Saw 101: History Of Saws [& Uses!]

We’ve all seen carpenters sawing away to create beautiful furnishings out of huge tree logs, metal blocks, etc. Again, we’ve unknowingly used sharp stones to cut open and peel off different fruits while roaming. Did you ever realize that these two incidents are interconnected? How much do we even know about the history and historical influences of saws?

A saw is typically a hand tool, used to cut through wood, metal, ceramic, and even diamond at times. The tool comprises a blunt handle & a sharp blade with serrated edges. The prehistoric push & pull method is used to run the serrated side along different materials to cut them down.1

But that’s just the overview. There’s more to the history of the saw & its contribution to modern culture than you may think. Let’s find out about all that today.

Basic of Saw

Chronological History Of Saws

Here’s a brief rundown of the chronological discoveries of various info related to the invention of saws from prehistoric times till now 2, 3

PeriodDiscovered AroundDiscovered InProminent Materials/Inventions
Early Dynastic3100 – 2686 BC* Ancient Egypt
* Southern France
* Ancient Mesopotamia
Obsidian, Shark Teeth, Flint, etc.
Jomon [Succeeding The Old Stone Age]14000 – 300 BCOld JapanFish & meat bones, serrated stones, etc.
Late Bronze Age1200 BC – currentEastern MediterraneanSteel [high carbon%]
Yayoi300 BC – 250 CEOld JapanPrimarily iron
Kofun250 CE – 538 CECentral HonshuStone, iron, etc. [hand saw invention]
Asuka538 CE – 794 CECentral JapanWoodwork saws
Mid Muromachi1336 CE – 1573 CEKyotoTraditional Konoha saws, rip-cut saws
Edo1603 CE – 1867 CETraditional JapanStone, flint, obsidian, iron, steel, etc.
Georgian Era17th CenturyMidlands Of EnglandReforged steel
Gilded AgeMid 18th CenturySheffield, EnglandCrucible Cast [Melted Steel]
MeijiEarly 19th CenturyRestorative JapanDouble-ended saws with both rip cut & crosscut shreds

Saws: Current Modifications & Uses

In this segment, let’s go over the most popular uses of different types of saws


Saws were invented to sharpen different hard objects to make potential weapons out of them. They were, however, not used to cut down trees and were used more like the current knives. Sharp stones were polished against hard scaly surfaces to make the edges sharper to cut meat, fish, fleshy fruits, etc.


In the agricultural sector, folding saws are used to trim bonsais, flower gardens, shrubs, bushes, etc. For bonsais, small handheld saws are used and for shrubs and trees, hefty double-ended saws are used to maximize efficiency.

Wood Hacking

After the invention of steel, iron, etc. hacksaws were created to cut hardwood directly to make different furnishings. These saws were more stable than handheld sharp stone saws.


Specialized cross-cutting saws are used to cut down tree logs for making firewood and woodenware items. Obsidian metal saws with serrated edges help give the logs proper shape.

Eerie History Of ChainSaws

Chainsaws came into being primarily during the late 1700s. Considering a saw’s usual purposes, you may think that chainsaws were probably used to cut wood, soft metal, etc.

But, the truth is something shockingly different.

Chainsaws were initially invented by two doctors, to use on pregnant women and ‘reduce complications’ during childbirth. Symphysiotomy is the medical term for the removal of certain bones, body parts, etc. from the pelvis area to help widen the birth canal for smooth delivery.

Nowadays, doctors have moved on to the lifesaving Caesarean section surgeries and discarded the dreadful process of symphysiotomy to an extent. But before the invention of these infamous surgeries, doctors actually used small-scale knife-ish chainsaws to remove some of the bones.

And yes, it was absolutely as brutal as it sounds.

Back in the day, they didn’t even use anesthesia before attempting such a risky endeavor in the middle of childbirth. On top of that, the chainsaws were operated manually with the help of a hand crank.

Inexperienced doctors would often lose control and cut through major arteries while widening the birth canal or getting rid of the small pelvic bones – resulting in a heavy bleed that cost the lives of both mother and child.

Thankfully, nowadays we’ve got Caesarean surgeries instead with proper medications to safeguard both parties. Chainsaws later went on to become the loud obnoxious large-scale that we know of now to cut down large trees.

In the medical field, they were consistently modified to create safer and more manageable tools for cutting through bones, cranial areas, root canals, etc. They also assist with emergency amputations during life-saving operations. But still, the procedure is nowhere as brutal & ungodly as the initial birth canal widening experiments on pregnant women with chainsaws.

Inventing The Wheel: How Did A Single Saw Change The Entire Mechanical Course Of Mankind?

The invention of the wheel was a major turning point in the history of mankind. Wheels helped to create carts i.e. one of the very first functional transportation devices.

The carts eventually propelled economic growth because now people had a way to go from one place to the other. Using the mechanical power of horses, donkeys, etc. helped them traverse large distances, discover mineral golds, sell precious items on other lands, and so on.

And none of these would have been possible if we didn’t have any saws in the first place. With the help of saws with hardened metallic serrated teeth like bronze, copper, etc. workers could prepare miniature gears for wheels.

These gears would keep the wheel together while traversing the treacherous roads and also aid rotational motion. Researchers have found indications of multiple nuts and bolts made of bronze, copper, etc. in ancient civilizations.

And it’d be impossible to curate the edges so perfectly round without the help of serrated metallic saws with strengthened wood handles – to enable constant scorching and polishing.

Eventually, the modified European saws with reforged steel could prepare better and stronger gears. From lightweight carts, people slowly went on to invent pull carts, horse carts, coal-powered cars, steam engines, etc. – which in turn led to the industrial revolution in the late 17th century.

And if you go back chronologically, you’ll find that prehistoric saws were one of the prominent dominoes to start the ripple effect. Hence, in essence, a single saw might just have single-handedly changed the entire course of mankind.

Musical Saws: A Fascinating Take On The Traditional Saws

All your life, you’ve only heard of and seen mechanical saws, used to cut things down, right? But have you ever come across a musical or as otherwise known a singing saw?

As much as it sounds unrealistic in theory, the instrument itself is just as fascinating in real life. With regular saws, you use the sharp serrated edge to cut through wood, metal, etc. But with a musical saw, or singing saw, you use those serrated edges to make music instead!

Here’s how it works.

The instrument has basically the same configuration as a regular hand saw. And like the hand saws, the blade is effectively flexible and malleable up to a certain extent.

To play a musical saw, you have to keep the handle side between your knees to stabilize the blade that goes upward. Then just like a violin, you will need to use a specialized bow to run along the flat edges to produce various tunes.

Remember, you don’t use the serrated side while playing, only the flat one. The serrated side stays toward your chest, while you use the bow on the other i.e. the flat side.

Normally, veteran sawists use the saw like a recurve instrument to play lovely tunes. After sitting and stabilizing the saw, they bend the blade on one side like the loop of D.

It’s known as the S-curve. And the quality and aesthetics of the sound highly depend on how perfectly you can master curving the saw. For instance – depending on the degree of the curve, a significant portion from both ends of the saw will stay bent while the middle area stays flat.

When you draw a bow on this area, you’ll respectively cause discernible vibrations throughout the saw blade, which will in turn create a discernible pitch, & ultimately, melodious tunes.

Final Word

With that, let’s conclude today’s brief history lesson on saws. Saws have helped monumentally with manual labor by inducing ease of use and project-specific features in all sorts of architectural sectors and industries. With a subtle but prominent influence – saws have practically redirected the mechanical progress of mankind in a rightfully progressive direction.


  1. Wikipedia
  2. Jasmine Directory
  3. Razor Saw

Hey there — I’m Elton Dunn, founder and Head Writer of sawschool. Though I personally think myself as a self-made entrepreneur, I am DIY woodworker. This blog is a humble attempt to help people choose the right saw from too many options. That’s why I stress on comparing various saw with one another than attempting to review each. Hope my reviews and comparisons benefit you. Have any feedback, questions, or recommendations? We would like to hear from you! Feel free you can anytime Contact with me.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *