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 1989 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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19 comments:

  1. HELLO MY FATHER BROUGHT IT TO ARGENTINA in 1952 a Shopmith ER10 AND I´M MISSING SOME PARTS OF THE ACCESORIES. THERE IS A POSSIBILITY TO HAVE THEM TO COMPLETE IT. THANK YOU

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    1. The 10er hasn’t been in production since 1955 so any parts are going to have to be acquired used. The good news is that they are virtually indestructible. Do you have access to eBay there?

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    2. Not sure if this is the way to do it but I am trying to contact whoever runs this blog. My name is Jim Elliott and I have a 1955 Mark V with accessories that I want to pass on. I am not selling it, its free to somebody that can use it. I live in northern NJ. I can be reached (text or call) at 973-610-6363 or at jelliott69@embarqmail.com

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  2. Hey Jim, that’s very generous. Let me know once it’s gone and I’ll remove this post. Good luck! Scott

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  3. I am looking for shopsmith users in the DFW area. I have a Mark V with most add-ons that were available at the time. I need to find a user that knows SS and willenjoy using all of it.

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    1. I live in the west texas area and am in dfw often for family. Would love to talk to you about your ss.

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  4. I INHEIRITED A MARK V THAT WAS OLD ENOUGH TO HAVE 9" SAW BLADES IN 1962 AGE 8. I JUST PICKED UP A 50TH ANIVERSARY MODEL 520 AND GAVE MY SON A PARTIALLY UPDATED MARK V. (HEADSTOCK). GREAT TO SEE SOMEONE IS TRYING TO PROVIDE THE TRAINING. I HAD NEVER SEEN THE MANUAL OR POWER TOOL BOOKS UNTIL LAST MONTH WHEN I PURCHASED THIS 520. AM REALLY EXCITED TO LEARN WHAT I HAD TO ASSUME ALL THESE YEARS. THANKS JIM Z.

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  5. Hey Scott,
    Just ran into this and it brought back many memories from my Shopsmith years. Now that I'm retired I can honestly say that those were my happiest years ever when it comes to working at a "job". Working with you and the Boston crew was a great experience. As a instructor I had the pleasure of meeting some of the nicest, most genuine people I have ever met. Absolutely loved that time of my life. Wish that it would have lasted longer is all. Hope all is well with you and yours. Take care,
    Bill Carroll.

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    1. Hey Bill! Yeah, I agree with you that those were great days and over way too fast.

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  6. I bought a model 510 from a cabinetmaker. It’s a 1983 model and the head stock will stick on the way tubes. How do I clean off the old wax from the sleeves and tubes? Also, there are several indentions from over tightening the lock. Could I reverse the tubes to help with any sticking?
    Thanks

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    1. Hey Phil, Scott here. It's a shame that the tubes are dented because there's never a need to tighten the locks that tight. It's a good idea to get this right now so you'll never have to think about it later. I suggest removing the headstock and cleaning out the way- tube openings with some solvent, such as paint thinner, on a rag. While the headstock is off you can loosen the setscrews that hold the way tubes to the base and remove them and rotate them so that the dents are on the bottom. The one problem with this is that the tubes may have a slight bow in them, and I prefer to position that bow to the top of the tubes. I would remove the tubes and roll them on a flat surface to determine the high spot, and hopefully you'll be able to position that to the top. If the high side is already on top you can swap the tubes, so that the dents face inward. From there just be careful not to slide the headstock over wet wax and you should be good to go. Scott

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  7. Scott, thanks for a quick reply. I’ll try the idea to switch the tubes around and using solvent to clean off old wax then rewax. This is a great machine.
    Also, I too smoke the Missouri Meerschaum pipes, living in S.W. Missouri.

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  8. Thanks Scott for the info. I cleaned the tubes well and the headstock sleeves then waxed it again and it slides much better. Still not perfect like new , but better.
    Also, I enjoy my Missouri Meerschaum pipes too. Living in S.W. Missouri, I had to start a collection. My oldest came from an old farmer friend. It's maybe from the 50's. My last one is from the early 70's, according to their historian.

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  9. I bought a 1980 MK V and enjoyed the various features.I always disliked the small table last yr I bought a second 510 a much improved version compared to the Old one������.Think I caught the boarding craze,bought another for parts ( bad motor and have begun a treadmill motor adaption, now I'm really hooked. Thinking the extra 1 1/8 up will be Greater along with decrease and increase of speeds. Hoping to get the motor swap completed soon.

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  10. hello there, I've had a mark V for well over 20 years. the part that is used to attach the band saw and the jointer got stock and I have not been able to remove or replace it. about 4 or 5 years ago there was a shopsmith demo at one of the lows store and I went to see the person running the demo and asked for help but unfortunately between his unfriendliness and his arrogance he ended up telling there was nothing he could and suggested I buy the new headstock. moral of the story, my shopsmith has been on the wall for that long a time, I do using for some jobs but nothing major, would like to fix it so I can use the planer and the band saw... is there anything you guys can do, suggest, help point ro something.

    Thanks, LC

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    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    2. Just to be clear, are we talking about the white plastic coupling? Scott

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  11. Thanks for all the info you provide. I own a 10E, I bought some years ago. Also I have a Mark V 510R and a band saw all of them Shopsmith. Two weeks ago I bought a Magna America Saw Smith and the seller called saying his brother had one identical except his brothers machine was on a stand and his had a cabinet. As it turned out his brother had a Yuba Saw Smith and it was free. Free is always the right price but the only issue is I live in South Central Tennessee near the Alabama state line and the Shop Smith radial arm saws were in South Dakota just over one thousand miles from me. I picked them up last week and while made by Shop Smith I know they are a bit off target for this group. Do you have any idea where I can find parts for a restoration on both of these? Thank you so much.

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    1. Wow, that’s amazing! Parts are going to be tough, but not impossible. Keep an eye out on eBay as they do come use for sale as people part them out and even sell new old stock. Congratulations, Scott

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