The STIHL story, part 1: The saw should be carried to the tree, and not the tree to the saw (1926-1945)

When Andreas Stihl developed his first chainsaw in 1926, his aim and vision was to “ease people’s work with and in nature”. STIHL has been the world’s best-selling chainsaw brand since 1971.

Since the company was founded by Andreas Stihl, it has developed from a one-man operation into an internationally active manufacturer of chainsaws and outdoor power tools. In four blog posts we give an insight into the eventful chapters of the company story. Part 1 covers the period from 1926 to 1945.

Andreas Stihl, “father of the chainsaw”

When Andreas Stihl opens his engineering office in Stuttgart in 1926, forestry work is still hard and difficult. Trees are felled with an axe or handsaw and then transported to sawmills. Only there are chainsaws used. Stihl graduated in mechanical engineering before starting his own business as a dealer for wood-processing machines, so he often visits sawmills.

One day, he has an idea: The saw should be carried to the tree, and not the tree to the saw. He thinks more and more about designing a transportable, powerful chainsaw. “We want to make people’s work easier. That was my father’s vision 90 years ago. And that is still our main motivation today. ” (Hans Peter Stihl).

The "father of the chainsaw" Andreas Stihl (1926)

The “father of the chainsaw” Andreas Stihl (1926)

This idea ultimately leads to a product. Andreas Stihl develops the first chainsaw in his small workshop in Stuttgart. The chainsaw from the “A. Stihl Engineering Office” is a two-man electric saw.

The first petrol saw follows in 1929. As the suppliers cause him technical problems, he manufactured the parts himself. Success is not long in coming: As he says himself, the saws are “grabbed out of his hands.”

The first two-man petrol chainsaw (46kg/6 hp), introduced in 1929

The first two-man petrol chainsaw (46kg/6 hp), introduced in 1929, eases forestry work considerably.

Company expansion and exports abroad

In the following years, Andreas Stihl regularly launches new models on the market. The small engineering office turns into sizable factory. A major relocation takes place: from the center of Stuttgart to the more industrial suburb of Bad Cannstatt. Business as first goes well, even during the Great Depression that starts in 1929. The inventive businessman offsets the falling sales of chainsaws in the early nineteen-thirties by producing washing machines for example. His first exports are also good for business.

As a pioneer of globalization, Andreas Stihl prioritizes the export business and enters new markets in the United States and Canada.

STIHL begins exporting to the United States and Canada as of the mid 1930s.

STIHL begins exporting to the United States and Canada as of the mid 1930s.

STIHL has a long tradition of voluntary employee benefits

The company’s own apprentice department with workshop is set up in 1940.

Training workshop in the STIHL factory, 1940.

Training workshop in the STIHL factory, 1940.

Voluntary employee benefits have a long tradition at STIHL, going back to the time of Andreas Stihl. By 1941, Andreas Stihl employs 340 people. Even then, the employees benefit from Christmas bonus (since 1935) and a pension fund. The focus on the workforce is very important to the entrepreneur.

To this day, the company sees itself as strongly committed to its employees, society and the environment. The corporate culture that has grown over decades is marked by a feeling of trusting partnership, responsibility, respect and fairness.
Under the management of Hans Peter Stihl and Eva Mayr-Stihl, various models of employee participation in the company’s success are created. But commitment and responsibility are demonstrated also by the workforce. For example, numerous donation campaigns and employee deployments for social and ecological projects take place – worldwide.

Andreas Stihl and his employees, 1941.

Andreas Stihl and his employees, 1941.

The Second World War

The outbreak of the Second World War has a serious impact on the company story. The factory in Bad Cannstatt is completely destroyed in an air rain in October 1944. The Allies detain Andreas Stihl for a while in a labour camp in Bavaria. However, he is discharged in a trail before a denazification tribunal.

You can read how the story continued between 1945 and 1970 in our article The STIHL story, part 2: 1945-1970: STIHL responds to the post-war crisis with “Contra”.

When did you become part of the STIHL story?

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