ShopSmith Upgrade Part 2 – The PowerPro Headstock Upgrade – Reviewboard Magazine

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ShopSmith Upgrade Part 2 – The PowerPro Headstock Upgrade

ShopSmith Upgrade Part 2 – The PowerPro Headstock Upgrade

ShopSmith Upgrade Part 2 – The PowerPro Headstock Upgrade

Last we wrote about our ShopSmith we completed the upgrade of the ShopSmith table system from the Model 500 to the latest model 520. That upgrade dramatically increased stability of the table system, the working space and the configuration profiles available to the Mark V owners. Now we are upgrading the heart of the Mark V, the headstock.

The PowerPro headstock upgrade has to be the most powerful change to come to the Mark V in years. The increase in power and speed which the new upgrades brings to the Mark V owner is amazing.

Why upgrade to the PowerPro headstock? Lower electrical power requirements. More power delivered by the motor. Broader speed range. In fact this thing goes so fast it’s scary! Ability to run in reverse. No need for a speed increaser or reducer. Digital controls insures accuracy and more control of the speed range. The motor runs much more quiet. The entire bearing landscape is replaced with this upgrade insure stability and longevity. A new improved quill.

The upgrade process looks more daunting than it actually is. We completed the entire upgrade tasks in about 4 hours taking our time at every step. The upgrade directions and video are very clear and concise. But when we were done with this upgrade I thought I had a brand new machine. For your reference we have included a large group of photos of our upgrade at the bottom of this article.

Now I realize this is a very long article due to detail of documenting our steps. In short this is one heck of an upgrade. Anyone who chooses this upgrade option once complete will not give the purchase a second thought. That is how dramatic the the change is, for the positive in every way.   The process is detailed but went very smooth. The direction are very clear, no matter the version of Mark V headstock you have. Below we will describe the steps we took with our PowerPro upgrade on our Model B headstock. We have included lots of pictures as we completed the steps. Take a look at the steps in the text and look at the pictures it becomes clear what is happening.

Tools needed:

Allen wrench set – long ones

Screw drives flat and Phillips

Ball peen hammer

Pin punch

A couple of pieces of wood one 2X4(6) log enough to span across the way tubes

One piece of wood like a 1×10 or 12 again long enough to bridge across the way tubes. We used 2 of these in our upgrade.

Vise grips


Wire cutters or side cutter

Variable speed drill electric or battery

Machine oil

Round file

Small flash light

Here we go:

Let me start with this first. Read the instructions and as they say “read it twice”. Also we really liked the video directions. This was a big help for us. Again read the directions and use the video along with this text and pictures, the upgrade will go very smooth.

First remove everything from the shop smith except the main table and the head stock. We are preparing  to remove the old motor and then the headstock unit itself. Plug in your ShopSmith and turn on the unit and set the speed to the fastest speed. This aligns the belt and sets up the dial for removal. Now we can use the main table tubes to do a lot of the work for us in this process. Lock the headstock and the table carriage in place so they does not slide.

Raise the table all the way up and place your 2x stock under the tubes that project down from the main table height adjustment area. Unlock the way bars as if you are going to raise the ShopSmith in drill press mode. Now lower the main table while helping raise the way tubes lock the table in the raised position. You only need to raise this high enough to allow you to place the 1×10(12) piece of lumber under the head stock. Once you have placed the board under the head stock and lower the way tubes so the motor is resting on this board you just placed on the way bars. Place this piece of wood so the power cord is out of the way, do not crush it.

Now remove any power coupler adaptors you have mounted to the power take offs on the left side of the head stock. There is a screw in the far right end of the headstock in the middle, if you are standing on the work side of your Shopsmith. Remove this screw and place somewhere safe. Now you can remove the screws from the motor pan and belt cover.

After sliding the belt cover out of the way and removing the screws to the motor pan the belt is still connected to the motor. Simply pull the belt over the shieves and this will get the belt out of the way. Now make sure the unit is UNPLUGGED. Remove the emblem from the far side of the headstock. This will allow access to the switch. Here you will find 4 wires plugged into the rear of the switch. Reach in and unplug those connection from the switch. Now you should be able to carefully raise the way tubes again using the main table height adjuster, help by lifting on the way tubes. You only need to raise this enough to clear the motor from the headstock. Lock this in place and now you should be able to carefully remove the motor and power cord from the ShopSmith frame. Place this on your work bench.

Now with the unit still raised use your 5/32 allen wrench and remove the way bar end cap or tie bar from the end way bars. If this is tight and cannot be moved use you rubber hammer and tap in the center of end cap tie bar tapping away from the headstock. This should persuade the end cap to come loose. Now with this removed you can remove the belt cover, place this upside down on your work bench place a nice fluffy work towel inside of it. Now by loosening the headstock lock slide and remove the headstock from the way bars. It will be pretty light considering the motor has been removed. Set the headstock upside down in the towel protected belt cover. One would think that this belt cover was made to support the headstock in this manner. If you place the belt cover with the slim side towards you, you will see that the quill control and head stock/quill locking handles perfectly fit in this area allowing good support for the head stock.

Let’s get the motor out of the motor pan. First turn over the pan so the motor is exposed. Disconnect the green wire, the ground wire by unscrewing it from the motor, save this screw. Cut any wire ties that are holding the wires in bunches. Now flip the unit over. You will see 4 screws securing the motor to the motor pan. Our screws were VERY tight. Make sure that you are using the proper sized Phillips screw driver, a #3. We had to use our hammer and tap a few times on the screws to loosen them up. We hit the end of our screwdriver but the video shows that you stirck the screws directly. Once these screws are removed, take your vise grips and squeeze the strain relief on the power cord. Squeeze the long dimension on this which should allow it to release from the hole. This will allow the power cord to be removed. Now the pan lifts out of the way and leaves the motor on the table. Place the motor and the cord in a box. You will not be using that one anymore.

We come to the fun part. We need to remove the old speed control. Get your small flashlight out. Now on the side of the speed dial you will see a small hole. Look in this hole and locate a small allen set screw. Use a long 3/32 allen wrench. Release this screw and the dial comes right off. Put it in the box with the other not to be replaced items, we are going digital. Now remove the 3 screws from the front of the control. There is a small clip on the inside that adheres the speed control arm to the shaft. Unclip this item and the entire unit will come out of the casing. Now the control shieve and belt will fall off and all is good.

Removing the idler shaft. There is a screw at the top of the idler shaft with a washer on it. Remove it and save it. Now using a ¼” Allen wrench remove the allen screw/bolt and nut. Save this you will need it again. You should now be able to remove the idler shaft from the housing. Put this in the box. You have a new shaft and eccentric bushing in your kit.

Next comes the drive shaft. This requires a bit of dexterity. There is a spring clip that holds this drive shaft in place. This clip is expanded in a grove milled into the housing wall. Using my smaller blade #1 flat screw driver I slide this under the spring click and ran it around the area as the spring releases from grove cut in the housing wall. This looks harder than it is. Once it starts it came right out. Save this you will need it again.

Now remove the drive shaft. If it does not come out easily, which ours did not, we used the small piece of wood and let the quill do the work for us. I used a piece of wood from a clean paint stir. On the top of your head stock you will see an 5/32” allen screw. Our had a dab of lead covering the allen srew head, Using a sharp awl or in our case a sharp tipped nail set we were able to clear this and access the allen screw, loosen this about one and half turns. Now using the quill handle and holding the quill itself as we pushed the quill out and set the retraction gauge to 4 ¼ and lock it in place. Now pull the drive shaft out a bit and you see the quill release from the white end of the shaft. Place your small piece of wood between the end of the drive shaft and the end of the quill shaft. Now push the quill back in using the handle, after releasing the quill lock, and you should be able to push the shaft out of the housing. Do not let go of the quill handle it is spring loaded and will whack you in the hand. Lock the quill in place before you pull out the drive shaft. Pull the shaft the rest of the way out. Now you can remove the belt. We then removed the quill extend it all the way and it will come straight out. DO NOT let go of the handle. When this quill is removed set the depth gauge to 4 ¼ and set the quill lock tight.

Removing the way bar locks. This has a handle that is secured with a roll pin. We had to knock this out using a small punch. Be care full not to bury the punch and get it caught in the handle. Ours came out easy enough. Take off the handle remembering this is a left hand thread so turn it right. Once the handle is removed proceed to turn the individual way bar locks till they come near center. Now the lock bar should come out by tipping it one way or another.

Ok disassembly is complete! Yes! Now is the time to clean up the housing. We clean this out with air and a rag. We also took the time to scrub/clean/wax all the tube openings in the housing, this will pay off later when sliding the headstock back and forth along the way tubes. Let’s drill a few holes and put this baby back together.

There are 4 templates that need to be cut out. One for the ¾ hole needed for your new cord. 2 smaller templates for holes needed on the side of the housing. Then another for the bottom of the housing. Take your time and stay on the lines when you are cutting these out.

We started with the 2 smaller templates, center punch, hammer and some masking tape. These are marked front and rear as it relates to the headstock housing. Using the center punch I pushed it through the template centering the punch on a mark on the template to the existing hole along the edge of the housing. This lines up the template center to that hole. Now using masking tape, tape the template in place. Removing the center punch and repositioning to next hole marked on the template. Using the punch and a hammer we marked the position for the new hold center through the template. We then checked to make sure the center punch indeed made a good landing place for our bit. To find this mark easily we used a sharpie marker to mark the spot. Do the same series of action on the other side.

Using the smaller supplied drill bit apply a small amount of machine oil to the center punch mark and drill the new hole. Now go slow, speed is not always you friend here. Going slower prevents drift and keeps the bit cool, it also makes for a cleaner through and through hole. Repeat for the other side. We are done with the smaller holes in the sides of the housing. For the holes on the bottom of the housing, this uses the larger template. Place the template around the large shaft opening in housing casting. Then using the seam in casting as the center line carefully tape the template in place. Now we applied the tape in the order that the template says to do. This will properly set the template for the new holes. Using the punch and hammer again we set our hole marks through the template and marked with our center points using our black sharpie. Remove the template and drill the new hole using the smaller bit and a small amount of oil on each mark. We clean up the case, remove the smaller bit and replace with the larger bit that was supplied with the upgrade kit.

Now we add the new holes along the lip of the case, this is where the motor mount is attached. ShopSmith included a very good steel guide for accomplishing this task. It is placed in the existing holes of the head stock along the side. This fits one way and is a perfect fit. When you do this if it is not fitting perfect for you then you have not placed it correctly on the headstock case. Remember the double pin side goes to the rear and the double pin fits in the small slot in the casing. Once this is placed properly we used 2 small c-clamps to hold the metal guide in place. We now drill the holes using the larger drill bit. We applied a small amount of oil to the bit and drilled our 3 holes. Again speed is not always better. Slow as she goes. We did this on both sides, 3 new holes each.

The six new holes need to be counter sunk. There is a counter sink drill bit included with the upgrade kit as well as the six new screws. We used the bit to create a countersink so all of our screws were flat to the surface. The bit does not use any oil and the speed is SLOW. We completed this for all six screw holes we just drilled earlier.

We wiped down the entire case to remove any metal bits and oil left over from the drilling operations. The last part is probably the most manual of the entire upgrade process. The cords gets moved to the right of the old hole if the closed end of the pan is facing you. There is a template in the kit. This hole is a bit larger than ¾ of an inch. In the directions it shows using a round file. We had a very sharp ¾ metal drill bit. We took some fiber packing tape and tapes across the pan across both side across the opening. We did not want to spread out or distort the pan. Then we applied oil to the existing pan and place it on the floor. With a foot on the pan and another person holding the pan, wear gloves, we drilled out our hole without any issues. Now again we used a slow speed so when the bit grabbed it does not throw the pan all over the place. Using the strain relief as a guide we drilled our hole so this fit nice and snug. This could have been done with a file as well as shown in the video.

We feed the new cord all the way through the housing. Once this is done we take the exposed wires and folded the green wire back on the itself and wire tie within ½ inch from the end of the main wire sheathing. We then attached the white wire to the switch using the right plug and the black on the left.

Next we will be installing the quill and the main drive shaft. First we set the quill return spring to factory setting. Carefully unwind the handle all the way till it is loose. We then wound it back up 3 full turns. Set the depth gauge to 4 ¼ and lock down tight. DO NOT let loose of the handle until you have it safely locked down. It will come back and whack you in the hand and this HURTS.

Now that the return spring is set and the handle is locked down its time to install the new quill. This is actually very easy. Slide the quill in the housing till we felt it engage. Loosen the lock down while holding the quill return handle. Ease the handle back and the quill will return to it’s normal position. Remember there is the allen screw on the top of the housing that needs to lock in the quill in place. This screw actually installs in the grove in the top of the quill. Tighten this screw up just until it engages with the quill then back off 1/8 of a turn. Make sure the quill moves freely if not back the screw out another 1/8th of a turn.

Turn the housing around install the smaller belt into the front of housing and slide the drive shaft in. This shaft installs on the splines on the end of the quill. One hint before we installed anything into the housing we cleaned and waxed all of the openings in the housing. If you have not done this the shaft may not push in easy by hand. Clean the opening with a scotch brite and some wax, if you have not done it earlier. Always wipe off any excess wax to prevent build up and friction. Now the shaft should slide in without any issues. DO NOT hit this with a hammer you will destroy the drive shaft and ruin your day. Well the fun part now is replacing that split spring lock clip in the opening securing the drive shaft. Ours went right in without any issues at all. Start the clip in the grove and work your way around keeping the previous part in the slot. Ours just snapped right in. make sure the clip is seated all the way in the slot.

The new eccentric bushing and idler shaft is next. We turn our housing upside down in our pan. Slide the shaft in the casing, install the other end of the small belt on this shaft and slide the eccentric over the shaft. This looks harder than it is but when you have the fit correct it slides right in. Turn the pan back over and align the belt so it is running center on both shafts. If yours is not centered just turn the belt while pushing left or right to get the belt correct. Once this is down replace the long ¼ allen bolt with the square nuts and tighten. Replace the eccentric lock down screw. This is the screw with the washer that you took out earlier.

The shafts are installed. Belt is centered the bolts are all reinstalled. Now we install the digital control. This fits into the side of the housing where the old mechanical speed control used to be. Be careful to install the screws in the proper holes. The posts are directly above each other and the screws we use are the smaller screws, ¾”. There are ONLY 2 screws that hold on the control If you are unsure look in the manual. Used a stubby screw drive or a long one inserted through the hole in the other side of the housing. DO NOT over tighten. These screws only need to be snugged up and indeed it is being screwed into plastic posts.

The power supply is next. Install the 4 tinnerman clips on the four ears with the screw side in or round hole outside. Now the video shows installing/connecting all the wiring with the power supply loose. We actually installed the front screws first and that allowed us to pivot up the power supply and attached the wires easily holding the power supply secure. There are three connections 2 spades and one larger plug. The whit spade goes to the switch next to the white wire and the black goes next to the black wire. Now plug the last one into the back of the control panel. We then secured the rear portion of the power supply. There is a black wire retainer clip include in your kit. This is used to secure the power cod and prevent it from being yanked out. This simply snaps over the wire and the folded back ground wire. We secure this using one of the screw that secures the rear of the power supply.

Put the wedge locks back into the housing. These get installed even with sides and then replace the lock down handle. Remember this is a left hand thread, so turn left. Screw on the handle to the treaded post and line up the hole in the bar with the hole in the handle. Replace the roll pin by driving this pin back into the handle using your pin punch. There is a spiral black insulator that needs to be installed. This gets put on the wedge lock bar after you have replace this in the housing. Just spin this around the bar till it is completely used up.

Now we are done with the housing we need to replace the headstock on the way bars. Raise the way bar using the table lift with your piece of wood under the tubes. Slide the head stock down about ¾ the way down the tubes and lock in place. We bring the ShopSmith to the drill press configuration. This is the cool part. Remove the main table completely out of the carriage. Turn around and feed the table into the rear of the carriage so that the table is all the way installed under the rear of the head stock. Place the larger piece of wood on the table. This will support the new motor while you get it install stalled in the head stock. Place the motor on the piece of wood and raise or lower the table so that the top screws on the motor line up with the new holes you machined in the housing. Once this is lined up pull the motor back and connect the wires up. Starting with the small connector connect the motor connector to the matching connector on the headstock power supply. These only connect one way. Now fold back the excess wire back on itself towards the motor. Place a wire clip/tie on this side of the connector nearest the motor. Place another wire tie on the other side of the connector. Pull these tight and clip the tie to clean it up. Next install the green ground wire to the motor housing using the old screw that secured the ground wire to the previous motor, then wire tie it, the ground wire, to the bunch of wires you just connected together. With this done you can slide the motor in and those wire will fold in the housing nicely. We now installed the upper 2 screws through the housing securing the motor these should only be snug so the motor bottom can still pivot in and out.

We then installed the drive belt on the motor and drive shaft pulley insuring all the groves are matched up. The motor is pulled out at the bottom due to the belt tension. If you cannot pulled the motor in to install the screws, there is adjustments that can be made. We had to loosen and adjust our mount a bit to get the motor installed once we had the tension released a bit we could install the remaining screws in the housing. We then re-adjusted the tension on the motor mounts. Take your time here. What you do on one side you do on the other. You want to keep the motor and mount as straight as possible insuring no additional side pressure on the bearings as well as a true running belt. This belt is tight. The higher the horsepower the tighter the belt needs to be. But this does not mean you over tighten. Your motor in now installed and adjusted!

We then checked to make sure the upper and the lower belts are aligned and the bearings are adjusted. We turned on the motor at 500 RPM. It was near silent no bearing noise. Then 900RPM and 1350RPM no bearing noise. Then we tested at 2000 RPM still good. Then 3450 (saw blade speed). We were still nice and quiet. We got lucky and our system was well adjusted as we installed. If it had not been we would have adjusted this using a screwdriver and placing it in the slot in the eccentric bearing and turn left or right till it was quiet.

Place the tinnerman clips on the housing, hole on the outside, and replace the motor pan and screws. Then the belt cover and screws. Don’t forget the screw in the middle on the side. Next we installed the cord relief for the power cord using our vise grips. Wrap the cord relief  around the cord as close to the pan as possible. Compress the relief and install in the hole you made larger earlier. Replacing the logo plate on the back side of the headstock, we had to file down the pegs on the back of this so it does not contact the power supply. Remove the table and put back in the carriage the correct way. Replace the way bar tie bar end and tighten the end and lock in the down position.

Get out your rubbing alcohol and apply your new labels. You are done!!!!

This entire upgrade while detailed was very easy to do. It took us about 4 hours or so. The difference in the power of this unit is immediately noticed. Your ShopSmith can be connected to 110 or 220 (2HP at this voltage). Its like a new machine again. Amazing upgrade, amazing product. Very well documented, parts are of very high quality and support is always available to help if needed. Nicely done ShopSmith. Visit them at Stay tuned for other upgrade articles to our ShopSmith wood working system.

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