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 lathes 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. In addition, there was a tie up with Midsaw, originally a Birmingham-based company who specialised in all types of sawing, filing, woodworking equipment, including a range of vertical bandsaws that were marketed using the joint names of Rapidor and Midsaw.
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).