A Trip to the Chainsaw Museum

Produced from 1944-1946 by Industrial Engineering Ltd (IEL), the Beaver was the first chainsaw light enough to be operated by one person instead of two. At 35 pounds this 1.25 HP saw would have been light for its day, but significantly heavier than the chainsaws made today.

STIHL BDN. This was built in 1938 and like most saws of its day was a two-man machine: one held the handles at the motor and the other held the handle at the end of the bar. Just in from the end is an oiler that feeds oil onto the bottom (cutting side) of the bar. Many early U.S. chainsaws were copies of the BDN—which could no longer be imported from Germany after the start of WWII. Click here to see a two-man chainsaw (a 1946 Disston) in action.

When Wayne was running his repair shop he and employee Bruce Thacker built this fully functioning miniature version of the hot saws (souped up—super fast saws) they were building for Timbersports competitors. The mini saw has an oiler, 4-5” blade, and the type of gas motor used in remote control airplanes.

Common in Europe, bow-shaped chainsaws are rare in North America. They are typically used for bucking logs and lumber.

A variant of the bow saw, loop style bow saws, have been popular in the southern U.S. and with Christmas tree farmers. They are often used for clearing brush and bucking small logs that will be turned into pulp. These saws can be dangerous to use because they have an enormous kickback zone. Click here to see a loop style saw in action.

In the early days chainsaw bars had some belly to them; chains tended to sag off the bar and the belly helped them maintain contact. It was also thought to fling chips and debris off of the chain. The belly went away after rollers and sprocket tip guide bars hit the market in the 1950s and early 1960s. This particular saw was made by Reed-Prentice in Massachusetts.

This 1919-1920 Wolf electric chainsaw would have been used in a lumber mill or to cut heavy timbers on a construction project. The Wolf line originated in Portland, Oregon and later came to be produced by the Reed-Prentice Corp. in Worcester, Massachusetts. It included AC electric, DC electric, hydraulic, pneumatic, and gasoline models. The motor in this saw was made by Westinghouse.

Early chainsaws were frequently electric because electric motors were lighter and more reliable than the gasoline motors of the day. Look closely and you’ll see that the teeth on the chain are nothing like the teeth we use now; they look more like the teeth on an old-fashioned (hand-operated) crosscut saw.

Unable to get parts from STIHL after the start of WWII, U.S. companies began to knock off their designs. This 1940 Titan saw is a copy of the STIHL B2Z.

BP-399-T. This two-cylinder balanced piston (low vibration) McCulloch motor was built in the early 1970s and intended for use in snowmobiles and go-carts. The project was shelved and the motor never went into production—so this one is very rare. It sat in a box for 40 years and has never been used. Click here to see one being test run.

Wayne with a saw he provided for use in Big Miracle, a 2011 movie about the freeing of gray whales (a true story) that became trapped in the ice near Barrow, Alaska. This is not Wayne’s only brush with Hollywood fame, he provided the chainsaw used in The Band Perry’s music video “Chainsaw”.

Early chainsaws were gear-driven. From the mid-1950s to the early 1960s some companies lightened their saws by switching over to belt drive. This belt-driven Homelite 20 MDS is from that time period. Modern saws are direct drive with a centrifugal clutch to prevent the chain from spinning at idle.

Homelite’s Stick Shift (model 770-GS) saw was introduced in 1962 and discontinued the following year. Technologically it was a step backward, a direct-drive era saw with a gearbox transmission and multiple gears.

Some friends of Wayne’s went on an expedition to the Murmansk Peninsula (north of the Arctic Circle in Russia) and came back with two Družba chainsaws. Except for the bar, these tools look nothing like chainsaws. The bar can be turned sideways or vertical for cutting and folded out of the way for transport. The pull-starter comes off when not in use. The Družba is a truly bizarre looking gizmo. Click here to see one run.

Those bottles hanging from the red saw would have contained kerosene or oil. The kerosene was used to remove pitch and the oil was used to lubricate the bar. In the early days they would have splashed or dribbled it onto the bar. By the 1930s STIHL had automatic oiling on some of its saws; the rest of the industry stuck with manual oilers until the mid1940s. Auto oiling didn’t fully take hold until the late 1960s.

Until the mid-1940s, two-man saws were standard. Here’s a look at the outboard end of some of them. The end of the Dolmar is not just a handle; it’s an oiler too. Founded in Germany in 1927, Dolmar has been owned by Makita since 1991.

The gray machine is a diesel chainsaw built in Norway in 1950. The brand is Comet, which later became Jonsered. The designers thought a diesel chainsaw would be powerful and efficient. They were wrong. The saw was slow and complicated, and it quickly failed in the marketplace. Click here to see a shaky and smoky video of a Comet diesel chainsaw in action. If they were all that smoky then I can see why the product failed.

What is a circular saw doing up there with all those chainsaws? Well, it’s gasoline powered—a Homelite engine that can be converted from a chainsaw to a circular saw, pump, drill, or generator by connecting it to various accessories. Click here to find out more about the XL-100 saw (and see video of one in action).

The olive green saw is a rare STIHL model from the 1950s, pneumatically powered and designed for use underwater.

This early 1960s Homelite has barely been used. A dealer kept it in the back room of his shop and Wayne fussed over it whenever he visited—so much so that the dealer eventually gave it to him.

You would think a guy like Wayne has one or two of everything, but here’s a type of saw has been trying to get for years. Only a few still exist and he knows where all of them are and who owns them. Go ahead, search for “Dow Low Stump Portable Power Saw”. You won’t find anything—this thing is so rare you can’t even find a picture of it on the web (well, now you can…)

Those things with the wheelbarrow handles are drag saws standing on end. A drag saw is akin to a gasoline-powered wheelbarrow compressor, but instead of powering a pump the engine moves a cross-cut blade back and forth across a log. Produced from the early 1900s till sometime in the 1950s these things were heavy and dangerous—but they beat the heck out of sawing by hand. Chainsaws did them in. Click here to see a drag saw in action.

A Mercury-Disston chainsaw. Yes, that Mercury and that Disston. The companies worked together during WWII and produced chainsaws together for a period of time after—making use of Disston’s experience with cutting and Mercury’s (Karl Keikauffer’s) experience with engines.

This Turbo-matic chainsaw has heated handles and a hydromatic transmission along the lines of automobile transmission. Look through the opening in the side and you’ll see the torque converter. Except for the idea of heated handles (which other companies picked up on) the tool was a complete failure. Built in Vancouver, Canada from 1949-1950, less than 100 of these were ever made.

Here’s Wayne with a rare Solo Multi-Mot motor, which can be connected to accessories that turn it into a pump, drill, chainsaw, and other items. Produced in the late 1980s and early 1990s this machine never really caught on.

Bonus Photo: A 1909 Sears model K motor buggy. Yes—that Sears. This early automobile was discovered rotting away in a barn. Wayne acquired it and over a period of years restored it to like-new condition. It has a Kroitz two-cylinder air cooled engine. Click here to see the 1908 model in action at a museum in Maine.

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