Page:The Cycle Industry (1921).djvu/42

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now merged in Tubes, Ltd., it would have been impossible to produce a bicycle at the weight required. Other Birmingham firms made balls for the bearings; at one time these were cast or moulded like old-time bullets, placed in grinding machines and rubbed round (or as near to a sphere as possible, they were many thousandths of an inch out of round) with emery powder and oil. Each ball was worth a shilling at one time and the writer has paid that sum for them.

Then came ball making machinery, each machine specially constructed by the ball maker such machinery could not be purchased. One maker of balls, to produce them at a price, went into the country and used water power and more or less secrecy to keep his trade and knowledge to himself. Afterwards machinery was designed and first made by Mr. W. Hillman and erected at Coventry for cutting balls from steel wire. Foreign makers also flooded our markets with cheap balls. Imagine the early struggles of men like the late James Starley, George Singer, W. Hillman, Thos. Humber, and many others, every time they altered a part they had to make, with their own hands and tools, patterns in iron, brass, or gun-metal, take or send them to specialists in stampings, or to a coachsmith, and have the first few parts made, forged bit by bit by hand. These men had no draughtsmen, no pattern makers, everything was the product of their own heads. Gradually, when the pioneer work began to show results, manufacturers in a larger way of business were attracted by the requirements of the bicycle trade, but the above-named pioneers did most of the spade work.

The assistance of Birmingham was not exactly without its risk to Coventry, because in the production of parts and materials this larger city began, when slack times came, to look round for outlets for a production that