The Cutting Edge

Skip tooth (top) and ripping (bottom) chain.

Sharpen your knowledge about the different chainsaw chain types and sizes available.

There are basically three types of chainsaw saw chains available and then within these three types there are five different sizes (pitches) which determine their specific or operating uses. There are also many other specialised saw chains which we will ignore for this article. These include carbide chain, harvester chain and concrete diamond chain.


Chisel chain is a professional chain that cuts faster than other chains because of the pointed tip where the top plate meets the side plate. It needs more maintenance usually by experienced operators who are capable of sharpening the saw chain correctly. This chain requires specific angles that if maintained allow this chain to cut very fast.


(L to R) Chisel chain, Semi chisel chain, Chipper chain.

This chain is used by professionals, farmers and weekenders. It is an all-purpose chain that will cut very well and fast (though not quite as fast as chisel chain) if sharpened and maintained correctly. It is easier to sharpen and maintain than chisel chain and will stay sharp a bit longer than chisel chain, depending on conditions and the timber being cut. The sharpening and maintenance of this chain is much easier and can be sharpened with a little training and knowledge.


This is the original shaped chain that is still used by some operators today, when it is available. Today, most manufacturers only make it available in .404” pitch where it is used on chainsaws that are over 100cc. This chain is relatively easy to sharpen with a little training.


1. 3/8” Low Profile (Picco)
2. .325”
3. 3/8”
4. .404”
5. ¼” and ¼”mini (Stihl)

All these size chains are available in the three types of chain that are listed above – chisel, semi chisel and chipper (only .404”).

3/8” LP (low profile or Picco Stihl): This is a small chain introduced for use with smaller cc chainsaws due to its light weight and narrow kerf. Used both professionally on small saws and almost outright in the hobby market and battery saw market. File size needed is 5/32” / 4mm and a sharpening jig will assist with all the correct angles which are incredibly important if optimum speed and cutting are to be maintained.

.325”: This saw chain was introduced as a faster and lighter chain to be used with the fast revving saws that were introduced in the 1980s. It took over from the traditional 3/8” professional chain due to its lighter weight and faster cutting. Today, it is found on all mid-range “pro” saws and has recently been further enhanced by the introduction of a “narrow- kerf” range. File size required is 3/16” / 4.8mm and again we suggest using any one of the many sharpening jigs that are available today.

3/8”: This is the standard professional chain that is used commonly on all pro saws from 50cc upwards. It is a tough and robust chain that will perform well in all operations and conditions. File size required is normally 7/32”/5.5mm, however, there are some professionals who prefer 13/64” /5.2mm. Either will provide a good result.

.404”: This is a very old and large saw chain that is still used today in most third world markets and in some special operations where larger (100cc) saws are required. It is a very heavy chain and requires a big saw to enable it to function properly. File size required is 7/32” / 5.5mm.

¼’’ and ¼ mini (new by Stihl): This is a “tiny” chain that has been reintroduced due to the introduction of very small saws, battery saws, and pole pruners. It is very hard to sharpen and maintain, however it does operate extremely well with new mini saws and tools. Standard ¼” chain needs a 5/32” / 4.00 file, however the newer ¼ mini chain requires a 1/8” / 3.2mm file. Because this chain is so tiny, patience is necessary to sharpen it.

There are other variables to the above array of saw chains such as skip tooth or ripping chain which can be used for special circumstances such as milling of logs or cutting trees with thick bark. Consult with your dealers or salesman for more details.

Chain automatic assembly machines
Chain automatic assembly machines.

The Archer saw chain factory, which is 100 percent Australian owned, is located in Jinhua in the Zhejiang Province of China. It is housed in a new 6,000 square metre purpose built factory and has 100 dedicated and experienced staff of which there are six qualified engineers and 10 trained QC staff. The Archer factory is ISO qualified and audited and has UL (USA LAB) approval for safety chains which are audited every quarter.

All the equipment is new and state-of-the-art and computer-controlled for optimum quality. A new heat treatment furnace was recently added as well as six new automatic assembly machines. 

Archer has invested heavily in engineers and machinery so that they can now manufacture their own tooling as well as all the parts. The new heat treatment furnace as well as the 4-stage heat treatment allows them to optimise the hardness of all parts, especially the critical rivets.

Only German steel is used for all parts of the saw chain to ensure consistent quality levels are maintained, and Archer saw chain is continually tested in many markets around the world.

Archer has a fully equipped laboratory where all chain and parts are constantly tested and monitored ensuring only high quality saw chain is shipped from the Archer factory. Parts are taken from production at hourly intervals and tested to ensure consistency and tolerance.

The Archer factory and warehouse in Jinhua boasts of experienced staff who keep both the places running like clockwork and have improved efficiency, quality and output. This dedication means that the Archer quality continues to improve.

Archer Australia sells its saw chains in over 85 countries worldwide and there are nearly 70 exclusive Archer distributors around the world. Archer manufactures and packages many private label brands for different customers and different brands around the world which provides them with the economies of scale to maintain good manufacturing levels.