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Durst Electric Motors History and Information

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John Durst was born in Linthal, about an hour south of Zurich, in Switzerland. He arrived in Sydney in 1910 and worked in Sydney before starting his business, which was the first to make electric motors in Australia.

1921 saw The Daily Telegraph report that John Durst had been working for some time for Sydney City Council supervising the installation of Federal General Electric's substations.

1923 saw a patent applied for - 15113/23 - by Alfred Edgar Brown, where the inventor was shown to be John Durst, Electrical Engineer of 110 Parramatta Road, Petersham. It was lodged on the 8th Nov that year and approved on the 2nd Dec, 1924.

17th June 1923 saw a John Durst (of 11 Yasmar Avenue, Haberfield) report stolen a plain gold ring with "Gertie" on it and a variety of other jewelry items. Same John? Not long after - the 21st September - the Government Gazette of NSW reported that John Durst of Ingandin, First Avenue, Five Dock, had been declared bankrupt on the 19th of that month. He was described as an electrician.

The same publication ran a notice of application for a certificate of discharge from John Durst (who describes himself as an electrical engineer) on the 4th July 1924 - which was approved on or around the 1st August that year.

The Sydney Morning Herald reported this on the 16th Aug that year:

Electrical Engineering Partnership - Barker v. Beatty. This was an ex parte application by Mr. F. A. A. Russell (instructed by Mr. S. E. Cook), on behalf of the plaintiff in the suit of Thomas Barker against Colin Beatty, for an injunction restraining the defendent from selling or seizing any property the subject of a certain bill of sale, or otherwise setting upon the same, or from hindering or interfering with the business of the Durso Electrical Company, and for the appointment of Mr. W. H. Palmer, or some other fit and proper person as receiver and manager of the business alleged to belong to them in partnership, pending the sale or disposal of the same.

Plaintiff claimed that on and prior to May 9 last he carried on business at 110 Parramatta Road, Petersham, as an electrical engineer under the name of the Durso Electrical Company, which firm name, plant, and business he had purchased from one Alfred Edgar Browne. Part of the rights acquired by him under the purchase were those of provisional protection and authority to obtain the rights of an invention by one John Durst, entitled "Improvements in alternating electric current rectifying apparatus". On July 1 last an agreement of co-partnership was settled between the plaintiff, the defendant, and Durst, in pursuance of a preliminary agreement made between them on June 12. From the time of plaintiff's acquisition of the business until July 26 last, Durst was employed by him, and afterwards by the defendent and him, in terms of the agreement of July 1. On July 28 Durst resigned from his employment. By the agreement of July 1 the defendant purchased a share of the business from the plaintiff, and they decided to carry out certain tests in respect of a prospective contract, Durst to devote himself to the mechanical work of the firm, and on the completion of the same, he was to have a specified share in the assets, plant and business of the firm. In the event of Durst withdrawing from the firm his share was to become the property of the plaintiff.

The firm name, with particulars of the partnership, was duly registered, and the defendant and plaintiff carried on the partnership business until certain quarrels took place, which made it impracticable for them to carry on as partners. On July 28 the defendent notified him that the agreement of July 1 was to terminate as from July 25; demanded an immediate repayment of £900 secured to him by a bill of sale over the assets of the firm in conformity with the agreement; and had refused to sign any further cheques for the purpose of the business, hence the suit, in which the plaintiff asked, among other things, that the partnership be dissolved, and the partnership business wound up under the direction of the Court; and that the partnership assets, including the goodwill, be realised, and the profits applied in due course of administration.

His Honor granted an injunction till Monday next, restraining the defendant from selling or seizing any property the subject of the bill of sale, with leave to the plaintiff to serve short notice upon the defendant of a motion to continue it on that day, and also notice of a motion for the appointment of a receiver and manager.

In 1925 John Durst registered an Australian patent (25161/25) for "rectification of alternating current". The filing date was the 28th September and it was approved on the 5th October.

29th November 1924 saw The Sydney Morning Herald publish a statement from the Electricity Meter Manufacturing Company Ltd. in which it stated that it was appealing against the decision of the Commissioner of Patents to both grant letters patent to John Durst for his invention entitled "Inventions in electric motors" and to dismiss the company's opposition to the patent application. It was claimed that the Commissioner should ahve held that the invention was not novel at the date of the application for the patent and that at said date the invention was already in the possession of the public with the consent of the inventor. The matter was referred to the High Court.


Through the 1930s Durst supplied motors all over the place - from Chrysler to the Defence department.

The Sydney Morning Herald reported on the 17th July 1935 that Durst was back in court again over patents - this time it was Electricity Manufacturing Coy. v. Durst (now of Haberfield), where the granting of patent 5693/32 ("Improvements in Electric Motors") was claimed to be not novel, in the hands of the public and that Durst had obtained the invention from the company. The patents commissioner dismissed the opposition to the patent being awarded to Durst. A settlement was reached on the 20th where Durst was granted the patent.

The Commonwealth of Australia Gazette repoted on 22nd Dec 1938 that the Australian Department Of Defence awarded John Durst & Son (of Camperdown, NSW) a contract for £573 16s of electric motors for the Footscray ammunition factory. That's about $52,000AUD in 2020 money.

On the 17th August 1939 The Sun reported that John Durst and Son Pty. Ltd. had been registered as a company with a nominal capital of £20,000, and that it was to acquire the capital of John Durst and Son at Camperdown. John Durst was noted as the first director and the registered office was in Sydney.


The Sun reported on 30th Jan 1940 that Durst Electric Motors Pty. Ltd. had been registered as a company with nominal capital of £20,000 in £1 shares. The objects of the company were to carry on the business of engineers, founders, smiths and machinists. The directors were John Durst, George M. Fasal and Robert Glesinger. The registered office was in Sydney.

Not long after - the 8th Feb - the same paper report that John Durst and Son Pty. Ltd. was voluntarily winding up, and that J.A.J. Hunter of Wingello House, Angel Place, was the liquidator. The extraordinary general meeting to show how the company's winding up was conducted was held on the 18th Aug 1941, as reported by The Daily Telegraph.

The Commonwealth of Australia Gazette published on the 24th October that year that Durst Electric Motors Pty. Ltd. of Camperdown provided spares for pedal-driven generators to the Naval Store Officer of Garden Island. They were worth £255 17s.

On the 8th April 1941 The Daily Telegraph published that Durst Electric Motors Pty. Ltd. had changed its name to G.M.F Electric Motors Pty. Ltd.

September 11th, 1942 saw Dun's Gazette report that Durst Motors, of 189b St. John's Road, Forest Lodge, took on Alfred J. Durst as a member on 21st April 1941. The company was described as manufacturing electrical motors. Alfred was John Durst's son and followed in his father's footsteps to become an electrical engineer.

The ACMI collection has a 1945-dated 16mm film entitled "Electricity and movement" - directed by John Durst. The 10m30s film covers the basic principles of the electric motor, gives an account of the properties of magnets, compares the action of permanent and electro-magnets and demonstrates the latter being used to operate an electric bell. An electro-magnet is then adapted to turn on an axle and thus the operation of a simple electric motor is demonstrated. The video was produced in the UK by Frank A. Hoare and the production company was Merton Park.

There was another film in the same year - High Frequency Heating

Seems like too much of a coincidence for there to be another John Durst who specialised in this field...

Dun's Gazette (NSW) printed on the 7th March 1947 that the company Durst Motor & Electric Industries Pty. Limited had been registered on the 12th Feburary of that year. Capital was £30,000 in £1 shares, and the company objective was to acquire the business carried on under the style of Durst Motors, at Forest Lodge. Subscribers were Durst and Albert J. Durst (1 share each). Registered office was Sydney and it was lodged by Wilcock & Griffin. The Forest Lodge/Glebe region of Sydney (518 acres) at that point in time had 26 miles of streets, 4,000 houses and a population of 30,000 according to Wise's directory of that year. Speaking of Wise's, they ran this ad in the electrical engineer's section:

Here is an ad for Durst motors, an Australian brand

The West Australian ran an ad for this grinder on the 28th July 1948:

Here is an advertisement from 1948 for a Durst electric grinder.

It was described as a double ended bench grinder, in ½hp form powered by a Durst Superior motor fitted with heavy duty ball bearings. It was completely protected from dust and grit, and the wheels were enclosed with substantial guards, side covers and adjustable tool rests. The shaft was 50-ton tensile steel, and the specifications were 250v 1-phase 40hz or 440v 3-phase 40hz. Mention was also made of a 1/16hp grinding head similar to the above, fitted with a 3" wheel and polishing DOB - stated to be ideal for dental and jewelry work. The seller was McLean Bros & Rigg Ltd., of 104 Murray Street and Pier Street, Perth or Boulder Road, Kalgoorlie.


22nd April 1950 saw The Courier-Mail (Brisbane) advertise that Associated Diesel Services were now supplying the famous Durst Superior Electric Motors in both AC and DC and power grinders, in sizes of 1hp to 20hp and in single, split or 3 phase.

Australian patent number 1262/51 is found on the nameplate of the Durst Superior bench grinders, and that patent was applied for on the 28th Feb 1951 and was referred to the Commissioner of Patents H.R.Wilmot on the 7th Jan 1952. The patent states that John Durst was at that time living at 189 St John's Road, Forest Lodge and that he was an electrical engineer. The patent referred to an invention entitled "Improved Single Phase Motor", and referred to single phase motors from 1/10hp to 2hp. Some relevant text:

This invention has been devised to provide a single phase alternating current motor of the split phase induction type electric motor especially from 1/10hp to 2hp sizes for any voltage frequency or number of poles which will start on the application of power through a common switch, that is to say it does not require a starting switch or relays or like devices which have been necessary hitherto for starting.

Other objects of the invention are to provide a motor of the type defined which is silent in operation and has:

  1. A moderate starting torque on a low starting current.
  2. A power factor exceeding .9.
  3. A high overload capacity.
  4. A motor which will withstand stalling on full operating voltage without damage to windings.
  5. A motor which will not surge on starting and which will start on as low as 50% of normal voltage.
  6. A motor which does not cause radio interference.

The objects of this invention are achieved by constructing a stator winding incorporating a permanently conneted capacitor in such a manner that it matches the reluctance and resistance of the motor.

There are a number of drawings in the patent application and a lot more detail about the electrical design - if you are interested you can read the patent document here.

John Durst died in 1952 in his home laboratory at Lagonda Avenue, Killara and was survived by his wife, son Alfred and daughter. Alfred went on to have two sons - John and Roger - who remained involved in the business.

Other grinders I have seen:

The Durst Superior units all appear to have a patent number on the motor plate, where the Super units do not seem to. Here are some pics of the Durst Superior that Matt sent in - thanks Matt!

Here's an example of a Durst Super 8" bench grinder

Here's an example of a Durst Super 8" bench grinder

Here's an example of a Durst Super 8" grinder that has been painted brown at some point in it's life:

Here's an example of a Durst Super 8" bench grinder

For more pics of that particular grinder restoration, see this article.

I'll hazard a guess that the Durst Superior models with the cast iron wheel guards are older - post-1951, based on the patent - and the Super models with a pressed steel belt guard are later still. If anyone has precise information about that please get in touch.

Durst also made soldering irons, and still seem to at the time of writing (2020). The business now seems to be known as Durst Motor & Electric Industries Pty. Ltd., and supplies to Australia as well as exporting to over 20 countries. Other names they operate seem to be Ozzyjuice, Bio Circle, Smart Washer and Durst Distributors. Their product lineup seems to be primarily electrical testing gear, rather than things like bench grinders - if anyone knows when they stopped making grinders please let me know!

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