Why was the chainsaw invented? Most people would probably automatically think that it was invented to cut wood, just as it is typically used today. The truth is, it was originally intended to be something very different. The very first chainsaw was actually a medical device that was used to cut through human bone. It was known by a different name and in reality, it didn’t even look that much like the common chainsaw that people use today. Despite that fact, this odd-looking contraption can be considered the reason that current chainsaws exist.
Of course, the chainsaw that was first invented for this purpose was far different from the modern chainsaws that are used today. In fact, aside from the way these first devices worked, they had very little in common with modern-day conveniences. The original chainsaw was actually known as an osteotome and was developed in the 1830s by a German orthopedic specialist. The idea was to use it to cut through diseased or severely injured bone in order to give patients a better chance at recovery. It was this first chainsaw that operated in much the same fashion as the bar and chain on a modern-day chainsaw, but without the use of electricity. There are actually several other offshoots of this particular device that were developed throughout the late 1800s, but none of them really reached the status of the first osteotome, largely because they were so complicated that few orthopedic specialists would use them.
Eventually, it became obvious that this same type of saw would work well for cutting wood with relatively few changes. As such, a portable version of the manual chainsaw was invented for these purposes in Canada shortly before 1920. The first chainsaw produced in America did not involve many advancements on the Canadian design. In addition, it was so heavy that it required two people to use it effectively, as it was essentially impossible for one person to operate it. It was produced in the 1940s.
After World War II ended, it was possible to utilize the chainsaw for cutting wood in the sense that modern day saws are currently used. The war had allowed for so many advancements in the metal that was used on the chainsaws, not to mention the way they were operated, that it became rather commonplace to see them. This is when the chainsaw truly came into its own, no longer used to cut through bone but instead, used to cut through everything from small tree limbs to felling large trees.
It is almost hard to believe that something that was originally invented so long ago to cut through bone would eventually turn into the chainsaws that people use today. It just goes to show how much something can transform when given enough time, especially when there are people who have the vision to see that something can be used for more than one use. Who knows, if not for the determination of a German orthopedist more than 100 years ago, the chainsaw as it is known today may not exist at all.
Also see our post on who invented the chainsaw!