Traces of the Cro-Magnon people, dated more than 60.000 years ago, show that already at that time they had tools in wood, stone, bone, and horn. What we know of them is that they had a well developed technique in carving flintstones. In the Cro-Magnon society we find the first saws. Flint knives with toothed blades have been found, which indicates that the Cro-Magnon people had discovered the effect of saw teeth on wood, bone and other hard materials.
The Egyptian and Roman people
The first saws with metal blades were found in Egypt. The saws which were manufactured of copper are believed to be 6.000 years old. In the evolution of new metals, the Egyptians developed the bronze saw around year 1.500 BC. This saw was considerably harder than the copper saw, but the toothing was still causal and irregular. Later on the toothing become more V-shaped and the blades were provided with wooden handles. The construction started to look more like the hand saws of today. Even if the bronze saw was a big step forward for the old Egyptians, they still had problems because the saw got stuck in the kerf and also due to uneven surfaces of the blades. To avoid this problem they used wedges and oil in the kerf.
During the peak of the Roman Empire, 100 years BC to 350 years AC, many technical inventions appear. One of those inventions was the solution of the problem that had annoyed the Egyptian carpenters for many years, namely the wedging problem. The Romans found out that if every other tooth was set to the left and every other tooth to the right, the kerf became wider than the blade, which reduced the friction and made space for the saw dust to be removed from the kerf. The setting of the saw was invented. The Romans also invented the bow saw. To produce the frame, they bent wet wooden frames to make them straight and to avoid distortion. In many respects, the Romans developed the hand saw and many other saw models which we are still using.
Scandinavian tool manufacturing
Since then, not much has happended in the development of saws until the 20th century, except for the improvments of materials. Of course, new techniques for production of iron contributed to improvments of tools of all kinds. Most likely, the first blast furnaces in Europe were built in Sweden. A complete industrial plant for production of iron and iron tools has been dug out in Norberg, Sweden. This plant was used during the Middle Ages and is the oldest plant known in Europe.
In the period from 800-1100 AC, the Nordic Viking people made their dramatic entry into the European arena. The vikings came from what is now known as Scandinavia. Their society was based on farming and cattle breeding, supplemented by hunting fishing and the making of iron and tools. Such products became important export products and gave an essential contribution to the trade growth during the Viking age. Although they have become well known for terror and bad behaviour, the Vikings were also good craftsmen and many of the things which have been found from this time, show advanced knowledge in forging and wood carving. On the island of Gotland, Sweden, the biggest collection of tools in Europe, was discovered in 1936. The tool case is from around year 1000 and contained among other things, a hand saw with wooden handle, a saw blade, axes, files, drills, chisels, knives, hammers, etc. The shape of the tools is probably a result of hundreds of years of experience. No doubt, they had reached their perfection long before the viking period and could not have been made better or more practical. Unchanged, they have stayed the same during several hundreds of years up to the period of the industrial revolution.
Nordic Saw Makers
As mentioned in our latest edition of G-Man news, you could around 1950, find a number of saw producers, not only in Sweden, but also in Denmark and Norway.
The leading brand in world during the 20th century has definitely been Sandvik. Already at the end of 19th century, Sandvikens Jernverk started their production of different saws and saw blades for wood, using their own strip steel as raw material.
The Sandvik steel soon became world famous and the finished products, primarily saws, also became a big success. Today, the Sandvik brand name is mostly known for saws and other hand tools. The brand with the ”fish and hook” became a symbol for top quality hand tools all over the world.
In the 1960 and 70’ies, the range was widened through acquisitions of other smaller, but well known both Swedish and foreign manufacturers. Thus, files, wrenches, forestry hand tools etc. were added to the assortment, after purchases of Öberg, Bahco and EIA. At the end of the century, the turnover of the Sandvik Saws and Tools division, reached over one billion Swedish Kronor. No doubt, their success has meant a great deal for other producers in the region.
But nothing is for ever and recently the Sandvik Saws and Tools division was taken over by Snap-on Tools of the US. Among other things, this means that the Sandvik brand name will disappear on hand tools. Despite Sandvik’s dominating position, a number of other small and mid-sized companies have actively contributed to the development of products and production equipment for saws. In 1925, Erik Timander, a technician born in Orsa, Sweden, obtained a patent for a new type of toothing for saw blades, which eliminated vibrations. He named the toothing ORSIA and the saw blades became a big success. During the years, Timander developed many new machines for saw production and later he founded the company Orsa Sågbladsfabrik together with his partner “Järnbirger” Olsson of Orsa, Sweden. The company grew into a moderna export industry, but in 1971 it was acquired by Edsbyns Industri AB (EIA) and the productions was transferred to Edsbyn.
The saw production at EIA started in the 1930-ies using know-how from Orsa, but over the years the company developed its own machinery and the trade mark EIA Bushman became well known in many parts of the world. Strong market positions were reached in South East Asia and Australia to mention a few. The first bow saw frames made from steel tubing were also made in Edsbyn, invented by Karl Öhman. Later on, machine constructors from Edsbyn were also involved in setting up the saw production at Grorud Jernvarefabrik in Oslo, Norway. EIA Bushman carried on its activities as an independent company until 1973, when the company was acquired by Sandvik. After another 10 years, the saw production was moved to other units within the Sandvik group.
However, this was not the end of saw making in Edsbyn. In 1984 the company Edsby Tool was founded, which later on in 1987 together with Grorud of Norway formed G-Man Tools AB.
Among other saw producers in Sweden, that were active during the second half of the 20th century, can also be mentioned Djurmoverken in Gagnef and Stridsberg & Biörck in Trollhättan.
In Denmark year 1933, Hans Schröder founded his company in Copenhagen. Saw production on a larger scale started after the 2nd world war. 50 years later, it was major factor on the saw market and the brand name JACK had been introduced on more than 70 markets. His son, Finn Schröder took over the business in the early 80-ies and expanded the company until a couple of years ago, when JACK became part of the American Tool group.
1940, Grorud Jernvarefabrik and Edsbyns Sågbågsfabrik signed an agreement, which became the start of saw blade production in Norway. Grorud was successfully run by the Bratz family during many years and saws under the name of G-Man were exported to many markets, especially North America. At the same time, Grorud´s production of fittings expanded very much and became the main part of the business. To join forces with Edsby Tool and form G-Man Tools AB, therefore came as a natural step and the circle was ended.
Also Finland has its saw producers. In 1953, Purmo Produkt in Jakobstad, started up a production of bow saw frames, which were a success, but mostly on the domestic market. However, later in the 1970-ies, the company was acquired by the Rettig-group and production was concentrated on radiators.
Another company in Finland which is still active is Pikaterä, which was founded in 1956. The company has its base in Kausala in central Finland.