The circular saw was invented by French immigrant Edmond Michel in 1924. While living in New Orleans in the early 20s, Michel had observed a group of farmers painstakingly hacking away at sugar cane with large machetes. Michel began to experiment by mechanizing the machete. In 1923, Michel created a motorized machete with a 6-inch saw blade mounted on a carved wood frame and equipped with a motor from a malt mixer, creating the first electric handsaw.
Joseph Sullivan, a Minneapolis land developer, had read about Michel’s invention and set out to find Michel. The two decided to go into business together. They moved to Chicago and opened Michel Electric Handsaw Company in 1924. After the company opened, six production models of the saw were created at $1,000 each. Michel took the tools to the Atlantic City Boardwalk for demonstration. The first electric saw was bought by the pier’s developer for $160.
Michel left the company in 1926 to pursue other ventures. Sullivan changed the company name to Skilsaw, Inc. and the Skil brand name was born. After surviving the Great Depression, Skil continued making improvements to its saw. During the 1930s, Skil released the Model E Skilsaw, the first generation saw with a worm drive. In 1937, a man named Edward Sterba perfected the Model E and built the first Model 77 with a 7-¼ inch blade. This saw became to be known as, “the saw that built America.” The Model 77 set the industry standard for handheld worm drive circular saws and became a household name and genericised trademark. Portable circular saws of any brand are often referred to as Skilsaws today.
Another interesting post in the blog compares the features of the worm drive vs. the in-line circular saw.