The chronicles of the chainsaw are a captivating account that exemplifies human inventiveness and resourcefulness. While generally associated with industrial and woodworking undertakings, the chainsaw was originally fashioned as a surgical instrument for performing symphysiotomy, a medical procedure utilized to widen the pelvis during childbirth. This primitive utilization of the chainsaw underscores the multifaceted nature of human innovation and how progress in one area can have momentous effects on other fields.
Symphysiotomy is an outdated surgical procedure in which the cartilage of the pubic symphysis is divided to widen the pelvis allowing childbirth when there is a mechanical problem. It is also known as pelviotomy, synchondrotomy.
Why Were Chainsaws Invented?
In the late 18th century, around 1783–1785, two Scottish physicians John Aitken and James Jeffray created the inaugural “chain saw” to ameliorate the treacherous surgical practice of symphysiotomy. The first illustration appeared in the book “Aitken’s Principles of Midwifery or Puerperal Medicine” (1785). This is one book you won’t find at Amazon.
The procedure it was designed for entailed severing the cartilage of the pubic symphysis to enlarge the pelvis and ease childbirth. Nevertheless, the surgical equipment of the time, such as saws and knives, was often imprecise and led to complications and fatalities.
Aitken and Jeffray recognized the requirement for a more precise and effective surgical tool and commenced experimenting with various designs for a novel cutting apparatus. They eventually selected a speedily rotating chain with teeth to slice through bone and cartilage with greater precision and celerity than traditional surgical tools. The first chainsaw was an unsophisticated hand-cranked device with a chain made from a bicycle chain, turned by two people twisting a crank on either side.
Despite its rudimentary construction, the chainsaw was a substantial improvement over previous surgical instruments. The chain mechanism facilitated more precise cuts with less force, diminishing the risk of complications and fatalities. As time passed, the design of the chainsaw was honed and enhanced, with technological advances rendering it more efficient, potent, and safer to operate.
The evolution of the chainsaw as a woodcutting tool began in the early 20th century with the creation of the first chainsaw designed explicitly for this purpose. Samuel J. Bens was granted the first patent for a chainsaw for cutting wood in 1905, but the design was impractical and inefficient.
It wasn’t until the 1920s that the chainsaw started gaining popularity as a logging tool. In 1929, the German company Stihl developed a lightweight, gasoline-powered chainsaw that promptly became a favored instrument for forestry workers. The contemporary chainsaw has continued to evolve over time, with enhancements in efficiency, power, and safety.
Even though the chainsaw utilized for cutting wood nowadays is vastly different from the original chainsaw devised by Aitken and Jeffray, it owes its origins to the early efforts of these two physicians. Chainsaws are presently employed in a wide array of industries and applications, including felling trees, cutting concrete, and sculpting wood. They have become an indispensable tool for numerous tasks, and their transformation from a surgical instrument to an industrial juggernaut is a testament to human ingenuity and the ability of technology to revolutionize the way we labor and exist.
Uncommon Uses of Chainsaws, over the Years
Chainsaws have a vivid and multifaceted past that extends far beyond their unassuming medical origins. The malleable power tool has been applied in a myriad of surprising and imaginative ways throughout the ages, and even today, chainsaws are being deployed in ways that might astound you. For example, one of the more obscure and rare uses for chainsaws is in the captivating world of ice carving. With specially designed chainsaws fitted with particularized blades, artists can create intricate and complex designs on the hardest ice, even in subzero temperatures.
But that’s not all. Chainsaws have also made their way into the art world, where inventive people use them to craft singular and awe-inspiring works from materials like wood and stone. Chainsaw art is on the ascent, and these gifted artists are producing pieces that are frequently showcased in galleries and public spaces.
The versatility of chainsaws stretches beyond ice carving and art, as the tool has even been featured on the big screen, with filmmakers leveraging the chainsaw’s capacity to cut through a variety of materials for special effects. The possibilities are boundless, ranging from simulating fake blood and explosions to realistic amputations. Chainsaws customized for these applications typically have specialized blades to attain the desired effects.
In addition, chainsaws are widely used for routine tasks such as tree removal and pruning, search and rescue missions, as well as construction and demolition work. These power tools have transformed a broad spectrum of industries and are valued for their speed, precision, and cutting capability.
In the early 1900s, chainsaws were used to extract ice blocks from frozen lakes and rivers, which were subsequently stored in icehouses for refrigeration before electric refrigerators were invented. During World War II, military engineers utilized chainsaws to clear obstacles and create paths through forests and jungles in battle zones. In the mid-20th century, chainsaws were used in the logging industry, where they enabled workers to fell trees more efficiently than traditional manual saws. In the 1960s and 1970s, chainsaws were employed by ice sculptors to fashion intricate and detailed designs in ice and snow for contests and public exhibits. Chainsaws are also used in various construction and demolition projects, such as cutting through concrete, bricks, and metal.
Specialized chainsaws are now available for specific applications. For instance, electric chainsaws are quieter and produce fewer emissions than their gas-powered counterparts, making them ideal for residential tree trimming and pruning. Top handle chainsaws, designed to be lightweight and maneuverable, are utilized in tree trimming and arboriculture. Concrete chainsaws are designed to slice through concrete and other masonry materials, while chainsaw mills are used to convert logs into lumber, allowing individuals to create their own planks and boards for woodworking projects.
All in all, the diverse and often unconventional uses of chainsaws throughout history and the present day are a tribute to the tool’s flexibility, versatility, and potency. It has become an indispensable tool in a wide range of fields, and with more and more creative applications being discovered all the time, it’s no wonder that the chainsaw continues to be a staple tool in many industries.
The Evolution of a New Art Form: Chainsaw Art and Artists
Chainsaw art has evolved over the years into a legitimate art form that showcases the beauty of woodcarving. The earliest examples of chainsaw art date back to the 1950s, when the first chainsaws were developed for commercial use. However, it wasn’t until the 1960s and 1970s that chainsaw art gained recognition as a serious art form.
The chainsaw art industry is booming today, with artists using chainsaws to create sculptures, furniture, and other intricate woodwork. Many famous chainsaw artists have emerged over the years, including Ray Murphy and Ken Kaiser of Trees of Mystery, who began chainsaw carving in the 1960s and helped popularize the art form in the United States.
Another prominent artist in the chainsaw art world is Pete Ryan, who began carving in the 1980s and has since become known for his stunning sculptures of animals and other natural objects. Ryan’s work has been featured in numerous exhibitions and galleries across the country.
Abby Peterson is another noteworthy chainsaw artist, crowned as the best in the world after winning the 2022 Chetwynd International Chainsaw Carving Championship held in British Columbia. “It’s the world series of woodcarving. It’s a big deal,” Peterson told The Courier Journal. “Winning was the highlight of my career, maybe of my life. Chetwynd is the Super Bowl of woodcarving.”
The chainsaw art industry has also seen the emergence of female artists, including Griffon Ramsey, who has gained popularity for her unique and intricate carvings of animals and pop culture figures. Ramsey’s work has been featured in galleries and exhibitions worldwide, and she has gained a large following on social media platforms.
Chainsaw art has come a long way since its early days, and continues to grow in popularity as a unique and captivating form of art. With skilled artists like Peterson, Ryan, and Ramsey pushing the boundaries of what’s possible with a chainsaw, the future of chainsaw art is sure to be exciting and inspiring.
Preferred Chainsaws for Carving
Chainsaw artisans tend to have a predilection for particular brands and models of chainsaws that are explicitly designed for the purpose of carving. One well-regarded brand among chainsaw artists is Stihl, a distinguished German manufacturer that produces chainsaws with design features tailored to the intricate and detailed nature of chainsaw art. These unique features include a light and compact frame, which facilitates greater mobility and control, as well as low vibrations and reduced kickback, which minimize operator fatigue and risk of injury. Two notable models favored by chainsaw artists are the Stihl MS 193 C-E and Stihl MS 201 T, both meticulously crafted to offer superior control, precision, and maneuverability, even in tight or complex spaces.
Another highly esteemed and well-regarded brand among chainsaw artists is Husqvarna, a Swedish manufacturer that produces chainsaws of exceptional quality, specifically designed for the intricate and detailed nature of chainsaw art. The Husqvarna 550 XP and Husqvarna 365 are two of the most sought-after models favored by chainsaw artists for their versatility, maneuverability, and overall ease of use.
Chainsaws used for carving often feature particular modifications that render them ideal for the job. The chains used for carving are typically narrower than those used for cutting wood and have a smaller pitch, allowing for more intricate and detailed cuts. The teeth on the chain are also closer together, generating smoother, more precise cuts. In addition to the chain, chainsaws used for carving often have smaller guide bars and are lighter in weight, permitting greater control, precision, and maneuverability while carving.
Chainsaw artists often prefer to use electric or battery-powered chainsaws, as they are quieter and produce fewer fumes than their gas-powered counterparts. These features are particularly advantageous when carving indoors or in enclosed spaces, as they minimize the risk of disturbing neighbors or damaging indoor air quality.
Overall, the features that make a chainsaw ideal for carving include a light and compact frame, low vibrations, reduced kickback, a narrow chain with smaller pitch and closer-together teeth, and a smaller guide bar. These modifications allow chainsaw artists to have greater control, precision, and maneuverability when creating their intricate and detailed works of art, ensuring that every cut is exact and every detail is perfect.
Carving Through Lake Ice / Harvesting Ice
Chainsaws have a colorful history that stretches far beyond their humble medical origins, with the versatile power tool being applied in a plethora of unexpected and innovative ways throughout the years.
In the early 1900s, chainsaws were used to extract ice blocks from frozen lakes and rivers, which were subsequently stored in icehouses for use in refrigeration before electric refrigerators were invented. This practice was especially popular in the United States and Europe, where ice harvesting was an important industry for many years.
Harvesting ice was a difficult and perilous job, and it was often done by hand using saws and other tools. However, chainsaws revolutionized the industry by making it faster and more efficient. The chainsaws used for ice harvesting had to be specially designed with longer blades and wider teeth, and they were operated by teams of workers who would cut the ice into blocks and load them onto wagons or trucks for transport to icehouses.
VIDEO: Historical Video from 1938 — Ice Harvesting
Despite the use of chainsaws, ice harvesting remained a treacherous job, with many workers suffering injuries from falls, cuts, and other accidents. In addition, the icehouses themselves were often hazardous places, with workers at risk of suffocation from carbon dioxide buildup or ammonia leaks from the refrigeration equipment.
However, the industry continued to grow and evolve, with some entrepreneurs even delivering ice door-to-door to customers in cities and towns. In the early 20th century, it was not uncommon for people to have ice boxes in their homes, which were essentially insulated containers that could keep food and beverages cool using blocks of ice.
The invention of electric refrigerators in the 1920s marked the beginning of the end for the ice harvesting industry, but the use of chainsaws in this field had a lasting impact. The technology and techniques developed for ice harvesting were later applied to other industries, such as logging and construction, where chainsaws became an essential tool for workers.