Why Were Chainsaws Invented?

The chainsaw is a popular instrument with a long development history, which makes the life of many people easier. But do you really now why were chainsaws invented? Modern society usually associates the chainsaw with lumberjacks and the timber industry. Or with the horror movies, where the chainsaw is the main weapon of serial killers. Still, the truth of why were chainsaws invented makes horror movies pale. Why this topic became so popular, and what is mentioned under the original use of a chainsaw?


Chainsaw in TikTok: Is The Hype Real?

The TikTok social network is mostly used to entertain people, but sometimes it can be a useful and educational tool for a modern generation. Thanks to the user @hellomynamesjon many people learned why chainsaws were invented. And how this invention made the life of many women more “comfortable”, in some way. You can check the original video just below.

@hellomynamesjonChainsaws were invented for childbirth? #fyp #medicalstudent #spooky♬ The 1920s – Erick McNerney

As you can hear, the main reason of what was the original use of a chainsaw is, surprisingly, surgery. One can’t imagine if it was even real and how painful the procedure was. But there area lot of documented facts, and it’s definitely not a fake. The grim dark reality of giving a birth to a child 240 years ago was drastically different from what we have now. And the chainsaw invention played a major role in this process.


Original Use Of A Chainsaw – Scottish Surgery

a man with mask and chainsaw graphicThe history of the chainsaw invention begins in 1780, thanks to the two genius Scottish surgeons – John Aitken and James Jeffray.

The doctor John Aitken was known as the Senior President of the Medical Society of Edinburgh. As for James Jeffray – he is holding the crown of the longest Scottish professorship, which lasted for 58 years. His professional field of work was anatomy and botany, which he taught at Glasgow University.

Both were well-known and respected for their accomplishments in medicine, including the invention of their surgery chainsaw. The device of both Scottish doctors saved lots of lives until it was surpassed by the wire saw, made by Leonardo Gigle – an obstetrician from Italy.

first medical bone chainsaw

The 18th century was not a pleasant time for women, especially when such a regular thing as childbirth happens. Nowadays, there are a lot of tools and specific treatments to make this process safe and as painless as possible. But in the 18th century, the level of lethality among women during the birth event was very high. There were a lot of reasons for that.

The first (and the main) reason was the popularity of symphysiotomy. It was a special surgical procedure, which was the only alternative if the baby got stuck. Sometimes babies could be too large to path the pelvis area, or they could be located in the womb with their feet first. In such cases, doctors had to remove the cartilage and the bone from the pelvis to make it wider, so the baby could actually get out.


Needless to say, that the usage of a small knife and saw for this procedure was a horrifying experience for mothers, which resulted in intensive blood loss and even deaths. Oh, and another nuance – no anesthesia! Could you imagine how one would desire to have a baby and get through this horror, both physically and mentally? This procedure may feel like a butcher circus to some people, but unfortunately, it was the only available procedure years ago.

The second reason was a lack of C-section practice. The first officially documented fact of C-section happened in the United States of America only 14 years after the chainsaw invention – in 1794. Elizabeth Bennett was the first woman, who proved that the birth canal is not the only way to give a new life and survive at the same time.

So now the question of why chainsaws were invented is pretty obvious – it helped doctors to save the lives of many mothers and children. The first chainsaw invention proved that the procedure was not painless by any means. Still, it was much faster than the regular knife-and-saw tools and caused a less risk of infection.

Eventually, in the 20th century (starting from 1905), the chainsaw was no longer used by medics as an inhumane and outdated tool. But still, a lot of Third World countries are still using this painful practice nowadays. Generally due to the lack of specialists, technologies, and tools.


How The Medical Bone Chainsaw Looked Like

first surgery chainsaw was invented in 1850

The invented surgery chainsaw looked like a kitchen knife with a handle and small metal teeth wound in an oval. It was simple and effective to use, yet in fact the device internal construction was quite complicated, according to the example below.

first chainsaw invented

It also showed great results in amputating limbs, removing the diseased bones and infected flesh. Despite its great effect, the Scottish chainsaw didn’t last long enough and in 1830 Bernhard Heine, an orthopedist from Germany, created a legendary osteotome. It’s a Greek term, which literally means a “bone cutter”. This analog was used mainly for plastic surgeries and dental implantation.


Why Were Chainsaws Invented For Woodcutting?

chainsaw on the table

A quick answer – it saves time and brings profit for the companies. However, the long answer depends on many factors.

The effectiveness of the Scotland chainsaw proved that the original use of this tool can be changed, and eventually the chainsaw became a popular woodcutting tool among timber companies and workers. It became larger, heavier, and quite brutally looking. The first example was created in 1830 in California, but it was quite cumbersome and nearly unusable in normal circumstances.

In 1927 the first prototype of a gasoline-powered chainsaw was invented. In 1948 (after the end of World War II) the chainsaws reached the mass market. They were still quite heavy and could be operated only by two men. And only in 1950 there was created the first chainsaw, which could be operated by one person. The total weight of such a device was around 16 kilograms, thanks to the improvements of aluminum technologies.


Types Of Chainsaws. How Chainsaws work? How To Maintain Chainsaws?

a man with a chainsaw near truck

There are 3 main types of chainsaws:

  1. Electric;
  2. Gas;
  3. Battery.

You can use either button or cord to start them. The crankshaft spins the blades around the guide bar at a high speed. For safety purposes, all modern types include a special chain brake to prevent kickback traumas.

The most commonly used types are gas chainsaws, because the electric type is not quite portable, and the battery type is too dependent on the quality of the battery power. Each type has a variety of sizes, which allows a person of any professional level to use them either in their backyard or on the industrial scale. They can even save lives nowadays – firefighters use them to reach people who are stuck in their cars during car accidents or when they need to get to some other hard-to-reach places.

It’s important to be cautious while working with such a tool and make proper maintenance to avoid functioning issues. Make sure to check if the blades and other moving parts are free of debris, and always keep the blades sharp. Otherwise, the blunt blades may ricochet from the wood and cause serious injuries.


The Original Use Of A Chainsaw In Culture

scalp with two chainsaws

This intimidating tool was obviously used to shock people, and that’s why cinema producers started to use them in cinematography (mostly in horror movies). “The Last House on the Left” by Wes Craven (a true master of horror) was one of the first truly intimidating films, where maniacs could use this tool to torture people.

One of the most known films, based on real events, is “The Texas Chain Saw Massacre” by Tobe Hooper. This film influenced the entire genre and popularized the story of Ed Gein, the Butcher of Plainfield. Despite the fact that he never used chainsaws to murder people, this attribute became one of the most horrifying cinematic weapons ever.

Learning the fact that the original use of a chainsaw was related to the surgery, one would not be surprised to see the development of this idea in future for “highly spiritual” films of modern cinema.

Final Thoughts. Why Were Chainsaws Invented?

There should be no questions left on why were chainsaws invented. This powerful instrument saved a lot of lives thanks to the two genius Scottish doctors, and it still saves them. Unfortunately, we can’t say the same thing about the forests, which suffer harsh consequences of it. Eventually, it’s a price of progress, and the future will definitely show us whether it was for good or not.


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