How to measure a chainsaw bar length: Powerful chainsaw slices through a log

Mastering the Art of Chainsaw Maintenance: A Comprehensive Guide on How to Measure a Chainsaw Bar Length

Understanding the length of a chainsaw bar is crucial for safe and effective operation. This dimension not only dictates the size of the timber you can cut but also impacts maneuverability and precision. In this guide, we’ll walk you through the straightforward steps to accurately determine this crucial measurement, ensuring you get optimal performance from your equipment.

I. Introduction

Understanding the size and specifications of your chainsaw is paramount for its optimal and safe use.

A. Importance of chainsaw bar length

The length of a chainsaw bar determines the diameter of wood it can cut in a single pass. It’s not just about efficiency; using the right bar length can also prolong the life of your chainsaw and reduce the risk of kickbacks, a leading cause of chainsaw-related injuries.

B. Impact on operation and safety

A chainsaw with the correct bar length will be easier to control, reducing the risk of accidents. Moreover, it ensures that the tool works within its intended capacity, preventing undue wear and potential damage.

II. The Basics of Chainsaw Bars

Before diving into the measuring process, it’s essential to understand what a chainsaw bar is and the variations available.

A. Definition and role of a chainsaw bar

The chainsaw bar is the flat metal component to which the chain is attached. It guides the chain, supports it during cutting, and helps determine how deep the cut will be. Essentially, it’s the backbone of the chainsaw’s cutting mechanism.

B. Variations and common sizes

Chainsaw bars come in various lengths, typically ranging from 10 inches for smaller, portable chainsaws to over 36 inches for more industrial applications. The size needed often depends on the nature of the job, from pruning branches to felling large trees.

III. Step-by-Step Guide to Measuring

It’s only sometimes evident what the length of your chainsaw bar is, especially if it’s worn down or if you’ve lost the manual. Here’s how to find out:

A. Tools required

All you need is a tape measure or a ruler and a flat surface to lay the chainsaw on.

B. Preparing the chainsaw

Ensure the chainsaw is turned off, with its chain brake engaged. For safety, it’s also a good idea to wear gloves when handling the chain.

C. Measuring process

Lay the chainsaw on a flat surface. Start measuring from the tip of the chainsaw bar to the point where it enters the chainsaw housing. The resulting measurement is the chainsaw bar’s effective cutting length, which might be slightly different than its actual total length.

IV. Common Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

Even a task as simple as measuring can have pitfalls. Here’s what to watch out for:

A. Misreading the tape

Always double-check your measurements. It’s easy to misread a number or not have the tape perfectly straight.

B. Not accounting for wear and tear

Over time, a chainsaw bar can wear down, especially if it’s been used frequently or in challenging conditions. Always consider this when measuring an older chainsaw.

C. Confusing actual length with an effective cutting length

The actual length of a chainsaw bar is longer than its effective cutting length. Always measure from the tip to where the bar enters the housing to get the effective length.


Q: How do you read a chainsaw bar number?
A: The chainsaw bar number typically indicates the length of the bar in inches and sometimes includes pitch and gauge details. For example, a number like “18” usually means the bar is 18 inches long.

Q: What does 72 mean on a chainsaw chain?
A: The number “72” on a chainsaw chain typically refers to the number of drive links the chain has. Drive links fit into the bar groove, so it’s essential to match the correct number of drive links with the bar length.

Q: What size chainsaw do I need to run a 36-inch bar?
A: Running a 36-inch bar usually requires a more powerful chainsaw, typically in the range of 80cc to 120cc. However, always refer to the manufacturer’s recommendations for compatible bar lengths for specific chainsaw models.

Q: How often should I measure my chainsaw bar length?
A: It’s a good practice to measure the chainsaw bar length whenever you change the chain or if you suspect wear and tear has affected its length.

Q: Can I use a different bar length than what’s specified for my chainsaw?
A: While it’s possible, it’s not recommended. Using a bar that’s too long for your chainsaw can strain the engine and increase the risk of accidents.

Q: Does the effective cutting length differ from the total bar length?
A: Yes, the effective cutting length is the portion of the bar from its tip to where it enters the chainsaw housing. The total bar length might be slightly longer.

Q: What’s the significance of pitch and gauge when measuring a chainsaw bar?
A: Pitch refers to the distance between the chain’s drive links, and gauge is the thickness of the drive links. Both are crucial for ensuring the chain fits snugly onto the bar and operates smoothly.

VI. Conclusion

Taking the time to measure your chainsaw bar length correctly is more than a simple maintenance task.

A. Recap of the measurement process

Accurate measurement ensures you have the right chain fit, which directly impacts the chainsaw’s performance and longevity.

B. Importance of regular checks

Regularly checking the chainsaw bar length, especially after extended use, can prevent potential issues down the line, ensuring your chainsaw operates at its best.

C. Safety reminders

Always prioritize safety. A correctly sized bar and chain reduce the risk of kickbacks and other potential dangers during operation.

VII. Suggested Readings

Chainsaw maintenance and proper use are skills every owner should possess. Dive deeper into the world of chainsaws with these insightful books:

  • “The Chainsaw Operator’s Manual” – A comprehensive guide to using chainsaws safely and effectively, covering maintenance, techniques, and safety precautions.
  • “Homeowner’s Complete Guide to the Chainsaw” by Brian J. Ruth & Jen W. Ruth – An in-depth look into chainsaw use for homeowners, with a focus on projects and maintenance.
  • “Chainsaw Lumbermaking” by Will Malloff – An expert’s take on using chainsaws for lumber, highlighting techniques for cutting logs and planks.
  • “Sawman: A Guide to Safe Chainsaw Operation” by Dave Stone – A hands-on approach to chainsaw safety, with practical tips and tricks for both beginners and experienced users.
  • “The Essential Chainsaw Handbook” by Brian J. Ruth – Covering everything from basic chainsaw mechanics to advanced cutting techniques, this book is a valuable resource for any chainsaw enthusiast.

These reads will equip you with the knowledge to ensure you get the most out of your chainsaw while prioritizing safety.

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