Not only can getting the right chainsaw chain save you time on common tasks, it can save you a lot of frustration. The best chains hold their edges for a long time, and they cut through hardwood and firewood like it’s butter.
Of course, not all chains work well, and there’s a wide variety of prices at which you can find chains. To make it worse, not all expensive chains work well, and not all low-priced chains work poorly. Shopping online for these products can be a confusing experience.
Our carefully curated reviews are designed to show you what’s available, and show you the best and worst features on each chain, so you can make an informed decision. We’ve also included a buyer’s guide, so you can learn more about chainsaw chains before you buy
|Oregon S56 AdvanceCut 16-Inch Chainsaw Chain|
|Oregon S52 AdvanceCut 14-Inch Chainsaw Chain||1 lb||4.7/5|
|Trilink Saw Chain CL15062X2TL2 18" Twin Pack S62|
(Best for the Money)
|Oregon R34 AdvanceCut 8-Inch Micro Lite Chainsaw Chain||1 lb||4.3/5|
|Oregon D72 AdvanceCut 20-Inch Chainsaw Chain||1 lb||4.2/5|
Fits: Craftsman, Echo, Homelite, Poulan, Remington
The Oregon S56 AdvanceCut 16-Inch Chainsaw Chain is our favorite for cutting hardwood. Its electroplated chrome blades are harder and more durable than typical chainsaw blades. You won’t have to resharpen them as often, and you’ll get better performance for longer after sharpening. This chain also has hardened rivets, which reduce the chances of the chain breaking and reduce the amount of chain tensioning you must do. Plus, it’s designed to reduce vibrations for a more comfortable experience for users.
Since oiling is always a concern for chainsaws, even when you have automatic oiling, this chain is designed to transfer oil to the correct locations to keep the chain in great shape. The one thing we don’t like about this chain is that it doesn’t like green wood, and wears out faster when used on it. However, if you’re looking for a chainsaw that does well with hardwood and firewood, you’ll be happy with what this one provides.
Fits: Craftsman, Echo, Homelite, Poulan
The Oregon S52 AdvanceCut 14-Inch Chainsaw Chain is designed to reduce kickback, which will save you a lot of struggling compared to inferior chains. It’s also designed to reduce vibration, so you won’t feel as rough at the end of a long cutting session as you might with other chains. Like the previous Oregon chain, it’s chrome-plated. That helps it hold its edge better, and reduces the rate at which it dulls, at least in theory.
This model also has the LubriTec oiling system. The chain features a series of grooves and ridges designed to channel oil into the chain, helping keep it lubricated, and reducing the amount of oil needed to keep it in good shape. What drops it out of first place is the fact that it dulls faster. While these chains are supposed to be the same chain in different lengths, this one seems to get dull more quickly. Still, it’s a good overall purchase for most buyers
Fits: Craftsman, Echo, Homelite, Husqvarna, McCulloch, Poulan, Shindaiwa
The Trilink Saw Chain CL15062X2TL2 18″ Twin Pack S62 has many features that make for a great chainsaw chain, at a price that can’t be ignored. It’s designed for low kickback, which is one of the first things to look for when shopping for a new chain. It has self-lubricating technology, so it will work to keep itself in good shape, just like the Oregons higher on the list. This chain is also exceptionally easy to sharpen.
What we like best is that it can be had for a great price. Chains of similar size often retail for significantly more than this one, and that means you’re getting a great deal when you purchase this chain. However, it has mixed performance. Some units last, and others underperform. If that were sorted out, we would easily rank this chain higher.
Fits: Craftsman, Black & Decker, Oregon, Poulan, Remington, Ryobi, Troy-Bilt
You may be noticing a pattern. Oregon chains tend to be great, and the Oregon R34 AdvanceCut 8-Inch Micro Lite Chainsaw Chain is no exception. Like its longer brethren, it’s low kickback. If you’ve never used a low kickback chain before, you’ll really appreciate how easy it makes the cutting process. It’s low vibration, so your hands won’t take as much of a beating. The points are chrome-plated, so they last longer and don’t dull as quickly.
This chain also has hardened rivets. These help keep it from breaking and reduce the amount of tensioning you have to do. Unlike many other Oregon chains, this one sometimes ships with burrs on the underside that require touching up before first use. However, if you need an eight-inch chain, and you don’t get one with burring issues, you’ll be about as happy with this chain as you can be with any.
Fits: Dolmar, Husqvarna, Jonsered, Makita, Remington, Stihl
The Oregon D72 AdvanceCut 20-Inch Chainsaw Chain is from the same line as many of the other highly ranked ones on our list, but it has a problem that makes it worse than the others. It has many good features, including the low kickback that makes Oregon chains great. Plus, it has low vibration. While hauling a heavy chainsaw around all day will wear you out, vibrations compound the problem, and fewer vibrations mean you’ll feel better at the end of the day.
This chain is also chrome-plated for maximum hold on its edge, so it stays sharp longer. However, it suffers from stretching issues and sometimes outstretches your adjustment capabilities. It’s also relatively slow for a 20-inch chain, so if you’re an experienced user, you’ll want something with more bite. It’s a decent chain, but there are better options out there for the same price.
The Husqvarna 531300439 18-Inch H30-72 (95VP) Pixel Saw Chain is a great choice for those with Husqvarna chainsaws. If you use another brand, you may be able to get it to fit, but you’ll be rolling the dice. It’s very low kickback, which is one of the best features a modern chain can have. It holds its edges well versus most other brands. It also tends to make very short work of hardwood and firewood.
However, it’s a lightweight chain, so if you’re planning on abusing your chainsaw, it won’t live up to your expectations. It also generally doesn’t last as long as Oregons do, despite the fact that Oregons often cost less. This chain has the potential to be an industry leader, but right now Oregon has it beat in most areas.
The Husqvarna H4684 0.050-Inch Gauge Saw Replacement Chain, 24-Inch is very similar to the previous model, except that it’s designed for use with Husqvarna’s consumer-grade clam shelled chainsaws. It’s also designed for minimal vibrations. Low-vibration chains put far less stress on your body. Another thing we like about this chain is that it works well with hardwood and firewood, melting through both easily.
Be aware that this is an expensive chain. It’s long, so that’s part of the equation, but it’s also expensive relative to other chains of the same length. It’s also really sensitive to dirt and must be cleaned regularly for good performance. There are certainly reasons to like this chain, but it requires more maintenance than many similar ones, and the high price makes it a purchase that’s likely to disappoint.
The Stihl 2 Pack 26RM3 18″ Chainsaw Chain is the kind that typically comes with Stihl chainsaws out of the box. These chains are a big part of why Stihl is so highly regarded. Put succinctly, these are great chains. They cut incredibly well, and work on even the hardest trees. This kind of chain is pre-stretched at the factory, so you won’t have to worry about temperature-related adjustments in the field. Plus, it’s designed to self-lubricate, reducing the amount of oil needed to run your machine.
What keeps this type low on our list is the fact that it’s quite expensive. You could get two chains of lesser quality for the price of this one, so it really has to last to make your money back. It’s also relatively slow. That makes it good for beginners, but if you want something with a lot of bite, you’ll likely be disappointed.
Fits: Poulan, Echo, Husqvarna, Rancher
Some brands position themselves as lower-priced, but equally good, alternatives to name-brand chains. The 8TEN Chainsaw Chain 18” is one of those chains, but it doesn’t live up to those claims. It’s a semi chisel design, so it won’t have as much kickback as other full-chisel chains. That makes it a little safer and much easier to handle.
However, it’s relatively soft and tends to dull quickly. It also has other quality control issues that lead to it breaking prematurely. Worse, there are durability concerns that compound both these problems. While this is an inexpensive chain, it’s not one you can trust to go the distance. For a chain that can handle hardwood and firewood, you’ll need to keep looking.
Fits: Craftsman, Homelite, McCulloch, Remington, Kobalt
Sometimes the price is just so good that it overwhelms common sense. That seems to be SUNGATOR’s marketing strategy, and it may just work. The SUNGATOR 18-Inch Chainsaw Chain (SG-S62) is a discount chain, and while it does some things right, you’re gambling when you purchase it. On the plus side, it’s a low kickback chain, and it’s also chrome-plated for superior edge retention, in theory.
In practice, users report that this chain struggles with anything thicker than a sapling. That makes it a poor choice for cutting hardwood and firewood. It’s also a discount brand, which means every possible frill has been cut out of design and production, so the quality from chain to chain varies a lot. If you have a problem, it’s extremely difficult to contact the company to resolve it. This chain is very affordable, but if you want something guaranteed to work well, this isn’t it.
Something to note when shopping for chains is that many “brands” are owned by the same company. Since it saves money to reuse parts across multiple sub-brands, many chains will work with multiple models across a family of brands. For example, many Poulan chains will fit on Husqvarna saws, and vice versa. Most third-party chains designed for one will fit the other as well.
It’s always important to double-check what specific models are supported by a chain before you buy. The list of supported saws is long, but if you have an 18-inch model, not all 18-inch chains will fit. The height of the guide bar influences how long a chain needs to be, in addition to the length.
If you’re unsure which chain to get, most manufacturer’s websites have tools to help you find compatible chains for your specific chainsaw.
In general, the best chains for cutting hardwood are those from Oregon. They’re almost always self-lubricating, and they have the durability to work with hardwood day in and day out without dulling rapidly.
These chains tend to be expensive, but they last a long time, which makes them well worth the money.
Firewood is often similar to hardwood, so you’d be fine using an Oregon, but if you’re looking for a lower-priced alternative with good durability, Trilink is a good brand to consider. Since it costs less, it doesn’t matter as much if you wear it out on a cord or two of firewood. Plus, it’s easy to sharpen, which means it’s easy to make your chains last longer.
RELATED READS: An overview of the 5 top chainsaws for cutting fire wood
There is no one answer to how long a chain lasts, due to the sheer number of factors involved. Beyond the quality of the initial chain, the type of wood you’re cutting has a big effect, as do other actions you take. If you’re felling a large tree, it’s a good idea to strip the bark from the spots you’ll be cutting with an axe beforehand, as cutting bark can dull a chain.
Hitting things that aren’t wood, such as dirt, rocks, or metal fencing, can dull your chain quickly and dramatically. Being careful can greatly extend your chain’s life.
You can resharpen a chain many times before it needs to be retired. While some people resharpen their chain for every tank or every other tank of gas their chainsaw consumes, this may be too often and may shorten your chain’s lifespan.
Instead, look for the following two signs as the appropriate time to sharpen. If your chain stops creating chips and starts creating sawdust, it needs to be sharpened. Likewise, if it stops pulling itself through the wood and forces you to start pushing it, it needs sharpening.
Sharpening when these events occur will help keep your chain at a high level of average sharpness, while also extending its life by eliminating unnecessary sharpening.
Pitch is the distance between links and is given in some fraction of an inch. Common pitch sizes are 1/4”, .325”, 3/8”, .404”, and low-profile variants of these pitches. Smaller pitches mean slower cutting, while larger pitches mean faster cutting.
Gauge refers to how thick the links are. The gauge is typically .043”, .050”, .058” or .063”. Like pitch, you’ll typically find this number stamped on your guide bar, or in the chainsaw’s user manual.
Since guide bars differ not just in length, but in height as well, the number of links required will vary. Two chains of equal length with different pitches will have different numbers of drive links. While this number is usually stamped on the guide bar or in the user manual, you can find out what kinds of chains you’ll need by counting the number of links on your old chain.
The Oregon S56 AdvanceCut 16-Inch Chainsaw Chain is our favorite model due to its hardened rivets, chrome-plated links, and low vibration. The Oregon S52 AdvanceCut 14-Inch Chainsaw Chain is another favorite. It has low-vibration operation, low kickback, and the great LubriTec oiling system. Its quick dulling keeps it out of the top spot. In third is the Trilink Saw Chain CL15062X2TL2 18″ Twin Pack S62, which has low kickback and easy sharpening. Its low price makes it the best overall value for the money.
The fourth-place Oregon R34 AdvanceCut 8-Inch Micro Lite Chainsaw Chain has low kickback, chrome-plated links, and hardened rivets. It falls out of the top three due to burring issues. Next is the Oregon D72 AdvanceCut 20-Inch Chainsaw Chain, with low-vibration operation and chrome-plated links. Stretching issues and slow cutting cost it some spots. The Husqvarna 531300439 18-Inch H30-72 (95VP) Pixel Saw Chain has low kickback and works well with hardwood, but it’s not as durable as Oregon-brand chains and is too lightweight for some people. The Husqvarna H4684 0.050-Inch Gauge Saw Replacement Chain, 24-Inch is made for clam shelled chainsaws and works well on hardwood. Its high price and need for cleaning put it in seventh place.
Eighth place belongs to the Stihl 2 Pack 26RM3 18″ Chainsaw Chain, which cuts well and comes pre-stretched but is expensive and slow for the price. The 8TEN Chainsaw Chain 18” comes in ninth with its semi chisel design and kickback reduction. Its quality control issues, quick dulling, and durability concerns make it a poor buy. In last place is the SUNGATOR 18-Inch Chainsaw Chain (SG-S62), which is very inexpensive, but struggles with hardwood and lacks customer support.
Hopefully, our reviews and buyer’s guide can help you find the right chains for your chainsaw at a price your wallet will love.
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