Skip Tooth vs Ripping Chain: A Comprehensive Comparison

Skip Tooth vs Ripping Chain: A Comprehensive Comparison

As a chainsaw user, selecting the right chain for your saw is crucial for efficient and safe cutting. Two of the most common chain types are skip tooth and ripping chains, each designed for different purposes. In this article, I’ll provide a detailed comparison of skip tooth and ripping chains to help you determine which is better suited for your needs.

I’ll start by defining each chain variety and its intended use. Next, I’ll go over the advantages and disadvantages of both. I’ll then discuss important factors to consider when deciding between skip tooth and ripping chain, like your chainsaw’s specifications and the type of cutting you need to do. Later, I’ll offer tips on choosing compatible chains for your model, proper chain maintenance, and using each chain safely and effectively. Finally, I’ll answer some frequently asked questions about these two popular chain types.

Whether you’re milling lumber, felling trees, or just cutting firewood, understanding the differences between skip tooth and ripping chain is key to getting the best performance from your chainsaw. With the right chain, you’ll saw faster, cleaner, and with less wear and tear on your bar and engine. So let’s dive in and unlock the full potential of your chainsaw!

Skip Tooth vs Ripping Chain: What’s the Difference?

Skip Tooth vs Ripping Chain: A Comprehensive Comparison

Here are some differences between skip tooth vs ripping chain-

Definition and Purpose

A skip tooth chain has alternating long and short cutter links around the chain loop. The longer cutters extend further from the bar and do more of the cutting work. Meanwhile, the shorter intermediate links help clear sawdust and wood chips from the cut line. This alternating pattern creates a wider kerf than a standard full comp cutter chain.

In contrast, a ripping chain has cutters designed specifically for ripping lumber along the wood grain. All of the cutter teeth are uniform in shape and size. Ripping chains have a low profile along the top plate that allows them to shave thick, controlled cuts rather than chomping chunks. Specialized sharpening angles also improve cutting action in the direction of the grain.

So in summary, skip tooth chains excel at quickly cutting across the grain in dirty conditions. Ripping chains cut slower but with precision control along the grain, making them ideal for milling lumber.

Advantages and Disadvantages

Skip tooth chains offer several benefits that make them a popular crosscutting chain:

  • The longer cutters aggressively attack wood for faster cutting speed. This works great across the grain.
  • The shorter intermediate links clear away sawdust, keeping the chain from getting bogged down in dirty cutting conditions.
  • Wider kerf means less friction against the bar, reducing wear and improving durability.
  • Skip tooth chains stay sharp longer since only the longer cutters do most of the work.

However, skip tooth chains also come with some downsides:

  • Not ideal for ripping cuts or milling lumber along the grain.
  • Wider kerf wastes more wood compared to ripping chains.
  • More prone to kickback since longer cutters are more aggressive. Need to use proper precautions.
  • Not as precise or clean of a cut compared to ripping chains.

In contrast, ripping chains provide these advantages:

  • Specialized cutters slice timber precisely and efficiently along the wood grain.
  • Narrow kerf wastes less material and gives smoother milled lumber.
  • Low cutter profile minimizes kickback risks.
  • Uniform cutter size and shape make for consistent performance.

But ripping chains also have some limitations:

  • Slow cutting speed compared to skip tooth chains.
  • Prone to getting gummed up without relieved links to clear debris.
  • Uniform cutters wear down at the same rate, shortening chain life.
  • Not optimized for dirty crosscutting across grain.

So in choosing between these two chainsaw chain varieties, you have to balance the trade-offs based on how you plan to use your saw. Next, we’ll go over some key factors to help guide your decision.

Factors to Consider When Choosing a Chain

Here are some of the factors to consider when choosing a chain-

Chainsaw Power and Bar Length

One rule of thumb is that more powerful chainsaws should use more aggressive chains, while less powerful saws pair better with more conservative chains. Skip tooth chains are generally more aggressive due to the longer cutter teeth that take bigger bites from the wood. Meanwhile, ripping chains cut in a more controlled, precise manner.

So for professional-grade chainsaws over 50cc, skip tooth chains are a great match to take advantage of the extra motor muscle. But on mid-size and compact chainsaws, a ripping chain prevents overloading the engine while still delivering smooth performance.

The length of the chainsaw bar also plays a role. Longer bars need more power to drive the chain efficiently. So skip tooth chains complement longer bars by requiring less effort to sever wood. Just make sure your chainsaw has the grunt to handle a 20″ or greater bar with an aggressive chain.

Cutting Requirements

The most important factor in choosing between skip tooth and ripping chain is assessing the type of cutting you need to perform.

Skip tooth chains excel at dirty crosscutting jobs where speed is key. For example, they make quick work of cutting through knotty hardwood or severing limbs embedded in dirt and soil. Skip tooth chains stay sharp longer in gritty conditions too.

Meanwhile, ripping chains are purpose-built for the controlled cuts needed when milling lumber. The narrow kerf wastes less of the valuable wood. And the smooth, even cutting action slices boards and beams nicely along the grain.

So if you regularly mill lumber from felled trees, a ripping chain is the obvious choice. But if you just need a fast-cutting chain for storm cleanup or firewood cutting, skip tooth has the advantage. Consider what you’ll be cutting most when deciding between these two chain types.

How to Choose the Right Chain for Your Chainsaw

To choose the right chain for your chainsaw, consider three crucial parameters: the length of the guide bar (in inches), the drive link gauge (in millimeters), and the pitch (a combination of imperial and metric measurements).

Chainsaw Compatibility

While the cutting application should guide your choice of skip tooth or ripping chain, you also need to select a chain that fits your particular chainsaw model. Here are some tips for finding a compatible replacement chain:

  • Match the chain pitch – this is the distance between rivets, usually 3/8″ or .325″
  • Match the gauge – the thickness of drive links, typically .050″, .058″, or .063″
  • Match bar length – chain loops come in specific sizes to fit bars
  • Check chain direction – some saws require directional chains
  • Review chainsaw manual for chain specifics
  • Consult with staff at chainsaw dealerships

Taking the time to find the right spec chain for your chainsaw ensures optimum performance and avoids premature wear from mismatched components.

Chain Maintenance and Sharpening

Both skip tooth and ripping chains require regular sharpening to keep cutters keen. This also maintains the correct cutter angles designed for each chain’s purpose.

Skip tooth chains can go a bit longer between sharpenings since only the longer cutter teeth take the brunt of the work. Maintain the hooked shape of these cutters when filing.

Ripping chains should be sharpened more frequently to keep all the uniform cutters in top condition. Be careful not to alter the specialized low angle of ripping cutters during filing.

Cleaning chains regularly in solvent removes damaging pitch, sap, and residue buildup. Lubricating with quality chain bar oil prevents rust and wear too. Take care of your chains and they’ll take care of you!

Tips for Using Skip Tooth and Ripping Chains

Here are some tips for the same-

Safety Precautions

Any chainsaw chain can be dangerous if not used properly. Here are some key safety tips:

  • Wear protective chaps, gloves, boots, and eyewear when running a chainsaw
  • Keep tip of the bar away from your body and beware of kickback
  • Ensure solid, kickback-free footing before starting a cut
  • Maintain control but don’t force the saw when cutting
  • Pay attention to shifts in weight that can affect blade angle
  • Make sure chain brake is functional, and learn how to activate it

The right chainsaw chain for the task minimizes kickback risks. But always operate your saw cautiously to prevent injuries.

Milling and Cutting Techniques

Here are some tips to get the most from your chains and chainsaw when cutting:

  • For milling lumber, start the back cut first to avoid pinching the bar
  • Move the chainsaw steadily and smoothly through the cut to stay on line
  • Let the ripping chain do the work – don’t force the saw when milling
  • For crosscutting, use a boring cut to establish a notch, then finish from the top side
  • Keep the saw chassis straight and square to the cutting plane
  • Apply consistent down pressure when crosscutting to maintain bar angle

With practice, you’ll get a feel for making the most efficient cuts for each chain variety. Stay safe while maximizing your saw’s potential!

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I use a skip tooth chain for milling?

It’s not recommended to use skip tooth chain for milling lumber. The wide kerf of skip tooth chains wastes valuable wood, and the long cutters lack the precision needed for ripping smooth planks. Stick with purpose-built ripping chain for milling.

Is there a hybrid chain that combines the features of skip tooth and ripping chains?

Some chainsaw users do customize standard chains by selectively removing certain cutter teeth to create a makeshift skip tooth-style pattern. However, hybrid chains aren’t commonly available. Most chains fall distinctly into either the skip tooth or ripping chain category.

How do I know when to replace my chainsaw chain?

Signs like cutting slowly, producing sawdust instead of chips, or seeing visible wear on cutters indicate a chain is dull and ready for replacement. Chains stretched beyond 1/4″ at the sprocket also require changing. And if chain jumps the bar or lacks tension, it likely needs to be retired.

Can I use a ripping chain for cross-cutting?

While possible, ripping chains are not optimized for cross-grain cuts. Their controlled cutting action tends to bog down in knotty or dirty wood. Stick with a skip tooth chain for aggressive cross-cutting performance.

What is the difference between full chisel and semi chisel chainsaw chains?

Full chisel chains have flat-topped cutters designed to aggressively sever wood for fast cutting. Semi chisel chains have beveled cutters that slice more smoothly with reduced kickback risks. Full chisel chains stay sharp marginally longer.

What is the difference between full skip, semi skip, and standard chains?

Full skip chains have pronounced long and short cutters for fast dirty cuts. Semi skip chains have a mix of longer and standard cutters for a compromise between speed and smoothness. Standard chains have uniform length cutters in a traditional pattern.

How do I sharpen a chainsaw chain?

Use a round file of the right diameter for your chain. Clamp guide to correct file angle and file cutters evenly until sharp. Follow with a depth gauge tool to maintain proper height relative to cutters. Round off sharp corners and clean filings when finished.


Whether you’re an arborist, construction worker, or backyard lumberjack, understanding the differences between ripping and skip tooth chainsaw chain empowers you to match the right chain to your saw and cutting tasks. Skip tooth chains drive fast crosscuts while ripping varieties excel at smoothly milling timber. Keep safety foremost while picking the ideal chain to maximize your sawing productivity. Your chainsaw has untapped potential just waiting to be uncorked by the perfect chain.

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