The chainsaw has a multi-faceted and interesting life as one of the most versatile tools in use today. Not only is the chainsaw a staple of most home and professional work benches, but the chainsaw also has its place in many other parts of modern life, including movies, television, pop culture and hobbies.
The chainsaw itself has picked up a number of alternate names, including the band saw, the circular saw and the dragsaw.
This post is designed to provide an overview to more in-depth posts yet to come. As such, here the focus will be on providing a working definition, a brief history of the chainsaw, some different ways chainsaws are used and safety tips.
Chainsaw: A Definition
The chainsaw (also often written as "chain saw") is defined by its portability and by the rotating circular saw blade equipped with a set of sharp "teeth." Today's modern chainsaw is designed to be lightweight with a handle for carrying and can be run with electric power or gasoline for fuel.
History of the Working Chainsaw
There is some disagreement about when the modern chainsaw was first invented and who gets credit for the invention. Part of the reason for the debate is that one of the frontrunners for the invention of the chainsaw created it for use in medicine. This first machine, invented in 1830 by Bernhard Heine, a German-Born orthopedic surgeon, was dubbed an "osteotome." It was manually operated and its primary use was to cut bone.
The other major contender was invented by Canadian James Shand, a millwright. Shand filed a patent for the "portable electric chainsaw" but then let it lapse. A series of other eager would-be inventors stepped into the gap and added further refinements and innovations, leading to the first mass-production of the chainsaw in 1927 by Dolmar Corporation.
Fast forward to the 21st century and mass-produced chainsaws come in all shapes and sizes. They are still one of the most enduringly popular tools in use today.
History of the Chainsaw in Pop Culture
In addition to its evolution as one of the primary tools in use today, the chainsaw has had a concurrent and complementary history in pop culture. The chainsaw has become somewhat of a staple in television, movies, art, video games, music, comedy and even sports.
As soon as the ban against portrayal of graphic levels of violence in films lifted in the 1960's, the chainsaw got its big break in the film "Dark as the Sun." But it wasn't until the 1974 cult classic film "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" was released that the chainsaw's place in pop culture was cemented.
From here, the chainsaw made its way into small screen entertainment as well, most notably in CSI, the X-Files, Dexter and even The Simpsons. The chainsaw also pops up periodically in comedy specials, music videos (Eminem's Slim Shady character uses one) and sports rituals (check out the Portland Timbers home game ritual for more).
Common Uses for a Chainsaw
You will learn more about different types of chainsaws in future posts. For now, it is enough to know that some chainsaws are now optimized for certain types of tasks while others are more all-purpose to handle a variety of general tasks.
Certain cuts are considered staples of any chainsaw operator's working knowledge.
Here are some common cutting tasks that all chainsaw operators learn:
* Cutting. Wood, stone, brick, glass and even ice (for sculpture artists) can all but cut and shaped with a chainsaw.
* Brushing (Slashing). These smaller cuts remove undergrowth prior to felling a tree.
* Felling. Most typically done in a three-cut pattern to ensure the tree falls safely away from other nearby objects.
* Limbing. As it sounds, limbing is the process of removing tree limbs from the trunk.
* Bucking. Once the limbs are removed, the trunk is sectioned off via bucking.
Less common uses include ice cutting for both ice sculpture and winter fishing and swimming sports.
Safety Tips for Using a Chainsaw
Anyone who plans to use a chainsaw for the first time should be well-versed in safe handling procedures. This is because even casually handling a chainsaw can result in injury from the sharp teeth of the circular saw.
But there are other less well known safety hazards to watch for as well:
* Hearing damage. Some chainsaws are so loud they can cause hearing damage, tinnitus (permanent ringing in the inner ear) and even hearing loss from prolonged operation. It is always best to wear heavy-duty earplugs or noise cancelling headphones before turning on a chainsaw.
* CO poisoning. Carbon monoxide fumes from gasoline powered chainsaws can build up quickly in enclosed spaces. Ventilation in small enclosed rooms or even partially enclosed outdoor areas is key to avoid dizziness or potentially fatal faints.
* Hand-arm vibration syndrome (HAVS). Holding a powerful vibrating tool for long periods of time can result in HAVS. Symptoms range from a white color in finger tips (caused by damage to blood vessels and nerves) to finger loss. Other symptoms include loss of dexterity, continual numbness or tingling in the affected area and alternating white and red color in extremities (from blood flowing from and to the areas.
* Graphic injury. Handling a chainsaw without protective gloves, footwear, helmets and goggles, earplugs and headphones can lead to graphic injury. If the chain binds or breaks during operation, protective gear can be all that will save the operator from tragic and easily preventable injury.
Now that you have a basic overview of the history of the chainsaw, a working definition you can refer to, some common tasks you might need a chainsaw to accomplish and helpful safety tips, you have the foundation you need to approach this powerful tool with respect, caution and confidence in any job you choose to undertake.