The firm of Cliff & Bunting was established in 1887 by Harry Cliff and Jonathan Craven Bunting. Initially, the firm specialised in the manufacture of chaff-cutters, corn-crushers, bag-fillers and horseworks - the latter being widely used on smaller farms for driving agricultural machinery before the advent of the internal combustion engine.
Their first manufacturing works were situated in Elizabeth Street, North Melbourne, between Victoria Street and Flemington Road, in an area where a concentration of small agricultural implement and machinery makers had emerged from the 1860s. In 1895, Cliff & Bunting acquired the plant, stock & good-will of a larger competitor Swan & Co., who had been forced into liquidation the recession and agricultural downturn of the early 1890s. Swan & Co were established in 1866 and by the late 1880s had developed a strong reputation as one of Victoria's two leading chaff-cutter manufacturers. By the 1890s Swan & Co had diversified into a range of other products including reaping machines, strippers and winnowers. Cliff & Bunting relocated their business to the larger Blackwood Street premises of Swan & Co, and for a number of years continued to offer spare parts for former Swan & Co products. Cliff & Bunting also maintained an office and showroom around the corner from the Blackwood Street factory, near the Hay Market on Flemington Road.
In 1897, Cliff & Bunting released their improved “Reliance” model travelling chaff-cutter, which was the first Australia manufactured chaff-cutter to feature interchangeable knife-wheels, allowing operators to keep the machine working all day without lengthy delays to re-sharpen knife blades or refit spare knife blades individually. The "Reliance" set new industry benchmarks for the performance, reliability and versatility of chaff-cutters and together with the “Champion” double-bagger model released in 1904, provided the mainstay of the firm's business over the next 50 years.
By 1910, Cliff & Bunting had emerged as Australia's leading manufacturer of chaff-cutters out selling both old rivals like John Buncle & Sons, of North Melbourne, and larger more general agricultural implement manufacturers like H.V. McKay and T. Robinson & Co.. The company introduced further improvements in the “New Reliance” model of 1911 and the smaller “Farmer's Friend” and continued to innovate over subsequent decades, taking out numerous patents. Cliff & Bunting remained Australia's leading manufacturer of chaff-cutters until the downturn in horse-drawn transport and working farm horses after the Second World War led to a decline in demand for chaff.
By 1919, Cliff & Bunting were also marketing their own brand of small petrol and diesel engines, which they continued to make in small batches until around the 1940s. In later years the firm also built garden spray units and hay balers, including models powered by their own internal combustion engines. During the Second World War, Cliff & Bunting diversified into the manufacture of electric power transformers under the "Trimax" brandname.
In 1947, Cliff & Bunting relocated their manufacturing operations to a site on the corner of Charles Street and Williams Road, North Coburg, where half the new factory was used for the manufacture of agricultural equipment and the other half for Trimax Transformers. The company continued to innovate in its agricultural product lines, introducing automatic pick-up balers, a self-typing mechanism for their balers and engine-functioned machines, but demand for chaff-cutters was declining and they produced their last new chaff-cutter in 1955. Less than a year later the agricultural division of Cliff & Bunting was taken over by the Baltic Simplex Machinery Company, who continued to operate for another 25 years offering spare parts and repairs on Cliff & Bunting equipment. In 1964 the Cliff & Bunting brandname became part of the large South Australian based agricultural implement manufacturer, Horwood Bagshaw Ltd. Spare parts for Cliff & Bunting machines continue to be available today, currently being made and sold through Dickens Engineers, of Corowa, New South Wales, attesting to the durability of the original Cliff & Bunting designs.