Other formats

    TEI XML file   ePub eBook file  


    mail icontwitter iconBlogspot iconrss icon

The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 15, Issue 2 (May 1, 1940.)

Buy … — New Zealand Goods — and Build New Zealand — New Zealand Industries Series

page 13

New Zealand Goods
and Build New Zealand
New Zealand Industries Series

No. 15. Sports Goods.

The habits of a nation spring largely from the special qualities of its earth cradle. Our characters and personalities, our tastes and recreations are conditioned by the skies above us and the shape of the land on which we dwell.

New Zealand's reputation as a land of open-air sport is world-wide. It was inevitable from the day that folk of the British race came to live in a sporting paradise, that New Zealanders should develop exceptional skill and interest in the oldest of British institutions—“Sport.” We do not hesitate to make rightful claims on behalf of our Rugby players, runners, airmen, big sea-fishermen, and we tell of the excellence of our thoroughbred horses and our racing carnivals. But I think few New Zealanders know that we make in our own factories many of the best sporting goods in the world, and send some of them abroad.

I have mentioned in previous articles our high-grade foot-balls, our tennis balls, and many other sporting requisites. I have made some rather surprising discoveries since then, and the story is one that will give interest and pleasure to New Zealanders who believe in their country.

Most New Zealanders can remember that Davis finals were fought in New Zealand, and that, in Anthony Wilding, we had, for a time, the greatest demi-god in the tennis pantheon. He remains a historic figure, and the partnership between him and Norman Brookes will go down as one of the greatest doubles in all tennis chronicles.

I am sure the recent surprising discovery by an Aucklander on a visit to California would have pleased the tall Christchurch player. This New Zealander, searching for a suitable gift to bring back to Auckland, thought that a tennis racket would be a good idea as representing a land of sunshine and enthusiasm for outdoor sport. To his stupefaction, he was shown, in the smartest of the “Coast” sports-goods establishments, a New Zealand-made racket as the best article in the place.

The racket in question was made in Newmarket by Sports Supplies (N.Z.) Limited.

The same type of racket, made by the same New Zealand firm, is also to be found in the leading sports-goods store in New York, and in every ranking emporium in India and South Africa. This achievement is one that should be trumpeted, and is a sound excuse for musical honours. Old-established concerns of names of almost legendary fame have been marketing tennis rackets in the shopping streets of the civilized world for generations. However, the New Zealander responsible stated quite coolly, in reply to my surprised enquiry, “They can't hold us for quality or finish.”

The Wellington Model Air Club in session at Trentham Racecourse, near Wellington.

The Wellington Model Air Club in session at Trentham Racecourse, near Wellington.

I called at the factory, and found an institution that was a model of industrial organisation. The founder is himself a trained and experienced craftsman, and he has surrounded himself with a team of some seventy skilled New Zealanders whose hearts are both young and in their work. The company manufactures tennis, squash and badminton rackets, table tennis bats, the full range of golf clubs, and a wide variety of accessories for all the relative games. Each man is a technician, making the scientific approach to his particular job. There is a feeling of keenness, and I can easily believe the claim that the team is unbeatable. It is intelligible that the Sportsply racket wins in New York and Bombay, Durban and Los Angeles, because it is a better-made article.

We can start with the timbers, for which the world is ransacked. Ash, beech, basswood, persimmon, English sycamore, walnut, and cane are among them. All Sportsply timber materials are air-dried for a long period.

I saw a badminton racket being made, and it was an interesting spectacle. There are many successive processes, for it is not often realised how many different mutually strengthening lengths of material go together to make the familiar oval frame. These laminated lengths are placed in a shaping frame, united by strong adhesive substances, and then slowly clamped into the moulded shape. While I was watching the expert at work, his expression changed, and the whole article was stripped from the loosened frame and rejected. Some small flaw somewhere in the material entailed a slight unevenness, and the whole thing was scrapped at once.

I should mention that the “singlepurpose” machine is in a high state of development at the Sportsply factory. More often than not, these ingenious page 14
A study in concentration. Building a model aeroplane wing.

A study in concentration. Building a model aeroplane wing.

mechanisms are developed and even completely initiated as new designs by clever New Zealand engineering brains. One or two of these, obviously not fair matter for broadcasting in this story, may provide part of the explanation of the foreign recognition of the value of New Zealand-made rackets. Novel gadgets for polishing, boring the holes for stringing, testing the exact evenness of frame levels, and other similar apparatus, are operated by engrossed young New Zealanders. The painting and enamelling room was also well worth the visit. Here striking designs ranging in pattern from boldness to delicacy are painted in gay colours on the handles. There is also a world of technical skill in the fashioning of grips, of which there is a bewildering variety. I watched also such intimate mysteries as the insertion of the slender steel shafts in racket handles even in the diminutive Badminton weapons, and I saw the application of “quarter-sawn shoulder overlays” and the laminating of cane handles. But squash, tennis and badminton rackets do not comprise the whole activities of this New Zealand institution. The most capricious and peppery golfer, whose bag is the terror of any caddy under Sandow strength, can have his full armoury supplied by Sportsply.

The ante-room to this department is like a precision engineer's shop. Here are high-speed cutting and grinding machines dealing with the legions of soft rustless iron forgings which form, the world over, the embryos of iron club heads of all shapes.

The shafts are fitted with darkgrained Pyratone sheaths, and there are also light-grained enamelled shafts, and some are chromium plated. The making of a golf club shaft, the peculiar mathematical accuracy required in the fitting of head to shaft, and the suiting of grip to the shape, and the size of the long “stick” are all works of the artificer's art. The balance is got by a combination of scientific calculation and purely technical craftsmanship. There is as much earnestness employed in this work as ever appears in a user as he eyes the green sixty yards away. Wooden clubs provide another type of problem.
(Photo, courtesy “Evening Post.”) Scene at Miramar (Wellington) when the recent lawn tennis championships were being concluded.

(Photo, courtesy “Evening Post.”)
Scene at Miramar (Wellington) when the recent lawn tennis championships were being concluded.

South American persimmon, air-dried, is the only timber with the necessary qualities of toughness, durability and driving weight to cope with the force exercised by the champion who smashes it against the white “pill” with cyclone force. I was interested in the simple device which makes a metal letter “B” or “S,” and fits it into the sole plate of a wooden club so as to be exactly even.

From the solemn divot-making beginner to the amateur champion, all golfers are safe with these splendid examples of artistry in industry. I have passed the three-figure mark in my factory rambles, but I know of no visit that gave me more pure joy than this peep at Sportsply (N.Z.) Ltd.

Down the Newmarket Road a few chains, another brave new world opened up to me. Modelair Ltd., pioneered by a practical airman, is rather more than a concern for making models of aeroplanes and other speed vehicles. According to an important national executive, Modelair was the original moving force initiating the Dominionwide movement now represented by the New Zealand Model Aeroplane Association. No less than thirty-eight clubs are affiliated and there are over five thousand members. All these folk from eight years of age to eighty, are interested in the science of aviation, and the allied art of aeroplane building. Balsawood, many times lighter than cork, is the foundation of model aeroplane construction, and, indeed, this South American timber miracle has lately been recognised as of value in building the real thing. The enthusiasts who pursue this form of recreation are lightly known as “Balsabutchers” or “razor-blade carpenters.”