Historical information

With more and more woolsheds being connected to power lines, the need for electric shearing gear markedly increased from the 1960s onwards. The greater economy made electric gear an attractive proposition to many graziers. Requiring only an electric shearing motor, for small and medium scale operations, electric shearing motors were a more economical way of shearing a wool clip. The other option for graziers was Overhead shearing gear, which also required an Engine to provide shared power to a row of shearing stations.

Still working, this Sunbeam Electric Shearing Motor – Heavy Duty Model, features a slow speed motor totally enclosed for protection against dust and insects. The full bearing down tube is easily removed and stored to be out of the way when not in use (not pictured). Providing 0.5 hp, which is twice the power ever needed for shearing sheep, this buffer allows for fluctuations in voltages that can occur in rural districts.

Inventor Frederick Wolseley made the world's first commercially successful power-shearing system in Australia in 1888. US company Cooper, which had been founded in 1843 as a maker of sheep dip, began selling Wolseley equipment in the USA in 1895. The Chicago Flexible Shaft Company successfully entered the power-shearing market a few years later and entered into a joint venture with Cooper. It set up a branch in Sydney and sold shearing sets, and engines to power them, into the Australian market. In 1921 the US parent company, realising it needed to make products whose sales were not as seasonal as those of shearing equipment, made its first household appliances and branded them Sunbeam.

In 1933, changes in exchange rates and taxes led the company to manufacture engines and shearing equipment in Australia via subsidiary Cooper Engineering, which changed its name to Sunbeam in 1946. Although most Australians know of this company as a major manufacturer of household appliances, its rural division flourished and retained the Sunbeam name for shearing equipment even after it was taken over by New Zealand company Tru-Test in 2001.

Physical description

This 0.5 horsepower vertical brushed motor air-cooled engine was designed to drive a single shearing plant. From the central cylinder which features a yellow “Sunbeam” sticker, a grey 240v power lead can be found on the left-hand side. A blue capacitor is located next to this power lead. Below, two legs extend and meet to form a foot which is fastened to a wall.
On the right-hand side of the engine, a specification plate is located on the central cylinder. A yellow directional arrow sticker is located on the rotating section of the engine below the specification plate (location for photography, this section is designed to rotate and hence this sticker is not fixed in this location).
At the rear of the cylinder, a plastic cap with small air cut outs protects the air-cooled engine from contaminants.
At the front of the engine, the location for securing the bearing down tube is located. On the right-hand side of the lock for the bearing down tube is the handle, to which a string is often attached for switching the motor on and off by a shearer bent at the waist (not pictured).

Inscriptions & markings

Sticker. Gold writing. Front of shearing motor

Plate. Inscribed. Side of shearing motor.
“Sunbeam /
0.5 H.P. / 220/240 V /
1 PHASE A.C. / 4.0 AMPS /
50 C/S. / CONT. RTG. /
1425 R.P.M. / CLASS A INSUL /
NO. J244560 /
TYPE: NSB5C2/49."