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24-Feb-2018 08:45 by 3 Comments

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I am one of the older guys, nearly 86 (in 2006), but in '37 1 was an optimistic youngster inspired by L. The simple Adept, with only a single tool rest and selling at 12/6d (12 shillings and sixpence), didn't seem to be a prospect for model engineering, but the "Super" with a compound slide rest, at 1 (almost double), looked much more promising. I also wanted a rack of 6 "Lark" turning tools, but Tyzack's were out of stock of these; however, the chap behind the counter got on the phone to Ross and Alexander at Bishopsgate (who vended the Rand A lathe) and found that they had some.

The tailstock on early versions had a simple push-and-lock barrel though the inadequacies of this quickly became apparent - and the makers were forced to introduce a properly designed version (at extra cost), with the choice of screw or lever-feed operation.A visit to this area is a must for students of early industrial archaeology.Founded in 1889, by Charles Portass, the original Portass company was concerned with building and constructional engineering but, by the outbreak of the First World War (1914--1918), had evolved to the extent that it was able to take on a variety of government work.Following the founder's death in 1924 (and almost certainly at the point where diversification into machine tools was taking place), the business was split between his sons Fred and Stanley. Stanley was based by the river Sheaf in the "Buttermere Works" (the building still stands, in Buttermere Road, off Abbeydale Road, near Millhouses) while F. Portass was located in Sellers Street - again off Abbeydale Road, but a mile closer to the city centre.Letters survive showing how, unsurprisingly, the two companies were frequently mistaken for each other with mail having to be redirected.It is possible that a proper screwcutting version of the adept was made by the works; pictures obtained show a modified headstock casting with a large plate bolted to the front carrying both a leadscrew bearing and a tumble-reverse mechanism. Another Adept-like lathe was the "Wakefield", though this would almost certainly have been built by Portass who were well known for supplying machines for sellers to badge as their own.

Unfortunately it is not possible at this stage to say with certainty that this was the case, for so many craftsmen in Sheffield would have been perfectly capable of undertaking such a modification, even in a very modestly-equipped workshop. 2 shapers and just the Super Adept lathe, priced with a simple "push" tailstock barrel at 2 : 5s : 0d or, with a screw-feed arrangement, 2 : 7s : 6d. has emerged with a quite different bed casting, braced at the back with ribs (and a top slide with the curved holding-down slot at the front instead of the rear) it does appear likely that this was the case. Details of the American company are obscure - though having adopted the English name, one must assume that they were set up to either import the lathes and accessories or build them locally under licence (with the possibility that, to aid manufacture, copies of the casting patterns were shipped out).This lathe also has the maker's hand-turning rest fitted to the right of the compound-slide assembly.More photographs of the standard Adept can be seen here.Manufactured from as early as 1930 until the early 1960s, the tiny "Adept" and "Super-Adept" lathes and shapers and were made in Sellers Street, off Abbeydale Road, Sheffield, England (and possible at the very narrow-fronted but deep factory building at 56 Garden Street in the same city) by a branch of the Portass family, F. Today they are sought-after items and using one provides a fascinating insight into times that were so much harder than our own. Although, by the most generous stretch of the imagination, these lathes cannot be called other than crude, they did provided the impecunious enthusiast with a way of getting his (and occasionally her) hands on very a hard-to-come-by product.Although projects given to the company including the usual munitions work, more interesting tasks contracts were awarded including the manufacture of aircraft components such as landing gear parts for Avro, Bristol and Nieuport fighters, seaplane floats for Blackburn and Fairey, tail units for Avro and De Haviland and even (it was claimed) the building of a complete batch of 50 Sopwith Snipes.

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