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You perhaps wouldn’t have thought that the timber beetle, a creature whose larva buries deep into wood while it develops, would be an obvious candidate for having inspired a revolution in chainsaw technology, but the world is a surprising place sometimes. The logger and inventor Joseph Burford Cox was almost certainly surprised when, after several months of searching for a way to improve the chains used on early petrol powered chainsaws, he had an epiphany in the shape of the jaws of a grub.
The story goes that Joseph was chopping firewood one chilly autumn day in 1946 when he became distracted by the sight of a timber beetle larva, roughly the size of a man’s forefinger, easily chewing its way through the tough wood of a tree stump. It occurred to Joseph that the larva’s alternating C-shaped jaws could be the solution for which he had been looking and set to work in the basement workshop of his home in Portland, Oregon, eventually emerging with a ground-breaking new saw chain. The basic design of Joseph Cox’s chain is still evident today in modern chipper type chains, which is impressive given that it was inspired by a creature often considered a pest.
Joseph didn’t stop there though, and he and his wife, Alice, founded The Oregon Saw Chain Co. in 1947. Over the decades that followed The Oregon Saw Chain Co. grew, grew and grew some more, eventually morphing from a small operation run out of the Cox household basement into a massive multinational corporation, especially under the guidance of John Gray, who purchased the company from Cox in 1953. The Oregon Co. is also notable for its pioneering research into reducing the hazards of bar-nose kickback during the 1960s and ‘70s. The technology developed by Oregon helped to vastly improve chainsaw safety and Oregon engineers were heavily involved in the years of work that finally, in 1985, resulted in the kickback-performance requirements found in the voluntary chain saw safety standard known as ANSI B175.1.
Today, the Oregon brand continues to be an industry leader in more than a hundred countries around the world. With over sixty years of experience in the business and a continuing dedication to safety, ease of use and innovation, the company is now well known across the globe for the reliability and quality of its products. As such, it’s fair to say that the Oregon Co. has come a long way since its beginning with a man out in the woods watching a bug chew wood.