars under 18 inches. However, a full chisel chain may deliver faster cutting in these applications.


Understanding the tradeoffs between chain types allows you to select the best option for your chainsaw setup, wood type, and experience level. With the right chain, you can saw smoothly, safely, and efficiently.

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