What Is a Chain Gauge?


With the advancement of technology comes modernization and improvement of different mechanical tools. Without any proper direction or guide on how to use these tools, the user could obtain severe damages, or it could lead to inefficiency in performance.

Below, you will find tips that will guide you on using a chain gauge and some of the procedures applied in setting up a Chain gauge on your chain saw.

What is a Chain Gauge?

The chain gauge is the drive link’s thickness, where it fits into the guide bar groove, and how it matches the guide bar gauge. It is essential for the gauge of the chain and the gauge of the bar to match.

Normal wear can make it challenging to measure chain gauge on a worn chain accurately. Always order by the number stamped on the drive link of your old chain to assure the correct gauge.

How to Measure Chain Gauge?

  • You should know that the gauge of a chain refers to the thickness of its drive links. You can determine the thickness of a chainsaw gauge by measuring the part of the driver’s link that matches the size of the guide bar’s groove. It is usually expressed in thousandths of an inch: .050” or .063”.
  • A chain gauge measurement informs an expert about the strength of a chain’s drive links. Thicker drive links are usually more substantial, but they weigh more. The weight of a chain gauge influences the performance of chainsaws, especially when speed is concerned.
  • The weight of a chain gauge should be as small as possible.
  • Several years ago, .063” was the most popular type of chain gauge, but today, the trend is shifting toward .050”. Although .058” is popular in countries like Germany and Russia, it is not as popular in the Pacific Northwest.

Things to Note When Setting Up a Chain Gauge

  1. Firstly, you need to check the calibration by closing the slide fully and reading from the ‘Percentage Wear’ window. If the arrow moves into the +/- zones, the gauge will not give an accurate measurement, so it’s best to check your calibration. Similarly, if the ‘V’ jaws are damages, the instrument may also not perform accurately.
  2. Align the blue arrows with the pins’ center on one of the outer link plates. Depending on the ease of access, one pair of indicators will be more suitable than the other. The little pitch will appear in the ‘Pitch’ window. The number of pins ‘n’ that the chain is to be measured over will appear in the ‘Measure over pins’ window.
  3. You need to select the correct scale according to pitch sizes.
  4. The Chains should be cleaned and measured in situ while placed under approximately 1% of the minimum breaking load. If a set of check weights is not available, it is sufficient for chains to be tensions by the carriage and forks’ value.
  5. Identify the chain section that regularly runs over the pulley as this part of the chain is most susceptible to wear.
  6. Take your measurements in at least three separate locations in this section. Place one ‘V’ jaw of the instrument over the first pin of the selected areas and then extend the slide until the other ‘V’ jaw reaches the pin specified in step 2.
  7. Lastly, check the ‘Percentage Wear’ window. A percentage will appear in 0.25% or in 1/4 increments. If the chain has stretched by 2% or more, the warning window will turn red; take the steps necessary to prevent damages.
  8. Keep the instrument free of oil and grease.
  9. Wipe it after use and store in the case provided.
  10. Do not expose the gauge too high temperature where it may warp and lose accuracy.

Different Chain Saw to Use when Using a Chain Gauge

When choosing the right gauge for a chain saw, there is a lot to consider. Below you will find some of the most popular options in the market today. We’ll first discuss the different kinds of chain teeth available, and then follow up with the different types of chains available.

Semi Chisel Cutters

One of the most popular kinds of teeth for chainsaw chains is semi-chisel cutters. It is the most common chain saw available in today’s market. You can easily find it resting in a tool shed or someone’s toolbox.

Naturally, the design of a semi-chisel cutter possesses a round grind edge. This design allows sharpening the tool to be so much easier and faster. While chisel cutters cut slower than full chisel teeth, its circular feature enables it to stay sharper for more extended periods, even when used on hardwood or gritty conditions.

Because they retain their sharpness very well and are very forgiving when it comes to sharpening inaccuracies, they are the perfect all-around chain and are great for softwoods or demanding situations.

One of the most popular kinds of semi-chisel chains on the market is the low profile cutter.

These chains feature the same rounded edge as a semi-chisel chain and are very easy to use, install, and file.

Full Chisel Cutters

These teeth are similar to semi-chisel models but feature a square edge and round grind profiles. They’re the sharpest teeth around, and the square edge tears through hardwood quickly and easily. The downside to full chisel teeth is that the edges grow dull reasonably quickly.

The fast dulling teeth feature makes them a low option for extended, heavy-duty cutting or tackling dirty wood since debris will only cause the teeth to wear down even faster. If you have decided which kind of tooth you need for your chain, the next thing to consider is the type of chain that’s right for your needs.

Standard Saw Chain

A standard saw chain, also known as a full house chainsaw chain, cuts through wood with impressively smooth performance. These chains are perfect for cutting timber used for construction since they make relatively smooth planks and are regulars on most guide bars that measure less than 24″ in length.

Full Skip Saw Chain

A full skip chainsaw chain design has fewer teeth than any of its counterparts. One can find full skip chains on many chainsaws measuring over 24″ in length. They also require less sharpening time since the design has fewer teeth, which take large bites out of wood for quick and aggressive performance.

The time conserving advantage of full skip makes them perfect for tackling large projects that don’t require smooth results. The disadvantage of full skip chainsaw chains is that they leave rough edges, and since they cut through the wood so quickly, they have a greater tendency to kickback or bounce on the user.

Semi Skip Chainsaw Chain

You can think of the semi skip chain as a hybrid of standard and full skip chain. Semi skip has more teeth that a complete skip model but still cuts faster than a standard chain.

Its many teeth make it perfect for anyone searching for an ideal balance between speed and smoothness. The catch is that you can only find these chains on square chisel cutters.

When to Replace a Chainsaw Chain

  • Teeth are broken or worn unevenly.
  • Issues with Chain Tension.
  • Smoke is present when cutting.
  • Sawdust, rather than coarse chips, are left behind.
  • Chainsaw feels unbalanced, cuts unevenly, or rattles when in use.


A chain gauge is a valuable part of every chain saw. Although small and unpopular, your chain saw can either obtain injuries or give you some without the appropriate chain gauge.