Australian made machine tools
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  1. #1
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    I often read about all the old US names and UK made lathes, mills and such but never hear about Aussie made items...

    So does anyone have any history of Australian made machine tools...

    I know of a few names but not much else, Macson and Nuttall being the only Aussie made larger lathes I see in my travels...With smaller ones made by Sheridan, Qualos, Hercus and Clisby...AFAIK Hercus also made small mills amd TC grinders and Qualos made a range of items from gear hobbers to who knows what...

    I have also heard of Mars lathes and mills made during the second world war....Anyone know any history of any of the above companies????

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    I dunno. Few if any have made it to my part of the world. People from Oz are creative, enegetic, and prolific. I'd be utterly stunned if over the years some first rate machine tools weren't designed and built in Australia.

    I'd like to see some. When I was in Brisbane in 1981 I got a short look in an Australian shop and saw a few Herberts among the Japanese machine tools. I didn't get a walk-through tour though.

    [ 06-29-2006, 06:14 PM: Message edited by: Forrest Addy ]

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    I'm aware of a couple of Oz lathe makers thanks to member Franco, namely Jeffco and Brackenbury & Austin. Some info on the latter here:-
    http://www.lathes.co.uk/brackenbury%26austin/

    There's also a good write-up on Hercus, with factory photos, here:-
    http://www.lathes.co.uk/hercus/index.html

    You might care to spend some time on the site below. Some excellent photos came up when I did a search on ‘lathe’ on the link below. I only had a quick look, but there were some unfamilar modern ones made by Demco Sheraton. Australian?
    http://www.pictureaustralia.org/index.html

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    Repco-Power

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    Don't forget Clisby lathes & milling machines They have connections to Sherline & similarly sized machines

  6. #6
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    Ringer,

    See:

    http://www.lathes.co.uk/mars/

    for a bit of history on Mars lathes, and descriptions of some of their range. I have seen a couple of the smaller Mars lathes in recent years, both in poor condition. A number of Mars lathes were supplied to the Australian Army during WW2. My father was involved with Army workshops during WW2, and was not complementary about their lasting qualities. A couple of Mars milling machines have been advertised for sale reasonably recently, but don't know anything about them.

    I've seen two of the Jeffco lathes which Asquith mentioned, of quite different designs, one quite large, probably 24" swing and about 15/18 feet centers from memory, but I could be wrong on the size - it was quite a while ago, and a smaller one (which I was using yesterday) with about 18" swing and about 6' centers. With the gap piece removed we were swinging a 25" Overland car wheel on the smaller one with a couple of inches to spare. Both would probably have been of WW2 vintage. The company went on after the war to make laboratory equipment such as shredders and ball mills among other things, and still existed fairly recently - may still be going.

    I have also recently seen a photo of a good sized lathe with the Ford logo cast into the headstock casting. Apparently Ford Australia made some machine tools, probably for their own use, during WW2 when imports were not available.

    I have one of the Brackenbury and Austin lathes which Asquith also mentioned. It is a good, solid, no-frills little lathe which has been in the family since it was bought new in 1948. I have come across three other owners of these in the last few years, and they still come up for sale occasionally.

    franco

  7. #7
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    Ringer,

    Macson lathes were made and sold by by McPhersons Ltd. They were a good quality heavy industrial lathes. I know of at least one which is still earning its keep locally. Thought I had a McPhersons catalogue from the 1940s somewhere which gave the specifications, but it seems to have disappeared.

    The Company still exists, but has changed direction, and no longer manufactures machinery, see:

    http://www.mcphersons.com.au/

    I cannot find anything on the Nuttall lathes, but have seen quite a number and have used a couple. All the ones I have seen have been good solid industrial quality machines, ranging from a medium sized lineshaft driven cone head in beautiful condition which was still in daily use to my knowledge four or five years ago, and probably still is, to quite modern designs. I'd guess that the newest one I've seen would have been installed in the 1970s, but I've got no idea whether the company is still going. I haven't seen Nutall lathes advertised for a long time, so assume they are no longer manufactured.

    I seem to remember seeing some medium sized old cone head Visby and New Visby lathes for sale many years ago, and have an idea these were made here too - not sure of this though.

    franco

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    I did hear Nuttall's went out of business in the seventies, I did own a small 13X40 Nuttall but sold it as it was totally worn out and buggered... I also have seen a number in engineering shops both the older ones with curved heads(from the fifties/sixties) and the more modern square headed models...I had the opportunity to buy an exgovt small Nuttall that was in pretty good order but it was smaller than I wanted so passed on it...It sold for $1000 at auction..

    A agriculture pump supply place around here has a medium Macson(bout 500X1700), it is the only macson I have seen in the flesh, I don't know if they use it for much other than turning down commutators...It was covered in plenty of dust...

    A bloke I know has a Sheridan and it is a nice lathe with fairly modern features...It appeared to be well built....

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    Unfortunately, this post is going to annoy more than help, because I can't recall the names any more But they might come back to me.

    I used to use several Australian made machines:

    A shaper, around 16-20", WW2 vintage. I preferred it to the later shapers in the row because it had lots of gear noise - sounded great when the load came on and off the gearing.. [img]redface.gif[/img]

    Aussie-made sensitive drill press. A finely made (minature) drill press, wish I had it now.

    Aussie-made internal grinders. I have never seen this type anywhere else. They were mechanically driven, the table was stroked back and forward by something akin to a shaper mechanism. Used for grinding draw dies.

    Aussie-made lapping heads. Nice little cast machines comprising a spindle with three jaw chuck, electric motor and belt drive. Used for polishing all sorts of dies.

    Moving out of the workshop, John Heine is a popular name here, seen on the side of many a press. Not just big ones either, we have a little Heine kick press adapted for pressing extended pins into transmission chain.

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  11. #10
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    Peter S,

    Mars Machine Tools made shapers, and I would be surprised if McPhersons and possibly Visby didn't make them also. There were certainly other Australian makers of industrial machine tools. Last time I was in the Technical College machine shop in Cairns about 1990 there were a dozen or so good solid gear head lathes of about sixties vintage, I would guess, wnich had been converted to metric when Australia went metric in the seventies. These were about 18" x 4' from memory, and were built by a well known heavy engineering firm which still exists, and whose name I have completely forgotten! I'd guess that these were part of a larger order when the tech. colleges were being updated at the time. From WW2 to the sixties there were plenty of manufacturers here capable of producing machine tools, so there must be other makes out there in addition to those mentioned in the earlier posts.

    franco

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    Franco.
    Technical College machine shop in Cairns about 1990
    Would they have been Sheridan Lathes? I think that was a brand name, made by Macson / Macphersons. Sheridan Cadet models used to abound, back when we had tech schools.

    Peter. The sensitive drill press. That may have been a Waldrin. Or Waldrin – Brobo. Still in business in Moorabbin, but they do more cold saws now.

    Interesting side story. 2 decades ago, I installed the first CNC sliding head into an old well established repetition engineering company in Bayswater. Shop full of Index and Bechler cam auto’s.

    You know the windshield washer nozzles on your car. They had the contract to supply the little brass ball, that gets molded / pressed into the plastic nozzle housing. They had the contract for every one, Holden Ford, Toyota, Nissan, Mits, etc.

    There was a woman there that sat at a Waldrin drill & drilled the hole it these brass balls. All hand loaded. That was about the time, we went to two streams of fluid out of each nozzle. So she had this little indexing fixture. And punched the two holes in each and every ball. I think they did 800,000 per year by 2 holes each. She had been doing it for years. I’m thinking that hole would have been all of 10 or 15 thou.

    Regards Phil.

  13. #12
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    Phil,

    Definitely not Sheridan. It was one of the big heavy engineering firms with a double barrelled name I think. I wasn't aware that they had ever made lathes until I saw the ones in Cairns. Evans Deakin keeps coming into my mind, but I don't think it is right. It'll come back to me sometime when I least expect it I suppose! Taking the location into account, it was probably a Queensland based company.

    There were also a few newer Harrison lathes - M300s I think. The older Australian lathes were bigger all round than the Harrisons.

    franco.

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    Several more Oz made machines, a Hercus 0 horizontal / vertical mill made in Adelaide and a Lock Tool Company of Melbourne 11 inch shaper.



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    OOps, trying again for the mill, sorry the size is a bit big.

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    When I was at school in 1986, the new metalwork shop got new Hercus lathes (and a brand new Chinese made shaper). THe whole lot was sold off a few years after to make way for a computer room...
    My first job had a pile of Australian made injection moulders from 100T - 1300 T clamping force - Johns mainly with a coupel of Battenfelds. The Johns all leaked oil like a sieve.

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    Phil,

    Before reading your post, I was starting to recall that the little drill press was something like "Welden". So you are probably right about Waldrin. I remember using it mainly to drill a few small holes in extrusion dies, large enough to take the saw blade on the little die filer..whose name I have also forgotten!

    The Waldrin-Brobo cold saws are still sold here.

    Geoff, the place where I worked also had a Johns or two, I had completely forgotten about them until your post. Also (but not from Australia) Netstal?, Boy?, Windsor? probably all names wrongly spelled and long gone from injection moulding.

  18. #17
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    Well, I have machine tool trade association books back to mid 1980's from Yugoslavia, Portugal, India and Venezuela in my files...but none from Australia !

    I wonder if there ever was one....better put that in your keyword seach for Ausy eBay !

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    My memory is starting to recall that the old Australian shaper I mentioned above might have had a name like Fairfax or Fairfield or?? Ring any bells?

  20. #19
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    Peter, I think the Boys and Nestalls were Swiss. Both made a lot of small machines, often used for high volume fast production work like packagine where 1/100ths of a second on the cycle time are profit and loss.
    I haven't been in the industry since 1995ish. I should have left in 93, but stuck with it. I am still walking funny from the shafting they gave me. Being young and green, I didn't know that I could have done them for constructive dismissal. All history now, and I know they lost a some of the best staff after I left - you can only screw people over and provide crappy conditions for so long. THey are still around though, and everyone in NZ will have some of their housewares or rubbish bins and buckets. Leaving there was the best thing I ever did for my stress levels, but that belongs in another thread.
    Australia also made blacksmith's airhamemrs - I have seen a photo on www.anvilfire.com in the past of a 5cwt (big!) open frame forging hammer made in oz. I think it went under the name Kalgoolie (sp)

  21. #20
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    The Australian made Drill Press's, Pedestal grinders etc. were Waldown, now Brobo- Waldown.


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