Whether you need to order replace chainsaw parts or are looking to pick up a new chainsaw with a specific bar length, you might at some point need to take measurements to determine the right tool, blade, or chain for your given model. Like most tools, chainsaw components are simple enough to measure when you know the right points to measure between.
In this article, I’ll guide you through how to measure a chainsaw bar, covering everything you need down to the exact measurement points and size guides.
What Is Chainsaw Bar Length?
The chainsaw bar is the main component of the device. It consists of a flat metal bar with a rounded end encompassed by the chain. Standard bars range between 8 and 24 inches. To find out the exact length, you might have to get out your tape measure and take precise measurements yourself.
Bar length varies based on the tool’s purpose and the overall size of the device. Different bar lengths will allow you to complete various tasks and may accommodate different chain sizes, too.
Chainsaw Blade Bar
A chainsaw’s blade bar is the part that holds the chain in place. The blade itself is not the component that does the cutting but rather the part that guides the chain to cut. You can purchase either a standard or carving bar, depending on your needs. Either way, each bar comes with some components you’ll want to note before taking your measurements. These parts include:
- The tail
- The mounting slot
- Bar rails
- The nose (also known as the tip)
- The nose sprocket
Your bar blade may seem lengthy, but when you go to measure it directly, you’ll find that the length you see is not the measurement you’ll get. Instead, you must take the measurement of the cutting length rather than the full device length. This means you will not include the nose, mounting slot, nose sprocket, or tail when taking measurements.
What Is A Chainsaw Bar Measurement?
This measurement, as mentioned previously, is not the length of the device itself but the cutting length. Measuring the chainsaw in its entirety will not give you an accurate cutting length because you will have non-working pieces factored into your measurements.
Measure the cutting length instead to get an accurate reading of the bar’s usable length. The cutting length is the amount of bar that sticks out from the chainsaw’s hub. This length is the chainsaw part that moves and cuts.
How to Measure Chainsaw Bar Length
For a standard chainsaw, you can expect the cutting length to be between 14 and 30 inches. Keep these numbers in mind while you measure. If you own a standard chainsaw and get a number far off from the average, you probably didn’t measure correctly. But, before you get to that point, conduct the following steps to measure your chainsaw bar:
Setting Up – Safety First
Before you begin measuring, designate a flat, even surface to work. Set the chainsaw on it and ensure that you power off the chainsaw to prevent any possibility of the tool turning on accidentally.
Once you’ve assured your safety, you’ll need to grab hold of a tape measure.
Measure From the Nose to the Mounting Slot
To measure the cutting bar length, take the tape measure and start near the bar’s mounting slot where the chain bar meets the chainsaw body. Run the tape measure from the chainsaw body along the length of the bar blade out to the end of the blade nose.
This is the length of your chainsaw bar blade if purchasing a replacement bar.
If you find that your bar length is not a round number, you will need to round the length up to the nearest inch. For example, a bar that measures 19 1/2 inches will actually be a 20-inch bar.
Full Length Measurement
If you don’t want the cutting length measurement but the actual full length bar measurement, you will need to measure from the tip all the way to the bar’s tail end. To do this, you need to remove the bar from the chainsaw handle.
Unscrew the bolts at the blade’s base. Remember: this step is only necessary when measuring the bar’s full length and is unnecessary for cutting length measurements.
In this case, you do not need to round the measurement up when measuring the full bar length.
How To Measure A Chainsaw Chain
Measuring a chainsaw chain is a bit more complicated than measuring a blade bar. Instead of unhooking the chain and using a tape measure to gauge the length, you have to take measurements of the chain pitch and gauge.
I recommend looking at your chainsaw and its user manual first. You might find listed measurements for the chain. However, these listed numbers may also be hard to find, rubbed off, or printed too small to read. If so, you’ll need to measure the chain yourself.
Measuring the chain is easiest if you remove it from the chainsaw completely. Once off, you can lay it flat on a surface or maneuver it in your hands as needed to figure out the measurements for the pitch.
Ultimately, there are two factors to consider when figuring out your chainsaw’s chain size: its length and depth. Both factors determine whether or not the chain is suitable for a specific tool. If the chain is too long, it will not fit tightly enough around the bar. Similarly, if the chain isn’t long enough, it won’t fit around the bar.
You also need to figure out the chain gauge and pitch measurement, as these will determine whether or not the chain can affix to the bar regardless of length.
You can liken the chain gauge to chain thickness. More specifically, the gauge is the thickness of the groove where the chain fits the chainsaw blade bar. You can’t use a tape measure to figure out this size because the measurement will be too small. According to Bob Vila, however, you can easily determine a chain’s gauge with some spare change.
Compare the chain’s groove width to either a dime, penny, or quarter. A quarter equals a .063-inch gauge, a penny equals a .058-inch gauge, and a dime measures a .050-inch gauge. Whichever your chain groove looks closest to gives you your estimated gauge.
If you don’t want to spend time estimating your chain gauge or have a hard time comparing it to the coins, you can reference the chart below for estimated measurements:
|⅜”||.050”/1.3mm, .043”/1.1mm, or .058”/1.5mm|
The chain pitch is the distance between the links on the chain. You will notice the circular divots that follow along the length of the chain. Three of these together divided in half equals the pitch.
You can measure this by lying the chain flat on a surface and straightening it out into a line. Align the chain with your tape measure, paying close attention to the links. Line up three links with the measurements noted on the tape measure, and then divide that number in half.
It’s important to note that, when taking this measurement, you should line up the markers on the tape measure with the center of the links.
Pitch sizes include the following measurements: ¼”, .325”, ⅜,” and .404”. The ⅜-inch pitch is the most common.
It’s best to keep these measurements in mind when measuring. If you get a number close to one of the previously mentioned measurements, round to that number for accuracy.
How To Put A Chain On A Chainsaw
You don’t need to hire a professional to have a chainsaw chain measured and reinstalled. You can do it yourself with relative ease. Whether you’ve removed the chain to take measurements or have a replacement chain you want to install, you can follow these steps to do so correctly.
1. Remove The Side Plate
If you’re starting with the chain off, you don’t need to worry about this step because you should have already removed the side plate. If you are not, remove the side plate from the chainsaw. Taking this piece off will give you access to the tool’s tension screw and other main components.
2. Release The Tension Screw
At the base of your chainsaw, you’ll find the tension screw. This screw is what keeps the chain tight and secure around the bar blade. Use a screwdriver to relieve some pressure. In doing so, you give yourself more room to fix the chain instead of having to strain to fit the chain back on the blade.
Do not loosen it all the way, though, because you might lose the screw or loosen the blade too much to provide stability for the chain.
3. Thread The Chain
Very carefully, take the chain and thread it on the blade bar. The edge of the blade bar is sharp, and the chain tips can be sharp, too, so it’s best to take your time during this step. Attach the chain to the device starting at the base.
Affix the chain around the clutch drum — the feature at the base of the bar. Make sure that the drive links hook into the mount sprocket securely as you thread. From there, you can work the chain up and around the blade’s nose.
4. Align The Blade Bar
Since you’ve loosened the tension screw, the chain should hang slightly off of the bar. Lightly pull the bar from the nose outward to apply some tension. In doing so, the chain should fit more snugly on the blade bar. During this step, make sure that the bar fits onto the adjustment pin to ensure correct alignment.
5. Replace The Side Plate
Once you’ve aligned the blade bar and affixed the chain, you can replace the side plate. Replacing the side plate will cover up the exposed blade bar area and provide stability to the chainsaw. Screw in the bolts to attach them but be careful not to secure them fully, keeping some wiggle room.
6. Tighten the Tension Screw
After completing the previous steps and double-checking that you’ve attached the chain correctly, you can tighten the tension screw back to its original state. Tightening this screw will secure the chain to the blade bar.
7. Tighten The Side Plate
Finally, you can secure the bolts on the side plate completely. In doing so, you complete the chain replacement and can use the chainsaw as intended.
What Size Chainsaw Do I Need?
Before starting any project that requires a chainsaw, you will need to figure out the size best suited to the task. Instead of buying a standard chainsaw, consider the size of the chainsaw as it relates to the various tasks you can complete. This will help you make the best decision for your wallet and safety.
Smaller chainsaws range between 6 and 10 inches. These chainsaws are best for small, less complex jobs, such as pruning bushes or shaving off small branches.
Since the branches you’ll deal with during these projects only amount to a couple of inches thick, give or take some inches, you won’t need an extremely long or powerful chainsaw to get the job done. In fact, you might not even need a chainsaw at all.
Medium chainsaws measure between 12 and 16 inches. Chainsaws of this size are best for larger, more intensive tasks, such as cutting small trees or cutting logs for firewood. If you plan to cut logs, you’ll more than likely need to lean toward the larger end of the spectrum, depending on the wood’s thickness. The same goes for cutting small trees. Either way, make sure you scope out the wood’s depth beforehand to make sure you size your chainsaw correctly.
Otherwise known as a standard chainsaw, a typical large-scale chainsaw measures between 16 and 18 inches. These chainsaws can handle more intensive projects with their large size, including cutting down medium-sized trees of adequate thickness.
For even more complex tasks, you may want to purchase an extra-large chainsaw. These devices measure a minimum of 20 inches. They allow you to cut through trees in one fell swoop.
However, before purchasing one of these chainsaws to tackle large tree removal, you might want to consider hiring a professional first as they are more equipped to handle the task.
When To Replace Chainsaw Chain
Depending on how much you use your chainsaw, the chain should last anywhere between five years to a couple of decades. However, it’s best to know the signs to replace the change before it’s time. Look out for the following signs to gauge when you need to replace your chain.
Debris Thickness And Texture
One sign that your chainsaw’s chain needs replacing involves looking at the threads it produces during use. If you use the tool and notice fine, sawdust-like debris plumes, you probably need a new chain. A chainsaw should produce larger, more noticeable rough threads during use.
If you notice sawdust, your chainsaw is likely acting more like a sander than as it’s intended.
Another sign that you may need to replace your chain is if your cuts are not accurate. It’s probably fine if this happens occasionally, but if you continually make inaccurate cuts, it’s more than likely because your chain needs replacing.
Going hand in hand with the device’s cutting precision is its pull. If you notice during use that the device pulls in one direction — resulting in crooked cuts — you need to replace the chain.
Every now and then, you should check your chain’s teeth to gauge their condition. This sign is especially vital to pay attention to if you use your chainsaw to tackle tough materials. Damaged chain teeth will not be sharp and might be missing tips.
In this case, you will need to replace the chain sooner rather than later because the teeth play the most crucial role during use.
As you use your chainsaw, you may notice how turning the machine on creates a natural pull. If you use your chainsaw and see that the effect is lagging or find yourself exerting more pressure than usual, it’s a good idea to consider replacing the chain.
Smoking is more often than not a bad sign when it comes to electronic or motorized devices. If your chainsaw starts smoking while you use it, you might want to consider replacing the chain or taking your device to a professional to look at.
This might not be cause for alarm if you recently lubricated your chainsaw and the chain is fairly new. If that does not apply to you, then you should look to the chain as the cause.
Chainsaw Sharpening File
Sometimes, when using your chainsaw, the chain’s teeth will dull after continued use. If you notice signs of haggard teeth, you don’t always have to completely replace the chain. You will only need to replace the entire chain if the teeth are irreparably damaged. Instead, if the teeth look a little dull, you can purchase a chainsaw sharpening file to brighten them up.
However, much like how your chainsaw size needs to fit the task at hand, the chainsaw sharpening file needs to accommodate your chainsaw size. If you have a small chainsaw with a thin chain, having a large sharpening file will not work to sharpen the teeth correctly.
File Size Chart
Use the chart below to gauge the size of the sharpening file you’ll need to fit your chainsaw size.
|Pitch||Gauge||Sharpening File Size|
|⅜”||.05”/1.3mm, .058”/1.5mm||7/32” 5.5mm|
|.325||.050”/1.3mm ,058”/1.5mm||3/16” 4.8mm|
FAQs Chainsaw Bar and Chain Length
Final Thoughts On Chainsaw Measurements
When measuring a chainsaw bar, it’s important to err on the side of caution and follow the above steps. By properly disassembling, measuring, and putting your chainsaw back together, you should get an accurate measurement of your chainsaw.