Why Were Chainsaws Invented?


Chainsaws are a widely used tool in the logging and forestry industry, as well as in various other professions and hobbies. They have revolutionized the way we cut and shape wood, making it faster, more efficient, and less labor-intensive. But have you ever wondered why chainsaws were invented in the first place? In this article, we will explore the history and purpose behind the creation of chainsaws.

The Origins of Chainsaws:

A Chainsaw Before It Was a Chainsaw

The concept of a chainsaw can be traced back to ancient times when people used manual saws with chains of teeth affixed to handles. While these early versions required significant physical effort to operate, they laid the groundwork for the development of modern chainsaws.

The First Patent

The first patent for a chainsaw-like device was granted to British physician and inventor John Aitken in 1830. His creation was called an "osteotome," and it was primarily intended for use in the field of medicine. The osteotome featured a chain with cutting teeth that was wrapped around a guide bar, which allowed it to be operated by hand.

The Evolution of Chainsaws:

From Hand-Cranked to Gasoline-Powered

In the late 19th century, advancements in technology led to the development of hand-cranked chainsaws. These devices featured a mechanism that rotated the chain and allowed it to cut through wood with less manual effort. However, they were still limited in power and efficiency.
It wasn't until the early 20th century that the first gasoline-powered chainsaw was invented. Around 1920, two German engineers named Andreas Stihl and Emil Lerp developed a chainsaw driven by a two-person engine. This innovation made chainsaws more versatile and powerful, marking a significant milestone in their evolution.

From Two-Person to One-Person Operation

As technology continued to advance, chainsaw designs became more compact and lightweight. In the 1950s, Swedish company AB Husqvarna introduced the first single-person chainsaw, which allowed for greater maneuverability and ease of use. This breakthrough revolutionized the logging industry and made chainsaws accessible to a wider range of professionals and enthusiasts.

Electric and Battery-Powered Chainsaws

In recent decades, chainsaws have further evolved with the introduction of electric and battery-powered models. These alternatives offer quieter operation, reduced emissions, and increased portability compared to their gasoline-powered counterparts. Electric chainsaws are typically corded, while battery-powered ones offer the advantage of cordless convenience.

The Purpose of Chainsaws:

Logging and Forestry

The primary purpose of chainsaws is to cut through wood quickly and efficiently. In the logging and forestry industry, chainsaws are essential tools for felling trees, shaping lumber, and clearing land. They have vastly improved productivity by reducing the time and effort required to complete these tasks.

Construction and Demolition

Chainsaws are also widely used in construction and demolition projects. They are especially useful for cutting through large beams, timber, and other materials on construction sites. Chainsaws provide construction workers with a reliable and powerful tool to perform precise cuts and facilitate the assembly or disassembly of structures.

Tree Maintenance and Landscaping

Chainsaws play a crucial role in tree maintenance and landscaping tasks. Pruning branches, trimming hedges, and removing unwanted trees are made significantly easier with the use of chainsaws. The ability to make precise cuts quickly and efficiently enables professionals in the field to shape landscapes and maintain the health of trees.

Hobbyists and Outdoor Enthusiasts

Beyond professional applications, chainsaws are also popular among hobbyists and outdoor enthusiasts. From woodworking to carving sculptures, chainsaws allow individuals to unleash their creativity and work with wood in various ways. Additionally, chainsaw carving has become a recognized art form, with artists showcasing their intricate sculptures and beautiful creations.


Chainsaws were invented to revolutionize woodcutting and make it faster, more efficient, and less labor-intensive. Over time, they have evolved from manual saws to gasoline-powered, electric, and battery-operated tools. Chainsaws have significantly impacted various industries, including logging, construction, landscaping, and art. Their versatility and power have made them indispensable tools for professionals and a source of creative expression for hobbyists. So, the next time you pick up a chainsaw, remember the ingenuity and innovation that went into its creation.