HISTORY OF 3 IN 1
Developed from a desire to have a machine shop to work on race cars, in 1981 John Taylor was afforded the opportunity to travel to China,which had just opened its doors to the west after 30 years of isolation. After finding a factory that built machine tools, Taylor developed the first prototype 3 in1 machine and started the Shoptask company
SHOPTASK 11-14 1981 – 1984
The first machines produced were simple by today’s standards, but had those unique functions that many home hobbyists wanted and were not available from any other source. The machine combined the functions of a lathe, milling machine and drill press into a single compact and affordable tool. It took a lot of diligence to get these machines into the market in those early days because of their unique design and because they were made in China. However, the product proved itself to the consumers and sales grew rapidly.
SHOPTASK 17-20 BB 1985 – 1988
As the sales of the first units multiplied, Shoptask received a lot of input from owners about things that could make the machine more useable. Among those was the moving head and larger lathe swing. Shoptask immediately began modifying one of the older machines to incorporate these features and sent prototypes to the factory. By this time, other tool companies who had originally denigrated the machines began to recognize the viability of this product. Enco, Harbor Freight and Smithy began buying machines from Shoptask as dealers.
SHOPTASK 12-22 TC 1989 – 1991
By 1989, Shoptask had grown from a home based startup company to a legitimate force in the machine tool marketplace with thousands of machines sold worldwide and a dealer network across the US. This expansion brought further customer input and it became clear that more improvements were needed to satisfy the demand. Shoptask then developed a new model with significantly more features, most importantly, power feed and thread cutting. With such success, however, came a downside… Shoptask found that some of the companies that had signed on as dealers were now contacting the Chinese and making their own deals direct. At this time, Chinese economics laws were in their infancy, and despite exclusive contracts for the designs, factories making copies of the 3 in 1 design began appearing all across China. It was at this time that Shoptask made a shift in its fundamental business plan. First, it was decided to sell only direct to the consumer by mail order and second, Shoptask would establish its own factory in China.
SHOPTASK 17-20 XMTC 1991 – 1996
As the reputation of the Shoptask machines had grown in the marketplace during the 1980′s , it had also grown in China as well. Happy that Shoptask and a flood of new companies were ordering their products, the Chinese wanted to move into the area of high technology as well. In 1986 they contracted with Shoptask to produce 2 prototype 3 in 1 machines with computer control. Seeing this as an opportunity to open up a whole new market and solve the issue of exclusivity, Shoptask designed and built the new machines with not only CNC , but a number of new features for the regular machinist as well, then moved the production to an entirely new facility dedicated to this one product. This design was so advanced that it remained the basis of all the Shoptask/ Shopmaster products for nearly 20 years.
SHOPTASK GOLD SERIES 1997 – 2000
As the sales of the 17-20 XMTC model multiplied , so did the consumer input. In 1997 Shoptask added a whole new series of features to the machine including a bench, push button switches, and a new color as standard equipment. Consumers loved the added functions and the convenience as well as savings of having the all steel bench as part of the machine package. The unique packaging of the bench as a structural component of the crate nearly eliminated the issue of damage during shipping.
SHOPMASTER 2000 with QUADRA LIFT 2000-2002
In honor of the new Millennium Shoptask introduced the Shopmaster 2000. It seemed that no matter how much was added to the machine, the customers had more and more input and requests. The most common was for more adjustment and stability on the milling head. Going all the way back to the old 12-22TC machine of the late 80′s, it was clear that the design with a single round column holding the mill head was insufficient for anything beyond light milling. There was simply no way to keep the flex out of the head, so Shoptask began trying various designs to solve the problem. They built prototypes with 2 columns, 3 columns, angle columns, 4 posts etc and continued to experiment until they came up with the 4 column design called the Quadra Lift. At first it was only offered as an option, but it was so popular, that within a short time, nearly every machine sold had the Quadra Lift installed.
BRIDGE MILL 2002 – 2005
Due to the popularity of the Quadra Lift and the immense amount of time it took add them as options, it was decided to make that feature standard on all the machines. With further input from their own machine use as well as from loyal customers ( many of whom had traded in their old machines on new ones as each model was introduced)Shopmaster even further enhanced the mill head stability with the addition of the 5th column support. Customers with experience on larger machines commented that the mill was now comparable to many production machines in its rigidity. The R-8 mill spindle was also introduced to handle the increased machining capacities .
TRI POWER 2006 – 2007
Even though the Bridgemill was adequate for most home shops, small businesses and vocational schools, founder John Taylor still felt there were more improvements he could add to the design. Just as in 1981 he again fabricated a complete new prototype, this time with even a longer lathe and greater milling capacity, larger motors and 3 axes power feeds, the TRI-POWER was the result. Along with this new machine came another fundamental shift in the overall business plan. Because there were so many companies selling those old 1980′s designs to the low end of the market, Shopmaster decided to concentrate only on the high end hobbyist, small business and educational institutions.
TRI POWER PATRIOT 2008-2009
The Tri Power was so popular that during 2006-2007 it was sold out at least 60 days in advance at all times. Even so, more new features were added, the paint colors changed and production improved to the ISO 9001 standard. Once again SHOPMASTER leap-frogged ahead of the competition in quality, features and value. The machine was offered in 2 color versions- yellow / blue and red / blue.
PATRIOT VFD 2010-2014
In response to changing conditions in manufacturing costs and consumer demands, in 2011 the PATRIOT VFD machine was introduced. As materials and labor rates rose sharply in China, the costs of producing mechanical components such as gears etc. began to be prohibitive. However, at the same time prices of high tech electronics began to become more reasonable and reliable. Therefore the machine was re-designed again and all the mechanical drives were eliminated and replaced with electronic components. Not only did this reduce the weight of the machine and the freight costs, but it increased the functions and improved reliability. The 3 phase inverter , 3 phase motors, ball screws(2011), Mach III software and Gecko drive CNC system were made standard equipment. In 2012 the X axis ball screw was moved to the center of the bed to increase feed rates and reduce backlash. With the CNC fully integrated the PATRIOT now had features and functions usually only found on machines costing tens of thousands of dollars.
SHOPMASTER MILL TURN 2015-2016
The PATRIOT VFD proved so popular with it’s CNC functions that it was again re-designed for better customer convenience. By eliminating the quill and changing from tapered roller bearings to angular contact ball bearings, more mechanical components and customer maintenance were eliminated. The savings were used to modify the spindle to 1.5″ bore, add a larger 3 jaw chuck and put 6 high precision linear bearings on the Z axis. Because nearly all PATRIOT machines had been ordered with DRO, it was decided to make it a standard feature, and by having it factory installed, the cost was reduced so that in the end, the price of the new MILL TURN is almost the same as the older machine, but offers a host of improvements.
We had received requests for a lathe only unit from people who had purchased those mini mills now available from a lot of vendors. It was clear that there was not an affordable CNC lathe on the market with a large swing and big spindle bore that people wanted. Therefore we took the proven components of the Mill Turn and designed a lathe only unit and further enhanced its capabilities by offering CNC turret toolpost, 5C Collet system and 4 jaw chuck as options.
2020 CHICAGO LATHE
For our 40th anniversary, we have combined the Shoptask, Shopmaster and CNC Tool Express companies all together under the name Chicago Lathe. We continue to support all of the older machines and now introduce the new Bridgemill design which has all the great features of the older machines plus many new improvements and options.. Customers can now select from hundreds of top quality tools to enhance their machines and join the over 17000 customers we have supplied over the past 40 years.