Send in the Clones! Shopsmith is NOT flattered by TotalShop and SuperShop

The original patents on the Shopsmith Mark V began to expired in the mid-1970's, and by the early 1980's there were several semi-faithful knock-offs being sold in the USA. Most were being made in Taiwan and were sold under names like TotalShop, FUSO, Enco, Menards, WoodMaster, ShopCenter and MasterShop to name a few.

One of the interesting stories about these tools is that the guy who shipped-off an American Made Shopsmith Mark V to Taiwan to be copied wasn't aware that about a half-dozen Mark V's got past the quality control folks with a slight crack in the headstock casting. Wouldn't you know that the original clones all had this crack cast into them! It’s on the front near the headstock lock if you want to locate it, and I’ve seen it with my own two eyes. I often wondered if they ever fixed this or if they just put Bondo on them before painting.

These original clones were made by a company called Johnson Metal Industries Co. Ltd of Taipei, Taiwan, and believe it or not they actually had their US agent approached Shopsmith Inc about producing the Shopsmith Mark V for them to "preclude unnecessary competition"! That's what we in America call anti-trust.

Not long after this another Taiwanese company called King Feng Fu Machinery Works Co. Ltd. started selling their own clone of the Mark V, and Johnson Metal was ballsy enough to file a lawsuit against them for steeling their design!

Before the International Trade Commission was able to rule on a complaint filed by Shopsmith Inc., these two companies made an agreement with Shopsmith that included making cosmetic changes to their machines, such as moving the on-off switch, cutting openings or lovers into their legs, etc, and prominently displaying the country of origin, which was and still is the law of the land.

These clones show up both new and used from time to time, and the odd thing about the used ones is they tend to be in horrible condition. I'm not sure if there is a correlation to the care someone gives an inferior tool, or if they just aren't worth keeping under cover, but so many of them are covered in rust from being stored outdoors.

Anyway, there are slight differences between the Mark V and the clones, because of the reverse engineering process, several parts are slightly smaller than the original. The SPT (Single Purpose Tools) can be driven with a Mark V, but the interior parts of the headstock are just a bit too odd to be used in a genuine Mark V. Be aware that the clone jointer are not 4" like a Shopsmith jointer, but rather are 6" wide. That may sound like a great deal, but remember that you are going to be lifting that anchor on and off your Mark V, and seeing that they didn't make them any longer, there isn't much of an advantage to the extra width. Also, some of the clone bandsaws do not have the patented auto-tracking feature. The easiest way to tell is if it has a knob on the back of the unit for tilting the upper wheel, it's not made like a Shopsmith bandsaw.

Oh, I almost forgot! Most of the cast metal parts on the clones are made from sand-cast iron, not precision die cast aluminum like the modern Shopsmith Mark V. This means everything form the headstock to the tables are HEAVY! Again, on the surface this sounds like an improvement, but actually it's not. Every part is prone to rusting and the extra weight just gets in the way when you try to manipulate the tool from one function to another.

The Super Shop is an entirly different story, and that's going to have to wait for now.


Click here for Shopsmith-like Clone machines from Totalshop.

Click here for Fox and Smithy SuperShop tools for sale

Click here for Shopsmith-like clones from Woodmaster, FUSO, and Harbor Freight (Very light activity)

Click this link to view (and purchase) the Patent Art Print for the SuperShop. Search the term "Supershop".

2 comments:

  1. thanks for the great history lesson! I am a newbie WW and am looking at a used shop smith supershop for around $1000. I'm doing as much research as possible. problem is too many good and bad reviews... arrrrg. Since I'm only have power hand tools and an classic old joiner that I've never used (duh!) I'm looking for advice on this unit being sold in my town. I'd be mostly into making rustic furniture; so some T&G, and dove tail (so I'm told - shows how new I am to this) and loads of T&G panel, counter tops, rustic doors, doing a lot of biscuit joining. I also was given over 100 baseball bat rounds (high quality wood) that all I can think of doing is using on the lathe to make balusters. for long term... Really, I don't know what I'll be doing as I get more into this hobby for now, maybe a full-time job for retirement. I realize as I go I may acquire more stand alone tools/equipment, but for now in my limited space, I'm looking at this unit. any insights appreciated.

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    Replies
    1. Shopsmith tools and clones like this one can be very handy when doing things such as building rustic furniture. I have a friend New Hampshire who uses his to produce rustic furniture. For this tool I don’t believe that price is reasonable. I suggest offering $500 and if that’s not acceptable move on and try to find a Shopsmith.

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