The Adept Lathe - Bedroom Workshop

The Adept Lathe - Bedroom Workshop
Introduction to the Adept Lathe
© Andrew Webster 12 January 2008 a.webster@sympatico.ca
Introduction
This document provides an introduction to the little Sheffield-made Adept modeller’s lathe, built in
large numbers 1 and, while constructed down to the lowest price, many thousands survive in use or
awaiting restoration. This document, therefore, is primarily meant to assist restorers and users of
this attractive, crude, and definitive “cheap lathe”. It is, secondly, meant to be relevant to
aficionados of other makes of British-made cast iron model-maker’s lathes. Feel free to circulate
this document unaltered, but please cite me as the author and mention its exclusive web location at
Griffiths Engineering’s excellent lathes site (www.lathes.co.uk), which has a wealth of photos and
data on Adepts and their contemporaries.
Pre-History of the Adept Line
The distinctive gapped, cantilever bed form of the Adepts appears inspired by the 2-3/4” x 12”
sliding lathe, from a new firm called Lineker & Winfield, introduced in 1925. The respected
engineer George Gentry gave this a demanding testing and a very favourable two-page review. 2
Highly specified for just £3.15s., it had bronze bearings, a generous ¾” spindle with ¾” nose
thread, slotted boring table and slotted top-slide, and double-vee slides with adjustable gibs. It
could be retro-fitted with back-gear for £1.5s. extra and screwcutting gear for another £2. Gentry
bought the sample against his impending retirement, to have a small lathe for home use, and years
later he described modifications to improve it further. Gentry described it as the forerunner of the
small, cantilever bed model engineer lathe which in the 1930s was produced in variants by several
firms. 3 Indeed, the Lineker’s bed can be seen much later in the slightly smaller-sized Flexispeed,
Perris, Meteor, Simat, and finally the Cowells lathe which remains in production today. (The latter
Gentry article is essential reading for owners of similar plain machines wanting to incorporate backgearing, screwcutting, a fully compound slide, and other such improvements.)
The historically significant Lineker & Winfield 2-3/4” x 12” sliding plain lathe ca. 1925.
Model Engineer 7 May 1925.
Enter the firm Heeley Motor and Manufacturing Co. who had diversified into the lathes business
after the Great War, producing small, conservative box-bed lathes for J.G Graves of Sheffield. The
Heeley firm took its name from a former cluster of villages now a suburb in south Sheffield, but it
was founded ca. 1889 by Charles Portass. The familiar Portass brand appeared ca. 1926, but as a
line of lathes built by the firm Heeley before a firm named Portass existed. In 1926 Heeley
introduced its own brand of 2-1/8" x 10” plain “Portass lathe”, soon nicknamed the "Baby Portass",
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briefly described in the 22 Apr 1926 Model Engineer. I own one of these machines. They were
popular during the decade they were in regular production 4 under various guises, including: “The
Portass Lathe” with Heeley plate, the ENOX (cast into the bed), the ECLIPSE (cast into the bed, for
James Neil & Sons), and the “Baby Zyto” and “Graves” with no special markings.
Heeley’s 2-1/8” Portass, and its 3” BGSC big brother, were evidently inspired by the cantilever bed
Lineker & Winfield. Aside from its weight, due to massive castings, the Baby Portass was a lot of
lathe for the money, costing when introduced 45/- for the lever tailstock Model A and 55/- for the
screw tailstock Model B. Both were value engineered to cost less than their competitor but lacked
desirable features such as gunmetal bushings and boring table. Likewise a BGSC “2-1/8 inch Model
de-Luxe” was introduced, with a slotted table, costing £4.5s. versus £8 for the BGSC Lineker &
Winfield. This was also much better value than the £10.10s. for the 3” scaled-up Baby type
machine, and why the latter lasted only a year or two before being succeeded by a better model.
‘Baby’ Portass Model B: Severely value-engineered mimic of the Lineker & Winfield, and
immediate predecessor of the Adepts. Model Engineer 22 Apr 1926.
The early history of Portass lathes concluded when the Heeley business was split, following the
founder' death in the late 1920s, between Portass sons Stanley and Fred. Portass Senior may have
died in the 1920s but the firm was not split until 1930 or 1931. 5 Stanley Portass renamed the
existing Heeley firm the Portass Lathe and Machine Tool Company and moved into the still extant
"Buttermere Works" off Abbeydale Road, near Millhouses. The Portass Lathe and Machine Tool
Company continued the development of the 3rd generation of Heeley lathes and also added new
models. Stanley’s firm also produced large machine tools, and all Portass machines regardless of
size were characterised by massive castings and known for their rigidity. Having his own foundry,
adjacent to the works, probably encouraged this heavy-machines policy. Certainly it gave him great
control over the supply and quality of castings. 6
Brother Fred commenced trading as F.W. Portass, producing tiny, inexpensive machines for
modellers: the Adept line. Having less money to work with, he made his tiny machines in a much
smaller “Abbeydale Works” not far distant from his brother’s in Sheffield. Fred miniaturised the
cantilever bed architecture of the 2-1/8” “Baby” Portass, creating much smaller and lighter
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machines with brilliantly engineered castings. The Baby Portass echoes loudly in the architecture of
the Adept, although the Lineker influence resonates in the more streamlined bed casting. My Baby
Portass is 18” long and too heavy for me to bother unbolting it from my bench to put on the
bathroom scale. My Super Adepts are 13” long and about 6-1/2” lbs, while my Ordinary Adepts are
11” long and lighter. This is small indeed for a cast iron machine; the tiny Adepts are remarkable
achievements in cast iron lathe construction. Stanley Portass had bigger fish to fry and never
attempted to compete with his brother for the tiny sized modeller’s niche. His smallest product, the
Baby, was comparatively massive and was far heavier. Its successor, a longer 2-1/8” lathe with a
double-footed curvilinear bed, made no attempt to match the Adepts for compactness or low price.
The brothers inherited a deep conservatism in their design philosophies, for once they settled on a
winning design, they resisted pressures to modernise even in the face of vicious competition after
WW2. Stanley, reluctantly, introduced new models – all traditional in design - which allowed him to
continue business until the early 1970s, but by the mid-1950s his main products were becoming
anachronistic. Fred was even more stubborn. He changed hardly anything, apart from introducing
improved hand shapers (his other core product), and he ceased production about 1961.
History of the Adept Line
Two versions of the Adept lathe were made by F. W. Portass: the "Adept" (ordinary model, with
bolt-on simple slide-rest) and the more complex and expensive compound slide-rest and leadscrew
"Super Adept" model. The Ordinary appeared about 1931, available with a plain, lever, or screw
tailstock. The Super Adept was not a development of the Ordinary. Both machines were valueengineered from the introduction of the range to offer choice of capabilities while employing many
common parts to keep prices low. The Super was advertised as a 'sliding' lathe, meaning that it
has the Ordinary's top-slide but atop a carriage driven by a full-length leadscrew. This is fullycompound, sliding on outside-vee'd ways which do not feature on the Ordinary version. It is
propelled by a left-hand leadscrew whose hand wheel has a nice waisted handle. A central slot,
along the bed, guides the tailstock's tenon as per the Ordinary. Thus, the Super is superficially a
tiny and simplified version of the classic British engine lathe, and attractive on this account.
The Super Adept appeared at the August 1933 Model Engineer Exhibition, at the Bond's o' Euston
Road stand. This firm billed itself as "the Home of Hobbies" and sold "everything 'modellish'" for
four decades. The 14 September 1933 Model Engineer reported that "their principal exhibits in the
lathe line comprised practically all the models made by 'Portass'. Notable among these last were a
new specially made lathe called 'Bond's Maximus', a 3 in. back-geared S.C. lathe...at the other end
of the scale was the one and only entirely new 'Adept' lathe of the same make, which is now
designed with a sliding saddle, carrying the compound rest. This is illustrated, but price on
application." 7 The latter marks the introduction of the Super and the start of several decades of
confusion between the two Portass firms who, probably by arrangement, catered to different parts
of the market and periodically sent one another misdirected correspondence.
Tyzack Ordinary Adept advert, plain tailstock, ca. 1935. Bonds used the same plate to advertise
the Ordinary Adept in their 1963 catalogue; by then Adepts must have been old stock.
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The Great Depression caused a rapid die-back of the multitude of small British lathes which
appeared right after WW1. For the most part their firms produced machines of undistinguished
quality and technology, and some of the makers disappeared completely along with the designs.
Modeller’s lathes which evidently vanished in the 1930s include the Wade, Edwards, David, Dignus,
and Patrick lathes, and the Drummond Goliath multi-machine which did nothing well. Of the
producers of the larger, model engineer class (say, 3” to 4” centre height) lathes, Stanley Portass’
well-capitalised firm thrived, as did newcomers Ross & Alexander and Myford. These and others
are fully described and illustrated at www.lathes.co.uk.
The two Adept lathes occupied the model-maker’s lathe void when the Baby Portass and smaller
machines dwindled, and they filled this void until copycat competition like the Flexispeed and
Wizard appeared in the late 1940s. Adepts were highly suitable for indoors work. They were very
small and light compared with anything but a very expensive watchmaker’s lathe. Either Adept
could be mounted on a board, clamped to the kitchen table, and worked with one of a dozen cheap
makes of treadle foot-motor with little mess or noise. Alternatively the Adept could occupy the
corner of one of the popular, cheap Hobbies workbenches suited to a spare bedroom. Yet the initial
rise to popularity of the Adept lathes, during hard times, was quick primarily because they were
priced to sell when most types of model-making required a lathe.
How common were Adepts during the 1930s? Most modelling at the time called for a lathe. In
particular, until the early 1950s it was difficult to engage in scale railway modelling in the absence
of a small lathe, and model engineering without a lathe however small remains out of the question.
No other manufacturer approached the prices of the Adepts. In 1937 a bare-bones, ordinary Adept
cost a mere 13/9 (60p or $1.25!). It included a hand turning rest, two unhardened centres, plain
tailstock, and a faceplate. For just 22/- you also got a bolt-on slide-rest (a quarter of an average
weekly industrial wage) and for 15/- more an independent 4-jaw chuck capable of accurate if the
work was carefully centred. It is fair to say that these machines did more than any other to put
miniature machining within the grasp of the ordinary man. These little (13” long) cast iron
machines were the archetype “small lathe” for modellers and model engineers lacking space and
money. Fred Portass advertised them correctly as “world renowned”. Examples have been found
in Holland, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and America.
Like most of the other makers, Fred Portass relied heavily on distributors but also advertised his
products aggressively in 1939, already emphasising "world renowned". Then the War came.
Commercial model production plummetted in 1940, when Fred Portass still regularly advertised
Adept lathes using the familiar plate depicting the popular Ordinary with a non-screw tailstock. In
June the Ordinary was 24/- with slide-rest and 15/- with just a hand rest, screw tailstock 6/- extra.
The Super was 35/6 and the 4-jaw chuck 16/-. In 1941 he advertised less often, noting that Adepts
were "Still available though we regret we cannot give our usual prompt deliveries, owing to the
urgency of Priority Orders for Government Work”.
Super Adept advertisement on the eve of War, 14 September 1939, Model Engineer.
Super Adept advertisements used the same old plates until the very end ca. 1961.
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The production of metal toys was banned in January 1942. So too, a year later, was the
commercial sale of new or second hand models, either whole or as components. Unable to buy
manufactured items, amateurs were desperate for lathes to make their own components, but the
sale of new machines now required a licence attesting to their use in war work. Persons still
modelling used discarded or hoarded material, aided by a weak private trade in used models. The
Model Railway News shrank to 14 tiny, thin pages but the Model Engineer, its sister publication,
fared better because model engineers were sought in armaments factories. Practitioners like
Edward Beal and L.B.S.C. kept writing, furthering techniques and keeping up morale.
Model engineering firms made war supplies such as fuses and aircraft instruments. So did machine
tool makers whose products were not up to the needs of military establishments or factories. This
probably included the firm F.W. Portass. It is hard to imagine Adept lathes in war use, although the
two tiny models of hand shaper were very good and may have been needed in repair and
experimental work. In any event, by September 1947 the firm was again supplying Adept lathes to
the public but advising of a 12 month wait list after placing an order, on account of being
“inundated with orders”. In fact, the Austerity decade had begun, and materials were in short
supply. Five years of pent-up demand exploded and any lathe seemed worth its weight in gold.
The Adepts, still the cheapest and smallest, sold vigorously. Unfortunately Fred Portass, made
complacent by this surge in demand, failed to modernise his designs or increase his tiny range of
accessories when a host of small competitor lathes began to appear. Worse, he failed to advertise
in the model engineering press until 1950 when new competitors were long advertising
aggressively. By then, various new small lathes, especially the 1-5/8” Flexispeed and the 1-3/4”
Lane (formerly the 'Wizard') 8 , were clearly taking a substantial bite out of the Adept’s market share.
Lane Wizard and Flexispeed Standard adverts, from the Model Engineer, ca. 1948.
There were others too, of comparable size, like the gimmicky Grindturn with an ill-advised extended
spindle bearing a large, unprotected grinding wheel situated immediately besides the head bearing!
(Be careful if you intend to buy a Grindturn. I have inspected one that was utterly worn out by
corundum grit and other users have reported evidence of accelerated wear.) Gimmicks aside, at
first the Adept’s new and hungry competition tended to be better-specified or at least more highlyfeatured, and thus markedly more expensive and non-threatening.
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Grindturn 2” Model ca. 1947. Note the grinding wheel, only useful if run at speeds damaging to
spindle and bearings. Still, one of the higher-specified, more expensive small lathes.
Flexispeed steadily worked towards market superiority. In 1947 their 1-5/8” model was adopted by
Tyzack as the new Zyto small lathe; the Baby Portass ones had the honour of being the “Baby
Zyto”. The major distributor Garner began promoting Flexispeed products on favourable terms, not
mentioning Adepts which they also carried. The year 1950 telegraphed an irreversible decline of
the fortunes of the Adept’s maker. The main agent of this decline was Flexispeed who now moved
strategically to occupy the niche held by F.W. Portass. Flexispeed took out a half-page advert
promoting their Adept-like 1-5/8" models and budget horizontal bench mill (£20), an item that Fred
Portass ought to have introduced. The Standard Flexispeed lathe was £7.6s.9d with back-gearing
for £2 extra.
The basic Flexispeed model had improvements shared by other recent makes of modeller’s lathes,
particularly a ½” spindle (not 3/8”) that could take a heavier chuck, spindle bored through with
socket for commercial 0MT taper tooling. This was a big improvement over the Adept, whose 3/8”
solid mandrel kept the price down but imposed limitations, e.g.: parting-off 1" steel was very
challenging; users could not bore a useful sized clearance hole using a D-bit; and only a tiny taper
socket was possible. Also unlike the Adept, the Flexispeed had a set-over tailstock. This, while
cute, is actually difficult to utilise when a machine has just 6” or 7” between centres, and damnable
hard to re-set to zero. In fact, the Super Adept’s fully compound slide-rest was far more useful
when turning taper tooling as well as making fine cuts, and one wonders why the Adept’s
competition preferred simple slide-rests. In any event, Fred Portass did not try to compete with this
higher-specified and costlier machine, or its early brethren, evidently feeling secure that experience
and established name as the lowest priced lathe would see him through.
Yet Flexispeed had more surprises. They introduced a 'Student' 1-5/8 inch lathe for just £4.17s.6d.,
almost the same price as the Super Adept. This was the first ever real attempt to build down to the
Super Adept's price, although no one tried to out-beat the simpler Ordinary Adept. By then it
hardly mattered because buyers expected more and the Ordinary was becoming too elementary.
The Flexispeed Student's tailstock ran on the bed dovetail, not in a slot, making for more consistent
alignment than the Super Adept. The latter had a reputation for soon developing a sloppy fit. The
hollow, larger (½” spindle) spindle had a three-speed pulley and took standard 0MT tooling. At
least the slide-rest was fully compound. Apart from a bed casting which was too spindly at the
tailstock end, the Student looked much like a Super Adept. On closer inspection it has markedly
less rigidity particularly when taking parting cuts, since the mating vee-slides are shorter, the
spindly bed lacks strength, and there are fewer gib-screws. Yet from a marketing viewpoint the
differences were trivial. Fred Portass had now lost his lathe price advantage. Flexispeed was now
in cutthroat competition with F.W. Portass. In 1953 they carried an Adept-like advert for the
Student, priced down to £5.17s.6d. versus £5.15s.0d. for the Super Adept. Flexispeed's
independent chuck was £1.17s.6d. versus £1.18s.6d., and Flexispeed offered a tailstock die holder
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(15/-) which Adept did not, but Flexispeed's steady, at 11/6, cost 3/6 more.
The Flexispeed Student lathe: Finally, a sliding lathe able to compete
against the Super Adept in terms of price and specification.
By 1953 the Adept’s distributors seldom mentioned Adept lathes in their advertising, possibly
prompting Fred Portass to regularly advertise in the ME using his familiar 20-year-old engravings.
By 1953 the name and address of Fred Portass' firm had changed to "F.W. Portass Machine Tools
Ltd., Adept Works, 55 Meadow Street, Sheffield 8". The reasons for the apparent relocation are
unknown but a brand makeover was certainly being attempted. Stung by new competition, Fred
Portass was now regularly advertising in the M.E. He still emphasised "world-renowned", "world
famous", and "full range of accessories" including a new three-point steady and finally (!) a drill
chuck. The expansion to his accessories list was too little, too late. Despite competition from,
Robblak, Cowells, and other firms, Adept shapers remained popular and for a while this offset some
of the losses in lathe sales. 9
This was the Jurassic of the little, cast-iron lathe. Only the evolving Flexispeed would survive the
impending die-back. As the 1950s progressed, most of the British makes of traditional modeller's
lathes disappeared. Notwithstanding the occasional interesting but not revolutionary feature, these
machines remained grounded in turn-of-the-Century design and manufacturing technology. In
1954 this obsolescence became clear when the early Unimat (DB200/SL1000) appeared in the UK.
The first model had nine speeds and swung a 2-3/4” diameter rod, 5-3/8” long, between centres.
The machine-cast alloy castings were generally superior, in a manufacturing sense, to the old sandcast iron type. Best of all, the Unimat looked modern, had a self-contained motor, and came with
numerous accessories such as the elusive 3-jaw scroll chuck. By then the tired old Adept, with few
accessories, called for more patience and machine-shop acumen than modellers of the day were
prepared to accept. They now sought a “universal machine tool”, and while the Adept assuredly
was not, neither were most of its competition besides the Unimat. 10
Possibly because the Unimat was shockingly expensive (£27.17s.6d. when introduced), and because
most other British modeller’s lathes vanished quickly, Adept production was able to drag on,
declining, until about 1961. 11 Some dealers had a few some in stock for several more years; in
itself a statement about how demand for this type had plummetted. Improvements kept the
Flexispeed line selling into the 1970s, 12 but by without doubt the new archetype was the evolving
Unimat. Machines such as the Flexispeed and Unimat did not do the firm F.W. Portass in. Fred
Portass did his own firm in. When attractive, modernised small machines appeared in the late
1940s onwards, the Adept slid towards oblivion because its maker failed to modernise the design.
It would have been simple to offer extra features such as back-gearing, a decent vertical slide
accessory, indexed handwheels, integral motorisation, a larger ½” diameter spindle drilled through
and with a full 0MT taper, or a spindle pulley with index holes and a locking pin.
It seems certain that Fred Portass never offered a screwcutting Adept but many hundreds were
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converted by their owners. It is lamentable that attachment points, for securing this equipment,
were not cast into the headstock. This would have added nothing to the cost whilst giving the user,
and the maker, future options. The short mandrel, which did not protrude beyond the back
housing, is another unnecessarily limiting feature. Others are identifiable, but dwelling on them
detracts from these machines' positive features and their market superiority for so many years.
Specifications of Adept Lathes
Adepts were produced under basic conditions which limited the size and complexity of the machines
produced. Precision lathe authority Peter Clark wrote to me on their origins: “Years ago…a friend of
mine, told me about visiting the Adept maker, Fred Portass at his little workshop in Abbeydale
Road, Sheffield. The story was that Portass started with only two machines. These were a small
capstan lathe of 5/8" capacity and a single-geared lever operated bench milling machine. The
design of the Adept was supposed to have been governed by the capacity of these two. Certainly
the cast iron used was beautiful stuff that could well have been necessary for milling on a tiny mill,
using one cut!” Somehow, he found ways to organise production around basic equipment such that
he could produce large volumes of machines at consistently low cost. Adepts were the cheapest
and most rudimentary miniature lathes to have seen sustained production.
Adept lathes have 1-5/8” swing (3-1/4” diameter) over the bed, and the gap in the bed admits
material 4-1/4” diameter, both quite useful sizes. Six inches between male centres at maximum
tailstock set-back. Owners of lathes this size often fitted huge 4-jaw or 3-jaw chucks (often all
they could get) in connection with a Goodell-Pratt style tailstock drill chuck on a taper. This
reduced the effective between-centres distance to a couple of inches, but this flaw was universal to
this size of machine. The Adept’s spindle and tailstock barrel are 3/8” diameter mild steel. The
former runs in cast iron housings without bushings; many owners bored these out and fitted bronze
bushings. Articles on Adept improvements from the M.E. showed how to make this, and other
improvements, with no machines beside the Adept itself. 13
Cast iron's most striking characteristic is its high resistance to sliding wear. Because of this few
lathes of the time featured pre-stressed ball or roller bearings. These were costly in the smaller
sizes until the 1950s. Until the 1960s the better large model engineer’s lathes usually had
replaceable bushings of bronze or gunmetal, but many gave excellent service with a hardened and
polished steel spindle running in a lapped iron split-housing. Indeed, and the Myford ML10, made
until fairly recently and still reconditioned for sale by its makers, has traditional steel-running-iniron. However most of the small model-maker's lathes had an unhardened mild steel spindle
running direct in the iron housing. These were seldom polished or lapped, and the sometimes the
housing was bored without reaming, like the Adept.
This being said, the longevity of this arrangement is remarkable if attention were constantly paid to
cleanliness and lubrication. It is nevertheless quite possible that an Adept or similar spindle today
will exhibit significant wear, especially at the tail housing where an excessively heavy chuck could
cause headstock centre drop. Some owners fitted cycle oil cups to the oil holes atop the iron
housings. This did much to keep things oiled. Some fitted fibre shims to stop oil running quickly
out of the sawn housing (styrene sheet works as well). Others neglected the oiling, paid no
attention to iron and corundum dust, and responded to heavy wear by screwing the housings
together until they fractured. Some did this just for fun it seems. This is a common fault on small,
old lathes. You pays your money and you takes your chance.
Fred Portass was clever enough to offer his four-jaw chuck screwed to fit ½”, 5/8”, and ¾” BSF to
allow sales to owners of other lathes. Unfortunately, however, he never enlarged the Adept’s
spindle nose thread above an uncommonly small 3/8” BSF. It is most difficult to find chucks or
other headstock tooling, besides Adept manufacture, to fit this size. The best option is to take
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some 1” rod, turn up a new spindle between centres, screw-cut it to take ¾” Sherline chucks. Do
not forget to bore and ream a suitably undersized and 0MT non-standard taper socket!
Since the spindle and tailstock barrel are both 3/8” diameter, so it was a simple matter for users to
fit up some 3/8” steel in the headstock and turn up special-purpose barrels. Owners of plain and
lever tailstocks were especially apt to do this. Many Ordinary Adept owners had only a plain
tailstock with just a point with a cast iron hand wheel at the other end. They drilled many a hole by
centre-popping the butt end of a drill, holding in a tap-wrench, and forcing in with brute force by
pushing on the hand wheel. Clever owners turned up a female-centred tailstock barrel. A cheap,
mild steel, ¼”BSW, hex-head bolt atop the plain tailstock locked the barrel. Users often filed up a
plug of brass so the barrel would not be scored.
Tailstock and mandrel have 0MT-angled tapers but regular 0MT tooling will not fit. This is because,
in order to get a socket in a tiny 3/8” mandrel, Fred Portass extended the small end of 0MT so that
his sockets, while the right inches-per-foot taper for 0MT, have a large diameter of ¼ inch while
the small end of a standard 0MT taper plug is 0.252 inches. This conclusion follows inspecting a
dozen Adepts and a report from someone who visited the works just after the War. The nonconformity prevented Adept owners from using the wide range of standard 0MT taper tooling
carried by tool shops in the 1930s to 1950s. (Aside: Curse Mr. Morse for his system of tapers with
approx. 1.5° included angle but varying several thou per foot! God bless Mr. Jarno and his entire
family for inventing a rational taper consistent for all sizes of socket. A fatwa upon lathe builders
who still cling to the Morse system.)
The Super Adept was preferred when finances permitted, but the Ordinary version appealed for
reasons beside low price. It was ideal for workers (e.g. doll-house and pen makers) only interested
in hand-turning against a T-rest. They needed little extra besides chisels or gravers, a prong
centre for wood turning, and maybe faceplate or drive-plate with carriers and male centres. When
required for metal work, the T-rest could be unbolted and replaced with an optional slide-rest. The
T-rest was a very good one. (I am in need of one, or at least data from a specimen to allow me to
make patterns and replicate this fitting. Same applies to the 3-point steady.)
Ordinary Adept ca. 1937 with slide-rest and screw tailstock. Early type slotted-plate
feedscrew retainers which wore severely and allowed no backlash adjustment.
Before restoration by A. Webster.
The Ordinary Adept’s slide-rest top slide rotates for taper turning (same item as on the Super). The
lower slide’s base has a cast iron lug which fits into a 3/8” slot machined down the centre of the
bed. All WW (Webster-Witcomb) pattern watchmakers' lathes have a bolt-on slide-rest, so this idea
was hardly new. Some American WW lathes of the time (e.g., Mosley, Peerless) had a central slot
to guide lugs beneath both slide-rest and tailstock; the bed was not prismatic form, meaning that
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there was no outside surface for guidance as with, say, a Boley WW or a Levin. Their beds were, of
course, vastly more accurately made than the gang-milled Adept bed.
The Ordinary Adept shares with such machines the disadvantage that a bolt-on slide-rest permits
only a limited length of cut to be taken. Many users would find this no limitation at all, and to be
fair, the disproportionately large Adept slides allow quite a long cut. Also on a positive note, All
Adepts have a cast iron English Pattern toolpost. While lacking the adjustable jackscrew found on,
say, the Myford or Flexispeed, it can clamp a wide range of tools, tool-holders, and work pieces.
The Ordinary Adept's extraordinary cheapness stems from well-executed castings, few parts, and
few exacting machining operations. The headstock was made as accurately as the Super version,
and well-aligned with the ways, elsewhere the quality control could be lacking.
It seems that the better castings went into Supers while Ordinaries often got the ones with
roughness, non-critical fissures, or pits. Parts also seem to have been sent the Ordinary Adept
assembly line when machining revealed a void in the casting. I have seen an Ordinary Adept with
matching, undersized female tapers. The angle is right but the holes are not bored deep enough to
grip more than the end of a regular Adept male centre. This strongly suggests that Ordinary
Adepts were sometimes built from parts not good enough for the posh model. The Ordinary was
often gaily painted, at the request of distributors, in order to camouflage its deficiencies. I have
one in vile cream with handwheels picked out in green, but others have red highlights. The Supers
are sometimes described as characteristically black stove-enamelled. In fact the most common
colour was dark blue. I have three of that colour.
Do not let these occasional deficiencies dilute your enthusiasm. Many surviving Ordinary Adepts
are quite serviceable for purposes like turning H0 scale or 4mm scale locomotive fittings provided
you can find a chuck that fits or is not worn out. The Adepts were not been built for more accuracy
than this. Remember also that S.C. Pritchard did the experimental work for his PECO products on
an Ordinary Adept, during the War and on his dining room table. 14 As when they were new, fitting
and bodging are called for when greater precision is demanded, and less often just to get them
functioning decently. Sometimes you can be lucky. One of my Ordinaries arrived with bearings,
spindle, and tailstock barrel as good as a Super Adept that I had extensively tweaked into top
condition. At other times the seller today is dead wrong about “good condition”, just as he was
about “Adept watchmaker’s lathe” and “rare”! The same can be said of buying the Super model.
The Super is a much more useful machine than the Ordinary. It features the same compound slide
but atop a saddle (or carriage) which is propelled by a full-length leadscrew. The hand wheel has a
pleasant, properly-waisted handle, a most commendable feature. The 12 TPI ACME leadscrew is
nicely executed and works well, with little slop, in the ACME-threaded cast iron bushing. These
bushings are extremely hard-wearing. Owing to the Super Adept’s sliding saddle, the cutter can
traverse a six-inch rod held between centres. The same central slot of the Ordinary Adept remains
to guide the tailstock's tenon or lug. This is severely prone to wear, but the solution is simple: File
it off and screw on a block of steel that fits nicely between the ways.
The leadscrew allows the tool bit to traverse the full length of a six-inch rod held between centres.
The top-slide can be set to cut a taper yet ordinary 90° x-y turning can still be done by means of
the saddle and cross-slide leadscrews. This is handy when making tailstock tooling like a drill pad.
The top-slide (common to both models) can be removed and the maker’s cast iron angle plate put
in its place for simple drilling, boring, and slot-milling. The top-slide can be bolted to the angle
plate (or piece of scrap angle) for vertical milling operations, another big selling point. These
operations were complicated by the absence of graduated markings on the handwheels, but a
clever worker could set co-ordinates with a micrometer or slide-gauge.
The top-slide can be set to cut a taper, yet cylindrical turning and 90° facing can still be done by
means of the saddle and cross-slide leadscrews. This is handy when making tailstock tooling like a
drill pad. The top-slide is fixed in place by a single bolt, in a sloppy hole, which needs to be
10
alarmingly tight if the unit is not to rotate during use. It is also tricky to set the angle correctly.
This however was a very common system even with better-specified model engineer’s lathes like
the RandA. Furthermore, the Adept’s anchor bolt could take the torque without cracking.
All three slides have adjustable gibs made of press-flattened steel strip. The saddle runs smoothly
and accurately on outside-vee'd ways which do not feature on the Ordinary version. One is not so
fortunate with the top-slide units. The male vee which guides the top-slide casting frequently has
one straight and one slightly curved male vee. The latter usually faces the headstock. If you are
seeking accurate work, there is grave risk of cracking the top-slide base casting if the grubscrew of
the corresponding gib is over-tightened in efforts to eliminate shake. This problem of a curved vee
was observed a user in the 1940s who hand-shaped the two vee faces square. The problem is a
consequence of the rapid way in which the vee was formed with a 60º milling cutter.
Super Adept carriage, showing vee-ways, gib-strip, and top-slide. Note the Mk II system for
securing the feedscrews, which eliminates the slotted keeper plate. Collection A. Webster.
Super Adept after restoration, sitting on a Peter Denny style ‘kitchen table workbench’
with Austerity period hand tools. Note (1) the splendid waisted handle on the lead screw hand
wheel, (2) the long, blank taper in the tailstock’s socket; the tailstock has a very short bearing
surface for the barrel to slide in. Collection A. Webster.
11
Super Adept headstock. Short, solid spindle running in 3/8” iron housings without bushings.
Note the light 4-jaw chuck. Collection A. Webster.
The screw tailstock was standard on Super unless the buyer specified the now-uncommon lever
type. It is hard to feed in drills smaller than #50 Morse owing to lack of sensitivity. The lock-lever
is the same rod, threaded at one end ¼”BSW, that screws into the drive plate except it was bent
45-60° depending on the fitter’s mood. A steel plug with a hand-filed tenon (or maybe just a pip)
catches the slot in the barrel. Do not lose this when cleaning up your new acquisition.
Variations of Adept Lathes
The Adept lathe may have been sold, or even produced, in the U.S.A. by the Adept Tool Co. of
2342 Hampton Road, East Cleveland, Ohio. 15 This firm illustrated an Ordinary Adept lathe fitted
with the firm’s own low-speed, backgear replacement system involving an extended spindle with 6”
pulley, driven from a 1” pulley on a line shaft. An unremarkable looking “Adept sensitive drill” was
also illustrated, but this may have been a product of Adept Tool Co. rather than F.W. Portass. The
portable bench, proposed but not supplied by Adept Tool Co., is most commendable considering
that electric motors were large and expensive, and countershafts were essential.
Adept Tool Company (Cleveland Ohio) brochure illustration ca. 1930s.
12
An Australian version of the Super Adept was sold as the "TNC" after WW2 and perhaps just before.
There is good reason to believe that this was produced in Australia by Australian lathe manufacturer
Fred Hercus. 16 An Australian “TNC” brand shaper was also available, and possibly the Adept
ordinary lathe and the rumoured (but never authenticated) Adept horizontal mill. The TNC Super
lathe was an exact copy of the Super Adept except for: (a) a straight (not waisted) carriage
leadscrew handle; (b) “TNC” cast on the base and “British Made” removed; (c) different paint job;
and (d) an improved top slide which greatly simplified taper turning. The Super is known to have
been produced by F.W. Portass in the 1930s, for the Department store Gamages and maybe for
other distributors, with cosmetic changes to the bed casting but otherwise identical. In place of
“ADEPT” is cast “MADE IN ENGLAND”. Other pseudo-Adepts seem to have been produced by Fred
Portass. Imitation is said to be the greatest flattery – Hundreds of amateurs made their own Adept
look-alike patterns for casting by the local foundry. During the War it was impossible to buy a new
lathe but there were no restrictions on small castings!
The design of Adept lathes changed hardly at all over three decades of production. The pulleys of
early specimens have 90° vee-grooves for the ¼” round leather belting. This was prone to slippage
so later (certainly Post-War) machines had 60° grooves. The tool-post also changed. Top slides
manufactured during the 1930s had a ¼” tool post screwed directly into the top-slide casting. This
was normal for English lathes. However, in the case of the Adept the casting was thin on top and a
fracture could occur if the cast clamp were over-tightened. Subsequent top-slides had a conical
projection above the tool surface so the toolpost had more metal to hold it secure. The difference
is shown on the Ordinary and Super Adepts photographs in this document.
Most or all of the pre-War lathes featured an inferior system of securing the slide-rests’ two
feedscrews. A flat slotted keeper plate, screwed onto the slide, engaged a groove turned in the
knob end of the screw. Eventually the plate wore down and the groove developed rounded edges.
This caused serious backlash and in bad cases the feedscrew and plate could seize up. The
correction is to turn the roundness off the worn groove using a parting tool, and fit a new retaining
plate the same thickness as the groove is wide, minus enough for free rotation. Unlike your
predecessors you should apply plenty of grease to the keeper plate! Later lathes had more
expensive feedscrews, turned from larger diameter stock, with a substantial turned collar. The
plate was no more. Instead, the collar sandwiched the drilled casting on the inside, with the knob
on the outside. Backlash could now be eliminated by altering the knob’s endplay, then locking with
a grubscrew. This too is illustrated in the photos.
Sellers today often describe Adepts as “watchmaker’s lathes”. Based on this, an unwitting buyer
may pay far above what a well-used specimen of the cheapest lathe ever made is worth. Adepts
were far from precision machines, but some workers especially in the early Austerity years were
desperate for any platform to rebuild, and reconstructed Adepts in impressive machines. The
famous model engineering writer and illustrator Terry Aspin wrote of such a conversion. 17 The
machine illustrated below was remade by L.V.P. Clarke into a collet-holding, screwcutting
watchmaking lathe of true precision grade. 18 Bear in mind that little remained of the original but
heavily machined and scraped castings. Adepts were made of good quality iron, and this was quite
enough in the Austerity period when getting tour own iron castings made was difficult.
Some speculate that a screwcutting Adept lathe was produced. I agree with Tony Griffiths that
many British workers were highly skilled and well able to adapt standard machines to screwcutting.
Indeed, the Model Engineer has articles on how to do this, including making an Adept-based
screwcutting watchmaking lathe! Ah…Those were desperate days in the Austerity years after
WW2. This accounts for the rare but diverse screwcutting and draw-in spindle Adepts occasionally
seen today.
13
An ultimate makeover. Model Engineer 17 July 1947.
Manufacturer’s Spares and Accessories
The standard kit for the Ordinary and the Super models comprised a drive chuck, two male centres,
and in the case of the Ordinary, choice of a bolt-on hand-rest or slide-rest. Spares were available
from the very beginning. These included mandrel, top-slide, a pair of male centres, and two-step
pulley. In the late 1940s the range of accessories for the Super (besides countershaft and treadle
“foot-motor”) was advertised as (prices in shillings):
4-jaw independent chuck, 2-1/4”
3-jaw 'dog chuck'
Large faceplate, 3-1/4”
Carrier, 3/8” diameter
Carrier, 5/8” diameter
Hand rest
Prong chuck for wood
Small angle plate, 2-3/8” x 1-3/8” x 1-1/2”
Drill pad with vee groove
Set of three turning tools
Set of six turning tools
Round leather belting, per foot
32/10/6
6/2/3
2/6
4/4/4/3/6
3/6
7/6d
The 1963 Bond's catalogue listed three more accessories which seem to comprise the rest of the
small range: drill chuck, 0-1/4”; three-point steady rest; and pair of female centres. These were
probably old stock since Adepts were out of production. The drill chuck and steady were introduced
late in the line’s history. There was never a 3-jaw universal chuck because the maker could not
produce one cheap enough. The foul 3-jaw ‘dog chuck’ was always borderline useless and
repeatability was not remotely possible. The work wobbles drunkenly until quite a lot of metal is
turned off, and thereafter things are manageable, unless of course the idea is to clock a rod or a
drill to run true. I have a good specimen so don’t tell me otherwise.
The light, four-jaw independent chuck was excellent, but the thinly case-hardened jaws wore down
in a few years and users complained in the model engineering press. Usually they take a lot of
work to put in good working order including, sometimes, making new jaws from tool steel with your
14
Adept hand shaper. While this is part of the fun, it is also a warning to disappointed aficionados
quick to buy Adepts at inflated prices but unprepared to put in the necessary work.
Restoring and Using Adepts
Adepts are very cute miniature versions of the cast iron engine lathe, minus the back-gearing of
course. My own enthusiasm for Adepts relates to my interest in retro-modelling railways in North
East England in 7mm scale, using only the limited tools and materials available to a modeller in the
UK during the awful post-War Austerity decade. This is definitely an exercise in scratchbuilding and
self-discipline. What better suits this mode than the ultra-basic Adept?
Adepts are not hard to find, and seldom worth much money except when fools go on a bidding
rampage on eBay. Anyone expecting to use an Adept very likely has to do some elementary
toolmaking despite what the seller claims. The same can be said of most old, cast iron modeller’s
lathes. Only a small percentage of these machines, as sold today, are fit to use without a fair
amount of loving attention. Usually the cleaning and toolmaking required do not require an
extensive workshop. By this I mean that hand tools, and a Sherline lathe or similar, will usually
suffice to make and restore old parts. First of all, all Adepts now have at least six decades of wear
so do not expect much from them. Furthermore, the range of accessories was so limited as to be
comical, since these machines dated from a time when their users were prepared to bodge up their
own accessories and tooling. The accessories from other machines will not fit. End of story. On
the bright side, a rich literature on upgrades and making accessories and tooling suitable for small
machines like Adepts can be found in pages of the Model Engineer for the 1920s, 1930s, 1940s,
and 1950s.
When you buy an old machine, like an Adept, you roll the dice especially if it cannot be inspected
before purchase. You may not get far if you lack machinery – or friends with machinery - to
recondition certain components such as chuck jaws (almost always badly worn), taper sockets, and
spindle (mandrel) nose. In fact you may have to build a new spindle if only because 3/8” BSF
headstock tooling is rare as hens’ teeth. If you expect a ready-to-go lathe it is most inadvisable to
purchase an Adept, or even another old modeller’s lathe with a larger ½” spindle nose thread, if the
machine does not come with all the chucks or faceplates that you require. If you do lack the
machining capability to adapt available commercial items like Taig (Peatol), Unimat, or Sherline, you
are setting yourself up for disappointment. It is most uneconomic to buy one after another old
lathe to build up a complete set of serviceable accessories. Trust me, I have been there.
In order to make all of my Adept collection fully serviceable I am planning to make a couple of 3/8”
Adept spindles with ¾” thread to suit Sherline chucks. I have already had to manufacture a couple
of 3/8” Adept spindles because the ones in my lathes were beyond redemption. Take note that
some or all of the tapers that may come with your machine will likely be scored or otherwise
deficient. I have a drawer full of such useless items. I recommend making a small 0MT toolroom
reamer to restore the sockets, and making a full set of taper tooling from scratch. Quarter-inch,
unhardened, mild steel rod was what Fred Portass used for his male and female centres. You can
do better by using silver steel (drill rod or tool steel) and hardening just the business end so the
whole thing does not warp. The originals were made with a radial Tommy bar hole on account of
the solid spindle and tailstock barrel.
If like me you really get into restoring small retro lathes, maybe you can justify to your spouse a
Myford to manufacture spindles, cut ACME screws, and perform many other high accuracy
machining jobs. The restoration of a small lathe often requires a somewhat bigger lathe able to
turn a spindle or tailstock barrel between centres. Making a leadscrew calls for a machine in the 3”
to 4” centre height class. I did much of my initial restoration work with a Sherline – then my
largest lathe - before getting a Chinese so-called 7 by 10 “mini-lathe” (really 7” by 8”). This threadcutting machine, while ridiculously cheap, is correspondingly poorly made. Mine required over 160
15
hours of fitting in order to reach ordinary, non-precision shop standards. This included shaping
1mm off the tailstock base to vertically align the centres - outrageous. I used this machine with
great effort to restore old British machines that once sold for pittance in the money of the day, yet
were fundamentally more uniform in manufacturing tolerances. The acquisition of a vintage Pools
3” Special (an early rebadged RandA) made things much easier until my Myford Super 7B solved all
my toolmaking challenges.
Super Adept as received. Rust, grunge, wear…Lots of work needed. Collection A. Webster.
Final Thoughts
More photographs and further descriptions of Adepts can be found at Tony Griffith’s excellent lathe
site http://www.lathes.co.uk. The Adept and early Portass pages have been updated recently to
reflect correspondence with Tony. Contact Tony if you have any thing to add on the early history
of the Portass firm – He has a special interest and does a great service by making lathes
information available free on the Internet. He is always interested in interesting photos, historical
information, and literature on old small lathes (and large ones for that matter). This site is also
your best bet for finding technical information and tooling for out-of-production lathes.
My interests are more focused. Do contact me if you are an Adept, Baby Portass, or Pools 3”
Special enthusiast and want to share ideas or knowledge. I endeavour to share what I learn with
other enthusiasts, and I am slowly preparing a book on restoring, using, and building accessories
for classic small lathes.
© Andrew Webster, Ottawa
a.webster@sympatico.ca (Type it in – Not a hyperlink)
16
Endnotes
1
70,000 if we assume production of 200 a month for 30 years (ca. 1931 to 1961). However, given profit margins of just
a few shillings, 200 (10 per work day) seems too low to be economic considering they were the main product of a small
machine-making firm.
2
Fully described in the 7 May 1925 Model Engineer. Gentry was of the opinion that the lathe received for inspection
was a regular production specimen and not modified to impress the reviewers. Note that Lineker & Winfield lathes were
produced only for several years and the successor firm, Winfield, never got such glowing reviews. Winfield boasted
“When better lathes can be made, we shall be the first to make them”, when in fact their products were made in a small
works, on a shoestring budget, and often display evidence of hand bodgery in order to get them to work.
3
“It is not to be assumed that this lathe, which in its original form, is no longer made, was other than really very good
value for the quoted price, which it is unnecessary to quote here. It was remarkable value and may be regarded as the
forerunner of a popular type and quality of model-maker’s screw-cutting lathe now made by a succeeding firm, and
several other light lathe makers.” 4 December 1941 Model Engineer.
4
The Portass Lathe and Machine Tool Company often made its products in batches, sometimes temporarily vanishing
from distributors’ lists, while the Adepts of F.W. Portass seemed to be constantly available. The Baby appeared in the
Portass Lathe and Machine Tool Company’s model range adverts into the 1950s, long after it became obsolescent,
probably in the slim hope that some distributor would order a production run. For a few years after the split, this firm’s
name now appeared on the Heeley-style maker’s plaques still in use, and indeed, a few Baby Portass carried this new
plate.
5
The Heeley Motor and Manufacturing Co. advertised in the Model Engineer in December 1929 and possibly into 1930.
6
“65 Years of Lathes” by Edgar Westbury, Model Engineer, 29 September 1955. The famous Edgar Westbury described
a visit to the works and his impressions of a family industry. Westbury noted of the firms conservatism that “In general,
it may be said that the Portass lathes follow steadfastly the old and well-tried lines of design, with avoidance of
superficial refinements which do not, in the opinion of the makers, effect any real improvement on the functional
efficiency of the machine.” He went on to say that “The methods employed in the Portass works are a revelation of what
can be done in a modestly-equipped factory with a small, highly-skilled staff. All the employees have been with the firm
for a long period –the oldest having a record of 35 years’ service – and are versatile in their abilities, being capable of
handling any of the machining or fitting operations as occasion requires. All castings are made in the the firm’s own
foundry, which is an annexe to the machine shop, and I was tremendously impressed with the quality of the castings
inspected. It is possible that a reason for this high quality may be found in the fact that the foreman moulder, after
producing a batch of castings, is responsible for machining them – one may be sure that hard spots and blow holes will
be scrupulously avoided!”
7
Note that the tiny, popular Adept No. 1 hand shaper appeared a year before the Super Adept lathe. The 22 September
1932 Model Engineer described a new hand shaper, bearing the brand 'Adept', at the Buck and Ryan stand at the 1932
ME Exhibition. The 27 September 1934 Model Engineer described, in positive terms, the larger No. 2 shaper displayed
by Buck and Ryan and the Model Engineer Exhibition of that year.
8
Lane & Son issued an apology to the effect that they had unwittingly used the registered name Wizard, and re-issued
the machine as the 1-3/4" by 6-1/2" Lane "Micro-lathe." Their machine was thereafter the Lane Micro-Lathe.
9
In 1953 the tiny Adept No. 1 hand shaper sold for £9.5s.0d. against £15.17s.6d. for the slightly larger Perfecto.
Automatic traverse was available for the latter (£2 extra) but the Adept was still clearly the best price and value. In late
1953 Fred Portass introduced a motorised version of the handy, mid-sized Adept No. 2 shaper at a very reasonable
£28.0s.0d. The attachment was available for £10.0s.0d., and for more £1.10s.0d. his works would fit it to a customer's
shaper. The powered model sold well, but reputation and eleventh-hour range improvements could not keep the firm
viable for more than a few years.
10
From the 13 January 1955 advert in the Model Engineer: “Announcing the Amazing Emco-Unimat, just one of these
unique motorised machine tools can be built up as a 1. Lathe (2-3/4” swing x 5-5/8” x 9 speeds, 2. Grinder, 3. Pillar
drilling machine, 4. Milling machine, 5. Hand drill. Additional equipment available: jigsaw, circular saw, machine vice,
milling table and clamps, flexible shaft and high speed steel tools and cutters of all descriptions.” Promotional
illustrations at the time showed the Unimat held by the headstock spigot and drilling a wall! Note that few people at the
time had a Wolf or Black & Decker electric drill, which was expensive and advertised with all sorts of ambitious
accoutrements including lathe attachment and circular saw attachment.
11
F.W. Portass issued a 2-page, folded Super Adept advertisement dated 1 April 1960, believed to be the last printing of
this flyer.
12
Through evolving successors Simat, Perris, and ultimately Cowells which are a highly advanced development.
13
There were many articles, over the years, on improving the Adept and similar machines. Perhaps the most useful is
“Rebuilding the Small Lathe” by J. Stebbings, Model Engineer, 17 March 1949. This explains how, using just the Super
Adept itself, to bore out the housings and fit home made 7/16” O.D. P/B bushes. Adjusting the alignment is explained,
particularly replacing the very deficient cast lug on the base of the tailstock. In “Accessories for a Small Lathe” (28 Apr
1949) the author explains how to make a large motor reduction pulley from tinplate, a drill pad, and a tailstock dieholder.
14
“A Novel Portable Workshop” by C. Barker, Model Engineer, 4 October 1945. Describes a visit to the home of S.C.
Pritchard’s residence, “known to many readers as the founder and late secretary of the late Finchley Model Engineering
17
Society. His war work has forced him to live in East Devon, where his factory has been turning out repetition parts…”
Pritchard’s workshop was a portable board (2’-2” by 1’-6” by ¾” deal) which usually resided on a dining room carver’s
armchair. It features an Ordinary Adept with lever tailstock, a linisher-grinder device, a small pillar drill, and a vice and
anvil. The machine tools were driven from a ¼” pre-War motor with a bodged-up system of pulleys. Shallow drawers
underneath completed the ensemble. Assembly work was done on the window cill or a smaller portable board used on
the dining room table. This truly exemplifies the make-do spirit of the Austerity period throughout the War and a decade
afterwards.
15
From a sales brochure from the 1930s marked “Adept Bench Lathes and Tools – Machine Tools Specially Designed
for the Model Maker”. Unfortunately I have only the first page.
16
Fred W. Hercus built a range of lathes aimed at the amateur, semi-professional, and educational markets. This
included, for a decade, a light 3.5” machine with double-bar bed reminiscent of the later Unimat. In the 1930s he made
the 3.5" Portass standard lathe, surely under licence, followed by a copy of the 1939 model 9-inch South Bend
"Workshop" lathe. The latter evolved into a 10” swing machine which stayed in production until 2001. The firm is still
active. The best clue that Fred Hercus built the TNC is what the Journal of the Auckland Society of Model Engineers has
to say: “Mr. F.W. Hercus, wrote to the British press in 1954 (without revealing who he was) and outlined the Customs
requirements for immigrants who took their own model-engineering machine tools with them into Australia. He also
pointed out that, whilst it took sixteen weeks' work in England to buy a Model C South Bend (£7), in Australia an
"equally good" copy could be bought with just ten weeks' wages. Fred Hercus was actively involved in model
engineering and a member of the South Australian Society of Model and Experimental Engineers. He lived in the
Adelaide foothills (his private 5" track is still visible from the New Norton Summit Road) and in the early years of the
21st century one of his 5" gauge locomotives (made by him personally) was still running regularly on Society open days.
(The Micrometer, November 2004). Fred Hercus seemed the sort of fellow to build the Adept for sale in Australia and
environs. His business connection with Stanley Portass makes it unlikely that he did not know brother Fred of Adept
fame. It remains to be learned what “TNC” means, what accessories the lathe came with, and when it was produced. We
do know that a copy of the Adept 4-jaw chuck - without the stamp “ADEPT” - was available for the TNC as well as the
Adept type countershaft.
17
“Pocket Workshops” by Terry Aspin, Model Engineer, 16 Apr 1953 and 30 Apr 1953. Describes a thorough overhaul
to produce a better-specified but non-precision machine. Various accessories are described including how to make a
dividing head and a light 4-jaw independent chuck.
18
“Rebuilding a Small Lathe” by L.V.P. Clark, Model Engineer, 17 Jul 1947. Complete with excellent drawings and
details of the screwcutting equipment. The new tailstock was hacksawed from a solid block of iron!
18
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