Together with a pair of miniature lathes, the equally small Adept No. 1 and No. 2 shapers were made from the mid-1930s to perhaps the early 1960s by a branch of the Portass family, F. W. Portass of Sellers Street, off Abbeydale Road, Sheffield, England. The original models (indeed, most of the production run) were hand-operated and of similar construction - with the No. 2 being the larger of the pair and sometimes fitted with an automatic cross feed. The table of the delightfully tiny No. 1 was 4.5" x 4", with a 3-5-inch high, vertical T-slotted backing face and a ram travel of 4". The 2A had a more useful 7" x 6" table with vertical T-slots 6-inches high and a ram travel of 6.25".
During the early 1950s, Mr F .J. Haynes of Audenshaw, Manchester converted his hand-powered Adept No. 2 to incorporate a powered ram; so impressed were Adept by this professional-looking design that they adopted a modified version of it for production. The heart of the alterations was a cleverly-arranged casting bolted to the side of the ram guide that carried both pulley and gear shafts - and also performed as a guard to cover the side of the large drive gear. It is possible that some later 2A models may also have been fitted with a "geared down" cross-traverse feed to the head - although this is only a 'non-too-certain memory' of the writer.
Many of these fine Adepts still find a use today in the hands of more knowledgeable and skilful enthusiasts and, with sharp tools, it is quite astonishing what a variety of useful work these little machines can do. In the harder economic times of the 1940s and 1950s, they offered model engineers an inexpensive way of accomplishing tasks that would otherwise have involved a great deal of laborious, and usually inaccurate, hand-filing and cutting. Also made in (or exported to) Australia and marked (like the Adept lathes) as a TNC - the Adept shaper (shown at the bottom of this page) may well be a model that was developed to include a powered ram - but of a different design to the English version. Of a rather more robust and complicated nature, this machine has yet to be confirmed as a genuine Adept (or TNC), though it certainly bears all the hallmarks of a professional, well-made product.
One might imagine that using a hand-operated shaper, even a little one like the Adept, is hard work, but this is not the case - though there are three basic points to get right: the first is tool sharpness, the closer to razor-sharp the better, with frequent attention to the top edge by an oil stone to maintain it. The second is to resist the temptation to move the handle too quickly, while also taking time taken to establish the best rate for the job in hand; for example, fifty to sixty strokes a minute by hand on a 5 to 6-inch stroke machine might feel comfortable but, allowing for lost time at the end of each half stroke, this gives at tool speed of over 60 feet/minute - which is 30% greater than that recommended for high-speed steel on cast iron. Experimenting with slower strokes will, surprisingly, often produce better results. Finally, the third consideration (which is really two rolled into one) the cutting depth and feed rate. It is possible, if you have the patience, to obtain an almost mirror finish with a very fine cut and the slowest possible feed - but it does take time.
Other popular small hand-operated shapers from the 20th centurty include the following makes ans brands: Alexander, Arrow, Benson, Boynton, Bradley, E.W.Cowell, Drummond, Flexispeeed, Graves, Liverpool Castings & Tool Supply, Omerod, Perfecto, Polygon, Portass, Rapide-Lime, Robblack and Tom Senior..