Types of Chains

Types of Chains

Chains can be a very important tool for lots of things. That is why it is important to know the difference between all types of chains. Some of them may be for more heavy-duty projects and some can be used for smaller things. When used correctly, chains are very helpful tools around the house. It is good to know what a chain is. They are pieces of metal linked together. They can have two or more links and can be classified in many different ways.


Unlike other materials, chains are unique because they have more than one function and purpose. Chains can be used to transmit power, convey objects or materials, convert motion from linear to rotary, and synchronize motion. One example of a chain would be the chains that help bike wheels turn when you pedal, without those the bike would not be able to go anywhere. That type of chain would be converting motion. Chains also have many advantages over other tools that do the same thing because they can hold more weight, have more controlled flexibility, can operate in different climates such as high heat, and have an unlimited life of usage.


There are 5 main types of chains that are used. They are roller chains, leaf chains, silent chains, engineering steel chains, and flat-top chains. Within those major categories, there are 2 major classifications of chains.

Straight Link

Straight link chains have alternating outside and inside links. They include chains with rollers and chains without rollers that are similar. The other classification is offset link chains that have all the same type of link. Straight link chain can be used to move in any direction but has to have an even number of links or include one offset link. Both styles have advantages in their design and how it is used. For example, straight link chain can be made easier and has a cost advantage. Straight link chain is also easier to add attachments onto which will not cause a lot of problems.

Offset Link

The other classification is offset link chains that have all the same type of link. The only thing that makes these chains different is how the tension members are built into it, and for these types, it is usually the sidebar. Offset links can be used with an even or odd number of links but can only function in one direction. Offset chains have advantages such as being easy to shorten if needed. You can remove a singular link from the worn drive if necessary.

Roller Chains

As mentioned above, roller chains are one of the main types of chains used readily. Their primary use is to reduce friction but they have other functions as well. One of their other functions is to transfer the movement of sliding onto the internal parts of the chain which is why they are there. The other function is to act as a guide and support materials that may be carried by a track, similar to a conveyor. Roller chains are useful if you know their special functions because there are so many more different types of chains too. Roller chains have two types within the name, one is single strand and one is multiple strands. Multiple strands contain two or more chains that are placed next to each other and keep the rollers of other strands aligned.

Leaf Chains

The purpose of a leaf chain is to lift extremely heavy loads, this is because they have the purpose of counterbalancing. Leaf chains have dimensions that are proportional to a chain pitch and are important because they give a good balance to the design properties of leaf chains, allowing them to lift heavy loads and not break easily. Leaf chains are most commonly used by trucks since most cargo is transported by truck and people need a reliable means of getting their materials onto the truck. The chain, in this case, absorbs the weight of the load instead of the truck and can then be moved safely onto uneven surfaces.

Silent Chain

They all have different special uses and are designed for various scenarios. Silent chains are built with toothed link plates that are assembled with joint components so they can move freely between the pitches. They also are made of a bunch of link plates so the chain can support heavyweight. Adding more and more rows of links to the chain will increase the amount it can hold, strength, and width of the chain.

Steel Chains

Steel chains, or engineering steel chains, are designed for the most heavy-duty industrial projects because they have more speed, strength, and longevity. Steel chains are made to withstand a lot of weight and can be used in any type of weather condition.

Flat Top Chains

Lastly, flat-top chains are most useful as a conveyor. Though flat-top chains are not meant to be worn down, and as the sprockets run against the chain while it is moving, this can wear down the material. Also, if the chain is pulled longer, the sprockets will not work correctly and therefore the conveyor is not going to function so that is why it is important to check the chains.

Chains For A Chainsaw

There are many special types of chains that are used for chain saws as well. These have been developed over time to work in specific conditions so that the chain will be able to cut based on what the job is.

Low Profile Chain

One type of chain is the low profile chain, which has cutters that don’t cut as deep as a standard chainsaw chain. Although, it is a much lighter chain and can be used with engines that have a lower horse-power, as well as puts less pressure on the engine.

Narrow Kerf Chain

The next special chain is a Narrow Kerf chain that is specifically designed to make narrower cuts. The narrow kerf chain usually does not saw away a lot of wood because of how narrow the cuts are but it does work much faster and allows you to use a long bar and full-size chain with it.

Ripping Chain

Lastly, is the ripping chain, which is a great chain to use for turning logs into planks of wood. This type of chain cuts at a lower angle than the other two and does not cut against the wood’s grain.


With so many varieties of chains, it is extremely likely there will be one that fits the needs of your project. Each chain has a specific function and hopefully, after reading this you now have knowledge of them and what chain will be the best for you.

Written by Adriana Cavicchi

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