Wood Cutting Throughout the Ages

Nov 15, 2017

Man has been using wood as a manufacturing material for at least seven to ten thousand years. Egyptians, Chinese and other ancient civilizations used wood to craft furniture, weapons and decorative items.

Throughout the ages, wood-cutting tools have become more sophisticated with the ability to perform increasingly complex maneuvers. Here’s a look at the development of wood-cutting tools from primitive to modern times.


The chisel is the most rudimentary cutting tool, dating back at least 5,000 years. It was a single wedge-shaped cutting edge originally made from flint or other hard substances found in nature. Once metalworking began, many chisels were forged from iron.


Prehistoric man used a crude form of the saw by carving notches in a piece of flint, but the true evolution took place during the Copper and Early Bronze Ages. Men realized that if a single cutting edge was good, several would be even better, and the saw was formally born.

The early Egyptians are credited with creating the first official saws. The tool remained the primary wood-cutting device through the 1400s, when saw mills came into being. Further refinement came in 1777 as Englishman Samuel Miller received the first patent for a circular saw.

Planing Machines

The seeds of an idea for planing machines were sown around the same time the circular saw made its debut, but it wasn’t until the end of the 1700s when Sir Samuel Bentham obtained a patent on “planing machines with cutters to cut on several sides of the wood at once.”

Drill Bits

While drill bits ushered in the age of power tools, they are descendants of augers. These forerunners of bits were attached to handles and used to manually bore holes into wood. Augers date back to early Roman times, while the modern twist bit originated in approximately 1800.

Wood Moulders

In the mid-1800s, Andrew S. Gear of Jamesville, Ohio, invented the moulder, which uses a cutter block fixed on a vertically-revolving spindle. Gear later created a popular version that features two spindles, which closely resembled the moulders that are used today.


Routers were originally hand-held tools that featured a broad-base plane with a narrow blade protruding beyond the base, giving rise to the nickname “old woman’s tooth.” Power routers with motor-driven spindles are most commonly used today.

CNC routers incorporate modern technology for a level of accuracy and efficiency that was previously unattainable. These routers save time and money by combining several separate tasks in a single machine.