Founded in 1892 by Edward Geisler Herbert, the firm of Edward G. Herbert & Co. Ltd. was based, originally, in the Cornbrook Park Toolworks, Manchester. By 1900 the first of their famous metal saws was in production followed, probably in the early 1920s, by a move to their better-known "Atlas Engineering Works", at the junction of Chapel and Stanhope Streets in Levenshulme, just off the A6 between Stockport and Manchester centre. It is believed that the building had formerly housed the Hercules Motor and Engineering Company, a report in the Commercial Motor magazine for 1906 and 1907 describing them as builders of Omnibuses and of steam wagons, special types of wheels and other important components for the makers of heavy-vehicle makers. Across Stanhope street was another factory, shown on a 1902 OS map as the "Atlas Tool Works" and home to the "Atlas Engineering Co" - who may, or may not, have originally owned the "Atlas Engineering Works". The Atlas Tool Works produced machine tools including a range of lathes and possibly radial-arm drills and vertical millers; a1901 copy of the Journal "Engineering", shows several very large lathe with a note that they were constructed in the same building.
In 2015 the Atlas Engineering Works, in a state of almost complete collapse, was still standing - a mute testament to the tens of thousands of sawing machines and other products that must have emerged from its doors. Plans are in progress to develop the site for housing and, happily, the planning authorities have insisted that the distinctive top 3-story front elevation of the works must be retained.
At some point in the early 1970s, Edward G. Herbert & Co. appear to have been bought by Alexander Machinery of Dudley, a one-time member of Hartle Machinery International and the Dorada Engineering Group - much promotional literature from those times carrying the appropriate over-stickers. By 1980 Alexander had introduced an entirely new range of saws, quite different to the established Rapidor design, and listed as the Types 150 Light, 150 Portable, 200 Medium Duty and 300 Heavy Duty.
All based on the same general layout, the original Rapidor saws used a blade-holding "bow", in cast iron, connected at its rear to a pair of parallel square steel bars set at 45° so that they slide in V-shaped ways formed in the upper and lower cast iron plates in which they ran. Drive to the arm was by a crankshaft turned by either a belt or chain. The vice, a standard fitting, varied considerably with the lightest models have the jaw support rails cast as part of the main frame while others were clamped to a T-slotted base plate that had either one or two longitudinal T-slots - though up to four in traverse on the biggest models. On really massive examples four jaws were used, with one pair adjustable by a screw and the second set, lower and parallel to the first, bolted in place. Special machines, such as those used for sawing deep girders had a vertical vice, again clamped to a T-slotted base. Although of a simple, not to say crude construction, the Rapidor saws were well made and could withstand constant abuse - which was just as well, as this type of prosaic machine, lacking glamour, was always the most neglected and abused in any busy workshop (the writer once encountered a 6-inch Light-duty model with a coalman's 56 lb [25.5 kg] weight fastened to the overarm; the blade of course was blunt, the owners being too mean to change it).
Drive systems varied from model to model with early examples (intended for drive by overhead line shafting) having a large flat pulley (often divided into fast-and-loose sections to act as a stop-start clutch) while others had a mechanical dog-type clutch with lever control. In general either one, two or three speeds were offered, the change being by belt but also with the options of a speed-reducing gearbox, that allowed standard-speed motors to be used, or 2 and 3-speed pole-change motors - the latter, listed during the 1940s, having the required control gear bolted the right-hand face of the stand. The makers even offered, though discouraged, the use of a variable-speed DC motor - though depending upon a customer's requirements they would build in any system desired. Oddly, during the 1930s, they suggested that a remotely-mounted motor fastened to a floor plate was to be preferred, while machines with a compact drive system where the motor was carried on adjustable rails beneath the stand, or fastened to the rear face of the back leg, were described as being for "portable" use. However, these self contained saws were able to be moved easily to anywhere in the factory where their operation was at its most efficient. Conservatively, the drive on these motorised versions retained a flat belt, through the option of V-belt drive, at extra cost, was also listed.
One model that appears to be particularly rare today is the Light-duty 6-inch Geared-motor type, this being manufactured in the 1950s and having a motor with an attached, single-speed reduction gearbox. The result was a machine with a simpler drive system and a safe, fully enclosed V-belt drive to the crankshaft pulley - the same result today being obtainable by imposing a cheap 40:1 reduction gearbox between the motor and driven pulley.
A number of different sizes of the regular production models was offered - for a long time these being listed as the No. 1, No. 1A, No. 2 and No. 2A - with the increasing capacity matched by a greater mass of all components and rigidity of the cast iron tray and legs. The smallest known machine was the "Rapidor Minor" of the 1930s, a model with a capacity to cut 3-inch bars yet small enough to be bolted to a bench - though the makers did offer a cast iron base for more general workshop use. The largest were no doubt specially build models for shipyards and girder-sawing work, some of these being illustrated in the full-range catalogues
Almost certainly the most popular model was the "6-inch", this being offered in both Light and Medium-duty versions and made from the 1920s until the 1970s in an almost unchanged form. In addition, the larger A1 (capacity 8") and A2 (capacity 12") Models are still found today in considerable numbers and many hundreds must have been sold.
Models names and nomenclature were altered during the decades with the name "Major" found cast into some overams of some Medium-duty machines, while being absent on others that were otherwise identical..