ALONG THE OREGON® WAY
In 1947, the Oregon Saw Chain Manufacturing Corporation was founded with four employees and one product. Today, known as the Oregon Cutting Systems Division of Blount, Inc., the same company is part of a corporation with 5,000 employees and thousands of products ranging from a single chain link to the 72,000-seat New Orleans Super Dome.
Here are some of the people, products, and events that have marked the history of the world's number-one name in chainsaw accessories--Oregon brand.
A Better Way of Woodcutting
Logger/inventor Joseph Buford Cox was chopping firewood one chilly autumn day in 1946 when he paused for a moment to examine the curious activity in a tree stump. A timber-beetle larva, the size of a man's forefinger, was easily chewing its way through sound timber, going both across and with the wood grain at will.
Joe was an experienced operator of the gas-powered saws used in those days, but the cutting chain was a problem. It required a lot of filing and maintenance time. "I spent several months looking for nature's answer to the problem," Joe recalled. "I found it in the larva of the timber beetle."
Joe knew if he could duplicate the larva's alternating C-shaped jaws in steel, it just might catch on. He went to work in the basement shop of his Portland, Oregon home and came up with a revolutionary new chain. The first Cox Chipper Chain was produced and sold in November, 1947. The basic design of Joe's original chain is still widely used today and represents one of the biggest influences in the history of timber harvesting.
In 1948, two significant things happened. First, the company moved from Joe's basement into a bigger facility (a 5,000-square-foot garage). Second, Joe hired his sixteenth employee, John D. Gray.
John was 28 and a recent graduate of the Harvard University Graduate School of Business. When John joined the company, his original office chair was a nail keg. In spite of the humble beginnings, John said, "I like the challenge of being in on the ground floor of something so exciting with so much obvious potential." Eventually, John would see the business grow from $300 thousand to $300 million.
In 1951, sales exceeded $1 million. The company became a multinational corporation in 1952 by acquiring Planer Chain Ltd. of Guelph, Ontario, Canada.
In 1953, Joe sold the company to John Gray and vigorous growth continued. The company moved into its first bona fide plant in 1955, a 65,000-square-foot facility in Portland that later served as the administration building. A new plant was built for the Canadian operation, and John Gray made a sales trip to Sweden, where he found the first European customer for Oregon-brand chain.
In 1959, the company moved into international markets, and made its first application for a patent on guard links for saw chain.
Today, guard links are usually associated with safety and kickback reduction. But in 1959, these original guard links were only expected to reduce the frequent hooking and grabbing of small brush. After a period of use, pulpwood producers observed an unexpected benefit--fewer chain saw accidents. A number of these companies mandated the use of the new chain.
In 1963, a remarkable new saw and new chain initiated the modern era of lightweight, high-speed, direct-drive chain saws. The saw was the Homelite XL12, and the chain was Oregon® 72D, the first 3/8" pitch chain specifically built for such a saw. Both products were immensely successful, and derivative chains based on the original 72D design are still widely used today.