Semi Chisel vs. Full Chisel Chain

When choosing a chainsaw for your woodworking applications or project, you must choose a chainsaw with a suitable cutter design, as this is a determinant of the result.

You can come across three different cutter designs: the semi-chisel, the full chisel, and the chipper. Now that you have narrowed down your options to the semi and full chisel, you probably wonder which is the best choice. Not to worry, for you have come to the right place.

The Semi chisel has rounded corners and a round edge of a radius between the top and side plates. Its long-lasting sharpness makes the cutting of wood easier. On the other hand, the full chisel has a sharp corner, making wood cutting faster and more effective.

Though both chisels are guaranteed to give an incredible performance, they come with differences, and one will suit your taste better than the other.


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 SemichiselFull chisel
StyleIt is a round-cornered chain with a round edge. There is a rounded transition between the top plates and the side plates cutting edges.The chain of the full chisel has a square and sharp cornered tooth.The cutters have a sharp transition between the cutting edges, which makes them different from the semi-chisel.
Cutting efficiencyThe semi-chisel does not cut wood as fast as the full chisel. It cuts slower than most chains which makes it perfect for general use.The full chisel has the upper hand when it comes to cutting efficiency. Theywill cut through any wood fiber with excellent speed making them perfect for professional use.
UsesYou can use it for cutting dirty wood, frozen and softwood.You can use it for cutting hardwood like oak and clean softwood.
CostThe semi-chisel is less expensive compared to the full chisel.The full chisel is more costly than the semi-chisel.

Differences between Semi Chisel and Full Chisel


Another major difference between both chisels is the sharpness. Even though the full chisel has a sharp cornered tooth and works faster than the semi-chisel, it does not retain its edge for a long time. It gets blunt quickly and is also difficult to sharpen. 

This can be a result of its aggressiveness when it comes to cutting. It puts in more effort, which causes it to lose its sharpness faster than the semi-chisel. 

It can be seen as a major drawback because one needs to sharpen the full chisel regularly to get the desired effect. 

The semi-chisel does not work as fast as the full chisel but retains its sharpness, especially during rough sawing. It is easy to sharpen when it eventually gets blunt. 


Kickback occurs when a blunt or dull chain is unable to cut through the wood, which then causes a sudden force of recoil. Due to its high level of aggressive cutting, the full chisel has a higher chance of kickback than the semi-chisel. 

The full chisel is a very sensitive chain, making it difficult to properly cut through dirty or softwood. When this happens, there is a high chance of kickback. Almost all full chisel chains you come across do not act by the ANSI B175.1 kickback standard. This makes it less safe and a wrong choice for inexperienced users. 

On the other hand, the semi-chisel is perfect for inexperienced chainsaw users. This is because it is not an aggressive chain when cutting which reduces the chances of kickback. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What is the recommended chisel for a first-time user?

The semi-chisel is the best option for not very experienced people. It is not aggressive in cutting, which makes it safer to use. 

It is also great at retaining its sharpness for a long time, so you do not have to worry about sharpening your chisel until after a while. When it eventually becomes blunt, You can sharpen it easily. 

What can a chisel be used for?

A chisel makes the cutting of wood, stone, heavy metal, and other similar solid materials easy. The sharper the blade, the more efficient result you will get. 

A semi-chisel can cut softwood, frozen wood, and dirty wood. It is ideal for cutting large pieces of wood because of its shape. A full chisel works well for hardwood and softwood but is not the best option for dirty wood. 

How do I maintain my chisel?

When your chisels are not in use, you must place them in the protective caps; this helps to cover the cutting edges and reduces the risk of rust.

It is also advisable that you lubricate your chisels once in a while. Finally, it would be best always to place your chisels with the bevel side up. 

How do I sharpen my chisel? 

There are three effective ways to sharpen your chisel, all depending on your perfect fit. You can choose to use a belt grinder; this is the fastest way out of the three methods.

Secondly, you can choose to scrape the chisel along with a piece of Waterstone, which is mostly called a whetstone (used with water instead of oil). Lastly, you can choose to use sandpaper to sharpen your chisel. This is a cheaper and easier method. 


Now you know the differences between a full chisel and a semi-chisel. You now know which is the best for your woodworking project and which you can handle better.  The significant difference between chisels is that one is a perfect choice for professional use and the other for do-it-yourself use. They are both excellent choices that guarantee a fantastic finished product when used the right way.

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