Biological, social, and cultural factors

At the time that the circular saw was being developed by different inventors in Europe and the U.S., the highly gendered nature of society could largely be attributed to simple biology and a lack of advances in medical science. Women were without access to reliable birth control, childbirth was routinely dangerous, and there was a much higher rate of maternal mortality than is experienced by modern women. Humans can be notoriously awkward during pregnancy and delivery, and this would have made it difficult for many women to participate in dangerous industrial trades associated with circular saws, such as construction, logging, and saw milling (Loudon, 1986).

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Quinquennial maternal mortality trends 1850-1970 © 1986 Loudon (Loudon, 1986).
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Annual maternal mortality trends 1930-1970 © 1986 Loudon (Loudon, 1986).

The debacle of women constantly burdened with unsafe pregnancy and delivery, and the fear associated with these issues, undoubtedly led to some of the negative social and cultural beliefs that women were perpetually infirm. Toward the end of the 19th century tools in middle-class America had become so gendered that women, although encouraged by popular media to perform woodworking at home, turned down the opportunity as to avoid using tools that were too masculine. Gelber (1997) infers the existence of the “half-pound rule”, a set of social guidelines encouraging women to avoid tools weighing more than half a pound, and inversely men were discouraged from using light-weight tools, with the exception of some large paintbrushes, which were apparently considered gender-neutral (Gelber, 1997).

The gendered nature of power tools persists

A brief article that reveals that the highly gendered nature of power tools has not changed much in the past 100 years. © 2006 Good Housekeeping (Easy, 2006).
A brief article that reveals that the highly gendered nature of power tools has not changed much in the past 100 years. © 2006 Good Housekeeping (Easy, 2006).

The gendered nature of power tools has not changed very much since their advent; most power tools are still marketed to men. When tools are marketed to women it is usually in a very gendered context, almost always with a reference to their husbands or fathers. Readers will notice in the article to the right that the header for the advertisement for a weight-loss product is actually larger than the title of the featured article. The article does not discuss power tools plural, but only references a power drill and a power screwdriver which are basically the same thing, with no mention of the wonderful bouquet of other power tools available and often necessary for an actual construction project; an actual construction project consists of more than mounting flower baskets on a fence post or hanging photos on the wall (Easy, 2006).

Economic and political factors

At the time that the circular saw was invented in England there was a significant amount of political and economic turbulence associated with mechanized saws and sawmills. Sawyers whose livelihoods depended on the need for their hand-sawing labor revolted against the construction of mechanized mills, which were necessary for the commercial operation of the circular saw, and many mills were destroyed by workers. So much was the economic, political, and public safety disturbances due to the construction of mechanized sawmills that the English Parliament temporarily enacted legislation banning their construction during the eighteenth century (Haines, 1952).


Unable to halt the advancement of the industrial revolution, the circular saw progressed to become an integral tool in nearly every aspect of modern construction. Today there are many resources for receiving education in the safe operation of this technology, and one need look no further than YouTube for an education in the use and care of circular saws. The video below is a good basic tutorial for the novice handyperson.

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