I could quite fancy a Shopsmith for some chairmaking jobs (mainly
drilling) but I sure wouldn't pay real money for one.
Why is it that most of the US combi-machines I've seen have been like
Shopsmith - basically a lathe headstock on a stick, whereas all the
European combis are a jointer / tablesaw with protruding attachments
that look like they ought to have Goldfinger tying James Bond to them.
Think of the Shopsmith as a small leatherman multi-tool, like we used to be
able to carry on a keychain, until three years ago. It appeals to the
small shop, primarily hobby/homeowner types.
I bought one, used it a while, and then bought better, less expensive
dedicated tools when I started making larger, more accurate pieces. Mine
is stored in my dad's garage, but I've been thinking of retrieving it,
particularly for the sander and lathe functions. The table saw is roughly
equivalent to the $99 Delta in function and accuracy.
The add-ons are horribly expensive, and add no particular value that I can
The ability to use it for horizontal boring could make it useful for
chairmaking, if you wanted round tenons.
One of the problems I had was using the quill to get the depth right,
particularly as it was an overhead configuration. Fine adjustment was next
Another had to do with the (relatively) slow speed of the bit. I had
problems because the bit wasn't spinning fast enough to cut efficiently,
and things tended to grab. The larger the bit, the bigger the problem.
But a 3/4" straight cutter shouldn't have been a problem.
The experience was _much_ more akin to trying to route with a drill press,
in general a bad idea. But the Shopsmith was never designed to spin a bit
at 20,000 rpm.
I solved the problem, as I have many problems, with a credit card. A new
3.25 hp router, bolted to the bottom of a slab of melamine, and a simple
fence, all clamped to a pair of sawhorses, was _much_ safer, and much more
One of the lessons I learned from all of this was that you can use a chisel
as a screwdriver, but it makes a poor hammer. Or something like that.
I'm keeping the Shopsmith around because it's paid for, and I'm thinking
I'd like to try turning a little bit, without dropping another grand. It's
not the world's best lathe, but then, I'm not the world's best woodworker,
either. I may not even be the best on my block. ;-)
Of course, YMMV.
Check your elbow height with the quill (head down). The difference is how
much you'll have to raise the SS or lower yourself to avoid crippling your
back while trying to use it as a lathe. I'm 5'6" and it was bad enough for
me that SWMBO took to calling me Quasimodo after I'd spent a few hours
turning on it. Other than that and the limited slow speed, it is pretty
decent as a lathe.
Actually, the main thing that I've been using it for (when used as a
router) is with a 3/4 straight carbide bit, doing dado's and rabbits
on drawers and stuff... seems to work very well at the "rout/shape
speed and give a very clean cut...
If it's down on "saw/joint" or below, it tends to tug and rattle and
the cut is not clean..
I've learned not to use it as a corner or edge router, unless I'm
using boards that aren't warped or odd sized... not having a thickness
planer (yet) I've found that routing with the bit over the table
results in uneven patterns, as opposed to the bit under the table in
my router table..
I don't think that was very well said.. *g*
An example was my 1st set of drawer faces... I sanded most of the warp
out of the blanks that I'd cut but gentle application on the belt
sander, but the problem was that in this process, some of the faces
were thinner then the others..
The difference wasn't that obvious until I ran them through the SS
with a 3/8" rounding bit along the edges...
Some edges came out nicely rounded with a crisp line at the top, some
were just rounded with no line, and the rest had a mixture of the 2..
really ugly and a lesson well learned..
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