Chainsaws have had a huge impact on the timber and forestry industries. Although today we take them for granted, our ancestors collected wood using axes and other heavy objects; a strenuous and time-consuming procedure.
And that was their reality, from antiquity until the conception of the first modern chainsaw. Felling was dangerous and time-consuming, a challenge that required coordination and persistence.
Forests were the center of human civilisation. Those communities that produced more wood were able to build shelters, thus surviving under harsh weather conditions and overcoming other difficulties.
Wood was used to create a multitude of simple tools and more complex structures. Those who controlled timber production were also able to master the elements. With wood came fire. Fire was then used to heat up metal, creating more advanced weapons, armour and war machines.
First Chainsaw: Was It Really For Childbirth?
Yes, the first chainsaw really was invented to be used in childbirth – though thankfully it was a far cry from the electric-powered monsters people cut down trees with today.
The prototype was developed by two Scottish doctors – John Aitken and James Jeffray – in the late 18th century, for the process of symphysiotomy.
Symphysiotomy is a surgical procedure in which the cartilage of the pubic symphysis is divided to widen the pelvis, for when the baby is trapped and there is no possibility of performing a caesarian section.
It had previously been done by knife, which took a very long time and was very painful. This early chainsaw was operated manually by turning a handle, which moved the teethed links of chain around a guiding blade. It made the process far easier.
Symphysiotomies are no longer performed in modern surgery, with the process of childbirth now far safer and more advanced than it used to be.
When Was The Electric Chainsaw Invented?
Most people would be surprised to find out that electric chainsaws were invented near the same time as gas powered chainsaws.
In 1926, Stihl, a German company in Stuttgart, developed the first electric powered chainsaw for felling trees and recieved a patent for it. These were quickly applied to forestry work, but its heavy weight (116 lbs.) required two people to operate it.
This was actually the first commercially available chainsaw, but didn’t resemble modern chainsaws due to its large size and weight. It required two people to operate, and was not a huge commercial success.
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.
Comparison of Chainsaw Types
Cordless and great mobility. Most powerful type of chainsaw. Available in a range of bar lengths to handle trees of various sizes. Larger and heavier. Louder noise. Possess better bar-oiling systems. Best suited for heavy-duty jobs such as cutting down a tree. Require gas and oil mix for fuel.
Easy to start. Lightweight. Lower upfront cost. Quieter. Low-maintenance. Don’t need fuel but require an extension cord that limits mobility. Ideal for general purpose light-duty tasks such as pruning small limbs.
Unlimited mobility. Lightweight. Low-maintenance. Powered by rechargeable batteries. No gas, oil or extension cords required. Some models can reach the power offered by smaller gas chainsaws. Need to be recharged between projects.
Chainsaw Features and Usage Tips
The basic elements of every chainsaw are the chain, the engine and the cutting bar. The bar is the “blade” of the chainsaw around which the chain rotates. Bar lengths and engine size determine what kinds of cutting jobs your chainsaw can perform.
The length of the bar can range from 12 inches to 36 inches or more. Bars that are in the 14 to 16-inch range are ideal for occasional and light-duty use by homeowners, while 18 to 20-inch bars work well for large diameter-cutting.
Proper tension must be kept on the chain to ensure efficient operation, along with chain sharpness and lubrication. Some models allow for tool-free tension adjustments, which makes it easier to keep the machine in working order.
Engine size is measured in cubic inches or centimeters and power is measured in horsepower. Larger engines provide more power but weigh more and can cause fatigue over long periods of use.
Higher RPMs (rotations per minute) mean faster cutting with more power to cut through the material you’re working with.
The Best Chainsaws You Can Buy in 2021:
The Husqvarna 455 Rancher is a powerful chainsaw designed for both serious and hobbyist users. The saw draws this power from its unique x-torq engine. But, in spite of its commendable cutting power, the chainsaw is also quite light, which makes it easier to wield and suited for extended periods of use.
And because of its good engine power, the saw should cut through timber with ease and speed. The presence of a vibration dampening system on this saw also means you can make cleaner cuts and suffer less fatigue during use.
This brand is also respected for its quality products, and this means you can expect durability when using this great chainsaw. The chainsaw also comes with a special air filter cleaning system. The innovation, which also makes the chain saw compliant with CARB (California Air Resources Board) recommendations, also offers users the convenience of not cleaning the air filter all the time.
The fact that the saw has a centrifugal air cleaning system that removes the larger debris before it gets to the air filter helps a great deal.
For tree lumbers looking for a chainsaw laden with technology and safety features, then the Stihl MS 271 is a chain saw that you may want to consider.
It replaces the previously powerful MS 270. In comparison with its predecessor, this saw runs longer with the same amount of fuel, and produces half the amount of fumes the 270 used to generate.
A host of features makes all these possible. For instance, the 50.2cc gas engine produces about 3.49 braking horsepower (2.6kW), allowing you to power right through stubborn wood.
Reduced emissions mean arborists would be caring for nature by using the saw. Plus, a chain stop system/chain brake reduces injury risks in situations where the saw develops kickback.
Stihl has included a system for the reduction of vibrations in this handheld powerful equipment. Lumberjacks then have to worry less about hand fatigue, but rather concentrate on the task at hand.
Makita’s cordless chainsaw is an example of the brand’s innovation. It features a dual-battery 18-volt design, doubling the maximum power and run time of a standard single-battery chainsaw. Despite those extra batteries, this chainsaw still weighs in at less than 11 pounds, making it easy to handle.
The brushless motor allows its batteries to distribute more power to the saw than a standard motor, making it as powerful as some gas-powered chainsaws. A 14-inch bar makes it suitable for cutting through trees up to 12 inches in diameter.
Makita also packs plenty of other features into this chainsaw, including an auto power-off function that shuts the saw down to save battery life when the saw is idle for too long and a built-in lock-off that prevents the saw blade from accidentally starting.
If power is what you’re after, you’ll love the Echo CS-400-18, a gas chainsaw with an 18-inch bar and a two-stroke, 40.2-cc engine. This tool doesn’t blink when it’s time to slice through imposing pieces of wood quickly and confidently, and it’s easy to use and handle.
This professional-grade chainsaw features an automatic oiler, heavy-duty air filter, reduced-effort starting system with digital ignition, a side-access chain tensioner, and an air pre-cleaner.
Though gas-powered chainsaws can be hard to start, this one is easy to fire up and keep balanced during use. It’s also relatively lightweight at just over 10 pounds without fuel and packs enough power for heavy-duty home projects. The fuel tank holds 14 ounces. It has an impressive five-year warranty that covers it for non-commercial use.
It’s a workhorse for weekend lumberjacks that doesn’t cost a bundle: the HUYOSEN 54.6 cc 18-inch gas chainsaw. Reliable and sturdy, the HUYOSEN has enough power to handle the most common jobs around the yard easily. While this isn’t the chainsaw to fell a mighty oak tree, its 18-inch blade makes quick work of pruning tree limbs, saplings, and brush.
Unlike many difficult-to-start chainsaws, this one revs to life at the push of a button; no chain to pull over and over. The blade provides a lot of chew with a sprocket-tipped 18-inch bar and chain, and the automatic oiler keeps the bar and chain in good condition job after job.
Versatile and easy to handle, the HUYOSEN is ideal for trim jobs and pruning large trees that get too close to the side of a home or other tight-space projects.
How We Test Chainsaws
To evaluate chainsaws, we consider how well they cut, how easy they are to handle, and how safe they are to operate.
Using 10-inch-thick oak beams, we time how long it takes for each saw to work its way through the wood. We use oak because it’s one of the hardest woods most users will encounter on their property, and it makes for a particularly demanding test that reveals differences among models. Those that cut fastest earn a higher rating for cutting speed.
We assess how each saw handles, considering its weight and how easy it is to make horizontal and vertical cuts, and checking for any vibration.
For ease of use, we look at a number of factors, including how simple it is to start, adjust, and maintain a saw. We also size up safety features, check for any kickback during the course of cutting, and assess whether a model’s exhaust parts, like the muffler, get hot, which can pose a burn hazard.