A brief history of the chainsaw

  • iStockphoto
  • Two-person cahinsaw from World War II. Picture by Anna Rutovskaya
  • Ian Steward breaks Guinness World Record. Image by Guinness World Records Edition
Date:1 November 2012 Tags:,

We trace the chain of events that made this tool a hit among weekend warriors, in horror movies, and beyond. – By Amanda Green

1785: A chain handsaw model appears in John Aitken’s Principles of Midwifery, or Puerperal Medicine. The fine serrated chain is used to remove diseased bone.

1926: Andreas Stihl patents two-person saws: a 53-kg electric model, and a 63-kg petrol one in 1929. US troops bring them home from Europe in 1941 to be imitated.

1945: Chainsaws before the end of World War II are heavy, often wheeled, two-person devices. The development of aluminium alloys and forged steel parts leads to one-person saws.

1947: Inspired by timber beetle larvae, which chew both across and with wood grain, Joseph Buford Cox invents the Cox Chipper Chain.

1949: McCulloch Motors Corp debuts the world’s lightest chainsaw, the 12 kg Model 3-25.

1964: Stihl introduces its first anti-vibration handle, which uses buffer elements to absorb vibrations coming from the engine and chain. Two years later, “Good Vibrations” by the Beach Boys is a No 1 hit. (It’s not about chainsaws.)

1973: Husqvarna creates the automatic chain brake – a lever that stops the chain after kickback, literally saving faces.

1974: The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is “inspired by a true story” that didn’t involve Texas, chainsaws or massacres.

1980: Husqvarna debuts the 40, which has a crankcase made of lightweight composite materials. In 1983, the company introduces the 154, which has multiple plastic parts.

2000: Eminem opens shows wielding a chainsaw. But the real Slim Shady is just imitating – the chain is left off.

2011: Canadian Ian Stewart breaks the Guinness World Record when he makes 94 catches while juggling three running chainsaws. Stihl’s MSA 160 C-BQ lithium-ion saw debuts; it can run for 35 minutes. You’ve cut a long way, baby.

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