Semi Chisel vs Full Chisel – Which Should I Choose?


If you’re using a chainsaw to cut wood, it’s essential to make sure you use the correct type of chain.  Fortunately, deciding whether to use a full or semi-chisel vs. a full chisel is not as challenging as it seems. This article will explain the differences between the two chain types and when you should use each one.  

Differences Between Semi-Chisel and Full Chisel Chains

While the distinctions are subtle, they significantly impact how the wood looks after you’ve cut it. 

A semi-chisel chain


The best way to tell the two chain types apart is by looking at the shape of the cutting teeth. Semi-chisel teeth are pretty rounded and have a much more consistent curvature. Complete chisel-cutting teeth are square and sharp.

Cutting efficiency

When it comes to cutting efficiency, complete chisel chains are the best. Not only do they cut through wood faster than full chisels, but they also cut through much more rigid and thicker wood while maintaining efficiency.


Semi-chisel chains have gradual, curved cutting teeth. For some purposes, this is better, but in terms of sharpness, it’s an apparent downside. Complete chisel-cutting teeth are much sharper due to their sharp corners.


Kickback occurs when a chainsaw cannot cut through a piece of wood, suddenly causing it to jolt upwards. It is hazardous and is a leading cause of injuries. Semi-chisel chains are much less sensitive and aggressive than full chisels, so the risk of kickback is lower.


Semi-chisel chains tend to be used for dirty, soft, or frozen wood. They’re also used for small pieces in the backyard or around the farm. Full chisels are better for thick slices of hard, dry wood.


Semi-chisel cutters are the cheapest due to their blunter design and higher durability. They also require much less frequent replacements than full chisels, making them more affordable in the long term.

A full chisel chain

A full chisel chain

When Should I Use Semi-Chisel Over Full Chisel?

If you are new to operating chainsaws, it’s recommended to stick with a semi-chisel as they’re much less aggressive and have a lower risk of kickback. In turn, this makes them a much safer option. If you’re an experienced arborist or have been using chainsaws for a while, it may be okay to consider a complete chisel chain.

Another thing to determine is the type of wood you plan to be cutting. For cutting down big trees, a semi-chisel may not be compelling enough. For soft and dirty woods that can find around the garden or farm, a semi-chisel will probably do the trick.

Cutting a big tree trunk with a chainsaw

Cutting a big tree trunk with a chainsaw

The final important consideration is how clean and professional your cuts must be. There’s probably no need for high-quality cuts for firewood or removing a dead tree, so a semi-chisel is ideal. If the amount is on display, the sharp teeth of a full chisel will result in a much more excellent finish.

Semi-chisel chain being used to cut firewood

Semi-chisel chain being used to cut firewood


In this article, you’ve learned some critical differences between semi-chisel and complete chisel chains and when to use each type. If you want to expand your knowledge of chainsaws, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

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