It is not every day that you question why certain things exist or why they were invented in the first place. Modern chainsaws, for instance, are a common household tool used to cut down trees. However, you will be surprised to find out exactly why this handy tool was invented.

This article will look at why chainsaws were originally invented and their evolution from the late 18th century to date.

What is a Chainsaw?

A chain saw is a portable saw with a set of teeth on a chain that rotates and is driven along a guide bar. It is powered by electricity, gasoline, or a battery to rotate the chain in a circular motion. This, in turn, helps it to perform its cutting function.

The modern chainsaw has been designed and specialized in different ways to perform a range of uses. The most common use of a chain saw is to cut down trees, branches and harvesting firewood. Other uses of a chainsaw include:

  • Sculpting foliage.
  • Turning logs into lumber, pruning.
  • Bucking and cutting firebreaks during wildfire suppression.

Having dissected what a chainsaw is, let us look at why chainsaws were originally invented.

Why Were Chainsaws Invented?

Contrary to what you might be thinking, the first chainsaw was invented for childbirth by two Scottish doctors. John Aitken and James Jeffray developed the prototype in the late 18th century to use in a surgical procedure called symphysiotomy.

Unlike modern days, the caesarian section was not a common practice because of the dangers it brought with it, such as infections and pain, since anesthesia was yet to be invented. As a result, all fetuses had to pass through the birth canal.

Childbirth is not an easy process and babies can become obstructed when they are in breech or are too large. When this happened, doctors had to find an alternative solution to make the baby fit through the birth canal.

Symphysiotomy is a medical procedure that was done to help out during difficult childbirths. This medical process involved removing parts of bone and cartilage from the pubic symphysis to create space for the baby. Needless to say, this painful procedure was done by hand using a small knife and saw. In addition, it took a long time.

To make the process easier and somewhat bearable, the two Scottish doctors, John Aitken and James Jeffray, invented the original version of the chainsaw. This chainsaw invented for childbirth resembled a small kitchen knife. In addition, it had a hand crank that was turned manually to move teethed links of chain around a guiding blade.

This invention made the Symphysiotomy procedure easier and faster. The chainsaw invented to help during childbirth continued to be used for most of the 19th century. However, symphysiotomies are no longer performed in modern-day medicine.

How Did the Chainsaw Evolve to Modern Day Use?

In 1830, a German orthopaedist named Bernhard Heine invented another chainsaw to help in surgery. He called it osteotome, which translated from Greek means bone cutter. The chainsaw inventions continued to be used for amputations and other bone-cutting operations. After that, however, medical advances discontinued these practices.

Seeing how easily the chainsaw could cut through hard things, its application outside of medicine began. The wood industry quickly picked up on it for wood chopping and lumbering. This led to the invention of the first electric chainsaw in 1905 called the "endless chain saw." The patent was granted to Samuel J Bens from San Francisco to use to fell giant redwoods.

Models invented after that were huge and had to be operated by two men. Finally, in 1926, Andreas Stihl produced and sold the first electric chainsaw. After the second war, Chainsaws improved owing to improvements in engine design and aluminum, making them lighter to use.

What are the Types of Modern Chainsaws Available Today?

Modern chainsaws are in many sizes, from small electric saws designed for home and garden use to large “lumberjack” saws. Below are the types of chainsaws you can find today.

1. Cordless Electric Chainsaw

Cordless electric chainsaws are portable and are powered by a rechargeable battery. These chainsaws take less time to cut, but you have a limited use time before you need to recharge them since they are battery-powered.

Despite possessing less power than gas-powered chainsaws, the cordless electric chainsaw is quite pricey. However, since no engine is roaring, it is quieter.

2. Corded Electric Chainsaw

This type of chainsaw is powered by electricity. Therefore, it has to be connected to a power source during use. Despite not being portable, this chainsaw gives you endless work time, so you can use it until your hand gets tired.

The corded chainsaw is quiet and lightweight. In addition, it has the power to low and mid-tier cordless model but is still weaker than a gas-powered chainsaw. The downside of this chainsaw is that you need to stay close to home or a power source outlet. But, overall, a corded model is the most affordable since it doesn't require rechargeable batteries or fuel.

3. Gas Powered Chainsaw

Gas-powered chainsaws offer the most power. This is mainly because the gas engine produces more cutting power. In addition, the engine can power a longer bar length than the cordless and corded electric chainsaws. This allows it to cut larger trees more easily.

Unfortunately, the gas-powered chainsaw is loud and heavy because of the powerful engine. However, if you don't mind the smell of fuel, this chainsaw might suit you. In addition, the gas-powered chainsaw is portable and has the most versatility for its price.


Surprisingly, chainsaws were invented to help during childbirth, especially looking back from modern days where healthcare and childbirth are backed by medicine and technology. However, the first chainsaw invention led to the discovery of the powerful tool that we have today. The modern chainsaw is one of the most helpful tools in the lumbering industry and forestry.