Wow! This isn't grandpa's old Shopsmith

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Blog entry by 8iowa posted 12-14-2010 06:29 PM 15062 reads 3 times favorited 27 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Actually, it is. I’m the grandpa, and I’ve owned this Shopsmith since ‘83. Through the years, this original 500 model has been upgraded, first to 510, then to 520, and now to the ultimate upgrade, the Power Pro.

What is the Power Pro? Simply put, this is a headstock powered with a DVR, digital variable reluctance motor, whose performance goes beyond that of DC and AC variable frequency motors. The heart of the motor is a computer controller that can switch magnets on and off several hundred times per second. The Power Pro can be run on either 120 or 240 volt without changing any internal connections. It simply can sense what voltage is coming in.

While the old Shopsmith headstock achieved a useful 7 to 1 speed variation, using variable pitch pulleys, the DVR powered Power Pro has a 40 to 1 speed range, 250 to 10,000 rpm, providing full torque throughout. One can precisely “dial in” any speed. The computer/controller also has a mode that can assist in selecting the proper speed for a particular operation. The computer senses the load, and automatically provides the necessary torque. The smooth and quiet operation is impressive. Placing a cup of coffee on the table reveals nary a ripple, even at 10,000 rpm.

Rated at 2 HP on 240 volt, users will find that the Power Pro’s ability to sense torque makes it possible to do table saw ripping equal to many cabinet saws. Additionally, the variable speed feature has made it possible for me to rip and crosscut curly maple and cherry without getting burn marks. At 250 rpm in lathe mode, I can turn heavy stock, up to 16” diameter. Likewise, as a drill press, the Power Pro provides the necessary power to drill with large diameter forstner bits with ease. At 10,000 rpm, it can spin larger diameter shaper and router bits with more power than available with traditional routers. While multi-purpose tools are not for everyone, this upgrade gives those who must work in very small shops, like my 192 sq. ft., the increased power and capability of many larger stand alone machines.

Shopsmith has engineered this new DVR motor and controller to fit into the existing headstock. Thus, even Shopsmiths made back in the late 50’s can be upgraded. Among several options, I selected the DIY upgrade package. Doing it yourself involves removing everything in the headstock except the quill feed assembly. The only other original part used is the headstock lock which is removed and installed later in the proceedure. An instruction manual, DVD, templates, and drill guides, made this upgrade a straight forward operation that took about four hours. Other options include purchasing a new headstock, or sending your old headstock back to the factory for the DVR motor installation.

Even though the ability to upgrade older machines softens the blow, the price for cutting edge technology like this will deter some. None-the-less, it’s great to see a small American manufacturer having the guts to engineer, and introduce an advanced product like this.

-- "Heaven is North of the Bridge"

27 comments so far

View Karson's profile


35300 posts in 5853 days

#1 posted 12-14-2010 06:57 PM

Looks like a great conversion. Nice job on the install and review.

-- I've been blessed with a father who liked to tinker in wood, and a wife who lets me tinker in wood. Appomattox Virginia [email protected]

View SST's profile


790 posts in 5648 days

#2 posted 12-14-2010 07:03 PM

How could I not comment, right? That machine, especially in the 520 configuration is awesome! I know the separate tool guys will always find reasons to “dis” the Smith, (most of them not having owned one) but here’s some things no one can dispute:
1) Shopsmith has more (and older) operating machines in homes today than anyone else. (A half century or more of sales is hard to argue with)
2) Their service and parts supply are top notch
3) Their manuals allow you to literally dis-assemble. rebuild/repair if necessary, and re-assemble your machine
4) With minimal service & lube, they will last forever (mine are 59, 58, 54, and 24…my “new” one…years old)
5) Contrary to what non-Smither’s believe, the change over time between tools is minimal, less than a minute for most…and don’t tell me that separate tools don’t need some set up now & then, by the way

I could go on, because I’m badly biased towards them, but I won’t bore everyone. I hope this upgrade is a success for them. I’m a happy guy with what I have (at least for now), so I’ll watch from the wings.

Enjoy your new toy. By the way, it will be interesting to see if any of the woodworking mags write it up. They certainly aren’t opposed to splashing the Chinese and Taiwanese imports all over their pages. -SST

-- Accuracy is not in your power tool, it's in you

View Cozmo35's profile


2200 posts in 4489 days

#3 posted 12-14-2010 07:07 PM

I am drooling!

-- If you don't work, you don't eat!.....Garland, TX

View Bob Kollman's profile

Bob Kollman

1798 posts in 4644 days

#4 posted 12-14-2010 07:33 PM

I knew shopsmithtom would be here!!! Great looking Machine. 10,000 rpm is
great for those milling applications.

-- Bob Kenosha Wi.

View Crushgroovin's profile


234 posts in 4377 days

#5 posted 12-14-2010 09:33 PM

oooooooooo JEALOUS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Sounds like it kicks but over the crummy induction motor on my Shopsmith. Like the part about the torque especially. I stall my Shopsmith all the time. Just last week turning a pen I cought an edge and stopped it from turning. I have to saw so slowly to keep it from stopping mid cut.

I am in your wagon too as far as a small shop. I have a full 2 car garage but I have so many other tools in there that I couldn’t find room for a stand alone Lathe, TS, & Drill Press.

Congrats on the big buy!

-- I wouldn't be so arrogant if you weren't such a moron!

View SST's profile


790 posts in 5648 days

#6 posted 12-14-2010 09:55 PM

Crushgroovin – There’s got to be something wrong for you to be stalling out your Smith. I can rip 1 1/2” oak with my older one with the 3/4hp motor. If you’re interested in doing some troubleshooting, send my a PM & I’ll go through some stuff with you. It should run way better than that for you. -SST

-- Accuracy is not in your power tool, it's in you

View NormG's profile


6576 posts in 4457 days

#7 posted 12-14-2010 10:48 PM

These are just awesome machines. I do not have one, but they are awesome just the same

-- Norman - I never never make a mistake, I just change the design.

View dusty2's profile


323 posts in 4882 days

#8 posted 12-15-2010 12:10 AM

Please, please do something to fix your Shopsmith, Crushgroovin. There is no way that you should be having the performance issues that you describe here. I would suggest a good cleaning and lubrication, maybe a new drive belt and make sure you have it plugged into an outlet that is not shared with a lot of other equipment. A sharp, clean saw blade is needed as well.

On some thick hardwoods (2”+) I have to slow the feed rate but it is rare that I stall my machine.

-- Making Sawdust Safely

View dusty2's profile


323 posts in 4882 days

#9 posted 12-15-2010 12:13 AM

8iowa, I think you need to reset the calendar on your camera OR “Is it 5:00 09/21/2025 somewhere”.

-- Making Sawdust Safely

View Napaman's profile


5535 posts in 5530 days

#10 posted 12-15-2010 03:28 AM

First of all—-GREAT REVIEW! As a proud owner of a 520 I would really love to do this…I keep getting the e-mails and fliers from SS and I drool…the cost of the upgrades is, as you mentioned, a deterent for me right now…

Thanks for the good info…I hope you update as as time goes on since I am sure that you will discover new things as time goes by, good and bad…

-- Matt--Proud LJ since 2007

View RonPeters's profile


713 posts in 4333 days

#11 posted 12-15-2010 03:55 AM

Maybe this is a good spot to ask what is so good about a Shopsmith? Or, if not here, maybe someone could start a Shopsmith blog?

-- “Once more unto the breach, dear friends...” Henry V - Act III, Scene I

View SST's profile


790 posts in 5648 days

#12 posted 12-15-2010 04:15 AM

I’ve been thinking I should do that for a while, now. Maybe it’s time. In doing so, it would be my hope since there always seem to be a debate on the combo tool vs separate ones, that it wouldn’t become a forum for arguing about that, but rather a way to provide info to the uninformed & support & tips to owners or potential owners. I’ve been bouncing around a bunch of ideas for a while now. Perhaps I’ll get them organized. -SST

-- Accuracy is not in your power tool, it's in you

View NBeener's profile


4816 posts in 4627 days

#13 posted 12-15-2010 04:25 AM

I can’t say I know much about these machines, but you surely make it sound like a tremendous tool !

Enjoy :-)

-- -- Neil

View Napaman's profile


5535 posts in 5530 days

#14 posted 12-15-2010 08:46 AM

oh no peter!!! shopsmithtom does not need any more encouragement!!! LOL…

Just kidding SST…I am on your side!!!

Peter—-when I was first found out about the machine I started a forum to ask questions about it—-hard to believe this was nearly 4 yrs ago!!! Anyways…the information and links that people shared (pro and con) were very helpful…

I have been a proud owner four 3.5 yrs now…here is the link to that OLD forum:


-- Matt--Proud LJ since 2007

View dusty2's profile


323 posts in 4882 days

#15 posted 12-15-2010 02:07 PM

I too am a satisfied user of a Mark V 510 that has been upgraded to a 520 and will one day be further upgraded to a PowerPro. This machine is ideal for me because it allows me a full function wood shop in the limited space of my two car garage.

Now I have to admit that I do a lot of work in the drive way but that is part of the beauty of the Shopsmith. It is easily portable. Not only can I run it out to get more room but I often move it to where the work is.

The only real complaint that I have had is that the table is only 22” deep (infeed to outfeed). That problem was quickly resolved by building an out feed extension that attaches to and travels with the main table (height and tilt).

My Shopsmith is appreciated by every one in the family, especially the grand kids. All of my Christmas gifts this year where built using the Mark V. Very little of what I do is for me. I have a long list of fixtures and jigs that I want but just don’t have the time. I don’t know how those of you with jobs find any time at all for yourselves.

-- Making Sawdust Safely

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