A Brief History of the Sawsmith Radial Arm Saw

Serial numbers referenced on http://www.shopsmith.com/ownersite/faq/radialarmsaw.htm indicate the first Sawsmith radial arm saw was introduced in December 1957 by Magna Engineering of Menlo Park California. (Some references mention “Magna Power Tool Corp.”). Magna Engineering was founded by a partnership of Hans Goldschmidt, the inventor of the first Shopsmith multi-purpose tool the 10ER, and brothers Frank and Robert Chambers.

Yuba was a HUGE conglomerate that started during the San Francisco gold rush in the 1800’s. After operating successfully all those years, in 1957 Yuba's directors were warned that by the late 1960s the company's long-profitable gold fields would peter out. Hoping to diversify the company (then called Yuba Consolidated Gold Fields), started buying-up companies like a rich drunken sailor. Yuba was already manufacturing a line of garden tillers and was looking for a line of items that could fill the slow winter months. Woodworking was more of a winter activity, so the Shopsmith line looked like the perfect match. Early in 1958 Magna Engineering merged with Yuba Consolidated Industries. Goldschmidt headed Yuba's engineering efforts until 1960, then left to operate his own toy and game design company.

Things went very bad for Yuba. According to a March 1962 Time Magazine article titled “How Not To Grow“, the wild spending on poorly managed companies left Yuba bankrupt. By 1961 a group of former employees of Yuba formed the company Magna American, and these folks went on to produce the Sawsmith, Mark VII and several garden tools including tillers until they too ran into trouble. By 1965 the last Sawsmith left the Magna plant, and the tools went into storage.

In 1972 John Folkerth, a stock broker in Dayton, Ohio, purchased a Sawsmith from a widow friend of his mother, and when he went on a search for a replacement blade for it he instead found the tooling that Magna had in storage. John spent some time raising funds and purchased the tooling for the entire Shopsmith and Sawsmith line and moved it to Dayton, Ohio.

The rest of the story that I’ve never seen in print is despite such statements in old Shopsmith Inc. literature that “Shopsmith still owns the tooling for the Sawsmith and that they could one day revive the tool“; the truth is it was determined years ago that the Sawsmith would be too difficult to sell in our lawsuit-happy country, so the tooling was sold for scrap.

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