Our classic ice saw – a powerful tool for ice and snow

With winter all around us, we have unearthed a special find in our archives: the historical STIHL ice saw.

STIHL developed the ice saw back in the 1950s to enter a new market. The ice saw made it possible to cut through sheets of ice up to 60 centimetres thick. As a result, it was perfect for use in frozen ports, as well as for iced-over sluice gates and locks.

In winter, the saw was also a popular tool for producing blocks of ice, a practice known as ice harvesting. The blocks of ice were supplied to breweries to cool beer for storage in the approaching summer months.


STIHL used this image in the 1950s to advertise the ice saw.

Breaking the ice in ports and locks

“Released from ice are brook and river,” Johann Wolfgang von Goethe writes at the start of the Easter procession monologue in his tragic play Faust. Back then, the sun was the only tool people had to fight ice and snow. Almost a century and a half later, STIHL developed the STIHL ice saw for somewhat tougher jobs. With 8.5 hp and a gross weight of 67 kilogrammes, the saw cut vertically through the ice on frozen bodies of water.

After starting the engine on the ice, the operator used a switch lever to swing the saw from the horizontal transport position into the vertical operating position. Pulling and pushing the saw on its blades allowed users to cut blocks out of the ice.

In the advertising flyer from back then, STIHL described how the chain was “able to eat through the ice in just a few seconds”. The tool was able to break through sheets of ice up to 60 centimetres thick. The saw was used to prevent severe damage to locks, sluice gates, ports and ships trapped in ice.

advertising flyer for the STIHL ice saw

An abstract of an advertising flyer for the STIHL ice saw.

Ice harvesting for cold storage and bobsleigh runs

The saw was also attractive to use in ice harvesting. Before electric refrigeration became widely available, breweries and warehouses used natural ice that was “harvested” in winter to keep their goods cool. Saws were a popular tool for this purpose, since they could be used to produce consistent, uniform blocks. The harvested ice was stored in the cellar to cool the beer throughout the summer.

Ice and snow were also needed in winter. A STIHL ice saw was used to cut plates of ice out of Lake Reißersee in Bavaria for the bobsleigh run at the FIBT World Championships in Garmisch-Partenkirchen in 1953.

A relic of bygone times

Back then, the ice saw was an attempt to increase the diversity of the STIHL product portfolio and to enter a new market segment. But with more and more cold-storage warehouses switching to electric refrigeration in the wake of West Germany’s rapid post-war economic expansion, the ice saw became less important, and its production was discontinued. Photos and advertising flyers featuring this unique STIHL classic can still be found in the company archives.

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