June 9

Chainsaw Ripping Chain vs. Regular Chain; Which One’s for You?

There’s no denying that a chainsaw is indispensable in the world of woodworking.

It’s true that a lot of elements within the chainsaw dictate just how efficient the machine can be. However, most arborists don’t realize how much of an impact a chainsaw chain can have on the speed and overall quality of their professional work.

Here, we’ll take an extensive look at the chainsaw ripping chains and how they compare to regular chains. We’ll also let you know which chain you could use according to the task at hand.

Let’s get started!

Regular Chains

Regular chains can be found in either a semi-chisel structure or a full chisel structure. They’re designed in a way that enables their users to cut through the toughest wood grains.

This is especially why regular chains are regarded as “heavy-duty cutters”. They’re chains that are used for crosscutting the wood in a perpendicular manner. In simple terms, it’s exactly like chopping a tree in half using an axe.

This isn’t to say regular chains can’t eventually reach the same final result as ripping chains.

Stihl 33RS-72 Oilomatic Rapid Super Saw Chain, 20"
  • 3/8-inch pitch
  • 0.050-inch gauge
  • Fits chainsaws with 20-Inch guide bar
  • 72 Drive Lengths

Compared to a ripping chain, you can still reach its level of smooth cuttings, but you’ll have to put extra work in sanding and smoothing the piece of wood. It will take an awful lot of time to reach the same overall quality.

The speed of cutting is where regular chains thrive. This fast speed of operation is mainly due to their reckless behavior.

They’ll cut through all the veins and fibers of the wood indiscriminately, quickly getting the job done. However, the product won’t look good as a piece of furniture.

To no one’s surprise, regular chains are used in various, regular activities.

You’ll find that a lot of applications can be carried out using the traditional crosscut chains. They’re faster, meaner, and can handle pretty much anything you throw at them.

Oregon S39 AdvanceCut Replacement Chainsaw and Pole Saw Chain for 10-Inch Guide Bars, 39 Drive Links, Pitch: 3/8", .050" Gauge, Fits Atlas, Makita, Poulan, and More
  • Durable, low-kickback, low-vibration chain helps reduce user fatigue for increased periods of work. For all chainsaw brands that run 3/8 Inch pitch, .050 Inch (1.3 mm) gauge, 39 drive link chain
  • Fits these saw models with 10-inch bars: Atlas: 56934, 56934, Makita: EY401MP Pole Saw Attachment, Poulan PLN1510, Echo PPF225, and more
  • Precision, heat-treated semi-chisel chain cuts smoothly with a higher tolerance for debris
  • This chain features a tough, long-lasting chrome outer layer and hardened rivets to help reduce wear and allow for fewer chain adjustments

They’re also sharpened at a wider angle of 35 degrees, which gives their users a leeway during woodcutting, without having to change the chain.

Remember, regular chains have teeth that are exposed and more susceptible to wear and tear. You’ll find yourself looking for replacement parts every couple of months if you’re a frequent woodcutter. Frequent cleaning and sharpening may help extend the chain’s lifespan.


  • An all-purpose chain
  • Faster operation speed
  • Much tougher than ripping chains
  • Comes in semi-chisel or full chisel structures


  • Leaves a rough finish
  • More susceptible to wear and tear
  • Slightly more expensive than ripping chains
  • More dangerous

Ripping Chains

Ripping chains are only found in a semi-chisel structure. Due to how they’re built, they’re often sharpened at a shallow cutting angle of 10 degrees.

This semi-chisel structure is exceptional in productivity because it’ll keep your chain sharp over extended periods of time. This allows for maximum utilization during your woodworking session.

OREGON 72RD072G 72 Drive Link 3/8-Inch Ripping Saw Chain Standard Sequence

However, if you want your work to look pretty, you’ll need more patience than fine gear.

Ripping chains will get you significantly more invested in obtaining those smoother surfaces and finer cuts. So, you might find yourself taking almost double the time to cut than on a regular chain.

These shallow angled cutters of ripping chains can cut through wood without the debris wearing out the cutting teeth. This makes them much more resistant to damage than regular chains

The higher resistance to damage means lower costs of replacements and maintenance, ultimately saving you some money.

Ripping chains are only made for specific things, limiting them to a few applications.

The way they cut, speed of operation, and general design make them unsuitable for a lot of jobs. You’ll find them almost exclusively used in milling and other applications that require a smooth finish.

OREGON 72RD072G 72 Drive Link 3/8-Inch Ripping Saw Chain Standard Sequence
  • 72rd: 3/8-inch pitch, 050-inch gauge
  • Standard chassis and cutter parts are used; cutter grind is the only difference from standard chains
  • For use on chain-type sawmills; not recommended for hand-held use
  • LubriLink tie straps help keep oil where it's needed - on the chain

A ripping chain isn’t made for cutting trees, but mainly for milling and similar purposes. Nothing gives a smoother finish more than a semi-chisel ripping chain.

Regular chains in the market will often produce an unattractive cut because they crosscut the tree, through the pores and mills of the wood grain. Ripping chains, on the other hand, will create a cleaner look that makes it more suitable for products that require a smooth texture.


  • The best option for milling
  • Produces a clean finish
  • Last longer than regular chains
  • Overall safer


  • Very slow
  • Limited applications
  • Semi-chisel structure only

Which Chain Should I Use?

In a nutshell, ripping chains are made for cutting along the wood. This means it cuts objects parallelly.

We recommend ripping chains if you want to cut larger timbers to make boards or planks. You’ll find that ripping chains are popular in milling and other practices that generally require smooth wood surfaces.

Stihl 33RS-72 Oilomatic Rapid Super Saw Chain, 20'

On the other hand, regular chains (also known as crosscut chains) are made to cut across the wood grain, essentially wounding the veins and exposing the pores.

Regular chains would work best for harsher woodworking, like tree-cutting, where cutting angles are steep, and the wood itself presents a challenge during cutting.

If you’re a professional chainsaw user, it’s a good idea to go for a full-chisel regular chain. This will allow you to cut through the toughest woods, like oak, with ease. It also comes with the greatest risks, like a substantial kickback.

If you’re a beginner, but still want to cut through some tough hardwood, you can opt for a semi-chisel regular chain. It would be a little less effective, but with significantly diminished risk of injury.

If you’re more interested in making smooth planks and boards with excellent finishing, go for a ripping chain. Nothing else will cut parallel to the wood grain as efficiently.

In Conclusion

There are a lot of factors that determine which chainsaw chain is ideal for you.

There is no clear winner. Each chain has its specific pros and cons, and you have to keep in mind that the nature of your woodcutting can significantly influence which chain you settle on.

In addition to this, you should be aware that your decision is vital to the quality of your work. A ripping chain will leave a rough cut if you use it for crosscutting, and it’ll take an absurd amount of time.

A regular chain, on the other hand, may be able to do what a ripping chain does, but it’ll never produce the same smooth finishing.

About Me.

Hi, Jeremy Here, 

I am the the guy behind Cut The Timber. On this site, I share everything that learned and continue to learn about wood. From grains, to projects, to saws, and everything in between. 

I grew up camping with my family and ended up becoming an Eagle Scout. Currently, my family and I live on a ranch outside of Montana with tons of trees and fire pit fun. 

If you have any questions, feel free to email me: jeremy@cutthetimber.com

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