The Unbelievable Woodcarver’s Tool

We are living in a time when time is of the utmost importance in most things we do. Manufacturers are looking to automate to speed up production and reduce labor and other overhead costs. The woodcarver is facing a similar dilemma: the overhead costs must be reasonable in order for him or her to earn a living wage and put aside a little for retirement.

First chainsaw

One tool that has been a blessing to wood carvers was not designed for that purpose. Chainsaws were first designed for the timber industry, later used for cutting ice. The first chainsaw-like tool was built around 1830 by the German, Bernhard Heine. Nothing like the modern day chainsaw and you will be amazed for what purpose! He was apprenticed to his uncle who was an osteopathic mechanic. He invented a saw for the purpose of bone sawing.

The chainsaw closest to what we know today was built by two Scottish doctors in 1780 to make the removal of pelvic bone easier and less time consuming during childbirth (Symphysiotomy – a surgical procedure in which the cartilage to the pubic symphysis is divided to widen the pelvis allowing childbirth when there is a mechanical problem. Wikipedia).

Sometime later, the chainsaw was used for other bone-cutting procedures and amputations. A total change brought about the use of the chainsaw as a powerful woodworking tool for the timber industry. Originally the chainsaws, operated by gas, were heavy. 125 to 140 pounds and required two people to operate them.

The first Stihl chainsaw was designed and hand built by the German Andreas Stihl in 1926. Today Stihl, whose headquarters are in Waiblingen, Germany, is owned by the descendants of Andreas Stihl and has the reputation of being one of the world’s best-selling brand of chainsaws. Stihl also produces other notable industrial equipment, such as string trimmers, leaf blowers, cultivators, construction tools augers, and drills. In 2016, Stihl employed 14,920 workers and had a revenue of 4,458 pounds. Stihl is now owned by the Japanese firm Makita in 1991.

There is some claim that Muir from California was the first man to combine a chain with a blade to be used in the logging business and because of its weight, it required a crane and several workers to operate, thus making it a commercial failure.

There was also the Hamilton saw in 1861, similar in design to American riding developed in the 1880s.

The first powered gas chain saw appeared for the first time in 1926, IN THE SAME year Andreas Stihl invented the first electric cutoff chainsaw. The inventor of the modern mobile gas powered chain saw is Joseph Buford. We also had the Atom industries in 1972. Oregon made a great contribution to the development of the chainsaws with the development of the kickback between 1970 and 72.

I still own a Makita electric chainsaw without the kickback technology. The latest known invention in the chainsaw is the Lancelot, designed to use with a 4 1/2 inch angle grinder.

The chainsaw today is used to create total sculptures, fast and rough, a category of its own. For an artist whose trade mark is a smooth finish, the chainsaw removes unwanted wood very fast.

My uses of the chainsaw

1. Crosscut logs and cut slabs

2. Carve rough outline of sculptures

3. Carve inside of large bowls and platters

The Lancelot removes wood from smaller work just as fast or faster than the chain saw and facilitates more intricate designs. These tools certainly allows me to earn my self prescribed minimum wage as an artist.

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13 comments on “The Unbelievable Woodcarver’s Tool

This took me back a while because I remember interviewing for a job in Makita 6 years ago, passed got an appointment but I turned it down because of i just a better offer somewhere.

Lancelot which is designed to use with a 41/2 inch angle grinder is definitely the right tool for the job at any time. I have come across lumber guys who swear by that tool after a couple of drinks in the pub for sure.

Before I digress, thank you for this wonderful and detailed review of the woodcarver’s best tools. Your graps of history in your field is impeccable.


Thank you Richard, Makita is my choice of Brand for power tools, but I prefer-made in USA, hard to find these days, parts can be manufactured anywhere in the world. The Lancelot is great but can be a dangerous tool as well. I have great respect for the tool, I have a grinder with a bd switch, I have to keep my finger on the switch, it stops as soon as you let go, i am not replacing the switch, it”s safer that way.; the only problem the finger gets tired. All the best.

Excellent article you have written up here concerning the woodcarver tool,chainsaw. It is really a very great tool and though it was not created specifically for woodcarving, it has however become the best tool thar any woodcarver would care to have in their tool box. It is used to do virtually all the difficult things like cutting of tree to shaping and so much more. Every interesting story you have written as the background. Thanks

Thanks for visiting; most of the designs of tools are inspired by the needs of the skilled person, for example I have designed my own sanding disk to give me the smooth finish I wanted. I think it could be built and marketed commercially, don’t have the wherewith-all. All the best.

It is really funny to know that a chainsaw could serve the purpose of carving so much even when it was not created for the task. But then, it works amazingly well for it. This is very great to read about and how everything evoluted till it got to this period. Every interesting to read on up here. Ithough the chainsaw is dangerous but most people have mastered the act and they are now making use of it in a light speed these days. Chainsaw is really an unimaginable carvers tool.

It is an amazing tool, especially when you consider what it was originally designed for, the adaption to the angle grinder is even more amazing. Thanks for visiting Bella

Hi there, I did comment on your other article about the different woodcarving pieces you create.  I did not understand about adding the childbirth tool of the cutter of bone.  This did not seem to fit in with the rest of your article.  The topic of wood chain saws is important because, 1.  My grandfather was a mountain lumberjack and had many stories to tell. 2. I have an interest in wood carving also, on a much smaller scale. 3. Our nation is losing its history, and your article brings back that importance.  I appreciated this topic.  Thank You very much.  All the Best, Krista

Sorry you did not understand the bone cutter, that was the origin of the chain saw- the first chain saw, the others evolved after and change of use. Thanks for visiting. All the best

Hi Courtney,

I’ve seen tree-surgeons making rough carvings out of off-cuts and logs and as a wood-burning stove owner I have a couple of bigger chainsaws myself. It’s fascinating to know where this great tool originated. Maybe I’ll have a go myself! Although I don’t envisage ever creating the beautiful sculptures you are making.

Maybe the odd toad-stool or totem pole!

But seriously, the background you provide into the creation of your sculptures brings them to life and makes them a thing of beauty.

A thing of beauty! yearning to be touched. that sums up my work; you can do it, start with a simple organic shape that appeals to you, after carving sand it down to grit 320. and send me a photo, will tell you what to do Best wishes.

I didn’t know that the chainsaw is made originally to cut the pelvic bone. I was surprised to read that. I can’t imagine how it was used then for that purpose. By just reading your article I now know how the chainsaw e has evolved into an artist tool. I really admired those artist who can interpret their talents in carving. Not everyone can do that. Interesting article! 

Thank you, the design evolved, the artist need for improvement evolves and leads to interesting new tools. There is a hidden artist in most people, finding it is the key. My first lesson in any art class is not to teach anything, but see what students can do with the material. clay for example, that opens the door for hidden talent. Take a piece of clay and play with it, you might find your hidden talent. Good luck.

Courtney, Awesome post. I want to share one more thing.

Oregon has carving bars with the mount to fit saw for the fine work. They offer two types, quarter tip which is the diameter of the tip and uses .325 chain. The other is the dime tip which requires 1/4″ pitch chain and corresponding drive sprocket.

Keep up the good work…


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