While many people may not know what a router or a miter saw is, they surely know what a chainsaw is. After all, it’s one of the most popular power tools for cutting wood. A tool that many scary villains use as a weapon in famous movies. Plus, you can’t deny it looks cool.

However, even though many people know what a chainsaw is, the number of those who have held or operated a chainsaw is low.

At first glance, the chainsaw looks like a frightening but simple and straightforward to use tool. Which isn’t far from the truth. But, like most power tools, the chainsaw also has many things and details you need to know in order to maximize its performance.

And if you are a beginner who just got his first chainsaw, you probably aren’t well acquainted with the way this power tool works.

Because of that, to help you better understand your newly acquired saw, in this guide we’ll be talking about one of the main things you need to pay attention to – the chainsaw chain direction.

The Right Chainsaw Chain Direction

Several chainsaw types are used to complete various cutting, pruning, trimming, and other similar tasks. However, all of these chainsaws, no matter their purpose, have one thing in common – their chains rotate in a clockwise direction. No chainsaw will work properly if the chain is mounted in the wrong direction.

Sooner or later, the day to replace or sharpen your chain will come. To do those things, you’ll need to remove it and later mount a new or the same but sharpened chain in the right direction.

But, to a novice who has never done this before, it might sound confusing. That’s why in this guide we’ll go step by step on how to mount the chainsaw chain in the right direction, and when is the time to replace, or sharpen it.

When to Replace the Chainsaw Chain

For a chainsaw to work flawlessly, everything needs to be in sync. But for everything to work in sync, the chainsaw needs to be frequently serviced and kept clean. After all, this is a saw that deals with difficult cutting tasks at high speed that cause immense fatigue to the tool and its parts, especially the chain.

As the main cutting force of the chainsaw, the chain always finds itself on the front-lines and receives the most damage. That’s why it’s important to always keep it sharp and well maintained until the time for replacement comes.

Signs of a worn chainsaw chain that needs replacement:

  • Longer to cut – it takes double or triple the time to perform the same cutting tasks you always did
  • Chain Tension problems – the chain becomes loose no matter how much you adjust the tension. This can also lead to injuries, so make sure the chain is tightly placed on the bar
  • Worn or broken Cutting Teeth – after numerous cutting tasks they get worn down naturally, but sometimes when dealing with dirty wood it can happen to hit a hidden harder material like stone or nail and break the cutting teeth
  • Sawdust – well maintained and sharp chainsaw shouldn’t spit out clean sawdust when cutting wood, it should throw out chips
  • Smoke – this is a sign that the tool can’t cut through the workpiece, and uses much more power than needed to perform a simple cut
  • Lacks Balance when cutting – if you fixed all of the issues above, and the saw still feels unbalanced, it’s time for a new chain

Also, if you are feeling that the saw is “pulling” you in one direction while making a cut, it might be due to a broken guide bar, or a badly sharpened cutting chain.

How to Find an Adequate Chainsaw Chain Replacement?

If you notice some or most of the signs mentioned above, it’s time to equip your saw with a new chain. However, replacing a chainsaw chain isn’t something that can be done by just going to a nearby tool shop and buying the first chain you see. No, it doesn’t work like that.

Chainsaws come in various sizes with different features and purposes. Because of that, their parts also differ and can’t be exchanged. The chain isn’t an exception.

To find the correct replacement chain for your chainsaw, you need to make sure that you get these 3 factors right:

Pitch

The pitch of a chain tells us the interval between two chain links. And bigger saws normally have a larger pitch. Meaning, the distance between two chain links is larger on a bigger saw compared to a smaller one.

Consequently, you must know your chain’s pitch if you want to find an adequate replacement. The most common chain pitch: 1/4″, 0.325″, 3/8″, 3/8″ low profile, and 0.404″.

Gauge

Similar to the pitch, the gauge is also related to the drive link. However, instead of the distance, it tells us the thickness or width of the drive link that’s necessary to fit into the guide bar. And this is important because there won’t be any stability while operating if the chain doesn’t sit tight on the guide bar rails.

Most common gauge sizes: 0.043”, 0.050”, 0.058”, and 0.063”. Make sure you know the correct gauge size of your chain before looking for a new one.

Drive Link Count

As the name already suggests, this tells us the number of drive links a chain has. By knowing the drive link count, you also get hold of the chain’s size. Because the number of drive links tells the length of the chain, which is crucial to know in order to find out if the chain can fit on the guide bar.

How to Mount a Chainsaw Chain in the Right Direction?

After finding the perfect replacement chain for your chainsaw, now you’ll need to mount it in the right blade direction. It’s a simple and easy process because all chainsaw chains rotate in a clockwise direction (left to right). Just need to pay attention to the details and follow these steps.

Step 1

First of all, you want to check the top of the chain. On the top, you’ll notice two sets of blades (cutter & guide). One of the blades (cutter) is sharp, while the other (guide) is dull. And since the chain rotates from left to right, you want the cutter to face in that direction as well. The guide on the other hand, as a non-cutting blade, faces the opposite direction.

Step 2

Second, you want to check the bottom of the chain as well. There you’ll find the drive links that also have razor-sharp edges. And these sharp edges need to point in a clockwise direction just like the cutting blade.

Step 3

Now that you figured out the right and wrong blade direction, it’s time to reattach the bar back on the chainsaw and mount the chain on it.

However, just reattaching the chainsaw bar won’t cut it. You’ll also need to make adjustments to the guide bar according to the chain’s dimensions. Set the right bar length for the chain to fit flawlessly. Then put the chain on the guide bar, and double-check its blade direction to see if you set it right.

When all of this is done, you’d want to tighten the cutting chain blade as well. But be careful when doing so.

Because if you don’t tighten the chain properly, it can come off when cutting wood, and injure you. Additionally, tightening the chain too much also isn’t ideal since it will become inefficient.

Why it's Important to Mount a Chainsaw Chain in the Right Direction?

Apart from the obvious reason of not being able to cut wood effectively, many other side effects can occur as a result of a wrongly mounted chain. Because when you mount a chainsaw chain in the wrong direction you will:

  • Damage the cutting blade, drive link, and the chain in general
  • Burnout the clutch because the chain’s blades won’t cut anything
  • Put excessive stress on the guide bar that might lead to damage
  • Waste a big amount of perfectly fine bar oil
  • Cause irreversible damage to the engine due to excessive usage to make a simple cut

By mounting the chainsaw chain in the wrong direction, you have nothing to gain, but everything to lose. Always make sure that you put it in the right chainsaw chain direction

When to Sharpen your Chainsaw Blade

After a certain number of uses, the chainsaw blade will inevitably become dull. Usually, it doesn’t take more than 3-4 tree cuttings before the chainsaw blade becomes dull.

The signs that show up when a chainsaw blade is dull, are the same ones we mentioned above in the chain replacement section. However, replacement of the chain only occurs when those signs still exist even after sharpening the blade.

That’s why, if you notice sawdust, smoke, or the chain saw not being able to make a simple cut, don’t rush searching for a replacement.

First, you’d want to sharpen the chain before ditching it. However, have in mind that you can’t sharpen a chainsaw blade with broken cutters and that sharpening has limits. You can’t sharpen a chainsaw blade forever.

Tools for Sharpening a Chainsaw Blade

When the time comes to sharpen the chainsaw blade, there are few tools you can use:

  • File Guide
  • Flat File
  • Round File
  • Depth Gauge Measuring Tool
  • Grinder

After you finish sharpening the blade, it’s very important to mount it back in the right chainsaw chain direction as shown in this guide.

Chainsaw Safety Features & Equipment

Operating a chainsaw isn’t child’s play. Over 30,000 people in the US alone, suffer chainsaw-related injuries every year. Because of that, safety should be one of your utmost priorities when using a chainsaw. Don’t even think about using it without first taking safety measures.

And when it comes to chainsaw safety, there are two main things you need to pay attention to. First are the features a chainsaw has to offer, and second is the user equipment you need to wear while using it.

Safety Features

Most modern chainsaws come with a lot of safety features to protect the user. And depending on the type, some features are needed more on certain chainsaws. For example, the gas-powered ones have the biggest kickback problem due to their monstrous power.

When purchasing a new chainsaw, make sure it has some or all of these features:

  • Chain Brake – protects the user from kickbacks
  • Chain Catcher – catches the chain if it becomes loose and derails
  • Throttle Lock – prevents accidental throttle application
  • Stop Button – to immediately turn off the engine
  • Right Hand Guard – protects the user’s fingers in case the chain breaks or derails
  • Anti-Vibration – reduces vibrations and makes the tool easier to use

Safety Equipment

Even though the chainsaw features improve safety tremendously for the user, that’s still not enough.

At the end of the day, even with the best safety features and equipment, the chainsaw is still a very dangerous tool, and accidents can happen. That’s why it’s best to not rush things, and cut with great caution.

To protect yourself from injuries, wear:

  • Protective gloves
  • Sturdy boots
  • Goggles for eye protection
  • Earplugs
  • Helmet
  • Long-sleeved clothes 

Besides the features and equipment, you’d also want to cut in a secure area where no danger lies for you, or the people around you.

Conclusion

After this guide, we can conclude that it takes more than great raw power for a chainsaw to effortlessly cut through various materials. All parts need to work in symphony, to extract the maximum performance the power tool has to offer.

And the chainsaw chain direction is one of the main pieces of the puzzle. If you set the wrong chainsaw chain direction, not only you’ll lose on performance, but there’s a serious chance of tool failure.

Hopefully, you found this guide helpful and can now do your DIY projects at peace without worries. Also, always make sure you follow the safety protocols.

Extra: What is a Chainsaw?

The chainsaw is a portable power tool used for limbing, pruning, felling, carving, bucking, or cutting wood, and similar materials.

It uses a rotating chainsaw chain attached to a bar that always runs in a clockwise direction to cut various materials. The chainsaw blade that cuts through the workpieces is powered by an engine that can be electric, battery, or gasoline-powered.

Main Chainsaw Parts

  • Engine – gives power to the bar and chain; can be electric, gasoline, or battery-powered
  • Guide Bar – elongated part (16 to 36-inches) on which the chain is mounted tightly
  • Chain – equipped with chainsaw blades to cut workpieces, and always rotates in a clockwise direction

Depending on the chain saw type, these parts can vary in size, sturdiness, power, and even in the way they work.

Chainsaw Types

Depending on the saw’s power source, we can differentiate three primary types:

  • Gas-Powered Chainsaw
  • Corded Electric Chainsaw
  • Cordless Electric Chainsaw

While if we are looking at the saw’s handle, we can differentiate two types:

  • Top-Handled Chainsaw
  • Read Handle Chainsaw 

Gas-Powered Chainsaw

When it comes to strength and power, this is the saw you want to have. Professionals use this type to cut large trees and logs without much trouble.

The main advantage of these saws is that they are relatively cheap, offer the most power, and can take them wherever you want. On the downside, they produce a lot of noise, and not everyone likes the smell of fuel.

Cordless Electric Chainsaw

Similar to the gas-powered one, the cordless electric saw also has the portability advantage. However, that’s where the similarity ends. Why? Because it produces way less power than the gas saw, and you can’t use them for chopping the thickest workpieces.

The rechargeable batteries make them the most expensive type, but as a positive, they don’t produce ear-piercing noise and are environment friendly. Great tool for homeowners.

Corded Electric Chainsaw

Unlike the previous two, the corded electric chainsaw is limited with a cord, and cannot be taken everywhere.

However, by sacrificing portability, the corded electric saw offers you almost endless running time. While the cordless and gas chainsaws have a limited time of usage due to their batteries and fuel. Besides that, the corded ones are the cheapest and can be great for smaller DIY projects.

Chainsaw Usage

The chainsaw isn’t a one-dimensional tool like many believe. Depending on the type, the chainsaw can be used for various purposes:

  • Woodworking – most common usage of the chainsaw is to cut wood
  • Medicine – the first chainsaw was invented by doctors for medical reasons in the 18th century; today specialized saws are still used in operating rooms
  • Sculpturing & Carving – in the right hands, the chainsaw becomes a gentle beast that can create beautiful art of ice blocks and wood
  • Cutting Hard Materials – chainsaws with specially designed bar and chain are used to cut concrete, stones, and bricks