What Type Of Chainsaw Bar Do I Need?

Chainsaws come in various sizes, each corresponding to the engine size and bar length. Most chainsaws allow for swapping out bars of different capacities. This post will help you determine which type of chainsaw bar you need.

Chainsaw Bar Types

Chainsaw bars come in a variety of types, including:

  • Solid chainsaw bars
  • Laminated chainsaw bars
  • Hard nose chainsaw bars
  • Replacement sprocket nose bars
  • Carving bars
  • Narrow nose bars

Good Chainsaw Bars

Oregon Chainsaw Guide Bar & Chain Combo, AdvanceCut Replacement for Saw Chains, Bar Length 18″ (45cm)

Husqvarna 531300438 18-Inch HLN250-72 Pixel Chain Saw Bar, .325-Inch by .050-Inch

STIHL 3005 000 4813 Rollomatic E Chain Saw Bar, 16-Inch

Solid Chainsaw Bars

Solid chainsaw bars are made of one piece of solid steel. They are tough and strong and made for sandy, dirty, or rough conditions. However, these tend to be more expensive than other types of chainsaw bars. Also, since they can handle so much, they can get hot and drain some of the engine’s power.

Solid chainsaw bars can be heavy, or atleast seem so to the user. But since they are strong, they can resist bending and be effective in very long versions.

Laminated Chainsaw Bars

Laminated bars can be very strong and reliable. These are not “laminated” by a coating, but are “laminate”. They have spot weld marks on the sides of the bar that keep the two steel peices of the bar together around the steel core.

Laminate bars are light and affordable, but not as strong as solid chainsaw bars. They are best for smaller chainsaws in a non-professional setting. They are, however, good for arborists that need to carry them up a tree due to their lower weight.

Laminate chainsaw bars operate well in the 16″- 20″ lengths. Laminate bars only go up to 24″ in length. Good quality laminate bars will last a long time and be very reliable. Many chainsaw operators will keep a laminate bar as a backup in case they need it.

Chainsaw Bar And Chain

Hard Nose Chainsaw Bars

What is a hard nose chainsaw bar?

Hard nose chainsaw bars are a sub-category of solid bars. Hard nose bars are the quintessential solid bar: they are made of one solid peice of metal. These are very sturdy bars made for rough conditions, such as on ranches and in forests.

A hard nose bar has a solid tip that does not have a sprocket. The chain slides over the bar tip itself on a hard nose bar, without using a sprocket.

Hard nose bars rae made of very strong alloy for use in difficult conditions. They usually are made of a single steel sheet that is completely solid. Hard nose bar tips can be reinforced further with extra coating or another layer of metal.

Benefits of hard nosed chainsaw bars include:

  • Ruggedness
  • Easily machined
  • Compatible with many types of chains

Negatives of hard nosed chainsaw bars:

  • More expensive
  • Decreased chain tension (to lower wear against the tip)
  • Requires more effort from the motor

Best Times To Use A Hard Nose Bar

Hard nose chainsaw bars are best used during dirty or harsh conditions. If the chainsaw will come in contact with dirt, sand, metal, or the tip will contact wood directly, then a hard nosed bar should be used.

In rough conditions, logs, trees, stumps, can be covered in sand or dirt. Or, a tree near a waterline or beach needs to be cut down and removed. This is where a hard nosed bar will excel.

However, in abrasive-free conditions, such as in a mill or when cutting soft, clean wood, then using a hard nose bar will not be more beneficial than using a sprocket nose bar.

Narrow Chainsaw Bars

Also called narrow kerf chainsaw bars, and usually matched with a narrow kerf chain, these types of bars are a great fit for smaller chainsaws. They demand less power from the motor and generate less heat. Arborists more often used narrow chainsaw bars than other professionals.

Chainsaws with narrow kerf bars can cut faster than thsoe with standard 3/8″ pitch chains. They also weigh less and allow for more maneuverability. They can also make smoother cuts in wood and produces less sawdust and waste.

However, narrow chainsaw bars are not ideal for general purpose tree felling and bucking firewood because they are not durable enough to run on more powerful chainsaws, and they only make a narrow kerf.

Replacement Sprocket Nose Bars

The standard chainsaw you can purchase today uses a replaceable sprocket nose bar. These use a rotating sprocket at the tip attached with rivets that the chain runs over. The tip of a sprocket nose bar is not solid, unlike the rest of the bar which can be.

Sprocket nose chainsaw bars are of laminated type construction made with separate pieces of metal. The tip of a sprocket nose bar is replaceable if it gets damaged, unline solid bars which need complete replacement.

Carving Chainsaw Bars

Carving chainsaw bars are usually shorter in length than other types of bars, with bar lengths ranging from 10″-14″. They are made for wood artists that need to make precise cuts. The tips of carving chainsaw bars have a more pointed shape than standard bars. This is for allowing smaller, narrower cutting using the tip of the chainsaw.

Carving chainsaw bars are lighter and allow for more flexibility than other bars. These can be used in clearing homeowner’s yards, and in ranch and parkland operations for small tree and brush removal.

Storing chainsaws with carving bars is also easier and takes up less space than with those with longer, standard bars.

Chainsaw Bar Life Expectancy

How Long Do Chainsaw Bars Last?

Chainsaw bars can last a surprisingly long time. If they are damaged or bent, this can shorten their lifespan. On average, a chainsaw bar can last up to ten years with occasional use.

If you use your chainsaw often, the bar will wear out sooner (just like everything else!)

Can You Repair A Chainsaw Bar?

Yes, but only certain bars can be repaired. If the bar is severely bent, it will not function properly and need to be replaced. If the bar is only mildy bent, it can be straightened using a vice and your body weight, a hammer, or a board.

When straightening a chainsaw bar, do not use heat from a torch, as it will weaken the metal. Also, be gentle when adding pressure so as not to bend it too far in the other direction.

A chainsaw cutting crooked could be due to a bent bar, uneven top plates, or dull cutters. This is one reason why hitting hard surfaces and materials, such as rocks and concrete will make your chainsaw less effective.

Signs of a bent chainsaw bar include:

  • The tip roller does not easily spin.
  • The cut is not straight.

Can You Put Any Brand Bar On A Chainsaw?

Yes, most brands make bars that will fit other brand’s chainsaws. But before purchasing one, make sure it is designed to fit your chainsaw. You can also put shorter bars on most chainsaws, because the one’s they come with are often longer than they need to be.

Chainsaw Bar Sizes

Chainsaw Bar Length

Chainsaw bars come in a range of lengths:

Chainsaw Engine Power in CC (Cubic Centimeters)Recommended Bar Size (Inches)
Less than 25 cc  10  to 12”
26  to  35 cc 12  to 16”
36  to  45 cc 14  to 20”
46  to  60 cc     16  to 24”
60  to  75 cc  18  to 28”
76  to  90 cc   20  to 32”
91  to  100 cc 24  to 36”
100  to 115 cc 26  to 50”
Greater than 116 cc 28  to 84”

Before changing the size of your chainsaw bar, make sure to refer to the owner’s manual for the exact specifications it will allow.

Are Chainsaw Bars Universal?

No, chainsaw bars are not universal. Some chainsaw bars will fit different types and sizes of chainsaws, but not all of them. Make sure to check with your saw’s owner’s manual for the specific bar types it can use.

Broken Chainsaw Bar – How Does It Happen?

Chainsaw bars break usually because they hit hard materials when they are cutting. This includes rocks, concrete, nails, and rebar. A chainsaw bar can easily break if it is left by a car or truck and accidentally driven over. It can also break if a tree falls on it.

Worn Out Chainsaw Bar – When To Replace It?

A worn out chainsaw bar has some noticeable signs, including:

  • It has a broken nose sprocket.
  • The bar is visibly damaged.
  • It has a deep groove running around it.
  • The chain wobbles

When you replace your chainsaw bar, do not always search only for the most expensive option. It is important to buy the bar that works best for your chainsaw, and the type of cutting jobs you intend to do.

Chainsaw Bar Length To Engine Size

Certain chainsaw bar lengths are more useful when matched with specific engine sizes.

Some commonly matched chainsaw bars and engine sizes include:

  • 42cc – 16″ or 18″
  • 50cc – 18″ or 20″
  • 95cc – 24″

Many bar sizes are available to fit commonly used engine sizes, and they are often interchangeable. This also depends on whether it is a gas or electric chainsaw.

Replaceable Chainsaw Sprocket

There are 2 types of chainsaw sprockets:

  • Spur sprockets
  • Rim sprockets

Chainsaw Spur Sprocket

A spur sprocket is a single peice of metal with teeth notched on the central clutch bell housing. These are included by default on most new chainsaws.

Chainsaw spur sprockets can wear out and gives the following sign. Rotating the chain manually (by hand), also called the “chain rotation test”, will reveal a loose chain tension alternating with a tight and smoothe tension. Moving the chain by hand can become difficult if the spur sprocket is damaged or worn out.

A spur sprocket can also be examined visually, and if the teeth are not smoothe or have grooves, it may be time to replace it. However, if the chain continues to rotate without problems, then it is acceptable. Chainsaw spur sprockets typically cost between $20-30.

Chainsaw Rim Sprocket

Chainsaw rim sprockets are two circular pieces of metal around a bell housing. The rim is replaced and the clutch bell housing is kept when they are worn down. Rims cost around $6-$8 and the entire rim sprocket costs around $30.

Rim sprockets are used by professional chainsaw operators that cut large quantities of wood, and are inexpensive to replace.

In Closing

Choosing the right chainsaw bar does not have to become a headache. Always check first with your user’s manual before replacing the bar you have. Chainsaws are flexible in which bars they can accomodate. Just be sure to always keep safety in mind when handling the chainsaw.

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Nick Klamecki, Author
About Nick Klamecki, Author

Nick Klamecki is a certified Fire and Workplace Safety expert with 15 years experience in product research and testing. He has a degree from U.C. Davis, is an active outdoorsman and spent years ensuring the safety of special needs children. Nick researches and tests workplace, industrial and safety products and provides advice on their safe use. Learn more about Nick here or connect with him on LinkedIn | Medium