Homepower tools

What was the Original Purpose of the Chainsaw – the history

What was the Original Purpose of the Chainsaw – the history
Like Tweet Pin it Share Share Email

Whenever you hear the word chainsaw mentioned, the first thing that comes to your mind is the felling of trees or lumber. But as surprising as it may sound, the chainsaw was not initially intended for tree felling. So, what was the original purpose of the chainsaw?

Before we delve into the original purpose of the chainsaw, we need to clarify that the chainsaw has evolved from different older inventions. There are other forms of saws that were invented to help ease the burden of felling woods 

However, looking at the mechanism of the present-day chainsaws and how they evolved, the closest invention to it is what we are about to discuss.

Video: all you need to know about the inner workings of a chainsaw

What Was The Original Purpose of the Chainsaw?

The original purpose of the chainsaw was to aid childbirth. In the early days, the only path through which a baby must pass during delivery is the birth canal. There was no cesarean operation then. What happened was that doctors would use either a knife or a saw to remove some of the mother’s pelvic bones. Doing this would help open up the pelvic bone and create a bigger space through which the baby can pass successively. Using a knife to perform this operation can be both time consuming and excruciatingly painful.

A chainsaw is a tool that has a lot of history behind it. And just like we mentioned earlier, the accepted origin of the chainsaw is from a discipline that has nothing linking it to tree felling. 

At that time there was no anaesthesia, and this made a lot of women pass through a lot of suffering during childbirth. This process was called symphysiotomy.

Symphysiotomy is a process of removing some bone parts and cartridge to create more room for the easy passage of the baby through the birth canal.

This led two Scottish doctors, in 1780, to think of a way to solve two problems created by this process. The two problems they wanted to solve were how to reduce this characteristic pain these women were being subjected to. The second one was to reduce the time it took to get the operation done.

The names of the two doctors were James Jeffrey and John Aitken. They went ahead to produce a tool that had a chain saw. It had the size of a kitchen knife. It was operated by using the hand crank to make the saw rotate and cut the bone.

Because of the small size of the saw, it could enter small spaces, just like a knife would have done. But its cut was faster and more precise than that a knife or saw would have done.

As a result of the success recorded using this rather unusual medical tool, many doctors decided to adopt it also. It became the tool of choice for the removal or cutting of bones instead of using knives or saws.

Some years later, in the year 1830, a separate event also saw the invention of another tool like our modern-day chainsaw. A German by the name Bernhard Heine noticed that the tools used to remove or cut bones made their work messy.

As a result, he decided to do something about it. He produced a bone cutting tool called “osteotome”. It became a revolutionary surgical tool. The osteotome was handheld and the blade was long. 

This blade is what was used to guide a chain around it. This chain was designed with very sharp teeth. The movement of the chain around the blade is made possible by the handle which is connected to the sprocket wheel.

When this handle is turned, the chain starts to turn and then cuts. We need to remember that at this period in the history of the world, information spread very slowly. So, this invention had nothing to do with the initial one done by the two Scottish doctors.

Over time, some people took note of the ease with which this novel medical tool cut through bones. This gave them the idea that since this tool could easily cut through the toughest of bones, it can be used for the cutting of different materials.

At this period in history, timber was a very big and thriving business. As a result, many people who were dealing in it were always on the lookout on ways to improve the speed and ease of cutting trees. This, of course, will bring about an increase in revenue.

And that is how the chainsaw became useful in medicine and then moved over to timber work. Over the years, with the advancement in medical science, hygiene practices, and advancement in technology, the use of chainsaw for removal of bone and childbirth was stopped.

Buy Husqvarna 120 Mark II 16 in. Gas Chainsaws on Amazon

What is the Oldest Chainsaw Made?

The earliest known chainsaw that was patented was by Samuel Bens from San Francisco. He got it patented on the 17th of January 1905. His intention was to use it for the felling of giant redwoods. But the problem was that the model he made was very heavy and quite cumbersome.

As a matter of fact, most of the chainsaws of that age were very heavy and had to be pushed on wheels for its movement. But in 1918, a Canadian called Millwright J. Shand developed a more portable chainsaw and had it patented.

His patent elapsed in 1930. When he did not renew the patency. Another company from Germany called Festo, copied his invention, and developed it in 1933. But the company is now known as Festool and is still in the production of portable power and electrical tools.

Other people that have made a notable contribution to the development of the chainsaw are Andreas Stihl and Joseph B. Cox. The former was the first person to patent a chainsaw powered by electricity. He also developed a chainsaw powered by gasoline in 1929.

But with the commencement of World War 2, the purchase of chainsaws from Germany was halted (all the above-mentioned chainsaw developers were from Germany). This led to the springing up of more chainsaw making companies in North America.

Among the oldest makers of the chainsaw in North America is Industrial Engineering Limited in 1947. They later transformed to Pioneer Saws Limited and became part of a new power tools manufacturing company called Outboard Marine Co.

what was the original purpose of the chainsaw
photo credit: stephen_23, needpix.com

Oldest Chainsaw Manufacturers

The longest surviving manufacturer of the modern chainsaw in the world is Stihl. Their first chainsaw, an electro-chainsaw, made its first appearance in the market in 1926. The founder of the company, Andreas Stihl is generally seen as the foremost inventor of the motorized and mobile chainsaw.

Modern Chainsaw

The modern chainsaw has had a lot of transformation. At the earlier times, the chainsaw was very heavy, weighing as much as 116 pounds. They could not be handled by one person and had to be wheeled around.

But with the development of forged steels and aluminum, the chain saw became lighter. Also, it was expensive, it was almost impossible for an individual to afford it. It was mainly bought by lumbering firms and the military.

But with the development of forged steels, the cost of production has drastically reduced. And as a result, the purchasing value also dropped. 

As more manufacturers joined in the race of chain saw manufacturing, the machine witnessed rapid development. Husqvarna joined the fold and launched its 1st chainsaw in 1959. This model was equipped with a more modern feature.

One of the most notable features it came with was the noise reduction technology. They were able to achieve a 100% reduction of noise with the use of hi-tech mufflers.

Furthermore, in 1964 Stihl manufactured the 1st ever anti-vibration hand. It made use of buffer elements that absorbed the vibration that emanated from the engine and blade.

Again, in 1980, it was the turn of Husqvarna to make another addition to the steady development of the chainsaw. Because they were concerned about the safety of users of the machine, they invented the automated chain breaker. 

This effectively upped the safety standard of chainsaws and this led to the drastic reduction of the number of injuries linked to the breaking of the chain. 

Buy Stihl Battery Operated Chainsaw Keyring – With Sounds on Amazon

Here are other awesome posts that you might be interested in:

What is a jigsaw

When was the chainsaw invented

What is a reciprocating saw

How to operate a chainsaw

How to cut plexiglass with a jigsaw

What is a compound miter saw

Who Makes the Best Chainsaw?

The two most popular chainsaws in the world are Stihl chainsaw and Husqvarna chainsaw. Their products are the most widely used in the world.

The choice of who makes the better chainsaw is quite a divisive issue. There is no consensus on who makes the better chain saw. There are various criteria by which users of these machines can decide which chain saw is best.

But it is accepted by all that both manufacturers make the best quality of chainsaws in the market. And they are the leaders when it comes to innovations and breath-taking technological breakthroughs in these machines.

When you look at the history of evolvement of chainsaws, you can’t fail to notice that most of the developments that have been witnessed. Over the years, these machines have been mainly from either Stihl or Husqvarna.

But we can give you the advantages that both brands have. This will help you in deciding which one is a better machine, depending on where your interest lies.

But there are other good chainsaws in the market like Echo, Craftsman, Homelite, etc. These brands have their positives and relevance. Some are battery-powered while some others have other quality innovative additions to them that are quite interesting to the enthusiast. 

But we would just look at the two most popular brands to see their qualities and attractive qualities.

What Are The Advantages of Husqvarna Chainsaws?

The advantages of Husqvarna chainsaws are:

i. The Husqvarna brand is reputed to have faster cutting ability than the Stihl brand.

ii. They have more presence in the online market than the Stihl brand.

iii. Their fuel tanks are larger and thereby make it possible for the operator to work for a longer period without interruption. 

iv. They have been able to achieve a much higher fuel efficiency level and a lower rate of exhaust emission due to the use of X-TOROQ fuel efficiency technology.

v. The Husqvarna brand is the most preferred chainsaw brand for professionals.

Husqvarna is known as the oldest and largest power tools manufacturing company in the world. It started in Sweden around 1690. It started with the production of a musket. It takes its name from the town that it was first founded in. And as we mentioned earlier, their forage into the chainsaw business started in 1959.

What Are The Advantages of Stihl Chainsaws?

The advantages of Stihl chainsaws are:

i. Stihl chainsaw’s low-end torques are better than that of Husqvarna and therefore more suitable for cutting tough trees.

ii. It has a lighter weight because of the smaller size of its tank. This makes it carry a smaller quantity of fuel. But the downside is that you will have a shorter time to work before you refill the fuel tank.

iii. Stihl chainsaws are much cheaper compared to Husqvarna.

iv. Stihl chainsaws are less stressful because they require less maintenance frequency than Husqvarna.

v. Stihl chainsaws are the preferred saws for homeowners.

With these qualities, it is now up to the user to decide which of the two products is better. These choices are based on the need and the type of job you intend to use it for.

As we have mentioned above, Stihl is a German company that is known for the production of power tools. They are the pioneer manufacturers of the chainsaw. It was founded in Stuttgart in 1926. It is a privately owned company and its headquarters is now in Virginia.

In the United States alone, the company has a staff of over 2100 people. Most of these staff work in the Virginia factory. Its first-ever one-man chainsaw was manufactured in 1950.

Since the advent of the chainsaw machine, lumbering has had a lot of improvement in safety, speed, and quality of cuts. 

During the pre-chainsaw era, cutting down trees was very tedious. The major tool in use then was the ax. This is risky and time-consuming. It led people to think of ways to overcome this obstacle.

This led to the invention of the chainsaw and brought a huge turn around in the timber industry. Looking back at its earliest known history in the medical field, up to when it was transformed to the power tool that we know it as today; the chainsaw has come a long way. And from the look of things, it will still be with us for the foreseeable future.  


It is quite fascinating and at times a bone-chilling thing, seeing how the chainsaw developed. We know how rugged and merciless they can be while chopping down trees. It is a surprising thing knowing that such a powerful machine made such a leap from medicine. 

From being a tool that helps bring innocent babies to the world safely, to becoming the monster machine that fells trees both big and small. But that is just how so many tools came to be. From being invented for one thing to evolving to what they are known for now.

Comments (0)

Leave a Reply