How to Determine the Right Chainsaw Chain Gauge

How to determine the right chainsaw chain gauge

Selecting the proper chainsaw chain gauge is crucial for optimal performance and longevity of your saw. The gauge refers to the thickness of the drive links on the chain and must be matched precisely to the guide bar groove width. In this comprehensive guide, I’ll walk you through everything you need to know about determining the right gauge for your specific chainsaw model.

Understanding how to measure chain pitch and gauge, find the specifications for your saw, and choose the appropriate chain type will ensure efficient and safe operation. We’ll also cover the relationship between gauge and pitch, proper maintenance considerations, troubleshooting gauge issues, and what to do if you need to replace your chain. Whether you’re a weekend warrior or professional logger, you’ll have the knowledge to select chains that maximize cutting speed, reduce kickback, and stand up to frequent use after reading this detailed resource.

How to Determine the Right Chainsaw Chain Gauge

How to determine the right chainsaw chain gauge

When it’s time for a new chain, the most important factor in choosing a replacement is confirming the correct gauge. Here’s a step-by-step guide to finding the perfect match for your saw.

Understanding Chainsaw Chain Measurements

Before you can determine the right gauge, it’s essential to understand the terminology and specifications of chainsaw chains.

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Chain pitch refers to the distance between adjacent rivets, measured in inches or millimeters. It determines how far the cutters extend. Standard pitches are 3/8″ and .325″ in inch measurements or 9.5mm and 8.25mm in metric. Always match the replacement chain pitch to your existing chain.


Chain gauge specifies the thickness of the drive links. This must precisely fit the groove along the guide bar. Standard gauges range from .043″ to .063″ inches or 1.1mm to 1.5mm metric. Thinner gauges cut faster, while thicker gauges are more durable.

Number of Drive Links

Chains are sized by the number of drive links, which determines the cutting length. Count your links or match to the bar length.

Finding the Measurements on the Chainsaw

To select the right gauge, you need to check the current chain specifications. There are two ways to determine the gauge of your existing chain:

Locating the Gauge Measurement on the Chainsaw Bar or Manual

Check the underside of the guide bar near the sprocket. Engraved markings should indicate the pitch and gauge. Compare to the chainsaw manual for model-specific details.

Measuring the Chain Manually

Use calipers to precisely measure the drive link thickness in both imperial and metric units. Compare to a gauge conversion chart to identify the size.

Common Chainsaw Chain Gauges

Here are the most common gauge sizes and their typical applications:

  • .043″ (1.1mm) – Light duty, fast cutting
  • .050″ (1.3mm) – All-purpose chains for most gasoline saws
  • .058″ (1.5mm) – Heavy duty work with long bars
  • .063″ (1.6mm) – Large, high-powered chainsaws


Matching the Chain Gauge to the Guide Bar Groove

It’s crucial to select a gauge that correctly matches the groove along your guide bar. An improperly sized chain can accelerate wear, cause vibration and snagging, or even derail from the bar. Consult your manual or the bar markings to ensure compatibility.

Checking the Manufacturer’s Recommendations

For precise gauge specifications, check the chainsaw manufacturer’s website or instruction manual. Most brands provide detailed compatibility charts or list the right gauges for each model. Following their recommendations avoids any guesswork.

Chainsaw Chain Pitch and Its Relation to Gauge

In addition to gauge, you also need to match the pitch when replacing a chain. Here’s how pitch and gauge work together.

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Definition of Chain Pitch

As explained previously, chain pitch indicates the distance between the rivets. This measurement is taken in inches for imperial chains and millimeters for metric chains. Common pitches are 3/8″ or .325″ and 9.5mm or 8.25mm.

Using a ruler, you can measure between any three consecutive rivets then divide by two to determine the pitch. This distance must remain consistent for optimal function.

Relationship Between Pitch and Gauge

Pitch and gauge work in conjunction – if one is off, chain performance suffers.

The pitch controls the spacing and size of the cutters. It must be paired with the appropriate gauge drive link to maintain proper clearance. Mismatching these dimensions causes binding and accelerates wear.

So always replace your chain using the existing pitch and gauge combinations. Checking both ensures a perfect fit and long service life.

Chainsaw Chain Types and Their Gauges

Now that you understand gauge sizing, let’s examine the different chain types and cutting styles available. I’ll summarize the common gauge options for each.

Full Chisel Chains

Full chisel chains have angular cutters that remove the most material per cut. The steep filing angle also requires frequent sharpening.

  • Common Gauges: .050″, .058″, .063″
  • Best For: Heavy duty cutting, professional use

Semi-Chisel Chains

Semi-chisel chains have partially rounded cutters that offer a balance of speed and longevity. The moderate angle requires less frequent sharpening than full chisel.

  • Common Gauges: .043″, .050″, .058″
  • Best For: All-purpose chains, typical homeowner use

Low Profile Chains

Low profile chains have a reduced depth of the cutter and tie strap. This allows faster chain speed and cutting action. They’re also optimal for smaller electric saws.

  • Common Gauges: .043″, .050″
  • Best For: Fast performance, electric chainsaws

Chainsaw Chain Maintenance and Gauge Considerations

Proper maintenance is key to extending the life of your chainsaw chain. Here are some gauge factors to keep in mind:

Regular Inspection of Chain Gauge

Examine the drive links periodically for signs of thinning or stretching from extended use. This can alter the gauge over time. Replace the chain when wearing exceeds .020″.

Proper Chain Tension

Correct gauge ensures the chain seats and tensions properly on the bar. This allows smooth, low-friction operation. Check tension frequently and adjust as needed.

Sharpening the Chainsaw Chain

The existing gauge determines the file size and angle to correctly sharpen cutters and depth gauges. Follow manufacturer sharpening specs for your chain’s gauge.

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Improper filing can rapidly accelerate gauge widening from excess material removal. Stick to the specified angles and depths.

Troubleshooting Chainsaw Chain Gauge Issues

If you’re experiencing performance problems, gauge mis-match could be the culprit. Here are some troubleshooting tips:

Signs of an Incorrect Chain Gauge

  • Excessive vibration, jerking, or chain derailment
  • Accelerated bar and chain wear from slop or binding
  • Reduced cutting speed and bogging of the engine
  • Frequent chain tension adjustments needed

How to Fix Gauge-Related Issues

If your chainsaw experiences any gauge-related problems:

  • Measure the existing chain pitch and gauge
  • Cross-reference the saw specifications
  • Obtain a replacement chain with the correct gauge
  • Check guide bar wear and replace if groove is widened
  • Ensure sharpening tools match chain gauge
  • Reset chain tension

Following these steps will get your saw cutting like new again.


Matching your chainsaw chain gauge precisely results in smooth cutting, prevents unnecessary wear, and improves safety. Take time to measure your existing chain, cross-check your saw’s specifications, and select quality replacement chains designed for your model. Keeping the drive links within factory tolerances enhances performance and allows you to get the job done efficiently. With this comprehensive guide, you now have the knowledge to determine the optimal gauge for your needs.

Frequently Asked Questions

Still have some lingering questions about chainsaw chain gauge selection? Here are answers to some of the most common queries:

Can I Use a Different Gauge Chain on My Chainsaw?

It’s not recommended. Using an improperly matched gauge risks accelerated wear, chain derailment, vibration, and poor cutting. Always match your replacement gauge to the manufacturer specs.

How Do I Know if My Chainsaw Chain is Worn Out?

Inspect the drive links periodically. If they are stretched or exceed .020″ thinner than the original gauge, it’s time to replace. Thin gauge causes binding and poor performance.

What is the Difference Between Low-profile and Standard Chainsaw Chains?

Low profile chains have shorter cutter height for faster chain speed on smaller saws. Standard full-size chains have deeper cutters and higher torque for heavy duty cutting.

How Often Should I Replace My Chainsaw Chain?

With proper tensioning and sharpening, most chains can last several years for occasional users. Professionals should replace after 100-200 hours of use as gauge thickness reduces.

Can I Sharpen My Chainsaw Chain Myself, or Should I Take it to a Professional?

With the right tools, most home users can successfully sharpen their own chain. Ensure the file gauge and angles match your chain. Professionals can accurately resharpen even severely worn chains.

How Can I Extend the Life of My Chainsaw Chain?

Maintain proper tension, keep out of dirt, periodically gauge thickness, sharpen before excessive dulling, and match pitch, gauge and cutter angles during replacement. Proper use and care will get the most life from your chain.

What Safety Precautions Should I Take When Working With Chainsaw Chains?

Always wear protective gear when handling chains. Carry the saw with the guide bar pointed away. Disconnect the spark plug before changing chains. Use secure clamps to hold the bar during maintenance. Shut off and cool saws before any work.

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