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Posted on Sep 17, 2020
Today we would like to give a well-deserved honor to one of the most important inventions in our industry (especially its woodworking part): a multifunction circular saw. The history of the multifunction circular saw is as much based on the legend as it is factual - both are equally interesting.
The multifunction circular saw is probably the most widely used saw today, widely used in both professional construction projects and home DIY. This power tool uses a round metal blade with sharp teeth to cut a range of materials such as wood, metals, cement blocks, brick, fiberglass, plastics, and slate.
The blade in a multifunction circular saw rotates mechanically to ensure a clean cut in the material and can be table-mounted or used in handheld devices for left-handed or right-handed people. Different blades are used to most effectively cut different types of materials.
Using a multifunction circular saw is quick and effective. Simply adjust the saw to the correct height and depth, align it to where you want to cut, and push it with enough force to slide it across the material but without too much pressure. This ease of use has made the multifunction circular saw popular for many applications since it was invented in the 18th century.
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It is commonly said that Samuel Miller was granted British Patent No. 1152 in 1777 for the first multifunction circular saw. Some argue that the wording in his patent indicates that the circular blade itself was in common use at the time - it was the saw that Miller had invented.
Patent drawing of an early table (circular) saw. Being a Shaker, Tabitha Babbitt did not patent her original version.
As with many inventions, descriptions of the early history of the multifunction circular saw are contradictory. Some evidence suggests that Gervinus of Germany built something similar in 1780, while others claim that the Dutch invented this device some hundred years earlier.
A little later we hear of a man named Walter Taylor who supplied the Royal Navy with high-quality rigging blocks in the early 1800s. Taylor was responsible for a number of woodworking patents, although none related to the machine itself. But history has proved that he used multifunction circular saws in his mills.
Like many inventions of the time, the multifunction circular saw was a concept developed similarly and independently in different parts of the developing world. All these stories about the origins of the multifunction circular saw in Europe seem quite separate from its inception in America — or, at least, from American legends.
In the United States - more precisely in Harvard, Massachusetts - a Shaker woman named Tabitha Babbitt also invented a multifunction circular saw entirely of her own free will and design in 1810. Legend has it that she had the idea by watching two Shaker men fight a saw. At that time, these saws only cut in one direction, making picking logs a tedious task.
The woodcutters would waste half of their energy moving the saw forward and backward, only cutting when moving forward. Babbitt saw the ineffectiveness of this method and decided to make a saw that would waste less time and effort. She created a serrated tin disk and positioned it to spin by pressing the pedal of her spinning wheel. Thanks to this simple invention, the wood could be cut with a fraction of the time and effort of the old hole saw.
Its basic idea was used to create a much larger machine for use in a sawmill, and the multifunction circular saw quickly established itself as the woodworking tool of choice. While the Babbitt design was similar to that of Miller or Taylor, her design seemed much larger and more useful on a larger scale - modifications that set her design apart from the rest.
The reel was an early machine used to transform natural fibers into yarn or yarn. It consisted of a drive wheel, table, pedal and legs, and parts holding the fibers. Babbitt, a weaver by trade, noticed that the drive wheel turned in a continuous circular motion and did not require constant repositioning as an inefficient hole saw. After carving a multifunction circular saw blade and attaching it to a spinning wheel, every movement of the blade caused a cut.
As a Shaker, Babbitt's religious beliefs prevented her from obtaining a patent. While the followers of religion were widely admired for their ingenuity and hard work, they believed in freely sharing ideas and leaving their inventions patent-free. But fortunately, history remembered her still.
When attached to the table, a multifunction circular saw works like a wheel on a reel, which pays tribute to the original Babbitt prototype. Both the saw and its supposed ancestor work in a continuous circular motion for consistent results without the need to stop and reposition the machine.
As with the reel, early prototypes of the circular table saw were powered by a pedal - a pump on the floor that was pushed with the foot to propel the saw into motion. The saws at the time were not mechanical or portable. These early models of multifunction circular saws were used in America in the 19th century.
In 1922, Raymond Dewalt created the first multifunction circular saw attached to a radial arm, allowing more depth and direction control than ever before. However, it was not until 1929 that the inventor Art Emmons created the first hand-held multifunction circular saw.
The Emmons helical drive saw was equipped with an electronic motor that was light enough to be easily carried. This design has become the basis of all portable multifunction circular saws used today and remains the most widely used multifunction circular saw design.
Since then, both portable and table multifunction circular saws have evolved with the advancement of technology. Today's portable multifunction circular saws use a lightweight, universal motor that can run on AC or DC power, while table saws typically have a heavier induction motor.
Safety enhancements such as springs and feed wheels have been added to prevent fingers from getting too close to the blade. Some advanced saws can even sense the change in electric current as your hand approaches the blade and automatically shut off, making these modern saws safer than ever.
Since its invention, a multifunction circular saw has been used in many commercial and personal applications. Small hand saws can be used for home or construction projects, while the larger versions of the table saw and saw blade can cut with extreme precision in sawmills, wood yards, and woodworking. Many novices and professionals alike enjoy this multifunction circular saw for its increased versatility as it can easily cut both wood and harder materials such as plastic and stone. In woodworking, the saw is used for cross cuts, tearing, and making miter cuts.
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