Five Questions: Paul Tonnesen

October 24, 2022 -  By
(Photo: Oregon Tool)

(Photo: Oregon Tool)

Paul Tonnesen

CEO, Oregon Tool, Portland, Ore.

1.  Oregon Tool is celebrating its 75th anniversary. How did the company get its start?t there?  

The business started as Oregon Saw Chain Corp. It was started by Joe Cox in a basement in Portland, Ore. Cox was a pioneer. He was a logger, and he was a tinkerer. He had this great pioneering spirit. He found timber beetle larvae while hacking into some logs, and he put them in his pocket and brought them back to his basement. He used a magnifying glass and was really interested in how they were ripping and cutting through the wood so fast, even live wood. He discovered they had these C-shaped jaws and were actually chipping, not really cutting, through the wood. So he developed the first chipper saw chain — which is the basis for all saw chains sold today — and started the company. His pioneering spirit inspires us to continue to lead and innovate in our business to this day.

2. I imagine a walk through your garage would make me jealous. What’s your favorite Oregon Tool?  

It’s like asking me which child is my favorite. I love all of them. But if I have to bite on this question, there is one that really stands out. We have patented the SpeedCut Nano chainsaw chain; it’s a cutting system. It combines the SpeedCut Nano guide bar and sprocket system altogether. These components are designed to maximize cutting performance. It really optimizes the battery-powered chain saw, and it increases the number of cuts per charge by 15 percent. If you didn’t have our chain, if you used somebody else’s chain and system, you wouldn’t get as many cuts out of it. It’s lighter and it’s more efficient. You know, a 15-percent increase is pretty spectacular.

3. What trends are you seeing with your customers?  

The major market trend driving shifts in outdoor power equipment is really battery power. We’re committed to continue to innovate on the cutting systems that address these demands. As the torque gets better with battery power, the sizes of chains continue to develop. We’re pretty cognizant of the need for sustainability. We’ll continue to develop additional products to fill the void.

4. What is the coolest part of having your job?  

We started The t.r.e.e. Initiative. As an acronym, it stands for Training, Recovery, Education and Environment. Back in 2011, a couple of team members came up with a plan to create a trailer that would provide tools and services to help those cleaning up the communities after a storm, a hurricane, wildfire or something like that. The first run they did was right after Hurricane Sandy — they spent 10 days in New York and New Jersey sharpening and repairing chainsaws and giving away thousands of saw chains and chainsaw parts for free. Since then, the team has added two additional trailers and more people. We travel all over the country to ensure that firefighters and cleanup crews have the tools they need for recovery efforts. That’s the one I’m most proud of. Leading a team with integrity like that and to pay it back makes me feel good.

5. Do you have a family, and what do you all do for fun?  

I’ve been married to my wife, Patti, for 34 years. I have three talented daughters; one’s in college, and two are out in the workplace. They’re at an age where they’re just starting out in their careers. We have one in San Francisco, one in Omaha and one in Atlanta. So travel, for us, is an opportunity to be together and something we appreciate. Really the best time for us is with them, wherever we decide to meet. We try to try to meet up as much as possible.

Want more 5 Questions? Check out our other recent interviews:

This article is tagged with , and posted in Featured, From the Magazine, October 2022, Profiles
Seth Jones

About the Author:

Seth Jones, a graduate of Kansas University’s William Allen White School of Journalism and Mass Communications, was voted best columnist in the industry in 2014 and 2018 by the Turf & Ornamental Communicators Association. Seth has more than 23 years of experience in the golf and turf industries and has traveled the world seeking great stories. He is editor-in-chief of Landscape Management, Golfdom and Athletic Turf magazines. Jones can be reached at

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