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Brobo Waldown is an Australian manufacturer of industrial drills, saws, grinders and similar tools. Originally two separate companies - Waldown and Brobo - here is the history I can find on the two brands.
In 1897 Walter Harry Down was born to Mr. Harry Clarence Down and Louisa Ann Down (nee Lawson), the first of at least two children. Fast forward almost two decades and on the 10th Feb 1916 The Warrnambool Standard reported that Walter had been awarded a Senior State Scholarship for mechanical engineering. Walter was a student of the Warrnambool Technical school who showed remarkable aptitude in his work in the mechanical and engineering classes, and some of his working models of engines and other machinery were greatly admired. The scholarship carried with it an allowance of £30 per annum - a little over $3,000/year in 2018 AUD - along with free tuition in mechanical engineering for five years. It would seem that he put that scholarship to good use...
On the 23rd Jan 1917 the same paper showed his results from the examinations held in November and December 1916.
A 1926 McPhersons catalogue shows absolutely no electrically powered drill presses in it, nor any grinders with an integral electric motor - all of the grinders are grinding heads, designed to be driven by a belt.
26th March 1931 the Camperdown Chronicle reported that Walter - the eldest son of Mr. and Mrs. H. C. Down of Skene Street, Warrnambool (formerly of Campberdown) had set out on his return voyage to New York to fill a senior position with the North-Eastern Electric Company, with whom he held an executive position when in America previously. Four years prior Walter had returned to Australia on contract with Machin Bros., of St. Kilda Road, Melbourne.
On the 29th August 1936 The Age reported that on the previous day Waldown Pty. Ltd. - manufacturers and makers of precision machine tools, electrical appliances &c (sic) registered as a company at the office of 358 High Street, St. Kilda. Capital was £4,000 in £1 shares. Names subscribed to memorandum: Walter Harry Down - 1 share - and Jack Douglas Down - 1 share. Jack, Walter's brother, was born in 1906. Walter was ~39 years old when he started the company.
1937 saw a single model of Waldown drill listed in the Adelaide McPhersons catalogue (p.267) - one of only three electrically powered drills listed for that year. The Sensitive Electric Bench Drill had ball bearings throughout, a fully floating spindle and a capacity of 0-3/8". The chuck was keyed and the machine had 2 3/4" of vertical travel, with a rotary stop - which looks remarkably like the stop found on modern Waldowns - and a rotary graduated dial for depth indication. Distance from the column to the spindle was 6 ¾".
The quill was returned by means of a torsion spring, and the drill press offered three different speeds via a pulley on the motor - 3,000rpm, 1,500rpm and 750rpm. The power was transferred via an endless rubber-fabric V-belt.
The table was 8x8", and it could be raised/lowered and tilted to any angle. There was no rack and pinion mechanism by which you could adjust the table height. The drill came standard with 9ft of 3-core rubber covered flex cabling, terminating in a 3-pin plug. The handle appeared to be a straight rod with no balls on the end.
3rd August 1940 saw an adveritsement in The Age for a used 1/2hp Waldown grinder - so they were obviously selling grinders prior to that point.
On 1st April 1941 The Age reported that Waldown had moved from it's 232 Grant Street, South Melbourne premises to a new brick premises in Malvina Place, Carlton.
6th June 1942 saw Waldown advertising in The Age: "Youth, engineering trade, no experience necessary, Waldown Pty. Ltd., electrical tool manufacturers, Malvina-pl, Carlton". How times have changed! 20th June saw a similar ad run in The Argus - "Wanted, smart Boy (sic) for apprenticeship engineering trade. Waldown, Malvina pl., Carlton".
1st October 1943 saw an advertisement for an almost-new 1hp 6"-wheel-equipped C2 Electric Tool Grinder in The Courier-Mail (Brisbane), which is the earliest reference I can find to one of their tool grinders.
On the 6th April 1943 Walter Down's wife Gladys Charlotte Down (nee Beattie) passed away in a private hospital (both of whom lived at 13 Cascade Street, North Balwyn). She was 39. That was reported in The Argus the following day.
25th August 1945 saw an ad for a used Waldown 1/2" drill run in The Age, with an asking price of £40 - that's the equivalent of about $2,800AUD in 2018 dollars. They were obviously not cheap units, even back then! 1946 saw Waldown increase their nominal capital by £10,000 to £14,000 in £1 shares, presumably a sign that the company was growing.
The Commonwealth of Australia Gazette on 2nd April 1947 reported that Waldown (of 3-7 Bloomberg Street, Abbotsford, N.9, Victoria) had supplied the government with six bench grinders (£87 15s) and seven drilling machines (£261 16s 7d). The Victorian Government Gazette on the 7th May reported that Waldown had supplied equipment to the Oakleigh Technical School, giving the same address for the company.
Brobo was apparently founded in 1947 - their website states this but I can't find any secondary sources, like newspaper reports on the company's inception or advertising.
27th September 1947 saw the Waldown factory in Groves St., Hawthorn broken into and ransacked, though the thieves left empty-handed. A watchman discovered signs of forced entry and that the property's light and power fuses had all been removed. Unfortunately for the thieves, the burglar alarms had an independent power supply... unfortunately for the police, they had to search the premises by torchlight. Did Waldown have two factory premises at this point, or had they moved from Abbotsford to Hawthorn between April and September?
10th Feb 1949 saw The Argus report that Waldown Pty. Ltd. had increased it's capital to £24,000, via 10,000 £1 ordinary shares.
A 1951 McPhersons catalogue had a few Waldown drill presses listed - the Utility Radial Bench Drill:
No mention is made of a morse taper spindle, only a chucked spindle. The motor was a ball-bearing type and it could be bought in either 1/3hp 240v or 1/2hp 415v. It was four speed - 500, 1,000, 2,000, 4,000rpm - and had a ½" keyed chuck. It had a torsion spring for quill return, an adjustable stop and a graduated rotary dial for depth drilling. The max height between the chuck and the table was 11" and the table itself was round with a diameter of 14". With the arm fully extended forwards the drill had 18 ½" between the spindle centre and the column. The spindle itself was described as as a high-tensile, four-spline fully floating unit. The head had five ball bearings, and a protractor/datum line on the radial arm made angle drilling easy. The weight was given at 240lb - certainly not a light drill press!
The half-inch model was pictured thusly:
This one is advertised as having a fully floating spindle with ball bearings. The quill - featuring 3" of travel - had a torsion spring for returning it to rest and it had an adjustable stop and rotary dial for depth drilling. Both the table and base had machined T slots as you can see in the image, and the table had a full 360° of rotation. The drill had 7" between the spindle center and column and it measured 17" from the chuck to the base. It was a four-speed unit, running at 500, 1,000, 2,000 or 4,000rpm and drive was provided by an endless V belt. The default motor was a single phase 50hz unit and came complete with switch, flex cable and plug. Other voltages/frequencies or 3-phase motors could be specified if desired.
It came with a 1/2" capacity Jacobs pattern keyed chuck, though you could specify the model to have a #1 Morse Taper sleeved spindle instead.
Also shown was a ⅜" capacity drill:
Clearly a baby brother to the half-inch, though it still had a fully floating spindle and ball bearings throughout. The quill was returned by a torsion spring and it also featured a rotary graduated dial and adjustable stop. The table could be raised, lowered and tilted to any angle and had two slots machined into it rather than the T slots of the half-inch. Quill travel was 2 ¾" it only had three speeds - 750, 1,500 and 3,000rpm. The horsepower of the motor is not given but it was provided with a 240v, 50hz single phase unit with a switch, cable and plug. The chuck was a ⅜" Jacobs pattern keyed chuck.
A ¼" high speed unit is shown:
Six speeds are offered - 3,300, 5,800, 6,000, 6,500, 10,750 and 12,000 (!) rpm. The head can be raised or lowered 4" and the quill has 2" of travel. It was offered with a "special high-speed industrial" ½hp 415v three-phase motor with an integrated start button, and the chuck could handle a drill bit up to ¼".
The Age ran this on the 23rd Jan 1952:
I can't see an article associated with it beyond what's in the above picture.
An April 1954 standalone brochure has a better image of the high speed unit and refers to it as a "Type H":
The brochure claims that holes as small as No. 80 drill bits are possible - that's 0.135", or 3.429mm - or perhaps even smaller while maintaining maximum accuracy and minimising bit breakages. It had an in-built lamp - which you can see below the capstan - that was supposed to provide shadowless visibility of the workpiece. The light was powered by a low voltage transformer mounted in the base which enabled the light to be operated conjointly with the starter switch.
The torsion spring that returned the quill was adjustable so as to be able to change the amount of feel based on user preference. The belt was a woven fabric type and was 40 ½" by ¾". Throat clearance was 5" and the maximum working distance between the chuck and top of the base was 6". It's not a huge drill - overall height with the head at the highest point was 28 ½", width was 9 ½" and length 25". It weighed in at 168lb.
The brochure also shows "The New Waldown Drilling Machine" of ½" capacity:
There's quite a bit of detail in the brochure. Here's a cutaway of the head:
The pulley is held onto the upper sleeve by a woodruff key and locking nut, and the spindle is made of high tensile steel, has six splines and is fully floating. This is obviously a different spindle used on the earlier radial drill, which was stated to only have four splines. The upper sleeve (which transmits power to the splined spindle) has two "amply proportioned" ball bearings to take the side pull of the belt. Inside the quill there are another two ball bearings which carry the spindle, and the drilling load is taken by a heavy duty thrust race. The whole quill/spindle assembly is held together by a circlip outside the upper bearing. That may be handy to know if you are ever trying to disassemble one.
Stroke is given as 4", and the capstan lever has three handles. It has the usual Waldown-style graduated dial on the left which is friction held to the pinion spindle, and a quick-action drill stop on the right side actuated by a star wheel. The chuck was described as being a ½" capacity key pattern type of good quality. The drill was available with either a chucked spindle, a Morse Taper #1 or Morse Taper #2 spindle.
The standard table was a 9½" x 9½" slotted table which could be raised or lowered on the column and tilted through 360°. There was a machined pad on either side to faciliate jig setting. The max distance from chuck to table was 10½".
The production drilling table had a coolant trough around the edges - it did not tilt and it had a plain machined surface:
The optional round table had slots machined into it and it could tilt:
Accessories include a tool tray - which clamps to the column:
Also shown was a coolant drip pot:
An intermediate drive pulley was available which gave speeds of 5,000, 3,000, 2,200, 800, 675, 650, 350 and 175rpm. The standard range of speeds from using just the two pulleys was 4,000, 2,000, 1,000 and 500rpm. The belts were removed/adjusted by sliding the motor back and forth on two parallel rods. The drill dimensions were shown:
Lastly, there was a mortising attachment, fence and hold-down clamp:
The standard motor was a ⅓hp, 1450rpm 230/240v single phase unit but a ⅓hp single-phase or ½hp three-phase unit was also available. The single phase motors had a switch mounted in an iron-clad housing and 9ft. of rubber-coated cab tyre flex, and a 3 pin plug. The three-phase motor had a push-button switch mounted on the side. The brochure also mentions that DC motors are available at an additional cost. The drill could be optioned to have a pedestal column.
The drill was also potentially available as part of a multi-head setup:
A 1955 McPhersons catalogue shows the ¼" high speed model with the same picture as the 1951 catalogue and 1954 brochure, with the same specifications.
21st Feb 1959 saw the Canberra Times run an advertisement for a lawnmower sharpening business who had just installed the latest Brobo precision sharpening machine.
The 3rd Machine Tool Exhibition in Sydney (1965) showcased one Waldown radial arm drill and two Brobo Rotor Circular Metal Sawing Machines, one for ferrous and one for non-ferrous materials. The Waldown was at the Demco exhibit and the Brobos at the C.G.Grais exhibit.
Also in 1965, The Government Gazette of NSW had a note on the 11th June that The Supreme Court had received a petition (from Herman Johan Batavus Braakensiek or 151 Ryde Road, West Pymble - a creditor of the company) to wind up Brouwer Industries (N.S.W.) Pty. Limited, and on 21st June The Supreme Court of NSW ordered William James Hamilton to be appointed liquidator of the company.
A 1966 McPhersons catalogue shows Waldown producing a number of drills - a ¼" capacity bench drill:
This unit had six speeds - 12,000, 10,750, 6,500, 6,000, 5,800 and 3,300rpm. The entire head was raised or lowered up to 4", and the vertical quill travel was 2". Throat clearance was 5" and the max distance between the chuck and top of base was 6". It was a petite machine with an overall height of 28 1/2", and it came with a 1/2hp, 415v 3-phase motor. This appears to be the successor to the "Type H" based on the slightly more modern appearance.
Also shown was a 1/2" drilling machine:
This one had 4" of travel and a three-handled capstan lever. There was a depth dial on the left side of the head, held in by friction to the pinion spindle - sounds like the type available on the modern 2M/3M. The quick acting drill stop on the right hand side is actuated by means of a star handle in the centre of the capstan, again just like what you see on the 8SN and 2M/3M. There's one bolt for adjusting the slop in the quill, like in the 8SN models, but the 8SN models lack the handle on top of the belt guard shown above and the belt guard shape isn't quite right.
Speaking of the 2M, it makes an appearance here:
I'm doing up a separate page for the 2M/3M, which will be published as soon as I can get it done.
Also shown was the utility radial drilling machine, though this one looks slightly different to the image shown in the 1951 catalogue:
The radial arm extension was given as 20 1/2", meaning that the machine could drill holes anywhere in a 41" circle around itself, with a longer arm giving it 51" of reach available. It could come with either a chuck fitted or a morse taper, and was available in floor or bench style. Theoretically able to drill 1/2" holes, Waldown said that it may be used with larger drills in soft metal or wood. It was variable speed by default - 500, 1,000, 2,000 and 4,000rpm - but could have an intermediate drive added to increase the range to nine speeds, ranging from 170 to 5,500rpm. It had a 1/2hp single or three phase motor by default but could be specified with a higher output motor if necessary. The on/off switch was located in the head - probably much more convenient than on the motor for this particular model...
A tariff board report in 1972 stated that radial drilling machines had not been produced inside Australia recently, so if that's the case the above may be one of the last catalogues showing the radial units. The McPhersons catalogue dated to approx. the 1970s does show the radial drill, but since I don't have a date on that catalogue precisely (and they are not always updated) the report may indeed be correct. I would be interested to see a later brochure/catalogue showing the radial drill to try to get an idea of how long they were made for.
The multiple spindle floor model drill was also shown:
There's not a lot of info on these - it just says 1/2" multiple counterbalanced Waldown drill heads which can be raised or lowered on the columns, which are mounted to a common base.
Two tapping machines were shown - the Sensitive Tapping Machine:
This little unit was described as being "Type 1MT" and had a stated capacity of 2BA to 3/16", at speeds of 750, 1,500 and 3,000rpm. It was powered by a 1/3hp single phase 230v motor, though it could be optioned to have a 1/2hp single phase or three phase motor. The spindle was lightweight to keep inertia down - assisting in rapid reversing of the tap. The spindle was driven by a double friction cone - no clutches, gears or other mechanisms. The lift table was described as quick acting and the unit came with an adjustable stop. Waldown suggested using it in conjunction with the Type NH High Speed Sensitive Drilling Machine to solve the high production problem of small tapped holes.
The other tapping machine shown was the MCT 3/8" tapper - automatic with controlled pitch:
The MCT (available in floor or bench style) had a capacity of 3/8" in mild steel and could tap multiple holes simultaneously. The reversing mechanism was achieved using electrically operated contacts controlled via microswitches, actuated by top and bottom cams. I'd be really interested to see the inside of one of these. Depth adjustment was achieved by setting one of the cams. The controlled pitch unit was able to be supplied with interchangeable lead screws/nuts for controlling the tapping of difficult or thin materials. Waldown stated that since the machine had an entirely automatic cycle it could be electrically interlocked into an automatic setup, and that it could be combined with the Waldown multi-spindle drilling machines for mass production drilling and tapping.
On 14th July 1970 The Canberra Times reported that The Colonial Sugar Refining Co Ltd (CSR) made a takeover bid for Carba. CSR already owned about 26pc of Carba. The same paper published CSR's annual report on 23rd Jul 1971, where they stated that Carba was now a wholly-owned CSR subsidiary. By 28th June 1978 the same paper reported that CSR was going to try to reduce the number of it's subsidiaries and transfer their activities to the parent company - including Carba, who apparently had it's activities substantially conducted by CSR already.
A 1970s-era McPhersons catalogue lists three Brobo saws that I can find (p.747) - a Brobo-Rotor Model F Non-Ferrous circular sawing machine (4" capacity), a Brobo Super 12 Circular Metal Sawing Machine and a Brobo Unicutter Friction Cut-off Machine in either 10 or 17 horsepower.
There's a lot of Waldown stuff in there - a 6" aluminium-framed bench grinder and 7" & 8" grinders with cast iron bodies, and a utility head that came with no grinding wheels but the facility for them to be attached. Tipped tool grinders were show - models NT7, CNT7, NT8 and CNT8 - along with C0, C1, C2 and C3 tool post grinders. Buffers are also shown - though referred to as electric buffing and polishing lathes - models B2, B3, B6, B8 and B10. Drilling machines ranged from the 2M and 8SN bench/pedestal units, to a radial drilling machine with up to 51" of reach, to the NH-type high speed sensitive drill that offered up to 18,000rpm with optional pulleys, to a multi-headed drill table. Waldown also offered tapping machines in the MCT, PCT and 1 M.T. models. Oh, and I found two Waldown machine vices, one of which tilts up to 90°. That's quite a range.
Walter Harry Down apparetly died on the 24th October 1974 aged 77. He was retired and still living in North Balwyn.
Brobo Waldown was apparently created on 11th March 1975, and Brobo Machinery (Vic) Pty. Ltd. was de-registered on 17th Aug the same year. The Government Gazette of NSW reported on 11th April that Brobo Machinery Pty. Ltd. passed a resolution four days prior that "...the company be wound up voluntarily and that Mr. Peter William Harvey, of Price Waterhouse & Co. Chartered Accountants, of 447 Collins Street, Melbourne, be appointed liquidator for the purposes of winding up.". ASIC records seem to show that it was called Victory (BW) Pty. Ltd. and the previously listed names are Brobo Waldown Pty. Ltd., Waldown Machine Tools Pty. Ltd., and Efcal Pty. Ltd.
In 1976 Ken Bergman & Associates LLC began selling Brobo cold saws in the USA as an exclusive distributor, and they still appear to be doing so in 2020.
On the 7th March 1978 the PNG Post-Courier ran an adveritsement for the "recently developed economy model Workmax drilling machine", featuring a 360° tilting table, a rigid steel quill with bearings, a ground steel column, a motor with overload protection, a baked enamel finish and good parts availability. There were two speed ranges offered - a 4 speed which ranged from 500 to 4,000, and an eight speed which offered speeds of between 160 and 5500rpm.
On the 10th October that year the PNG Post-Courier ran an advertisement for Brobo saws stating that Brouwer Industries Pty. Ltd. was the manufacturer of Brobo circular metal cutting saws in Australia and had been so for the past 25 years. It also says that the machines were exported from Australia to the USA, Malaysia, Singapore, Phillipines, NZ and elsewhere. The address given for Brouwer was 45 Christensen St., Moorabbin, Victoria 3189.
The same paper also ran an article on the 10th October of that year stating that there would be a Light Engineering Display, featuring thirteen Australian firms who would exhibit products. Brouwer Industries Pty. Ltd. and Waldown Machine Tools Pty. Ltd. were both listed. After the event (12th Oct) it was reported that 80 people attended from the government and related industries. The chap on the left here is Mr. K. J. Dick, who was the general manager of Waldown at the time:
At one point Brouwer Industries Pty. Ltd. had it's premises at 26-28 Kilpa Road, Moorabbin Vic 3189. ASIC shows it's date of registration 09/02/1959 and it's de-registration occurred on 19/01/1987. That doesn't really add up with them making Brobo saws for 25 years as 25 years prior to 1978 is 1953.
Brouwer Industries also applied for trademarks - March 7th, 1983 they filed for Brobo Rotor, and on March 8th Brobo. The "Brobo" trademark expired on 19/03/1991 and the other was abandoned before the process was completed. The trademark application for Brobo states that it was first used anywhere on 12th July 1976.
Waldown and Parken were the two companies who qualified for the drilling machine bounty - separate to the machine tools bounty - from the government in the 1977-1978 financial year, and Waldown sold 410 qualifying drilling machines at a value of $143,815. For the 78-79 year Waldown sold 312 qualifying drilling machines.
The 1979-1980 financial year saw Brouwer Industries sell 33 units ($56,970) which qualified for the government's metalworking machine bounty scheme, where Waldown sold 1,294 ($572,072). Their addresses were given as 45 Christensen Street and 3 Bloomberg Street respectively.
1983 may have been the year that the NH drill was revised (or re-drawn, at any rate)- see the note below re: the 1997 manual.
10th Dec 1985 saw the Commonwealth of Australia Gazette report that Brouwer Industries Pty. Limited was in liquidation as of the 21st Nov. 1985, and the liquidator was John Malcolm Perrins of Melbourne.
In 1998 Brobo Waldown was nominated for a Melbourne Business Award.
In a page from a catalogue that I think is from the 1990s Waldown's drill range consists of the Workmax, the 8SN, the Super 16, the Vari-speed, the radial (does this disprove the 1972 report saying that they were no longer being made?), the 2M, the 3M and the N.H. Super Sensitive.
The 1997 edition of the NH High Speed Precision Drill's owner's manual (with an addendum from 1999) can be found here. It gives the specifications as 6mm max drilling capacity and 67mm stroke and the spindle as having either a #0 or #1 Jacob's Taper. Unlike some of the earlier drills this one goes above 12k rpm - the speeds available were stated as 3,000, 6,000, 9,000 and 12,000rpm for the 4-step pulley set and 15,000 and 18,000rpm for the two-step pulley set. That's some speed. The motors available were 370w 2,850rpm single phase or three-phase, and the table was 150mm square with 10mm T slots. Spindle-to-throat distance was 200mm and the throat depth was 124mm. The column was 63.5mm in diameter and the drill unit weighed 56kg.
The parts schematic for the 1997 manual shows that the motor plate was a revision drawn up in 1994, and the drill itself's schematic was drawn in July 1983.
As of 2020 Brobo Waldown's catalogue includes a large range of tools, still made in Australia. The drills are down to just two models - a gear-headed drill press and a 3M bench/floor mounted unit, though there is a huge variety of metal cutting saws, grinders and the like still available. They have a good range of spare parts available for older machines and the pricing isn't sky-high - for example, you can replace a 1.2M column in an 8SN or Super 16 drill press for $264 ex. GST, or one of the capstan spoke/knobs for $40 ex. GST.
At some point Brobo Waldown dropped the entire line of drill presses with the exception of the 3M - anyone know when that happened?
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