Are Chainsaw Bars Universal?

Approx Reading Time: 7 minutes

Universal components for power tools such as chainsaws are a modern-day luxury since they allow tool users to swap accessories and auxiliary parts off a power tool easily.

This not only allows for more accessible replacement parts, but it also saves the tool owner the expense of replacing the tool entirely if a single component breaks. 

Unfortunately, chainsaw bars are not universal. Each chainsaw bar is fitted to a specific set of chainsaws and cannot be used on other types. To determine which chainsaw bar is compatible with a chainsaw, consider the chainsaw type, the chainsaw size, and the position of the tensioner hole, bolt slot, and oil holes.

If you use a chainsaw often, it is essential to know more about the steps you should take when it comes time to replace your chainsaw bar.

Keep reading to learn more about why chainsaws are not universal and how to choose a chainsaw bar for your chainsaw. 

Chainsaw Bars Are Not Universal

As convenient as it would be, chainsaw bars aren’t universal at all. Even if you like the chainsaw bar on another chainsaw and can find it as a replacement component on its own, there’s no guarantee that it will work correctly with the shape of your machine unless it is the same model.

Some people may be able to use a chainsaw bar on a chainsaw that it isn’t made for, but this is the rare exception that proves the rule. 

There are a few things that you need to look at when you’re trying to replace your chainsaw bar. These include the following: 

  • Size: Size is one of the most significant deciding factors in replacing a chainsaw bar since a bar of the wrong size will not fit on your chainsaw. Use a measuring tape to measure the length and width of the chainsaw bar rather than just trying to eyeball it.
  • Tensioner hole and bold slot: The tensioner hole is the component of the chainsaw that allows you to adjust the tension between the chain and the bar. When the chainsaw bar is installed, the tensioner hole and bolt slot should line up for both the chainsaw bar and the chainsaw itself.
  • Oil holes: The oil holes are the part of the chainsaw that allows you to keep the chain on the saw well-lubricated. If you have a chainsaw bar that came stock with your chainsaw that has oil holes, the replacement should have them, too. 

If these three aspects match, you can put the new bar on your chainsaw. After the new chainsaw has been installed, be sure that everything fits soundly before testing the chainsaw to see how well everything works.

Types of Chainsaw Bars

There are a few different types of chainsaw bars available. Usually, if you’re replacing a chainsaw bar on your chainsaw, the new bar will be one out of the same category as the old.

Chainsaw bars come in two major types—solid and laminated.

Solid Chainsaw Bars

A solid chainsaw bar is made from one solid piece of steel. These are the most durable types and often the best for consistent work that doesn’t require a lot of flexibility.

Among the solid chainsaw bars, there are two smaller categories:

  • A replaceable sprocket nose bar is the standard chainsaw bar. This is the most frequently used solid chainsaw bar. It contains a sprocket at either the nose or the tip of the bar. Rivets hold the chain in place and play a significant role in the chainsaw bar being able to move smoothly during operation. This sprocket can be taken off and replaced in case it is damaged. 
  • Hard nose bars are solid pieces of metal that don’t contain any removable parts. These are not used as often, but they are preferred in some situations.

Here are a couple of examples of high-quality replaceable sprocket nose bars:

If you would prefer a hard nose bar, here are a couple of options:

The replaceable sprocket nose bar is considered by many to be more cost-effective because, often, you only need to replace the sprocket rather than the entire bar.

However, they are not as sturdy as the hard nose bars.

Hard nose bars are the better choice for jobs where you need to use the nose of the bar to saw through something.

These bars tend to be expensive and can consume some of the power of the chainsaw because they tend to overheat. 

Laminated Chainsaw Bars

In contrast to a solid chainsaw bar, a laminated chainsaw bar includes two steel rails that are joined by a steel core with a sprocket in between.

Here are a few examples of high-quality laminated chainsaw bars (some include the chain as well):

  • Chainsaw Bar and Chain Combo Replacement for Stihl Models (18”) (buy on Amazon)
  • Oregon 20-Inch AdvanceCut Guide Bar and D70 Chainsaw Chain Combo (buy on Amazon)

While the solid bars are significantly more durable, the laminated bars are more flexible.

Either of these could be an excellent choice for you, depending on your project and your preferences. You should also remember that laminated chainsaw bars are typically shorter than solid bars. The longest laminated bars you will find will be 24 inches long.

Why are Chainsaw Bars NOT Universal? 

The short answer to this question is that the design of chainsaws varies wildly from saw to saw. When chainsaws were first invented in 1830, the design of the chainsaw was very simplistic.

In 2020, these chainsaws are a very sophisticated pieces of machinery with several mechanical bells and whistles attached to go along with the cutting action. 

Since their inception, hundreds of chainsaw companies have begun manufacturing them, and none of these companies follow the same engineering standards or specifications.

Instead, it is in the best interest of the company to include design aspects that make their chainsaws exceptional among its many competitors.

The same unique non-standard parts that make a chainsaw special, however, also make those same components more difficult to replace. 

There is also another business factor to consider in making components non-universal, too. If a chainsaw manufacturer makes a specific kind of chainsaw, they only want their customers to buy replacement parts from them, not from a cheaper company. 

This both ensures that the part will work as intended with the company’s chainsaw with no liability issues and keeps the customer coming back to the parent company for return purchases. 

Final Words

Many people think that a chainsaw is a very simple instrument. However, there are many different types of chainsaws and a great deal of variety in the bars that you can attach to them.

Therefore, it’s essential to make sure that a particular chainsaw bar is compatible with your machine, rather than making an assumption and ending up unable to use your chainsaw.

This is also an example of why it is a good idea to learn about chainsaws and their components in general, rather than thinking all you need to do is learn how to use your particular chainsaw.

In situations where you have to replace parts, you should know a bit about how the parts function together to be able to make the most informed purchase.

Peter Toth

Hi! I'm Peter, the owner of BackyardGadget. Working around the house has always been a big part of my life. I've created this site to share my experience, and to help people choose the right tools for the job. Thank you for stopping by!