A piece of Australian shearing history will be sold at auction in Melbourne later this month.

Mechanical shears belonging to legendary shearer Jack, or Jackie, Howe are expected to sell for $15,000 to $20,000.

Howe still holds the record, set in 1892, for shearing 321 merino sheep in 7 hours and 40 minutes with hand-held blade shears.

His shearing prowess earned him the moniker 'Bradman of the boards', while songwriter Ted Egan referred to him as the 'king of the shearers'.

"He had uncommonly big hands, he was a very, very fine physical specimen, very strong. He was just a natural," said Barry Muir, the mayor of Blackall in western Queensland, who's also written a book about Jackie Howe.

"When they asked him how he explained his prowess at being a shearer, he didn't really know, it just came natural to him.

"He was probably a freak in that respect but a likeable one."

Mr Muir's book tells the story of the day in October 1892 when Jackie Howe set a hand shearing record at Alice Downs, in western Queensland.

"He actually come out on a Monday and set a blade shearing record in seven hours and 40 minutes, set his name in stone, so to speak.

"Some weeks later he set a machine shearing record, doing 237 sheep in eight hours.

"He was the only shearer ever to set a machine shearing record and a blade shearing record in the one year."

Jackie Howe's blade shearing tally remains unbeaten to this day.

It wasn't just the records that earned him a place in Australian history. He also became known for his efforts to improve workers' conditions and was a pioneer of the Australian Labor Party in Queensland.

Ian Auldist, the chairman of the Australian Shearers Hall of Fame, at Hay in southern New South Wales, says of the 29 shearers commemorated there, Jackie Howe is easily the most well known.

"I guess Jackie Howe is the best known name among shearers, of course, for his records.

"Every shearer there is there on his merits, as someone who has performed some wonderful feats with the handpiece, and also added to the industry through some other contribution as well."

On October 29 in Melbourne, the Sotheby's auction house will offer for sale a set of mechanical shears that were presented to Jackie Howe in 1893 by the Wolseley company, in recognition of his record-breaking feats.

"They are absolutely amazing in the sense of just the mechanical construction of them, but also the way in which the leather is wrapped around to support the grip in the hand," says Sotheby's Australian chairman Geoffrey Smith.

"Also, what I find quite compelling is they look so well used. "

Geoffrey Smith says Jackie Howe's shears also have an important historical context.

"When we think about the 19th century, particularly the second half of the 19th century, how important the pastoral industry was to Australia.

"When we think about the great works of art from the late 19th century, Tom Roberts' 'Shearing the Rams' is probably one of the most famous works of art.

"The reason it is so beloved for Australians is what it conjures up."