Why Was the Chainsaw Invented? Delving into its Historical Roots

Most people associate chainsaws with lumberjacks, tree felling, or perhaps horror movies. However, the origins of this powerful tool may surprise many.

The chainsaw was originally invented not for tree felling but for use in the medical field. Specifically, it was designed as a surgical instrument for symphysiotomy, a procedure to aid childbirth.

In this article, we’ll explore the history of the chainsaw and the reasons behind its invention.

An Overview of the Chainsaw

A chainsaw, in essence, is a portable mechanical saw powered either by gasoline, electricity, or a battery.

It’s characterized by its set of teeth attached to a rotating chain that runs along a guide bar. Due to its efficiency, it’s become a staple for woodcutting tasks ranging from tree felling to firebreak creation.

Why was The chainsaw invented? Diving into the History

The story of the chainsaw’s invention begins in the unlikeliest of places: the surgical ward.

Below is a rough timeline of its development:

  • 1783 – German orthopaedist Bernhard Heine invents the first handheld bone saw.
  • 1858 – Canadian-born surgeon William Beatty develops a more ergonomic version, which he named ‘Beatty’s Saws
  • 1912 – Academic and inventor Joseph Buford Cox patents the first mechanical saw.
  • 1926 – Husqvarna AB develops the first portable two-man chainsaw for timber felling in Sweden.
  • 1947 – The first one-person, light weight chainsaw is released by Jonsereds Fabriks AB in Sweden.

Clearly, the invention of the chainsaw was a gradual process that took place over many years. From its use in the medical field to its adaptation for cutting timber, the chainsaw has come a long way since it first saw the light of day.

How did the chainsaw change the world? What does the Future Hold?

Today, chainsaws are an indispensable part of forestry and construction work. However, as technology continues to advance, so too does this tool:

1. The Unexpected Medical Origins:

The chainsaw’s earliest incarnation wasn’t intended for wood but rather for bone.

In the late 18th century, two Scottish doctors, John Aitken and James Jeffray, devised a prototype for a surgical instrument meant to aid in symphysiotomy, a procedure to aid in childbirth. This early version had a chain with serrated links that cut through bone.

2. Transition to Timber:

The transition from medical tool to lumber instrument came in the 20th century. The need for a more efficient way to harvest timber, especially in the densely forested regions of North America and Europe, drove inventors to refine and adapt the chainsaw’s design.

3. Modern Innovations of Chainsaws:

  • Modern chainsaws are becoming increasingly sophisticated, with manufacturers focusing on user safety and environmental sustainability.
  • Some chainsaws now come equipped with anti-vibration features to reduce user fatigue, chain brake systems for enhanced safety, and even automatic oiling systems to ensure the longevity of the tool.
  • From an environmental perspective, electric and battery-powered chainsaws are gaining popularity due to their low noise and emission levels.
  • The evolution of the chainsaw, from a rudimentary surgical tool to a high-tech piece of machinery, is a testament to human ingenuity and the relentless pursuit of efficiency and safety in tools and equipment.


The chainsaw, with its diverse history and multifaceted applications, serves as an excellent reminder of how inventions can evolve over time.

Initially crafted as a surgical instrument, it’s now an essential tool in forestry, a symbol in popular culture, and even an instrument in art. As we look towards the future, it’s exciting to imagine what the next chapter in the chainsaw’s story might be.


When was the modern chainsaw developed for woodcutting?

The chainsaw we’re familiar with began development in the 1920s and 1930s, with many inventors across different countries contributing to its evolution.

How did the chainsaw revolutionize the lumber industry?

The chainsaw made logging more efficient, reducing the manpower required and the time taken to fell trees. This efficiency led to higher wood production rates.

Were the early chainsaws as portable as today’s models?

No, early versions were bulky and often required multiple people to operate. Over time, the design was refined for portability and single-person use.

How have chainsaws evolved in terms of safety?

Modern chainsaws incorporate various safety features, including chain brakes, safety chains, and anti-vibration systems, making them much safer than their predecessors.

Are there specific inventors credited with the chainsaw’s development?

While many inventors contributed over the years, names like Andreas Stihl and Emil Lerp stand out in the chainsaw’s development history for their significant contributions.

Similar Posts