The New Mark VII from Shopsmith

In case you don’t recognize the tool (or should I say tools) in the photo, it’s a Shopsmith, one of the original combination woodworking machines. Many of you may have thought the company was long gone, but that is not true. Shopsmith is working in its 58th year in business. In fact, the company has just delivered an updated machine – the Shopsmith Mark VII – with a new power source, the PowerPro headstock.

If you’re not familiar with Shopsmith and the new Mark VII, here are the tools combined into one machine. You get a 10” Table Saw, a Lathe with 34” between centers, a 12” Disc Sander, a 16½” Drill Press, a router setup as well as a shaper setup that allow for both under the table and above the table operations, and a horizontal boring arrangement. And it all fits into a 12-square foot area in the shop.

The PowerPro power source is a huge addition to the Shopsmith line. To begin, the new digital variable reluctance (DVR) motor provides 1¾ horsepower when wired to a 120-volt circuit and 2 horsepower if you’re wired with 240 volts. In addition, the rpm of the new motor goes from a slow 250 rpm to a top-end speed of 10,000 rpm. With the digital control panel of the headstock, you get those speeds in both forward and reverse settings. Because the motor is digital, it stores a warehouse of ideal speed settings. If you don’t know what setting you need for a given operation, you simply choose the operation from the extensive list and the machine display supplies you with the correct setting.

I’ve heard about these machines for many years. It’s the tool my Dad used as he began woodworking in the 1950s. We occasionally scouted the papers looking for a Mark V (the original Shopsmith machine) just to have the horizontal boring setup. I’m looking forward to working with the new Mark VII, I just need to find the right project. I’ll keep you posted.

The talk I hear is that Shopsmith is more for an entry-level woodworker, but I look at it as a possible second set of machines for the shop. Who hasn’t wished for a second table saw at sometime during a project? Or another drill press when the first has just been jigged for a job? I know many places where a horizontal boring ability would benefit my woodworking.

How about it? Do you see the Shopsmith Mark VII as a beginner tool, or as a fully-stocked shop addition? If you have a Shopsmith or have worked on one in the past, leave a comment to let us know how you use your machine.

—Glen D. Huey

30 thoughts on “The New Mark VII from Shopsmith

  1. lynnsgarage

    My SS is great for boring blanks for pen turning, my Powermatic PM2000 is best for ripping a sheet of plywood. Both are high quality machines. Powermatic is rugged, SS is versatile. It’s like my wife and my kids, I love both for different reasons.

  2. mhanes4901

    I’ve had my SS Mark V for about 20 years, it has a prototype 2 bearing spindle, according to the friend I got it from (who used to work for ShopSmith), he got rid of it after his garage burned down and the insurance company told him to throw it in the dumpster and buy a new one. I pulled my car up with a sign on the back that said “dumpster” and placed all the parts into it, including a jointer and bandsaw. I spent about a month cleaning, getting the rust off, and replacing the belts, tires, and power cords. Since then I used it to build several book cases and a swivel mirror (which my daughter still uses daily 15 years later). I have since acquired a cabinet saw and a Jointech Sawtrain/Router Table that mounts on the SS. I still use the SS as a jointer, disc sander, lathe, horiz. boring mach. and anything I need to mount on a horizontal spindle. I found that it worked very well as starting machine and is always useful for a number things.

  3. Dan

    The Shopsmith is a sold and serious woodworking tool! I purchased my first shopsmith MARK V 510 in 1989. I had a small shop, very few tools, and needed good tools. At the time ShopSmith offered new owners a 2 day course for free. It was also the time period when they were trying there hand at retail stores. I tool the 2 day training which was great! Very professional training and gave me a firm foundation in safety in woodworking as well as set-up and use of the Shopsmith. Also they taught the value of planning out your project.

    The accuracy that can be obtained with a set-up shop smith is as good as a stand alone piece of equipment. The recent updates have been excellent as well. My 510 is now a 520 with the new DVR motor. What a nice addition. I have not yet made the jump to the VII.

    I have since picked up 2 more ShopSmiths ( a 520 50th anniversary addition and a 510). One is set up as a Table saw with a extension table behind that tracks the table height adjustment. The 510 has been made into a “mini”. It has the planner on one side and a sand disk at the other. This machine required restoration. The past owner kept it in a damp environment. The third is set-up currently as a Drill press/Overhead router.

    The 2 later additions to were purchased used. It is unfortunate for owners that these machines are not considered serious woodworking tools by a large number of woodworkers. This misfortune is also opportunity for those who know the secrets of the versatility and accuracy that a ShopSmith can deliver.

    It does jobs that other machines can’t. There are pros and cons with every tool we select in the shop. ShopSmith also makes some fantastic bandsaws, planners, belt sanders, joiners, and scrowsaws. I’ve used them all.

    Would I buy a cabinet saw when I get a bigger shop? Yes.For what it does well. Would the ShopSmith find a place in the shop? Yes. I plan on continuing to use it as a table saw.

    ShopSmith use to have some of the best woodworking course as well. The support service personal is great as well! ShopSmith continues to support the Mark V machines and all of them can be updated to 520s. I don’t know if a Mark V can be updated to a Mark VII, but it seems like it should be possible. I can still purchase parts for my 89 if they wear out.

    these are machines that you can pass on to your Grandkids.

  4. grabbydave

    I’ve had a Shopsmith for over 25 years now. I run it very hard at times mostly for ripping oak and other hardwoods for the projuects I make that I sell at craft and art fairs. The table top is small but large enough to meet the majority of my needs. When ripping in combination with the joiner, I find that I can rip and join a huge number of parts very quickly moving from one operation to the other instead of having two seperate machines running. The horizontal boring has also been a plus. My shop is small, but I’m not sure that I would trade it in for seperate machines even if I had the space. I’ve had to have some of the parts replaced twice, but that is understandable given the amount of time that I use it.

  5. AndyGump

    My dad wanted a ShopSmith in the late 50’s before they ceased production at that time. When ShopSmith reorganized & stater production again in the late 70’s I purchased a Mark V in 1979 in his memory.
    I really did not need most of the machine as I already had most of it but there were some features I wanted.
    The part about taking up only 6 or 12 feet is kind of misleading because that is the space when stored. To work w/it, you need as much space as a tool of the same operation.
    I never liked the tilting table & it is too high & too small but even after I purchased a 5/8 blade adapter I very seldom used the saw then & never now. There is too may levers & knobs to tighten or adjust.
    I did upgrade the quill to the 2 bearing & the sander disc to hook & loop but have never used it.
    The lath is too low, a real back killer & the tool rest is kind of awkward to adjust & use. I made an adapter to use a 1″ threaded 3 & 4 jaw chucks for special projects that I cannot not do on my other lath. As a drill press it is kind of awkward to adjust, best to do it horizontal them raise it. Works great running rail & style cutter router bits w/a modified Craftsman RAS guard.
    I set the sander & band saw up on homemade angle iron stands w/variable motor sheave set ups as my existing ones were on their last days then. However, I had to do a lot of modifications to them to make them work to my satisfaction. ShopSmith did the right thing when they discontinued the original jig saw they were selling in 1979.
    I have a 6″ & an 8″ joiner but I will give the ShopSmith 4″ high marks. I still use it set up on the power head.
    In fact, this function and small metal turnings, polishing wheels, etc. in the chuck is about all it gets used for now.

    I suppose for someone just starting out as a woodworker or wants something better that the under $100 bench top tools this would be a good place to start.

  6. woodlawyer

    I have used a Shopsmith 10ER (1951 model) for more than 25 years, and have used it in all modes of operation. It fits nicely in my small shop, and does everything I need it to do. Used mostly as a table saw and lathe. Have even mounted a router table to it. Some operations need a little more planning, particularly the table saw (for instance, the table tilts, not the blade, for angled cuts), but since I am not working against the clock, the extra time invested is no problem at all.
    It is accurate, easy to maintain, and rock-solid. It may be old, but for me, it can’t be beat.

  7. jimt2099

    I bought the mark V in the early eighties and loved it. I was just putting together a wood working shop in my garage and needed something that took little space. The shopsmith fit the bill wonderfully. The mark V was a surprisingly precision machine in all of the seven functions and milled wood to perfection. I was very impressed and happy with the machine and used it extensively, but there was one definate drawback to the machine and that was the time it took to do the continuous change-overs from one function to another. It was only a few minutes each but it was still a hassle. Also the table saw table was limited in size, even with the extensions, and the fence was of the type that you always had to measure the front to the blade and the rear to the blade each time you adjusted it. It was obvious that dedicated machines of high quality were the way to go. So, I now have all dedicated machines and a 3HP cabinet saw with a tee-bar style fence (set it and lock it-always right on).
    I agree with your assessment in your article. The Shopsmith Mark V would be a great secondary/duplicate machine. It does some amazeing work and I have often wished I had it in my basement woodshop again especially for the horizontal boring mill function. I highly recomment this company as their equipment is top notch in every respect. So, if you are limited in space and want great quality Shopsmith is the way to go.

  8. Ed Furlong

    A year ago I went to a garage sale to look at the lathe that was advertised and came home with a Shopsmith 10ER, and I couldn’t be happier. The only function I don’t use is the table saw, since I already have a dedicated saw with extended fence. My shopsmith is around 58 years old and ran from the moment I started it up, although it is important to note that it had been well cared for by the prior owner.

    If you are interested in a shopsmith as an alternative or adjunct stationary power tool(s) in your shop, there is a very active online community for anyone interested in used Shopsmiths. Many folks there think that the build quality and ruggedness of the different Shopsmith models has varied over the years, and many swear by the quality and dependability of the original 10ERs, even though they are more limited machines, in terms of numbers of attachments, etc., when compared to today’s models. There may be something to the durability point; the 10ERs were built her in the US through the 50’s and many run, as well as when they came off the factory floor. That appears to be the case for my shopsmith.

    There’s also a lot of info online on how to upgrade the older machines to infinitely variable dc motors (digital speed output optional), pdfs of manuals, and a lot of advice on how to enhance performance. The Shopsmith 10ER users Google Groups (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Shopsmith10ERusers) is a good place to start if you are interested.

    One other point: there is a fairly good selection of used parts available on eBay for these vintage machines, and a number of currently manufactured Shopsmith parts, particularly lathe components and other parts not related to the drive train, will work with older systems without adaptation.

    Overall they can be a great investment if you are knowledgeable about the strengths and limitations of the Shopsmith design, and especially if you are inclined to part with elbow grease a little more easily with greenbacks!

  9. Nick

    My Dad has a Mark V shopsmith with all the bells and whistles and since he bought it about 15 years ago he has basically replaced it with stand alone equipment. He won’t sell it because it’s a “heck of a horizontal boring machine”, not a good enough reason for me to keep 12 square feet of shop space tied up and because the resale value is typically pretty low. If I ever need to horizontally bore something I’ll just make a drill guide jig that clamps onto the end of the piece.

    I seem to recall the tablesaw top being rather high compared with typical saws and there being a whole lot of aluminum involved in the construction. If I were looking to save space with machinery, I would look at the Euro combination machines; Minimax, Hammer, Laguna, etc.

    Maybe I would be satisfied with a Shopsmith if I had never used a standalone equipment shop but since I have there is really no going back for me.

    P.S. His Shopsmith did not have a Morse taper headstock, it has the 5/8″ arbor that you clamp everything too. Parts interchangability with other lathes is difficult if you already have a lathe or ever upgrade from a Shopsmith to a standalone.

    1. AndyGump

      Nick, I agree w/you about the re-sale value. I purchased Mark V in 1979 w/the joiner, band saw, sander & jig saw. I had all of the same including a lath & 10″ disc sander but most were getting old.

      After I decided I did not want the thing, I tired off & one from about 1981 on to sell it, either as a base unit or w/the accessories. I got very few offers & then the best would not have covered the original freight cost.

      I decided to make do w/it & make attachments. I can do metal lath work & a friend of mine let me use his lath & milling machine. I made an adapter, to fit the head stock to accept any thing w/a 1 x 13 thread, i.e 3 & 4 jaw chuck & one to reduce the head stock to a 1/2 threaded chuck or other 1/2″ threaded stuff. I made several taper tail stocks to accept the 5/8″ slip on chuck, one w/1/2 x 20 thread for std chucks & one w/a BB tail. A 2″ X 24″ cylinder that could be wrapped w/fabric backed abrasive & mounted about the table between the head & tail stock. Gives about a 1″ down to 1/2″ sanding cap.

      One good feature is making raised panel doors w/rail & style bits. Since these bits are large, the top speed (about 5200 rpm) of the SS is about right over the 10,000 plus RPM of a single speed router.
      If you would like to try it, I will tell you how I did it.

  10. BillT

    The original Shopsmith was not the Mark V – it was the Model 10E, which shortly became the Model 10ER.

    My first woodworking machine (aside from a couple power tools) was a 1947 Model 10ER. They’re good little machines for certain applications, but severely limited for others – as is the case with most machines that try to do multiple things. They typically end up doing some better than others, but none as extremely well as a good dedicated machine will.

    The Shopsmith works extremely well as a drill press or horizontal boring machine – the tilting table and fence are extremely useful in those configurations.

    It makes a decent lathe, but is limited in power and capacity – and by the fact that it uses tubular rails instead of flat ways.

    It makes a great disc sander.

    As a table saw is where it’s most severely limited. The table is too small and too high. You’re not going to be ripping sheets of plywood on it.

    If you build a lot of birdhouses and other small craft projects and have limited space, it’s a decent machine.

    I finally sold mine, because I filled (actually over-filled) my shop with various dedicated machines and the Shopsmith ended up gathering dust in the corner.

  11. Don

    I bought my first serious woodworking machine about 27 or 28 years ago, a full boat, all the bells and whistles ShopSmith.
    Since then I’ve bought a shop-full of machines, including a bandsaw, cabinet saw, ornamental mill, planer, mitersaw, scrollsaw and a small CNC carving machine.
    Nevertheless, my ancient ShopSmith is still in my shop and still used almost every day I work.
    I had heard all the grumbling about how difficult and time consuming it is to change from one function to the other, let’s say, from lathe to vertical drill press mode. I soon realized that it MUST have been coming from people who either didn’t HAVE a ShopSmith or from those who didn’t apply themselves to learning how to use it.
    Since I now have all those other tools, the ShopSmith is most often used as a sanding center, offering me the large sanding disc, 6 x 48 belt sandeer and a drum sander. Very often, though, I use it as a horizontal boring machine and sometimes as a lathe.
    The machine has been a strong contender amongst my other tools and the motor is original.
    I would feel deprived, indeed, if I had to do without it.
    Don “Dances With Wood” Butler

  12. Dave6557

    I got my Shopsmith Model 500 in 1982. It’s since been upgraded to a Model 510 and then a Model 520. My machine was entry level for me, because that was my skill level at the time. I think one of the most valuable lessons the Shopsmith taught me was how to check, align and adjust the machine. Being a multi-purpose tool, I’ve found that there are often alignment tweaks needed when switching between setups to keep things square and level. I’ve carried that habit over into my “traditional” power tool setups. I bought a second Shopsmith at a yard sale in 2000 to leave set up as a lathe. The Shopsmith is a serious tool and a solid performer. I intend to pass my first machine on to my son when he’s ready.

  13. Window Guy

    I have owned a Mark 5 since 1982 and love its versatility. I primarily use it for a Drill Press, Lathe, Horizontal Boring machine, and find the 12″ Disc very handy. It is a very good solid machine and would never get rid of it. I am mostly a Hand Tool user now but this machine definitely has a place in my shop.

    Steve

  14. Cincinnati

    I purchased my Shopsmith when they had a store in Cincinnati back in 1989. The thing is built like a tank. I have only replaced the power switch. The reason you see so many for sale on the used market is because the quality build of the tool. A lot are as old as 1950′-70’s. Parts are still available from Shopsmith. When they make an upgrade to the tool they go out of their way to make sure that owners can upgrade their units. How many manufactures do that?
    It is great for the woodworker with limited space. Over the years I have added a cabinet saw to my shop but like using the Shopsmith for a Dado set up. I still use all other functions today as well as the bandsaw, belt sander, strip sander, Jointer, Jigsaw , biscuit jointer etc…. and the best part of the Shopmith, How many woodworkers can say they have variable speed with the above tools? The jointer with variable speed is a dream to use.

  15. Ron

    I purchased my Shopsmith model 510 in 1993 and since have upgraded it to a 520. I have the majority of SPT’s (special purpose tools) bandsaw, belt sander, joiner, speed reducer and the universal tool rest system and must say that it has brought me years of enjoyment and still runs as well as it did the day I bought it. The Shopsmith Customer service is second to none.
    I would love to get the latest upgrade and highly recommend this American Made Tool to anyone especially for a small shop without room for many stand alone tools. The setups to change from one tool to another are very fast and easy. I would never part with my machine.

  16. 8iowa

    I purchased my Shopsmith in 1983. Back then it was a model 500. It has been upgraded, first to 510, then to 520, and now the ultimate upgrade, the Power Pro.

    The Power Pro takes motor technology beyond that of traditional AC motors, DC motors, or variable frequency controllers. Computer technology now makes it possible to switch magnets on and off hundreds of times per second with a feedback that senses torque. Thus this digital variable reluctance motor (DVR) can provide an incredible speed range of forty to one, and provide full torque throughout.

    My Shopsmith, with the Power Pro can now do tough ripping jobs in saw mode, equal to most cabinet saws, with the advantage of the selection of the proper speed to avoid burning sensitive woods such as maple and cherry. At 10,000 rpm I can turn large diameter router bits and shaper cutters with plenty of power, more than the largest router. Going all the way down to 250 rpm, I can drill with large diameter forstner bits and not have to worry about burning them up. I especially like the reversing feature for sanding while in lathe mode. The sanding dust is now directed into the dust collector scoop, instead of in the opposite direction, into my face!

    Shopsmith has ingeniously made it possible, with a DIY package, to upgrade machines going back into the 50’s with this new DVR power plant. Thus you can purchase a used machine, or take your old “hand me down” Shopsmith and upgrade it to this incredible new level of performance. There is no better woodworking tool, or collection of tools, that can even come close to this performance in a small garage or basement shop.

  17. jmoorse

    I used my Dad’s late-40s model a bit when I was a boy. The lathe was good and the horizontal boring was very nice, but the tilting saw table was a little scary to me.

  18. fredblotnic

    The first Shopsmith’s sold by Magna engineering were actually the 10E and 10ER before the mark editions. 1947 I believe were the first 10E models then into 1948 10ER’s sold until 1953 or so then the mark versions came out. the magna engineering company went under in the mid to late 1960s. 1970s shopsmith company was formed with the magna molds and tooling.

    I have a 1949 10ER shopsmith in my shop. Its a fun machine and one of the draws for me was the horizontal boring as well as the lathe. You either hate or love shopsmiths. I personally love mine and won’t part with it.

    here is mine;
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/carlosponti/tags/shopsmith/

    Joe Watson

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