Chainsaws are simply defined as portable, engine powered saws used primarily for cutting wood or felling trees. While now anyone can easily go to a hardware store and purchase a chainsaw it wasn’t always that way. The chainsaw was a revolutionary tool when it was invented because it could do the work of five men. Naturally this made it quite popular quite quickly in the competitive world of forestry.
History of the Chainsaw
The first tool resembling a modern chainsaw was the Osteotome, a small bone saw invented in Canada by a German, Bernard Heine in the 1830s. After this there were several highly impractical versions invented for logging purposes. There was the Californian Muir’s chainsaw which weighed hundreds of pounds and required a crane to operate, the 1861 Hamilton that required two men to hand-crank, and the American Riding saw of the 1880s that resembled a rowing machine. None of these devices were particularly successful. It is believed the first real modern chainsaw was patented in 1926 by a German Mechanical Engineer named Andreas Stihl. He also patented the gas-powered motor chainsaw system in greatest use today in 1929 and the anti-vibration handle in 1864.
There are several manufacturers who claim to have invented the chainsaw in the mid-to-late 1920s as well as an article in The Timberman magazine in its issue of October, 1949 featuring photographs of a chainsaw being used in 1905 featuring a marine motor set at 90 degrees from the usual angle. There is one other known example of a prior chainsaw, the March 16, 1918 edition of the Scientific American which featured a picture of a chainsaw on its cover that was of German design with a gas-powered motor. The C-shaped ‘chipper’ type of chainsaw chain was invented for sure by Joseph Buford Cox, a man with only a third-grade education, in 1947. He founded OMARK Industries with his wife to cast and sell his invention. He claimed to have been inspired by a timber-beetle larva’s jaws. Special types of chainsaw have since been invented that can cut through concrete and stone for construction work. Husqvarna invented an automatic chain brake that stops the chainsaw’s chain in case of kickback as well as composite engine cases that make the chainsaw lighter and more user-friendly.
Chainsaws now are much safer than they were nearly a hundred years ago. They are lighter, easier to use, and feature chain brakes and vibration-proof handles (this prevents Vibration Syndrome where feeling and blood flow in the hands is cut off and can eventually lead to gangrene or other debilitating diseases). Now when using chainsaws it is also common practice to wear ear protection preventing tinnitus, safety glasses to prevent sliver in the eye, and hard hats in case of falling tree parts. Although now chainsaws are all but obsolete in forestry work they are still used by individuals commonly after storms. They are readily available from every major tool manufacturer including two of the first chainsaw companies, Stihl and Oregon Cutting Systems, which bought out OMARK industries in the 1980s. Chainsaws are so common that in 1951 Popular Science magazine ran a special article on how they work, which can still be found online.
Bernard Cowell is a freelance writer based in Nova Scotia, Canada. Bernard has a fascination with construction tools, gadgets, gizmos, remodeling & renovation and other related topics; Bernard recommends that others who share a passion for such topics visit a company with substantial experience with tools and construction products at homeexteriorsystems.com/james-hardie-products.
Image credit goes to Newyorkcityresident.