Ripping Chain Vs Standard Chainsaw Chain

I heard the term Ripping Chain for years without really knowing what it was or what you used a ripping chain for. That was at least until I took an interest in chainsaw milling and was first introduced to the function and advantages of using a Ripping chain vs Standard chain. So, let me explain…

What Is Ripping Chain?

A ripping chain is a specialist milling chainsaw chain engineered for cutting with or along the timber grain, producing a smoother, more refined cut. They offer several features and benefits over the use of a regular cross-cut chainsaw blade that lend themselves perfectly for cutting timber planks.

Let’s look at the specific differences in design, performance and the benefits you get in using a Ripping chain vs a standard chainsaw chain.

Ripping Chain Vs Standard Chain

There are many chain types available and to be fair to all professional and enthusiast chainsaw warriors it can be daunting trying to figure out which chain to use for optimal performance, comfort, and finish.

With so many products on the market including full chisel, semi-chisel, skip-tooth, and ripping chains, not everyone can be expected to have experienced all chain types in all circumstances.

So, let me explain the specific differences between a Ripping chain and a regular crosscut chainsaw chain…

Ripping Chain

A Ripping chain is designed specifically for cutting with the wood grain, along the timber length. This design makes it perfect for milling wood, where a clean smooth finish is required.

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Milling with a Ripping Saw

Smooth Cut Finish

When operating with a Ripping chain your direction of travel is along the grain, meaning the saw is not breaking through and splitting wood fiber, creating a splintered rough finish. Instead, it takes a shaving of wood along the grain, leaving a smoother surface finish.

Ripping chains often have two clearing cutters and then two scoring cutters in sequence along the chain to help cut through a smooth milled finish.

Semi-Chisel

Ripping chains are always micro-chisel or semi-chisel featuring a cutting angle of typically between 5-10 degrees, but more often 10 degrees. This low cutting angle means you will not achieve the best results when trying to use a Ripping chain to cut at steep angle.

The semi-chisel profile keeps the chain sharper for longer leading to a cleaner finish and increases user performance.

Durable Design

The profile of this chain makes for a smoother cut, gives off less vibration and kick-back, meaning it has excellent durability even if you hit debris. As I have already commented the 10 degrees cutting angle also remains sharper for longer.

Standard Chainsaw Chain

Regular chainsaw chains are designed to crosscut timber, meaning they cut perpendicular to the tree trunk, or across the wood grain. In other words, if you were cutting down a tree…you are using a standard chainsaw chain in the correct position…at 90 degrees to the wood grain.

Wider Cutting Angle

With cutting angles of 25-35 degrees, you can a great range of movement to cut at both steep and shallow angles without any reduction in performance.

Cutting Speed

A regular chain will give you more cutting speed making it an ideal choice for most cutting tasks.

More Versatility

Regular chainsaw chains are ‘standard’ for a reason…the jack of all trade. You can use them for so different many jobs where the surface finish is not a top priority. Cutting firewood, felling trees, general slice-and-dice type work. A good allrounder thanks to the steeper angle of the cutters.

Standard chains are prone to need sharpening more often and will leave a rough finish that may require more finishing work.

What Are The Best Ripping Chains

For me, the best chain is just a matter of opinion from experience and personal preference. So on that basis, I like to use Oregon Ripping Chains due to their durability… and do you know what…they just have not let me down yet!

Long Bar Ripping Chains

For longer bar say over 30 inches, you may consider using a Skip Link chain which as the name suggests has less cutters per foot of chain. This provides several advantages, such providing more space to kick clear debris out of the chain workspace, less cutters produce less resistance therefore it assists chain speed.

Does A Ripping Chain Cut Faster?

As a rule of thumb Ripping chains will cut faster than a crosscut chain and in some cases a lot faster. However, there are many factors and variables that affect cutting speed. Timber type, cut width, chainsaw bar length, and chain length.

Longer bars and chains seem to offer more speed gains, whereas small bar chains tend to provide lower gains in cutting speed.

Do I Need A Ripping Chain?

If you are milling and want to have a smooth finish to your cuts, then Ripping chain provide a huge advantage over a regular x-cutting chain. You should also get some speed advantages in using a Ripping chain.

Can You Cross Cut With A Ripping Chain?

I would recommend against using a Ripping chainsaw chain to cross cut, as you will experience high levels of vibration and erratic kick-back. It is not a comfortable way to cut and can present hazardous and unpredictable blade movement.

How Can You Tell If A Chain Is Ripping?

There are often two distinct features on a ripping chainsaw chain over a standard cross cut chain.

  1. Ripping chains are semi-chisel or micro-chisel with a low cutting angle between 5-10 degrees or each cutter, opposed to the deeper cutting angle on a regular crosscut chain of around 25-35 degrees.
  2. Ripping chains typically have a pair of scoring cutters, followed by a pair of clearing cutters for a smoother performance and low vibration.

Ripping Chain Vs Standard Chain Conclusion

Okay, so I have hopefully rounded of the difference and advantages of ripping chain vs standard chains giving you a good idea of when they are to be used and what benefits and features they bring to the fold. If you’re looking to do a touch of milling then a ripping saw is the way to go. Nowadays, I could not bring myself to use an x-cutting saw for a finishing job like milling beautiful smooth planks of timber.