Are Chainsaw Bars Interchangeable: Understanding Chain Saw Bar Types & Interchangeability


Are Chainsaw Bars Interchangeable? Do you own a chainsaw and wonder if you can use one bar on many different models? 

Chainsaw bars work with different chains, the most common being low-profile, narrow-kerf, and ripping chains. But are chainsaw bars interchangeable?

Chainsaw bars are not interchangeable. Each chainsaw bar works with a chain type and comes with a different mount type. 

However, you may find chainsaw bars with similar mount types, which may be interchangeable. 

Here, we will discuss different chainsaw bars types, differences, and universality so that you can make an informed decision when selecting the right one for your saw.

Table of Contents

Are Chainsaw Chains Universal?

Chainsaw chains come in different sizes. As a result, they are not universal. In other words, you cannot use one chain for different chainsaws and blades.

Regarding size, chainsaws differ by gauge, drive links, and pitch.  The pitch and gauge have inch measurements, while the drive link count is a single number. For example, here’s a typical chainsaw chain size specification:

  • Gauge: 0.050 inches
  • Drive links: 60 
  • Pitch: 0.375 inches

If a particular chainsaw or blade requires a chain with the above specification, using any other will not work. Worse, it could lead to accidents.

However, you can interchange chainsaw chains of different brands so long as they conform to the same size specification.

Closeview of chainsaw chain

[Closeview of chainsaw chain]

Understanding How Chains Differ Between Chainsaw Types?

As stated, one chain won’t work for different chainsaws. Here’s how it differs across the different chainsaw types.

Electric Chainsaws

Electric chainsaws are popular for home use. They are relatively less powerful than their gas-powered counterparts. For this reason, electric chainsaws usually use shorter and lighter bars and chains.

Selecting a suitable chain for an electric chainsaw should be simple. The chain manufacturer will particularly mention if a chain is for an electric chainsaw.

Sharpening a chainsaw chain

[Sharpening a chainsaw chain]

Gas-Powered Chainsaws

Gas-powered chainsaws are, by default, the go-to for more demanding tasks. So, these chainsaws do not use lightweight chains. On the contrary, they require robust chains that handle their high-power motor.

However, gas-powered chains still come in different model sizes. You must consider the chainsaw model when purchasing a chain.

Length and Pitch Measurement

Whether you own an electric or gas-powered chainsaw, you can identify the chain type by measuring length and pitch. Details on the length and pitch measurements will be on the front of the chainsaw bar, along with other specifications.

It is an ideal option if you have a new chainsaw. If you own an old one, it’s unlikely the details on the chainsaw bar will still be visible.

What are the Specialized Chains Available for Chainsaws?

There are regular chainsaw chains, and there are special chainsaw chains. Your chainsaw may require the latter, and they include:

Ripping Chains

Ripping chains are high-cost chainsaw chains. They are unique because they cut at a lower angle. So, unlike other chain types that cut against the wood’s grain, ripping chains produce a cleaner a

Narrow Kerf Chains

Narrow Kerf chains have narrow blades and, consequently, produce narrow cuts. They are suitable for low-power chain saws and electric chainsaws.

Narrow Kerf chains are similar to low-profile chains. However, Narrow Kerf chains are safer to use with a kickback design.

What Types of Cutters are Available for Chainsaw Chains?

Another way to differentiate chainsaws cr the type of cutter they feature. There are two main cutter types, including:

Full Chisel Chains

Full-chisel chains are the sturdiest of chainsaw chains. These chains are typically square-shaped with sharply pointed cutters. They are perfect for power-demanding jobs as they glide through wood with ease.  

Semi Chisel Chains

Semi-chisel chains are a step below full-chisel chains. While full-chisel chains are square-shaped, semi-chisel chains are circular and rounded. Their advantage is that they stay sharper for longer.

Closeview of chainsaw chain

[Closeview of chainsaw chain]

What Materials Are Chains Composed Of?

Chainsaw chains further differ by material. Most chains you’ll come across will have chrome, carbide, or diamond tips. 

Chrome Tips

Chains with chrome tips suit regular, soft cutting – like lumbering wood. Due to this, they are common and cost-friendly. Notably, chrome tips are present in both full and semi-chisel chainsaw chains. 

Chainsaw chain

[Chainsaw chain]

Carbide Tips

Carbide-tipped chains are relatively more robust and more reliable than chrome-tipped ones. You need a carbide-tipped chain if your cutting task dulls your chrome-tipped chain.

Due to their efficient performance, this chain type is expensive. But not as expensive as the ultimate chain material type – diamond tips.

Diamond Tips

Chains with diamond tips are for specialized jobs. They are not for cutting wood but concrete, stone, and rocks. You may only have use for this type of chain if you do professional work.

If you do, ensure you only use it with chainsaws and bars to cut through harder surfaces like stone.

How To Choose the Right Chainsaw Bars and Chains

Since chainsaw bars are not interchangeable and chains are not universal, choosing the right one becomes critical. Here are some tips to follow:

Use the Existing Chain

When you purchase a chainsaw, it comes with a native chain. You can always use this existing chain to determine what type and size of chain and bar you need. All you need to do is measure the chain pitch and gauge and compare it with what’s in the stores.

Sharpening chainsaw chain while attached to the bar

[Sharpening chainsaw chain while attached to the bar]

Use the Guide Bar Stamp

Manufacturers display details on a stamp on the chainsaw’s guide bar. The chain assembly’s size, pitch, gauge, and drive links are among the details of the chain assembly.

With this info, you have all you need to purchase the right bars and chains for your chainsaw.

Use the Box

Your chainsaw or previous bar or chain purchase box is still available. If that’s the case, then you should consult it. The box will usually feature the measurement details of the bar or chain. 

Use the Chain Markings

You can know what type of chain you need to buy from the chain’s drive links. Drive links typically come with marking, among which numbers specify the chain sizes.

Even if it’s an old chain, the numbers should still be visible as they are markings.

Measure It Manually

Who says you can’t go traditional, grab a ruler, and measure the dimensions of your chain? The chain’s pitch, gauge, and drive links are manually measurable.

In truth, the manual measurement may not be a hundred percent accurate. But they are good estimates to guide you.

Measuring pitch of chainsaw chain

[Measuring pitch of chainsaw chain]

Other Chain Features To Consider

Finally, other chain features may help you pick the right type. These include the cutter type, material, chain sequence, and other special additions. For example, purchasing a chrome chain will be a mistake if your chain material is carbide.


Chainsaw bars are not interchangeable, and neither are the chains universal. They differ in many ways, including material, cutter type, and cutting angle. Choosing the right bar and chain would be best depending on your chainsaw type and cutting tasks. 

Need a buying guide?