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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 2, Issue 8 (December 1, 1927)

The Machine Tool

page 34

The Machine Tool.

Modern civilisation in the material sense depends very largely upon the machine tool. With the aid of the machine tool every other tool and machine is made and, without such, civilisation as we know it would speedily collapse.

Great Britain is the home of the machine tool. While it is true that tools are to-day made in many other countries, Britain shares with the United States and Germany the bulk of world production.

A quarter of a century ago every existing machine tool was rendered more or less obsolete by the discovery of high speed steel, which made it possible to increase enormously the rate at which metal could be cut. This rendered necessary the re-designing of all machine tools because of the very much higher stresses which were involved in the higher rate of working.

The gigantic home market of the United States, which was so effectively secured for American Industry by the Tariff policy of that country, led there to an earlier and more extensive mass production than elsewhere, with the result that the American Machine Tool industry was producing certain classes of machine tools to a far greater extent than either this country or Germany.

The War and its demand for munitions naturally had a very stimulating effect on the production of machine tools in Great Britain, and, in particular, of those suited for mass production. In consequence, at the end of the War, the British Machine Tool industry occupied a much more powerful position than it had done for many years. The rate of production had been so high however that there were in existence enormous quantities of machine tools no longer required for the production of munitions. The great bulk of the tools were suited for peace time work, but the general depression of trade which began in 1920 rendered the absorption of the country's surplus stocks of tools a most difficult matter. Faced with such a situation the British Machine Tool industry has passed through a time of very great difficulty. The industry, however, did not allow itself to be daunted but set to work to improve still further its designs, so much so that when the last Machine Tool Exhibition was held in London in 1924, there was assembled at the great exhibition hall at Olympia, the finest show of machine tools that the world had ever seen. Since then further developments have taken place in many directions and it is fully expected that when the next exhibition is held in London, in September of 1928, fresh advances in design, just as striking as those in 1924, will be available. The industry recognises to the full that it has to meet the very keenest competition from Germany and the United States, but it has one advantage over its competitors in that it has always been the practice of the British machine tool makers to use the highest and most durable class of materials in the construction of their machines with the result that, generally speaking, the life of the British machine tool is much longer than that of its competitors. In addition, because of their general rigidity, the British machine tool preserves its accuracy for a very long period.

Before the War many of the British machine tool makers were in the habit of producing a very great range of types, but the War has led to a greater degree of specialisation. This is one of the causes of the great improvement in the design, quality and efficiency, of the present day British machine tool. It is, however, the case that in addition to large demands for certain standard types of machines, there is also a small demand for machines of special character. The British Machine Tool industry is fortunate in that, included in its ranks, are one or two firms who undertake to design and manufacture these specialised machines; and though increased specialization has taken place generally, this does not mean that customers are unable to obtain special machines for special purposes.

Three years ago the British Machine Tool industry undertook the interesting enterprise of producing a collective catalogue. Nearly one hundred firms co-operated in this effort, and copies of the catalogue were printed in English, French and Spanish, and the volume (which was exceedingly well printed) was distributed, free of charge, to every traceable potential buyer of machine tools all over the world.

page 35

Generally speaking the machine tool buyer is naturally an infrequent customer. For this reason he is often unacquainted with the best sources of supply, and one of the services which is rendered by the Machine Tool Trades Association is to place prospective buyers in touch with the most suitable source of supply of the machine that may be required. If anyone in New Zealand is at any time desirous of obtaining quotations for certain classes of machine tools and they are not acquainted with the names of the leading manufacturers of these types, I shall always be pleased to place them in touch with the manufacturers if they will write to me at the address of the Association, 70, Victoria Street, London, S. W. 1. As above mentioned, the industry will be holding its next Exhibition in London in September of next year, when a very cordial welcome is extended to any New Zealand Engineers who may be visiting Great Britain at that time to see the Exhibition, and the Machine Tool Trades Association, which is organising the Exhibition, will be delighted to present a Session ticket, free of charge, to any New Zealand Engineer who cares to apply for one.


The scenes depicted below will bring back vivid memories to all New Zealanders who went overseas to play their part in the Great War:—


At Sierra Leone. Natives selling fruit to those on the vessel. The practice was to lower baskets containing money from the deck to the dug-outs of the natives, who would then fill the baskets with fruit to be hauled up, and disposed of in quick time, by the keen-set soldiers.


Approaching England. The Devonshire hills are seen in the background. Near at hand is a destroyer making for Plymouth harbour, whilst overhead hangs a captive balloon from which watch was being kept for submarines. The small dot beneath the baloon is the cage containing the lookout man.

1. At Sierra Leone.

1. At Sierra Leone.

2. Approaching England

2. Approaching England