Who Invented the Circular Saw?

The history of the circular saw is a bit like a puzzle with different pieces. One important piece of this puzzle is Edmond Michel, a French immigrant who came to the United States in the early 1900s. He lived in New Orleans and is famous for inventing a handheld circular saw.

But here’s the twist: the circular saw we know today didn’t just pop into existence with one inventor. It’s more like a group project where many people add their ideas over time. So, it wasn’t just Edmond Michel; others also played a part in making the circular saw better.

What Was the Historical Context of Circular Saw Invention?

The invention of the circular saw, a revolutionary tool in woodworking, was shaped by the evolving needs and challenges of craftsmen during a time when efficiency and precision in cutting wood were becoming increasingly crucial.

Need for Efficient Cutting Tools in Woodworking and Construction

Woodworking and construction have been fundamental human activities for centuries, with tools for cutting wood playing a central role. Inefficient cutting tools before the circular saw led to slower and less precise work.

Furthermore, the demand for more efficient tools was driven by the need to increase productivity and improve the quality of finished products. Traditional tools like hand saws and axes required significant physical effort and skill, limiting the speed and accuracy of cutting.

State of Cutting Tools Before the Invention of the Circular Saw

Before the circular saw, woodworkers and builders relied on various manual tools, such as hand saws, chisels, and adzes. Hand saws, including pit saws and crosscut saws, were widely used but had limitations in terms of speed and precision.

In addition, these manual tools often resulted in uneven cuts, and the cutting process was labor-intensive and time-consuming. As the woodworking and construction industries grew, there was a growing need for more efficient and precise cutting tools.

What Were the Early Innovations in Circular Saw Technology?

What Were the Early Innovations in Circular Saw Technology

These innovations paved the way for the precision and efficiency we associate with circular saws today.

Early Attempts at Creating Circular Cutting Mechanisms

Early inventors experimented with different mechanisms to create circular cutting motions.

Some of the earliest circular cutting tools were powered by water wheels and operated in sawmills.

These early circular saws were typically large and stationary, limiting their portability and versatility.

Challenges included finding suitable power sources and materials for circular saw blades.

Notable Inventions and Developments Leading Up to the Circular Saw

While the circular saw as we know it today was not yet developed, there were significant advancements in cutting technology. Furthermore, the development of iron blades and more efficient power sources, such as steam engines, contributed to the evolution of circular saws.

Innovations in sawmill technology and the recognition of the circular saw’s potential began paving the way for its eventual invention.

Edmond Michel: The Inventor

Michel took a simple path to innovation by attaching a mixer motor to a regular machete, along with a worm wheel gearbox and a small 2-inch circular blade. Although this contraption did work, albeit slowly, it had one major drawback – it needed an external generator, which made it far from practical.

In the process of creating this device, Michel essentially gave birth to the worm-drive motor.

He decided to give it another shot, this time fashioning a piece of wood with a carved notch. Within this notch, he installed a mechanism similar to that found in a mechanical reaper but equipped with a larger 6-inch blade. This marked the birth of the first electric circular saw.

After a local New Orleans newspaper featured Michel’s invention, he caught the attention of Joseph W. Sullivan. The two joined forces and relocated to Chicago. In 1924, they were granted a patent for the Michel Electric Hand Saw.

Despite encountering several mechanical issues, contractors were immediately intrigued by the product, leading to its production. In 1926, they rebranded it as Skil, inspired by Sullivan’s wife, who remarked on the skill required to operate it.

Just before the onset of the Great Depression, Michel decided to part ways with the company and focus on crafting new inventions. 

Following his departure from Skil, he invested his share of the funds into creating and refining Larmloc, the pioneering keypad-based lock. 

Unfortunately, this invention didn’t take off, and only a single working prototype was ever produced.

Final Words

In conclusion, the invention of the circular saw represents a pivotal moment in the history of woodworking and construction. This humble yet ingenious tool, born out of a need for greater efficiency and precision in cutting, revolutionized industries that relied heavily on timber and wood products. 

To fully appreciate the significance of the circular saw, we delved into its historical context, exploring the challenges and limitations of earlier cutting tools. We traced its evolution through early innovations, highlighting the crucial developments that set the stage for its creation. 

And, at the heart of this journey, we discovered the pioneering spirit of Samuel Miller, whose dedication and inventive genius led to the realization of the modern circular saw.