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Chainsaws, Chain Saws

The 1830 osteotome was the first chainsaw.


Man cutting wood with chainsaw
Jill Ferry Photography/ Moment/ Getty Images
The earliest reference I could find on chainsaws comes from the Canadian Medical Association Journal in an article written by Wolf Seufert, MD, DSc: "Orthopedics became a specialty with the help of a new instrument, the osteotome, invented around 1830 by the German Bernard Heine. This illustration from a contemporary inventory of surgical tools shows clearly that this clever master of prosthetics had in fact invented the chain saw. The links of the chain carried small cutting teeth with the edges set at an angle; the chain was moved around a guiding blade by turning the handle of the sprocket wheel."

Several major manufacturers of chain saws claim to have invented the first chain saw and all their claims point to the 1920s. However, the 1830 osteotome would pre-date them all.

One claim states that a California inventor named Muir was the first person to put a chain on a blade to use for logging purposes, technically inventing the first logging chainsaw. However, Muir's invention weighed hundreds of pounds and required a crane. This invention was neither a commercial or practical success.

Other examples of early automatic logging saws were: the 1861 Hamilton saw that was hand-cranked by one or two men and looked like a spinning wheel; and the American riding saw of the 1880s that resembled a rowing machine that cutters could sit on.

Andreas Stihl - Father of the Modern Chainsaw

In 1926, German mechanical engineer, Andreas Stihl patented the "Cutoff Chain Saw for Electric Power". Born in 1896, Andreas Stihl founded a company that manufactured steam boiler prefiring systems in Stuttgart, Germany. In 1929, Stihl patented the first gasoline-powered chainsaw called the tree-felling machine. These were the first successful patents for hand-held mobile chainsaws designed for woodcutting. Andreas Stihl is most frequently credited as being the inventor of the mobile and motorized chainsaw. He invented what we today recognize as being the modern chainsaw.

World's Oldest Chain Saw?
The memorable event took place in the summer of 1905 at Eureka, California. The saw was driven by a two-cylinder, water-cooled, marine type motor set at 90 degrees from its normal position. No inventor was named in this article.

History of the Oregon Chainsaw
Logger/inventor Joseph Buford Cox was an experienced operator of the gas-powered chainsaws and came up with a revolutionary new chainsaw.

Atom Industries
In 1972, Atom manufactured their own chainsaws and were the world's first chainsaw company to have a complete range of chainsaws with electronic ignitions (patented) and turbo-action, self-cleaning, air cleaner (patented).

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