Prime Cuts


| August 2004



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Prime cut wood but it was high maintenance

Modern technology has made the common chainsaw a breeze to use. But it wasn't always that way. When chainsaws were first avail able, they were made of cast iron. One produced in the mid-1930s was advertised as weighing 'only 92 pounds.'

'We're spoiled by technology,' says Nyle Cox, a chainsaw collector from Centerville, Iowa. Fifty years ago, he notes, a typical 5-hp chainsaw might weigh 30 pounds with a chain drive mechanism that turned at 3,500-5,000 rpm. Crafted of sophisticated alloys, a comparable model today might weigh just 8 or 9 pounds, and turn at 14,000 rpm. But for all that improvement, the heavy old workhorse of yesteryear held plenty of appeal to the farmer and woodsman.

'If you replaced a crosscut saw with a chainsaw, it was a wonderful thing,' Nyle says. 'It was a blessing. People back then didn't know any different. Those early chainsaws were good machines for the day. They were heavy, but they were dependable.'

Nyle grew up in a family of saw millers and loggers and it was only natural that a collection should sprout from a family heirloom. 'After my granddad died, my cousin told me that they had Grandpa Cox's Titan chain saw, and you ought to have that,' Nyle recalls. 'Five dollars later, I owned it.' His father, who had sold chainsaws in the early 1950s, produced the original bill of sale and owner's manual for the 1953 Titan, and Nyle was hooked.

'My dad had sold a few of those chainsaws, and he told me who he'd sold them to,' Nyle explains. 'So I went around to the neighbors. Most of them had upgraded, but several of them had kept the old chainsaws. By the time I got home that day, I had three or four more.'

Today, Nyle's collection of intact chainsaws tops 100, and he has several more 'in bits and pieces.' Those in the core collection tend to be older, dating to the 1950s and are typical of the bigger, more bulky chainsaws of yester year.