Herberts Machinery Co. of Los Angeles were makers of wood-working machinery of many types, though their main market seems to have been for amateur and lighter professional use. They were original suppliers to Sears, Roebuck and Co. as the latter established a coherent range of cheaper Companion and better quality Craftsman wood lathes from 1932 onwards. Carrying ID Tags beginning with 103, by 1933 a good range of Herbert's models was available, as shown in the advertisements below, with machines carefully graded to cover the whole market in clearly defined segments. Least expensive was the little 3-inch centre height by 24-inches between centres Companion, at just $4.50, a type that looked to be a perfectly capable little job for light home-duty work. Almost double the price - $9.50 - purchased the cheapest Craftsman version, the Medium Duty, with a 4-inch centre height and 30 inches between centres. Cleverly, the bed below the bronze-bearing headstock on both models was shaped so that the drive could be arranged from either the rear or beneath, making for a particularly neat installation.
Investing just $19.50 purchased the delights of the next version, a 4.5-inch centre height Craftsman with a high-speed, ball-bearing spindle and a capacity of 36 inches between centres. Weighing a robust 82 lbs (shipping figure) this would have been an entirely adequate lathe for most amateur purposes. However, if money was no object (and in the early 1930s, in the middle of the depression, things were tight) the customer could chose the ambitiously priced, top-of-the-range "12" x 36" Craftsman advertised as "Our finest wood lathe ever". At $29.50 this was a heavy (96 lb) machine with a chrome-vanadium spindle threaded at both ends, bored through 9/16", running in sealed-for-life ball-bearing and supplied with both inboard and outboard faceplates. The tailstock had a No. 2 Morse taper socket and, with its Royal Blue lacquer finish, was both attractive to look at as well as being well-made and to a decent specification. As with all Sears lathes, a motor was charged extra.
Astonishingly, from their introduction, all versions of the Herberts used V-belt drive, a very recent introduction on small machine tools. In addition they were not tempted into foolish economy by fitting a two or three-step drive, all had four speeds - a specification that competitors were slow to take up (especially in Europe). This was a feature that not only gave the lathes an immediate appeal in the showroom and catalog, but also a genuine edge in performance.
A falling out between Sears and Herberts in the mid 1930s saw the entire range dropped and alternative models bought in from Atlas (and possibly the AA company). Herberts then went their own way, surviving until the 1940s with a range of lathes that changed little from those sold ten years previously.
As the Company was owned by Curt Herberts, and there were no other family members involved, advertisements always lacked a possessive apostrophe - just Herberts and not Herbert's or Herberts'. In later years Mr. Herberts built and sold much larger machinery including a huge 5000-ton drill press supplied to Douglas Aircraft in 1936. In 1940 he founded a new company, Aerco, which manufactured aircraft parts for the war effort.
If any reader has a Herberts "Wood Wizard" lathe or other machine tool the writer would be interested to hear from you..