The modern chainsaw blade was invented in Portland

A chainsaw sits on a tree stump

Before this innovation, filing saws was even more tedious for loggers. | Photo via @john_anders1krr

From its earliest roots to the present, the logging industry is deeply-ingrained in the history of Portland. One of the city’s iconic nicknamesStumptown — stems from the mid-1800s, when trees were cut down to make way for roads; removing the stumps proved difficult + time consuming, so they remained in place.

But, did you know that the modern chainsaw blade was actually invented by a Portland lumberjack?

Following World War II, a logger named Joe Cox was out looking for salvageable wood in a patch of forest that had burned in the Oregon Coast Range. He split open one tree with his ax and found it teeming with grublike timber worms, the larval form of the timber beetle.

It was bad news for his salvage efforts, but upon closer examination, he noticed how efficiently the little critters were able to chew through the tough material by cross cutting against the grain.

He took some of the timber worms home to his basement, where he watched them under a magnifying glass. The insect’s C-shaped jaws moved back and forth, digging a tunnel through the wood. It was a different technique than the one employed by existing mechanized saws, which scratched the wood, cut less efficiently + got dull faster.

With this innovative biology as inspiration, he added hooked chisel teeth to a motorcycle drive chain and was amazed by the results. Joe filed for a patent, and in 1947 founded Oregon Saw Chain Manufacturing Corporation, known today as Oregon Tool. Soon after, with the invention of lightweight two-stroke engines, his “bug chains” were being sold around the world.

In a twist of fate, his legacy lives on in a woodsman of the same name. Every time a home goal is scored at Providence Park, Timber Joey cuts a log slab so quickly even Joe Cox would be impressed.

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