When, in 1864, Richard Cunliffe and James Croom established their business, they were already experienced machine-tool fitters and mechanics. Their enterprise began with the acquisition of the Company with whom they had been apprenticed, a firm that started life in 1820 and began the manufacture of machine tools in 1835 - and so one of the pioneers in what was to become a booming industrial sector. By 1986 Cunliffe and Croom, based at their Broughton Works in Edward Street, Manchester, had become a Limited Company and were amongst the first sixteen firms to contribute share capital to the new Machine Tool and Engineering Federation, Ltd. a grouping that was to become the (British) Machine Tool Trades Association.
A wide variety of machine tools were made - with a predominance of one-off and special orders - until a rather odd decision was made in 1933 to concentrate upon just one model, their No. 2 milling machine in vertical, plain horizontal and universal styles. This miller, also badged in post-WW2 years as the Archdale No.2, continued to be manufactured until the early 1970s.
Of traditional knee-type construction, the Cunliffe & Croom was a well-built machine and had a reputation for accuracy and reliability. All three versions - the Vertical, Plain Horizontal and Universal - shared the same knee and column-mounted drive system and gearbox assembly with the Universal having a 49" x 11" swing table and all the others a straight travel 49" x 12" - both with three 5/8" T-slots on 2 5/16" centres. The plain horizontal version was available in two models: the Type A with automatic power feed and a rapid traverse (by a separate 2.5 h.p. motor) to the longitudinal motion only and the Type B with automatic power feeds and rapid traverses in all three directions (the vertical miller also enjoying an identical specification).
Drive for the spindle speeds and table feeds came from a single, continuously-rate 3-phase motor held in the base of the column, the makers offering the option on the horizontal models of either a single-speed 5 h.p. running at 1500 r.p.m. or a two-speed, 4-8 h.p. with 1000 and 3000 r.p.m. - the latter unit being supplied as standard on vertical machines. From the motor the drive was taken upwards by five V-belts to a dry-plate clutch built into the input pulley - and hence to 100-ton, hardened and profile-ground nickel-alloy steel gears carried on shafts that rotated in four high precision taper bearings. Vertical and horizontal spindles were both in a case-hardened, nickel-chrome steel and mounted in high-precision taper roller bearings.
Lubrication of the speed-change gearing was from a sump within the column, a gear pump lifting the filtered oil through a system of tubes to the vital parts; on the vertical model the head bearings were lubricated by grease. From the column to the knee the drive was through hardened gears and shafts, these running in ball and roller bearings with lubrication by a combination of an oil bath and a hand-operated one-shot system. Drive to the vertical head followed the same path but with the final stage, that turned the drive through two right-angles, by spiral bevel gears lapped in pairs.
Starting and stopping the machine was by dual levers, one at each side of the mail column and connected to the clutch unit; when a lever was moved to the stop position and automatic brake was operated to stop the spindle.
With a single-speed motor fitted, nine spindle speeds were available, these spanning 26 to 405 r.p.m. while with the two-speed motor the eighteen provided ran from 26 to 1250 r.p.m. on both the horizontal and vertical models. All versions were available with either a No. 40 or No. 50 B.S.I. Taper spindle, that on the Vertical model being controlled vertically by a micrometer-dial equipped handwheel turning a screw (fitted with double compensating bronze nuts) that drove a set of gears. On the 40 B.S.I. spindle travel of the head was 41/2" and on the 50 B.S.I. 5" - the whole of the head, with spindle and bearings, sliding in the rear section of the casting. The vertical head could be inclined, with a rough setting obtained by a degree scale engraved on the circumference of the housing and the final adjustment by reference to the micrometer (reading to minutes of arc) on the handwheel shaft.
All versions of the No. 2 had 28 inches of longitudinal table feed but with cross feeds varying as follows: Model B 77/8" by power and 83/8" by hand; Model A 83/4" by hand only; Universal 71/4" under power and 73/4" by hand and the vertical 77/8" using power and 83/8" by hand. Vertical travel of the knee was the same across the range at 17" using either hand or automatic feed. When fitted with a single-speed motor nine feed rates were provided, these spanning for both longitudinal and cross feeds: 1/2 to 11 inches per minute on the Universal and Type B Models and 1 to 19 inches per minute on the Type A. 26 to 406 r.p.m. and with the 2 speed 18 from 26 to 1250 r.p.m. Vertical feeds were, of course, set much slower at half the other settings i.e. from 1/4 to 51/2 inches per minute. Millers fitted with a two-speed motor had eighteen rates of feed, these ranging both longitudinal and across from 1/2 to 30 inches per minute and vertically from 1/4 to 15 inches per minute.
Selection of feed rates and spindle speeds was by a pair of Cincinnati-like dial-type rotary controls on the column's left-hand face, the upper dial handling spindle-speed changes and the lower table feeds.
Operated by a push button on the front of the saddle, the "rapids" feed could be used with the spindle left running or stationary. When the table was under normal power feed, pressing the button accelerated it and, upon releasing it, the previous setting was restored - a useful, time-saving feature when a job had lengthy gaps between machined surfaces. Another time-saving fitting was an additional pair of "stops" that allowed an operator to set the table feed so that a quick run up to the work was obtained (in either direction) and the desired cutting rate then automatically set in motion.
All table and knee feed control levers were of the direction type, mounted on anti-friction bearings and fitted with self-declutching handles that prevented spinning when feeds or rapids were engaged. As a backlash eliminating device was fitted to the longitudinal feed screw's nut, it was possible to perform climb milling (the cut being in the same direction as the table feed). The cross-traverse had a double bronze nut that, by being adjusted apart, eliminated backlash. Feed screw micrometer dials were of a decent size, fitted with knurled edges, satin-chrome plated and shrouded with a stainless steel zero strip.
Equipment supplied with a new horizontal miller consisted of an arbor bracket, armbrace, drawbar, oil gun and a selection of spanners; in addition, the Universal machine was equipped with a 91/2" universal dividing head with driver, one indexing plate, tailstock and the maker's patented quadrant and gear change unit.
Optional extra included a very useful selection of vertical heads for the horizontal models - Universal, High-speed Light Type, Compound (double-swivel) and slotting - a differential dividing attachment with changewheels, three extra division plates for the dividing attachment, arbors, spindle adaptors, collet chucks, collets, machine vices and cutters, Low-Vo light units, a15-inch hand-operated rotary table and, initially for the vertical miller only but later for all types, a 16-inch power-operated rotary table..