Chainsaws: 10 Surprising Facts You Didn’t Know

Approx Reading Time: 7 minutes

The chainsaw is perhaps the most iconic power tool out there. They are commonly used as a form of weaponry in movies and video games, and perhaps this is the main reason there are so many misconception surrounding them.

While not everything you see on television is true, there are a number of facts about chainsaws that could surprise the average person. Without further ado, here are some of my favorites:

1. There are chainsaws that can cut concrete, bricks and stone

These are very similar to common chainsaws, with a few key differences. First of all, their chain is embedded with diamond grit. This makes them able to cut into these hard materials without losing their sharpness in a second.

The second big difference is that they don’t use bar oil as a lubricant – they use water instead. The reason for this is that the water also serves as a method of cooling for the guide bar. The constant flow of water keeps the chain and guide bar at a low temperature and removes any stone dust generated in the process.

These chainsaws use either hydraulic power or gas as their source of energy. They are most commonly used at construction sites, but you can also see them in the hands of stone carvers. Firefighters can also use them to get access to buildings.

Don’t believe me? See for yourself:

2. There are chainsaws that work underwater

Of course, most chainsaws are not like this (I have written an article about this very topic, you can check it out here). But there are some chainsaws out there that are specifically designed for underwater use.

This feat is achieved by removing the engine from the chainsaw itself, and placing it in a pump that is connected to the chainsaw with a set of tubes. The pump is used to circulate some kind of high pressured liquid (hydraulic) or compressed air (pneumatic) in the tubes, rotating the chain.

Since every part that could be damaged by water is in the pump, the chainsaw itself can be used underwater. These saws have a number of uses. They can be used by underwater rescue teams or for salvaging shipwrecks, just to name a few. The hydraulic version is usually stronger than the pneumatic one.

Check out this video if you want to see one in action:

3. The first chainsaw was invented by a German physician – and was used to help in childbirth

No, seriously. Before you imagine some scene out of a horror movie, let me put this in context. Back in the day (we are talking about the 18th century here) doctors often removed bone and cartilage from the birth canal in an effort to widen it during complicated childbirths.

They preferred this method over C-section because it was viewed as less dangerous at the time. This process was originally done by hand, using a small saw, and has proven to be very painful for the mother.

The “solution” arrived in 1830 in the form of the Osteotome, invented by Bernard Heine. This device, roughly the size of a kitchen knife, featured a rotating chain that could be moved around by the handle of the sprocket wheel.

Personally, I’m not convinced that it made the process any less painful, but at the very least it made it faster. If you want to see what the Osteotome looks like, here is a picture from Wikipedia.

4. The modern chainsaw was invented in 1929

Again, by a German. Andreas Stihl has patented the first gas powered chainsaw 1929. At the time, he called it the tree-felling machine. This was the first chainsaw that was handheld, fully motorized, and was designed for cutting wood. Many people think that chainsaws are a fairly recent invention, but as you can see that is not the case.

Also, if you know anything about chainsaws you surely recognize the name Stihl. Yes, the world famous chainsaw manufacturer company wears his name. Stihl is regarded as one of the top brands for chainsaws out there even to this day.

I have also included it in my article I wrote about the top chainsaw brands, you can read it here.

5. The strongest single user chainsaw has a 121.6cc engine

Yes, the strongest chainsaw available today (to the best of my knowledge) – the Stihl MS 880 – has an engine that could run a medium-sized scooter without any problems.

I’ve written an article about this chainsaw, you can check it out here.

Note that I’ve said “single user”. This is because there are way bigger chainsaws than this, but those are either made for sawmills and need multiple people to operate, or are specifically created to attempt a world record.

6. The biggest chainsaw ever made is 22’11” long and 6 feet tall

As I’ve mentioned earlier, there are chainsaws that were made to challenge a world record. This chainsaw, “Big Gus” is no different. This gigantic machine was made in 1996 by Moran Iron Works Inc. of Michigan.

Of course, a chainsaw this big has very little practical use as it would take multiple people and possibly work hours just to get it into position. But it actually works, and currently holds the world record for the largest chainsaw.

7. There are other crazy world records involving chainsaws

Because of how dangerous they are, people often use these tools to perform insanely dangerous stunts. Here are some examples off the top of my head.

Juggling with chainsaws:

Most apples held in the mouth and cut by chainsaw in one minute (blindfolded):

Balancing a chainsaw on your chin:

Yeah. Needless to say, these stunts are extremely dangerous, and you should never try them at home.

8. There are specially designed chainsaw chaps to protect users from injury

This is hardly news for anyone who has been working in the forestry industry for any amount of time, but I was genuinely surprised when I first learned about them. Well, not so much about the existence of these chaps, but the method they use to prevent injury.

At first I thought these chaps are made out of steel threads or some similarly hard and sturdy material to stop the blades from cutting your legs. But it turns out I was pretty far from the truth.

Chainsaw chaps are filled with special fibers that clog up the cutting system of the chainsaw if the blade penetrates the outer layer. I know this doesn’t sound very safe, so check out this video to see what I’m talking about:

As you can see, the chainsaw stops almost instantly. Unfortunately even these cannot prevent injury 100% of the time, so always be careful while using your chainsaw.

9. An average chainsaw injury requires 110 stitches

Talking about safety… This is an interesting fact I’ve learned from a study done by the Davis-Garvin Insurance Agency in 1989. I’m not going to post pictures, but you can easily imagine the kind of injury that needs 110 stitches to fix.

Not only that, but according to the study, the average medical cost for treating these injuries was $5600. And remember, this was back in 1989 so it’s probably a lot more expensive now.

Despite these facts, an average of 36,000 chainsaw related injuries happen in the US every year.┬áThis is why it’s very important to wear protective gear while working with chainsaws.

10. The average chainsaw’s chain is moving at 60 miles per hour

…Or 88 feet per second. As the title says this is on average, so there are chainsaws that are slower or faster than this. Still, I find it fun to have it quantified like that.

Conclusion

There you have it, 10 facts about chainsaws. Hopefully I was able to teach you something new today.

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Peter Toth

Hi! I'm Peter, the owner of BackyardGadget. Working around the house has always been a big part of my life. I've created this site to share my experience, and to help people choose the right tools for the job. Thank you for stopping by!