When was the Circular Saw Invented – A Brief History

circular saw invented

Circular saws have become one of the most famous utilitarian tools in the world today. 

You would think nothing of them since they are so common today, but they were a breakthrough when they first came around.  

Today, the world knows of so many circular saws, yet most people aren’t familiar with their origin.

Quick Summary

In this article, we will discuss the following things:

  • A brief history of the circular saw and its invention
  • How most modern circular saws are different from the old ones

Samuel Miller’s Invention

The invention of the circular saw is credited to Samuel Miller as he was the first person to obtain a patent for it under the number 1152, in Southampton.

 It was a simple wind-powered machine that is believed to have made use of the circular blade. 

The Controversy

The patent Samuel Miller submitted was for the machine itself and not the circular saw blade. Many believe that circular saw blades had been in use at the time. 

The wind would cause the rotary motion of the blade which would cut the wood. 


Tabitha Babbitt And The Spinning Wheel 

The original invention of the circular saw is credited to Tabitha Babbitt who attached a circular blade to her spinning wheel. This led to the machine producing a cut with each movement of the blade. 

She had come up with the idea when she noticed how the straight two-man saw could not effectively cut through lumber

spinning wheel

An Invention With No Patent

Tabitha Babbitt never patented her invention. This is because she was Shaker and her religion forbade patenting of inventions. 

Shakers invented many things such as the spinning wheel, circular saw, and even false teeth. 

A Contested Origin

Many contest the claim that Tabitha Babbitt was the original inventor of the circular saw. 

The main reason for this was an obvious lack of patent, historical lore that claimed circular saws were in use much long ago, and claims of the invention by the Miller family. 

There is a three-decade gap between Miller and Babbitt’s inventions. 

After research we found that the issue was that whilst Miller had created the machine to make use of the ‘circular saw blade’, Babbitt had claimed to invent the blade itself in Harvard, Massachusetts. 

Company of Rockford’s Table Saw

With the original blueprints for a circular saw and the effect of the industrial revolution, the W. F. and John Barnes Company of Rockfords came up with the treadle-powered circular saw. 

This was a revolutionary change in the 19th century as it freed up the user’s hands when operating the machine. 

rockford's table saw

What is a treadle-powered machine?

A treadle-powered machine is any machine that is powered by a pedal that causes circular motion due to reciprocating movements. This mechanism allows a person to power a simple motor machine without the use of electricity. 

Raymond Dewalt and the Modern Circular Saw

The technology that we see in most saws today was inspired by the radial arm circular saw made by Raymond Dewalt in 1922. 

It was not as portable as the saws we see today but during the time it was in common use. 

modern circular saw

From Invention to Business Tycoon

The product became so successful that he started his own saw company only two years later. Even today the saw manufacturing industry is dominated by Dewalt products. 

You would be surprised to know that even today, these products still rely on the iconic radial arm innovation even if they have changed over time. 


What is Radial Arm Technology?

Radial arm technology introduced the idea of having the blade fixed to a moveable arm. This meant that the blade could be moved using a rotary arm, tilted, and positioned in various ways to achieve various cuts. 

Eventually, this led to innovations in woodwork and new sorts of sawing methods. 

Effects of the Radial Arm

The technology influenced woodworkers to make different types of cuts and cut their materials at new angles. It could be paired with different blades and accessories to make various kinds of joints. 

Art Emmons and The Portable Circular Saw

The only notable innovation to Dewalt’s circular saw was the Art Emmons portable circular saw. This made way for the handheld circular saw in later years. 

No longer were people confined to table saws for their woodworking, they could now move this power tool around easily.

portable circular saw

Porter-Cable and The Portable Saw

Art Emmons joined Porter Cable in 1926 and within three years invented the idea of the first circular saw that was portable. This saw was effectively cut lumber as well as be used for home improvement projects. 

It was one of a kind circular saw in history. Shortly after, the materials that the inventor used were durable and sturdy. This saw was popular during the later years during the second world war. 

Circular Saws Then Vs Now

From the shaker invention of the spinning wheel circular saw, to the saw table and treadle-powered ones, the history of circular saws has seen many products invented. 

These power tools have come a long way since and in the 21st century they are used to cut different materials. 

The electric motor became the most common innovation for woodworking and various support and accessories were added. 

How was the perfect saw invented?

Inventing the perfect saw led to a series of patents and created new products. Now, these tools can cut through metal and tile. One of the most commonly used woodworking items is the circular saw, here are some of its most modern forms.

Sidewinder Circular Saw

Sidewinder Circular Saw

This saw is also known as a direct drive saw which is easier for beginners to use.

Hypoid Circular Saw

Hypoid Circular Saw

Hypoid circular saws are more powerful due to their powerful hypoid gears which increase performance and durability.

Wormdrive Circular Saw

Wormdrive Circular Saw

These saws provide high torque and relentless power for difficult projects. 

Biscuit Joiners

Biscuit Joiners

This circular saw cuts crescent-shaped slots in wood pieces that have to be joined. 

The Takeaway

Circular saws have been around for a long time and they have a very exciting history. The saws you see today were inspired by the ambitious ideas of a certain few. 

You might take them for granted, but no matter what the era, circular saws will always have an important role to play in construction and woodworking. 

So the next time you decide to pick up a circular saw, you just might wonder who came up with the idea for that specific one.

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