Chainsaw History – Which Was the First Chainsaw?

Richard McMann

Knowledge Based

We have been in absolute love with the chainsaw machines. Using modern equipment makes us forget chainsaw history and sometimes the laborious work ancestors had to do to cut wood and timber.

It was only until the chainsaw, heavy axes were carried around to deal with trees and woodcutting.

That said, the chainsaw history topic is quite interesting as the tool was not developed for cutting wood or thick logs when it originated.

It was created in the first place to help with childbirth. That was the main reason for its invention and the tool was called osteotome at that time.

Anyways, if you are still interested in knowing all chainsaw history, let me elaborate it further in detail as follows:

chainsaw history

History of Chainsaw: The Hero Behind Chainsaw Invention

The credit mainly goes to German orthopaedist Bernhard Heine who got the first chainsaw rolled out in 1830. The equipment was called osteotome back then and this word was part of the Greek language. This meant a bone cutter was designed to use for medical reasons.

The chain designed by Bernhard Heine had small cutting teeth and sharp edges placed at certain angles to have maximum impact. A sprocket wheel was used to turn the chain over a guiding bar and cutting teeth would rip through the objects. It was operated manually back then and for obvious reasons had very little power.

Evolution of Chainsaw in the 1900s

It was until 1920 that researchers dug deep into redesigning the chainsaw to be used for commercial forestry use. The need for stronger machines existed due to the rising demand for wood and fire timber. Samuel J. Bens has been credited for rolling out the first-ever patented endless chainsaw.

More powerful cutting teeth were attributed to the chainsaw and it could be used in the forests to deal with heavy wood. Canadian millwright James Shand developed the first portable chainsaw in 1918. It was a bit heavyweight machine and wasn’t deployed much out in the middle.

Who Started Manufacturing Electric Chainsaws?

In 1926, Andreas Stihl, a German Mechanical Engineer developed an electric chainsaw that was launched for wood-cutting purposes. At that time, the weight of an electric chainsaw was around 120 Pounds and required two persons for the operation which was not much feasible.

Who Started Manufacturing Gas Chainsaws?

Dolmar Chainsaw Company began the manufacturing of gas-powered chainsaws in 1927. also launched his gas chainsaw in 1929 as gas power input presented more power than electric input. It was also too cost-effective solution at that time when chainsaws had bulky sizes.

These chainsaws were quite widely used in the 1930s and were also deployed in the second World War to quickly meet the wood and timber requirements. With the industrial revolution, aluminum and steel components became lighter in weight which also had an impact on chainsaw design resulting in 2-stroke and 4-stroke engines.

Unstoppable Since Then

Period of the 1950s and after that, the chainsaws’ effectiveness and impact became unstoppable. The weight of a chainsaw massively fall by around 30 pounds and became operational with a single person. Technology came in to add to the user convenience and lightweight features.

Since then many chainsaw companies have come into existence like Husqvarna, Stihl, Oregon, and many more. They offer various kinds of features like an anti-vibration system, chain brakes, rear, and front handles, and the list goes on. User convenience became the top priority and the cutting power was also enhanced with the installation of impactful motors.

Safety features like a low kickback chain bar and chain brake make a woodcutter feel safe while playing around in the middle. The pull cord system led to 2 stroke chainsaw getting started with ultimate ease and battery-powered chainsaws are among the new trends.

Chainsaw manufacturing and further evolution are now focused on user convenience as power goals have been achieved to quite an extent. Thankfully, now we don’t have to put in much physical effort and our exhaustion level is quite low even at the end of a long-haul woodcutting day. Let’s see what features are rolled out by expert manufacturing engineers and researchers from now onwards!

Frequently Asked Questions 

When was the first chainsaw invented? 

The credit for inventing the first ever chainsaw, i.e. an osteotome goes to a German orthopaedist, who invented this tool back in 1830. It was used back then in childbirth during a C-section to help ease the delivery. The tool, however, is not currently being used for medical purposes and we only see it for purposes like cutting firewood, hedges, thick trees, yard work, etc.

Where did the chainsaw originate? 

Even way before Bernhard Heine, it is said that the chainsaw originated in Scotland in the 1780s. Two surgeons, i.e. John Aitken and James Jeffrey are credited with introducing it as an amputating tool that helped in child delivery back then.

When were chainsaws first used to cut wood? 

Samuel J. Bens from San Francisco back in January 1905 used the cutting tool to cut down giant redwoods. Furthermore, the first portable chainsaw was actually introduced by Canadian-born James Shand back in 1918. After he gave his rights to the German company Festo in 1930, proper work was done on the chainsaw to make it a useful wood-cutting tool.

Who made the first wood chainsaw? 

Though Oregon does not take any credit for making the first wood chainsaw, it was perfected by the brand and the name behind this process is Joseph Cox. Dating back to 1947, the lumberjack actually made some interesting changes to the tool to make it more applicable for cutting wood.

What was a chainsaw originally meant for? 

As discussed above already, osteotome (the ancient name of a chainsaw) was first meant for cutting the pelvis to make it broader enough to take out the child during labor. It was an effective tool at that time as we are talking about the 18th century. Slowly and gradually, the use of the tool diminished and it formed the shape of what we see today, i.e. a chainsaw. The cutting tool has become extremely powerful and is now used for taking down large trees and other yard work activities.

Final Takeaways: Chainsaw History

The shiny, robust, powerful cutting tool that you see today was not the same when we go back to the 18th and 19th centuries.

With the advancement in technology over time, the osteotome evolved into what we call today a chainsaw. The cutting tool is now used on a commercial basis as well as for home use to ensure an easy cutting experience on different types of wood.

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Richard McMann
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