If you have a small shop, the Shopsmith can be the answer to your needs. My
shop is 13 x 23, and with the router table, scroll saw, planer, and a
sharpening center, I don't have the luxury of a lot of room. The Shopsmith
works great for me, and the current table on the model 510/520 makes a world
of difference, as it is huge compared to the old model 500 table. And as a
bonus, on nice days, when I want to work outside, it rolls through the
doorway to my back patio very easily.
1) Planning is essential, but that is the case with any project, with any
2) Accuracy - properly set up (using the same amount of time and care that
stand alone tools would require), you can achieve the same accuracy as you
can with quality stand alone tools.
3) Do pros use the Shopsmith? - you would be surprised at the number that
do, and if you look at old shows from The New Yankee Workshop, you will find
one there before the expensive tools got donated. I'm told that Shopsmith
was not donated, but purchased by Norm, and according to the person who sold
them to him, he purchased a second for his own shop. Obviously he doesn't
use or advocate the Shopsmith now - he owes too much for the use of the
sponsors tools. I know of a cabinet shop in California that is looking to
add a 2nd Shopsmith, they have one, along with two Unisaws, and the
Shopsmith gets plenty of use - and requires virtually no maintenance.
4) Yes, there are used Shopsmiths out there - many are ones inherited after
many years of faithful use by a parent or grandparent - and they still run
great. Others are those that see a demonstration, decide they want to do
woodworking, buy it, and never use it (I have seen Shopsmiths for sale that
had never even been uncrated - obviously the inconvenience of the setups was
not the issue there). I am on my 2nd Shopsmith - what happened to the 1st?
After an expensive divorce, and losing everything else, I had no choice but
to sell the Shopsmith just to make ends meet. Did I want to - no, and I
vowed to get another as soon as I could, which I did like 8 years later.
5) In another post someone made the absolutely great suggestion of doing
one of the Shopsmith all-day traveling academies - that would give you a
chance to really see what the Shopsmith can do and a chance to talk with
owners. ( http://www.shopsmith.com/ownersite/travelingacademy/index.htm )
Shopsmith also does multiple day courses at their headquarters in Dayton
where you use a Shopsmith to make a specific project and come away with a
finished project. This would allow you to actually use the machine. They
offer a wide variety of courses from beginner on up, at a reasonable
price.( http://www.shopsmith.com/ownersite/nationalacademy/classes.htm )
And attendees at either option receive great discounts on purchases. The
schedules for either are available on the Shopsmith web site (
www.shopsmith.com ) or by the use of the links above.
The usual disclaimer, I am not a Shopsmith employee or stockholder, just a
happy Shopsmith owner
As usual, YMMV,
Port Huron, Michigan
Have one, for a very large number of years it was my major woodworking
tool, still use it every day.
Most of the negatives you'll hear are from the "me too" crowd who have
probably never seen one outside of picture but have heard that such and
such is a problem.
Even the most radical change over can be measured in seconds, As with
ANY tool it is as accurate and repeatable as the user makes it, the
quality is excellent and customer service is world class.
All in all it is an outstanding tool for someone with limited space.
The major complaint with the tool is the small table saw width foot
print. A sliding cross cut table, something that is handy with even a
cabinet saw, pretty much takes care of that.
A non issue that some try to make a big deal of is that, due to change
overs, you have to carefully plan the job to avoid too many of them. I'm
here to tell you, even if you had Norm's shop, if you don't carefully
plan every job you are in for a lot of frustration.
Yes, there are necessary compromises made to make it a combination tool
but they aren't in the quality of the tool or it's ability to do the
There is no question that individual stand alone tools would be
preferable. As my work requirements have changed and my shop grown I've
added a cabinet saw and larger jointer to my shop but the Shopsmith
still gets used daily as a drill press, standing station, lathe, boring
tool, bandsaw, etc.....
Keep in mind that a table saw requires at least eight feet both on the
infeed side and outfeed side, at least four feet on either side of the
saw is nice also. A jointer would need at least one and one half times
it's bed length on the infeed and out feed side of the table. Then you
have a work bench to consider, stock storage, gluing up and finishing
area, hand tools storage, maybe a miter saw, finishing supply storage,
hand power tools and probably a router table area, and on and on.
Individual tools take up and make dead space when they are not being
Individual tools are good but if you have a small shop the importance of
having all your major tools be of quality, all in one place and be able
to move it to the best advantage, if you get one get the casters, can
not be under estimated.
If you have the space and can afford the quality go with individual
tools, if not you can't beat the Shopsmith.
I'd like to add that I, for one, would probably never have tried wood
turning if I'd had the space and money to buy a stand alone saw, drill
press, disk sander and shaper...
The lathe was something that I'd never considered and didn't think I'd
enjoy... but like a lot of SS owners, it was there and the face plates
and chisels were included, so I tried it and enjoyed it..
I'm still in the infant stage of woodworking, but for what I do, I
can't imagine anything in a drill press that I'd add..
For the last several months it's been dedicated as a drill press and
router, so I shoved it into a corner and hung material racks over the
Bought my first ShopSmith in 1951 (pre Mark V) and still have it. Back then
there were no factory stands, just a plan for the wood base. Acquired lots of
machinery since then, but very often the old brute does a tricky job just fine,
so there's no way I'd ever part with it.
FWIW, it's a good machine to start a shop with. Adding a decent table saw is
great if you have the room, then go for other machines when your projects
outgrow your SS. HTH
The main tool in my first woodshop was a Shopsmith 10E (made betwee
1947 and 1953) that I had inhertited from by grandfather. Projects di
require significant planning, but the tool performed well, and since
was working hard and earning little at the time, the price was right.
If you are limited on space and $$$, and are patient and willing t
plan the sequence of events for your projects, a Shopsmith may be
Currently, my shop is outfitted with a number of dedicated task
stationary tools. The Shopsmith is still in use in the corner of m
shop as a drill press
A very frequent question here. Personally I am not that acquainted with the
new machines but the older ones (20 years) appeared to be pretty nice and
high quality machines. If you are very short on space they work fine.
With that said, I also belive they compromise each of the functions they
offer. This is because of the tear-down, setup time required to go from
operation to operation. Also, seeing what some of them sell for now, you
could probably buy some pretty good quality stand-alone tool for the cost of
I bought a ShopSmith in 1985. It was about the only tool I had room
for and I built many things around the house with it. I have since
bought a Delta table saw as the table saw is the weakest part of the
ShopSmith, especially ripping. I have a Dubby cross-cut sled that I
use on the ShopSmith. I do all my other cutting on the Delta. It is
nice having two table saws. I don't use the disk sander or drill press
very often so I don't do a lot of switching back and forth.
If I had to do it over again and I had lots of room, I would probably
purchase the individual tools rather than the ShopSmith. But if you
can pick one up used for a reasonable price ($800 or less), and you
don't already have a drill press, sanding disk or lathe, I don't think
it would be a bad purchase. However, I still think you need a
stand-alone table saw as the ShopSmith is just too limiting.
I have not had any problems with my ShopSMith and I have used it quite
a bit over the years.
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