The Shopsmith Woodworking Academy is Gone... But wait!

When I started working as an in-store sales rep in Shopsmith Inc.'s Factory Showroom back in the Spring of 1987 one of the most impressive things Shopsmith had going for itself wasn't just that they had 45 retail stores and growing, or that they published a popular national magazine titled "Hands-On!" or even that they had recently added the new and greatly improved Shopsmith Mark V model 510 to the line-up.  No, the most impressive thing to me at Shopsmith was the fact that every one of the Shopsmith retail stores had a section carved out for hands-on training by at least one full-time shop teacher, known as the Academy Instructor.  It was around this same time that Shopsmith was made aware that they were the largest private employer of full-time shop instructors!  The then president of Shopsmith Inc, John Folkerth, was smart enough to know that selling someone a tool wasn't enough, but that the tool wasn't living up to its full potential until it was being used and enjoyed and that personally guided education was an important piece of the puzzle.

Fast forward a few months I found myself the newest and youngest Shopsmith store manager as what we called the "Boston" store, in Chelmsford, MA. For the first few months of the stores' existence, we sold tools with the promise that as soon as we could find and train someone to be our Academy instructor we would begin conducting classes.  But as the months dragged on and on we discovered that what was reasonable and customary pay for an Academy in most parts of the US was ridiculously low in New England.  We actually started flying in instructors from our stores in Albany, NY and Cincinnati just to stem the flow of folks who were threatening to return their tools because we weren't living up to our promise of training and support.

It really was an exciting time! I started conducting the weekly Thursday night "Sawdust Sessions" and when one visiting instructor wound-up doubled-over sick in his hotel room for the weekend I jumped-in and conducted the "Fundamentals of Woodworking Class" by myself, while my Assistant Manager, Matt Kottman took over the sales floor. Not only did we hire one instructor, Norm Rose, but shortly after we hired a second instructor, Bill Carrol and a third expert named Bill Donahue. We became the only Shopsmith showroom that stayed open seven days a week and if Norm wasn't teaching, Bill C. was teaching, and regardless of who was teaching Matt and Bill D. and I were there offering additional support.  (See photo from Dec 1999)

Shopsmith "Boston" store team, Dec 1989 L to R (standing) Bill Carrol, Matt Kottman, 
Bill Donahue, Me (Scott Markwood) Sitting on rocking horse, Norm Rose. 
The Boston Academy was one of the few Academy's to give the Dayton Ohio based Factory Academy a run for its money. The Academy in Indianapolis, under Tom Newkirk and Tom Flack, The Academy in Cincinnati under Ted Denman and a few others were also super-busy, but we were setting company records for enrollments and tools sales every quarter. 

Norm Rose teaching turning at Shopsmith "Boston" Academy 1989
During this same time, I also become the proud owner of a Shopsmith Mark V during our showroom's October 1987 grand opening, so if I wasn't making sawdust at work I was making it at home.  In 1999 I got word that there were some changed going on at the Factory Academy in Dayton and I was asked if I was interested in seeing if I could duplicate what was happening in Boston back in Dayton.  We moved back "home' to Dayton and got things going there.  Everything was changing back then at Shopsmith. They had grown to 50 stores and were about to launch an ambitious transition from exclusively Shopsmith branded tools to a concept called "Woodworking Unlimited".
Me and Matt working the Shopsmith booth at a Home Show in Woburn, MA Jan. 1988
If you've been in a Woodcraft store in the past 20 years you may have been standing in one of those very Woodworking Unlimited stores.  Yeah, there were a lot of changes going on during the mid-90's, not the least of which was a flood on stand-alone Tiwaneese and Chinese woodworking tools. On top of that, home centers were becoming popular, the internet was taking off and retails woodworking stores like Woodcraft and The Woodworkers Store (Now named Rockler) were also starting their expansion.
As they expanded, Shopsmith shrank.  Probably a bigger threat than competitive tools was the flood of Shopsmith's own past production that was finding its way back into circulation via eBay and later Craigslist. No longer were owners of their tools forced to return to the mother ship for parts and accessories, but rather they could purchase them used online.  Lord knows they are built like tanks and rarely need servicing.  That's right, Shopsmith became a victim of their own quality!
Scott Markwood, 2019
Shopsmith began selling off some of their more profitable stores to Woodcraft, many of which simply changed the sign over the door and continued on as usual. Then they closed their non-profitable stores and eventually even closed down the showroom and academy at the factory.

So that leads us to today. The factory is still chugging along slowly but steadily in Dayton, and there are more and more used tools to choose from on the second-hand market. But where can a new owner go for reliable information on the safe set-up and use of these tools?

Conducting a class in LA 2018
For the past twenty years, I have been a corporate trainer for a German cabinet hardware manufacturer, and while I love training people about hardware and LED lighting I just can't get enough time in my shop with my own Shopsmith tools. During this time I have had the desire to conduct classes on Shopsmith equipment, but I just travel too much on business for that to be practical. So I've searched for a platform to conduct online classes and after Youtube's recent "Adpocalypse" and Patreon's nebulous changes I was thinking that I'd never find a suitable platform, but then my son introduced me to what just might be the perfect platform.
Working in my shop with my sister Lisa
So that's where I have to leave this for now, but if you'd like to be kept in the loop on the upcoming launch of our online Shopsmith-centered woodworking school "MyGrowthRings", please subscribe to our mailing list below.  More to come! Scott


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Where there's a will, there's a Shopsmith!

I was watching Curt from the Youtube channel "Wood Reconstructed" tonight and watched him resawing some 6" thick planks on his "Greenie" Shopsmith Mark V and on his Shopsmith bandsaw and just couldn't help but think "Where there's a will, there's a Shopsmith!". I was inspired by that thought to create a new tee-shirt on Zazzle that I know I will wear with pride. Feel free to order your own and I suggest clicking this link to sign-up for Zazzle's newsletter for weekly discount codes.  

Click the pic to order your tee-shirt and to see some of my other designs. 

Shopsmith Bandsaw Fence Versions

In the late 1980's the Shopsmith Bandsaw received an upgraded table that brought several new features to the party:
  • It is much larger than the original cast iron table to offer additional support.
  • The addition of the T-Slot extrusion miter slot that accommodated the washer in the miter bar of the 510 miter gauge. This extrusion can also be adjusted to accommodate wear and to adjust the fit.
  • A snap-in table insert.
  • Several optional accessories including a rip fence, a side support and a circle cutter attachment.
The reason for this post is to point-out that the first version of the fence, shown in the left photo, did not have a rear clamp, as show in the revised version of the fence in the left photo. Additionally you can note that at some point following the introduction the fence was given through-holes to accommodate user-build accessory fences. This fence is made from the same aluminum extrusion used to produce the 510 fence. 

Who we are looking at the pics you may also note subtle differences between the saws, including the removal of the cover knobs, a window to view the tension scale and added warning stickers on the upper guard.

I've circled the two parts that are the most obvious additions to the fence. BTW, the term "Rear clamp" is probably a misnomer, because this fence is mounted backward on the bandsaw from it's normal configuration on the Mark V.

There are several post about this saw elsewhere on this blog, so feel free to use the search box above for more details.  

When is a Shopsmith Mark II not a Shopsmith Mark II?

As is so often the case I don;t have time to write this now, but I did want to get this content off my PC and into your hands for your edification. So the question was, when is a Shopsmith Mark II not a Shopsmith Mark II? When it's modified with a variable speed pulley and sold by Montgomery Ward as Ward's Powr-Kraft "Dyno-Shop". The first pic is a headstock that I purchased from eBay and intend to add to a Mark II frame, but the other pics are from listings and articles from around 1964 when this was offered for sale. How many sold? I have no earthly idea, but if you own one, please type the serial number into the comment field below and tell us a little about how you came to own it. 

So, how does this blog work?

This blog (short for Web Log) features links to Shopsmith woodworking tools and items that are related to Shopsmith tools which are for sale on the web.

We've been adding a BUNCH of FREE scans of historic Shopsmith articles and ads, and if you happen to have something we should add we'd love to hear from you. Most of these can be seen Biggie-Sized by clicking on them.

Speaking of clicking, if you'd like to enter a comment about one of the posts, please feel free. To do so just click on the bold title line (For example, this post is titled "So, how does this blog work?" If you click on the title it will open that post in it's own page. There you can enter a comment, and after I moderate it, you'll see it there for all the world to see and comment back!

Please do me a favor. If you have a blog of your own or are a member of an Internet newsgroup and decide to flatter me by quoting from the text of my entries, please honor me by posting a link to this blog. Thanks and good hunting! Scott

Shopsmith SPT Power Stand Switch Box and Source for Missing Red Key!

Shopsmith SPT Stand Switch Box
There's a lot to say about the Shopsmith SPT Power Stand, but the biggest issue that owners seem to be having these days is that Shopsmith is no longer producing the red plastic key that is used to unlock the power switch! Early versions of the stand had a simple toggle switch. Some times this is seen with sheet metal wings that shielded the switch from accidental contact, and it even had a hole that accommodated a padlock to lock the switch in the off position.

There's another lockable switch box from Magna that incorporates a cylindrical lock core and a couple receptacles.

Old Magna Shopsmith Switch Box
Finally came the grey plastic Shopsmith Inc. SPT switch box. This box has a single receptacle in the bottom and requires a small plastic key to be installed and left in place in order to lift the switch into the on position.  If the key is lost you can depress the release within the switch body with your Shopsmith 5/32" hex wrench or the shaft of the chuck key, but it doesn't take too many on/off cycles to make you want to find a new key! Unfortunately, Shopsmith doesn't currently offer a replacement key, but the good new is 3D printing technology has come to the rescue.  One important note: You don't need to turn the key to start the tool! Once the key is inserted you turn it 1/4 turn to hold it in place. One of the reasons these break is people turn them like they are starting a car and the small retention tab snaps off. The key will still work for depressing the internal catch, but no doubt it will likely disappear during use since nothing will hold it in place. 
3D Printed SPT Switch Box Key

Click this link to find the 3D printed Shopsmith switch key on eBay.

Click this link to find complete old and new style Shopsmith SPT switch boxes for sale on eBay

BTW, SPT stands for either "Single Purpose Tool" or "Special Purpose Tool".  Shopsmith Inc used both definitions and the creator of the SPT's didn't use the acronym at all, so take your pick!

Shopsmith Universal Biscuit Joiner

Way back in 1989 Shopsmith came to market with a Mark V-mounted biscuit joiner that I wrote about in an earlier post:

By 1990 Shopsmith realized that they had a good thing on their hands with the now popular Shopsmith-mounted biscuit joiner selling like hotcakes, so they went back to the drawing board and came up with a concept to make the unit universal, meaning that it could be powered by any tool manufacturer's drill press.

Shopsmith Main Table Router Table Mods

I recently saw a photo on the FB Shopsmith Owners Group, of someone milling the bottom ribs off of a Mark V Model 505/510/520 main table in order to allow it to accept a router base. Because I'm recovering from knee replacement surgery and don't have access to my shop at the moment I thought I'd share some pics of a similar router table and horizontal router set-up by a buddy of mine: Tom Newkirk. Tom used to work as the Academy Instructor and later, Store Manager of Shopsmith's Indianapolis, IN store. You can see that rather than mill the support ribs from the bottom of the table, Tom added a plywood sub-table that affords him flexibility in mounting the router to the table and the table to his Mark V using various mounting methods, as wells as some dust collection capabilities.

The keen-eyed among you have already noticed that Tom switched the table supports and trunnions from the main table to what used to be an end support table and replaced them with the support from the side support table. That means that the router table is adjustable in height but the table no longer tilts. Likewise, with the trunnions and supports for the main table now relocated to the smaller side table, Tom has created something akin to the Shopsmith Joint-Matic, but with the ability to angle the bit. In the bottom photo, you can also see the dust port that Tom added to the table, which does a fine job when the bit is totally buried in a slot mortise. (Think Festool Domino)

Tom is sharp, a wise businessman and one of the most inventive and resourceful guys I have ever met. Hey, "Tom Sharp" is another name from the past, but that's for another post.

"How to reverse the directon of my Shopsmith Bandsaw"

Why the odd post title? Because I have noticed a recent uptick in searches on this blog for this very thing.  So let's just cut to the chase: When you are standing in front of your Shopsmith tool, with the switch facing you, the SPT (Special Purpose Tool or Single Purpose Tool) such as the bandsaw, jointer, beltsander, scrollsaw, jigsaw, etc. should be mounted on the left end of the base, as shown in the photo with the jointer mounted in the proper position. I guess because people who sell used Shopsmith tools tend to load the tool with every SPT it will hold you'll often see Mark V's for sale with SPTs mounted on both end or just on the right. This is wrong!  If mounted on the right, not only will it be a long reach with the quill to even reach the tool with the power coupler, but once connected the tool will run backwards.  The exception to this is the strip sander, which can run in reverse, and the sprayer/air compressor, which can also run while being powered backwards.  The other exception is if you happen to have the SPT mounted on the old Shopsmith Mark 7 on the current a Mark V or Mark VII with a reversible PowerPro headstock or on a Shopsmith Crafter's Station, which also runs in reverse.

I remember talking to a guy in the Factory Showroom in Dayton about an issue he was having while bandsawing with the board wanting to lift from the table during the cut. He said "I have the hold-down set as tight as I can..." It was then that I knew, and now you do too.