email: tony@lathes.co.uk
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Wicksteed Hacksaws

A full Data Pack is available for Wicksteed saws

Rapidor Saws   Velox Saws


Now known as the United Kingdom's largest producer of playground and outdoor fitness equipment, Wicksteed were once a leading maker of mechanical hacksaws. Begun by one Charles Wicksteed (1847-1931) who was born Leeds, educated at Lancaster and then apprenticed to Kitson and Co., Ltd. a locomotive manufacturer of Airedale Foundry, Leeds, where he received the traditional grounding in  locomotive and general engineering. His first business - started at the age of 21 - was as the owner of steam ploughing tackle - this leading to his most successful venture and the building of a new factory in Kettering during 1876. Invented by the owner, a multitude of diverse items were to be manufactured there including (an unsuccessful) automatic gearbox, sawing machinery, workshop drills, limit gauges, gears, munitions, wooden toys, playground equipment, a machine for the mass slicing and buttering of bread - and the first hydraulically-controlled hacksaw. Early into the refinement of the mechanical hacksaw, in 1911 Wicksteed presented a paper to the Institute of Mechanical Engineers on the subject
Having made his fortune, Wicksteed planned and opened the now famous Wicksteed Park, which a Grandson currently helps to run. .
All Wicksteed saws were heavily built (though in later years a simpler, lighter version, the "Econicut", was also offered) and equipped with sophisticated hydraulic control systems, one of which had a pump with two pistons, one large, one small, controlled by two eccentrics and a large rotary valve block fitted with calibrated-bleed relief valves - the design providing the means to lift the bow on its return stroke and generate the motion necessary to raise it after the cut was finished. Importantly, the system also permitted the cutting pressure to be instantly regulated and so, the makers claimed, allowed the majority of material to be cut with just one pitch of blade. The makers noted that: "
The success of the machines lies in the method of eliminating the influences of any dead weight of moving parts by means of the hydraulic balancing device and then applying an accurately controllable pressure to the blade by hydraulic resistance actuated by blade movement against the work."  The feed resulting from this design was a combination of a shear cut (what might be termed a positive feed) and weight. The feed was not obtained by pressure applied to the blade by a weight or screw but, as the makers explained more fully: "...by the blade itself which, by our patented method, is set at an angle to the slides so that as it moves through its cutting stroke it raises the saw frame against an oil resistance which can be varied by a simple control valve .. A balancing device is incorporated in the hydraulic unit which counterbalances the weight of the saw frame and swing bracket in such a way that although the rate of cut is in no way impeded, the blade mat be allowed to "fall" onto its thin edge without fear of injuring the teeth.." A point emphasised was that, for maximum output, the exclusive use of blades in high-speed steel was recommended.
On some models, for example the two and four-speed "Hydramatic" type, control was by a unit with a central push-button and a single lever, this being mounted either on the front face or side of the base. The lever had four working positions: 'UP', 'DOWN', 'IDLE' and 'WORK' and, independent of the cutting pressure control, regulated the rise and fall of the blade, set the drive to idle or stationary at any desired position and apply the cutting action. In the 'WORK' position a graduated scale was provided that indicated the pressure range, the setting being dependent upon the type of material being cut - the first movement of the frame being at lighter pressure to save blade wear. On completion of the cut, the bow was lifted automatically to the 'UP' position and the machine stopped at a predetermined point - the latter setting fixed by adjusting the stricker arm on the swing-arm pivot shaft. The earlier 2-speed "Hydraulic Resistance" models used a similar, 4-position lever but with a separate dial control (engraved with the work diameter) to set the cutting pressure - while the 2-speed "Econicut" machines used a similar but less expensive design with the controls combined neatly with the hydraulic cylinder itself. While a wonderfully effective, reliable and efficient system, to get the best from any of the Wicksteed hydraulic controls, and maintain them properly, reference to the Instruction and Maintenance Manual is essential. Another maker who used an almost identical  hydraulic-control system was the long-established German company
Orion-Hacko - their saws being very similar in appearance to those from Wicksteed
From the 1950s until the 1970s the Wicksteed hacksaw range consisted of: early and late models of the Econocut in 6-inch, 8-inch and 12-inch; a group of machines, otherwise identical, that were made in 6-inch, 8-inch, 10-inch, 12-inch, 16-inch and girder-cuttings models and called variously in different catalogues as the "Hydraulic", "Heavy Hydraulic", "Hydraulic Resistance", "Hydro-Resistance" and finally, from the early 1970s, as the "Hydrosaw". The final group, the massive 8-inch, 12-inch and 16-inch machines, were listed as the " Hydramatic". Some of the larger models were able to be fitted with automatic, pneumatically powered bar-feed system for production work and branded, appropriately as the "Automatic". Late in manufacture was a 3-inch pull-down saw and the "Hyradband 10", a horizontal bandsawing model. An entertaining video about the Wicksteed Company can be found on youtube and, if you can find a copy, Wicksteed's book "
Bygone Days and Now; A plea for co-operation between labour , brains & capital" is an interesting read..

Wicksteed 6-inch capacity "Hydraulic Resistance" hacksaw. This model was also offered in a conventional 10-inch versions and two intended just for the cutting pf girders - the No. 812 taking work to 12" x 8" and the No. 820 20" x 8"

Wicksteed 10-inch "Hydraulic Resistance" hacksaw - easily identified by its double vice


8-inch "Hydromatic" hacksaw. This was the smallest (but still very heavy at 0.5 tons) of the Wicksteed Hydromatic type, the Company's top-of-the-range models. On the front of the base can be seen the control lever with four working positions that controlled: the fall of the blade, set the drive to  idle or stationary at any desired position, applied  the cutting action and raised the blade. Both two and four-speed versions were available, the former with a 1.5 kW (2 h.p.) 1-speed motor running at 960 r.p.m. and the latter with a 2-speed, 1.5/1 kW 2-speed motor with speeds of 960 and 480 r.p.m.

Control unit as found on the heavier Wicksteed hacksaws such as the Hydramatic

Triple-acting "Hydromantic" hydraulic unit, exclusive to Wicksteed saws, and used on the Company's 8, 12 and 16-inch Hydramatic models

Adjustable trip switch allowed the saw to stop in the raised position at the end of a cut - and to be immediately restarted

Easy access to the coolant settling tank. The coolant unit was enclosed within the base and used a self-priming pump. A "setting" bar was provided to allow the repetitive cutting of identical lengths

Wicksteed 12-inch Hydromatic. Second largest of the Hydromatic range, the 12-inch was available with a choice of 2 or 4-speeds, the latter obtained by changing the standard-fit 960 r.p.m., single-speed 3 kW (4 h.p.) motor by one with 2-speeds of 960/480 r.p.m. and rated at 3/1.8 kW (4/2.4 h.p.). Substantially built, the version with 4 speeds weighed 1150 kg (2536 lbs) while the 2-speed model was slightly lighter at 1123 kg ( 2476 lbs)

Largest of the Wicksteed models, the 16-inch Hydromatic. This machine was available with a choice of 2 or 4-speeds, the latter obtained by the simple means of replacing the standard-fit 960 r.p.m., single-speed 3 kW (4 h.p.) motor by one with 2-speeds of 960/480 r.p.m. and rated at 3/1.8 kW (4/2.4 h.p.). A heavy machine, the version with 4 speeds weighed 1258 kg (2773 lbs) while the 2-speed model was slightly lighter at 1203 kg ( 2653 lbs)

"Wicksteed 12-inch "Hydraulic Resistance" model as made during the 1950s and early 1960s. Elements of its hydraulic control system are shown below

An earlier version of the hydraulic control cylinder as used until the late 1950s on the large  "Hydraulic Resistance models. This unit had the same four position control giving 'UP', 'DOWN', 'IDLE' and 'WORK' as the later version but with the separate pressure-control dial shown below

Separate Hydraulic resistance control of the earlier models. The work diameter is indicated on the circular dial

A typical Wicksteed saw as made until the 1940s, this example being advertised during 1935. Note how, instead of the ways carrying the bow being machined into the underside of the overarm, they are formed in a more complicated, less rigid and expensive-to-manufacture way by round bars socketed into the overarm at either side. Another cost-saving measure on later models was to mount the motor either directly, or an a simple plate, to the rear face of the main frame - thus eliminating the unnecessary angle bracket

Hydraulic control system as used until the 1940s

A late-model 8-inch "Medium Duty"". Fitted with as 1 h.p. 750 r.p.m. motor  this 381 kg, less-expensive model had two stroke rates of 100 and 150 per minute

8-inch "Medium Duty" angle vice

The simplified hydraulic control cylinder on the 8-inch "Medium Duty"

There appear to have been two versions of the "Econicut", the lighter 6-inch Model shown above and the heavier 6-inch and 8-inch Models below. The "Light Econicut" had its drive, by twin V-belts, enclosed within the cabinet base and two cutting speeds of 100 and 150 strokes per minute. Despite its economical nature the machine retained the variable-rate hydraulic cutting pressure and a frame that lifted automatically at the end of the cut

The later and heaveir "Econicut". This was made in 6 and 8-inch (150 mm and 200 mm) capacities (both of identical appearance) with the smaller weighing 278 kg and the larger 305 kg. The floor space required, at 1120 x 380 mm was the same, as was the 515 mm height from floor to bed - only the overall height differed, the 6-inch version being 1120 mm and the 8-inch 1168 mm. Both machine retained the variable-rate hydraulic cutting pressure and a frame that lifted automatically at the end of the cut - only the lift and feed controls differing from the heavier models with the latter attached to the hydraulic cylinder and the former by a separate lever. Powered by a 1 h.p. motor running at 1500 r.p.m., two stroke rates were available of 150 and 200 per minute


A full Data Pack is available for Wicksteed saws

Rapidor Saws   Velox Saws

Wicksteed Hacksaws
email: tony@lathes.co.uk
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