What is a Skip Tooth Chainsaw Chain and How It Works?

Patrick McMann

Knowledge Based

The secret behind how efficient a chainsaw is lies in its chain. But not all chains are created equal. They have different types, each with its own set of benefits and applications. 

In this article, I’ll specifically explore the skip tooth chainsaw chain, unraveling its purpose and benefits. Plus, I’ll discuss the scenarios in which a skip tooth chain may not be suitable, ensuring you have all the information needed to make an informed decision. So, let’s kick things off! 

pros and cons of skip tooth chainsaw chain

What Is a Skip Tooth Chainsaw Chain?

A skip tooth chainsaw chain is a specialized chain featuring a unique tooth arrangement. Unlike traditional chains, skip tooth chains have gaps between teeth, with every other tooth missing. This gives the chain a distinct appearance. The skipping pattern also means there are fewer cutting teeth along the chain, with each tooth having more space around it. 

Now you know what a skip tooth chain looks like, let’s look at what it is used for:

What Is a Skip Tooth Chainsaw Chain Used For?

Chainsaw operators use skip tooth chains to tackle longer wood pieces and cross-cutting sections. The gaps between the cutting teeth play a vital role by reducing the chain’s drag, which means less debris during cutting. 

Additionally, operators use skip tooth chains for tasks requiring quick wood chip removal, as larger tooth spacing facilitates better chip clearance. These chain types are compatible with lower battery-powered saws and longer guide bars, which helps minimize the risk of kickback. 

You’ll find there are two types of skip tooth chains that most chainsaw operators use.

Pros and Cons of Skip Tooth Chain

Using skip tooth chainsaw chains offers several notable advantages and disadvantages. Let’s break them down step by step:


  1. Reduced Debris and Woodchip Buildup – Skip tooth chains minimize the debris and woodchips produced during sawing. The wider gaps between the cutting teeth effectively scoop up the debris and allow it to release from the chain. This means you won’t have to clean out the chain and guide bar as frequently as compared to chains with closer-spaced teeth.

  1. Power Efficiency – Skip tooth chains utilize less power per unit chain length. This enables chainsaw operators to use them with longer guide bars without overburdening the motor, which translates to a power-efficient operation.

  1. Lower Kickback Risk – Skip tooth chains are beginner-friendly due to their reduced risk of kickback. The wider tooth spacing helps minimize the chances of the chain catching and causing the saw to kick back, providing a safer cutting experience for operators.

  1. Easy Sharpening – While the teeth of skip tooth chains may not dull as quickly as other chains, they are easier to sharpen. This makes them an excellent option if you’re a beginner learning to perform chainsaw maintenance.


  1. Not Suited For Smaller Wood Pieces – Fewer teeth on a skip tooth chain provide less surface area to grip the wood. This can create challenges for an operator when controlling the saw and cutting smaller pieces of wood. 

Even if you try using a skip tooth chain on a longer bar to cut smaller wood pieces, it can still result in a rough and grabby cutting experience. The limited number of teeth may struggle to maintain a steady and smooth cutting motion, making it harder to achieve clean and precise cuts. 

  1. Not Suitable For Shorter Guide Bars – When sawing narrow or small-diameter materials, I would recommend you opt for a different chain rather than a skip tooth chain. 

On a shorter bar, it can cause increased vibrations and make it challenging for you to hold the saw steady. This could result in potential discomfort to your wrists.

  1. Not Suitable For Aggressive Cutting Tasks – Skip tooth chains are unsuitable for aggressive cutting tasks. They have fewer teeth responsible for cutting, which forces each tooth to exert more effort. 

This increased workload can result in the chain binding or experiencing kickback, especially when you’re cutting through knotty wood. The skipped teeth create gaps in the cutting edge, allowing the knotty wood to catch the chain and cause binding. 

Moreover, the spaced teeth can make the chain less stable, leading to a higher risk of kickback. Another drawback is that skipped teeth remove less material than standard teeth, making the cut surface difficult to sand or finish smoothly.

But all the cons apart, do a skip tooth chain make your job easier and faster than a full chisel chain or not? 

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Does a Skip Tooth Chain Cut Faster?

Yes, a skip tooth chain can cut faster compared to a full chisel chain. The reason behind this is the skip tooth chain has fewer cutting teeth. 

With fewer teeth, there is less drag on the chain as it slices through the wood. This reduced drag enables the chainsaw to run at a higher speed and operate more efficiently, ultimately leading to faster cutting. 

Types of Skip Tooth Chains

Skip tooth chainsaw chains are grouped into two categories such as:

  1. Semi-Skip Tooth Chains

Semi-skip chains have a combination of skip teeth and standard chain teeth. This design provides a balance between cutting efficiency and wood chip clearance. 

  1. Full Skip Tooth Chains

Full skip chains have the largest gaps between the cutting teeth, resulting in enhanced wood chip clearance. 

Each type of skip tooth chain is suitable for different tasks. You must have an idea of the task at hand, such as whether your cutting job requires a semi-skip tooth chain or a full-skip tooth chain.

When to Use Semi-Skip Tooth Chain?

If you encounter challenging cutting conditions, such as frozen or denser hardwoods like oak, maple, and hickory, a semi-skip tooth chain is a suitable choice. The spacing between the teeth allows for improved chip evacuation, reducing the risk of chain clogging during longer cutting strokes. In case the chain does get clogged, you can always use a chainsaw chain breaker for cleaning or for making it shorter.

When to Use Full Skip Chain?

When it comes to full skip chains, their cutting teeth have the farthest spacing. This makes them an excellent choice for extensive and longer wood-cutting tasks. The increased gaps between the teeth also provide a notable advantage as clearing debris and preventing chain clogging becomes much more accessible. 

But there are some cutting scenarios where using a skip tooth chain is ideal and other situations where it is not. But what are those instances?

Homeowners Also Ask

What is the difference between semi-skip and full-skip chainsaw chains?

The primary difference between semi-skip and full-skip chainsaw chains is in the number of cutting teeth. In a semi-skip chain, half of its teeth are closely spaced like a standard chain, while the other half are spaced out like a full-skip chain. On the other hand, a full-skip chain has gaps between all of its teeth.

The difference in tooth spacing results in unique advantages and disadvantages for each chain type. Semi-skip chains excel in faster cutting as they have fewer teeth to drag through the wood. 

However, they tend to generate more vibration and are more prone to causing kickbacks. On the contrary, full-skip chains may cut slower than semi-skip ones, but they offer reduced kickback risks and produce less vibration.

What is the difference between skip tooth chain vs. full comp?

In a skip tooth chain, every other tooth or more is removed. This design reduces drag on the chain, allowing for faster cutting and minimizing kickback. It is often used for cutting large pieces of wood and cross-cutting sections. This chain type is also suitable for lower-powered saws and longer guide bars.

On the other hand, a full comp chain is the standard chainsaw chain with a complete set of cutting teeth. They are the most commonly used chainsaw chains and serve various purposes such as felling, bucking, and limbing.

Is a skip tooth chain better?

When it comes to cutting larger trees, skip tooth chains excel in speeding up the sawing process. They are particularly advantageous when dealing with highly resinous wood since the design reduces the likelihood of debris getting stuck in the chain. 

In such cases, this type of chain proves to be a practical choice, ensuring smoother and more efficient cutting without frequent interruptions for cleaning out debris.

Is a skip tooth the same as a ripping chain?

No, they are not identical. While a skip tooth chain removes every other tooth or more, a ripping chain features a unique tooth pattern designed specifically for cutting with the grain of wood. 

Ripping chains typically have fewer teeth per inch compared to skip tooth chains. This enables them to cut smoothly and with reduced kickback. However, they are slower than skip tooth chains and are less effective for cross-cutting tasks.

Is skip tooth chainsaw chain suitable for milling?

Yes, a skip tooth chainsaw chain is suitable for milling purposes. Its fewer teeth per inch provide a wider kerf, allowing for efficient cutting through large pieces of wood or when using a chainsaw mill. 

Moreover, the wider spacing between the teeth enhances wood chip clearance, preventing clogging and ensuring smoother milling operations. Another notable advantage of using this chain type for milling is its reduced tendency to cause chain vibration.

Final Thoughts

Hopefully, you now have a clearer understanding of what is a skip tooth chainsaw chain. It is a specialized chain suitable for lower-powered cutting tools and longer guide bars and has spaced teeth for reducing drag and enabling faster cutting. 

While it may not be suitable for cutting smaller wood pieces, it proves its worth when tackling larger trees, longer wood pieces, and crosscutting. A skip tooth chain is also well-suited for cutting resinous wood, where it can speed up the sawing process and minimize debris buildup. 

So, the next time you want to purchase a chain for your chainsaw, you know whether to get a skip tooth or another chain according to your cutting task.

Patrick McMann