OK if you are short on space. Not nearly as handy as separate tools. On
many projects you bounce from drill press to bandsaw to tablesaw. Do you
want to have to switch back a setup just to drill one hole?
Maybe you have two projects going at the same time in different stages. You
cut some wood, drill some holes, the do a glue up. Now you want to bandsaw
something on the other project but you still have drilling to do on the
first. Do you wait? Do you change setups again?
Just my opinion, they have a place but not in my shop.
I think it is a "nifty" tool, but I see too much of it being dumped on eBay, and I
figured out why. It is too much to constantly change the machine over to another
function, one after the other in order to get one project done. The band saw
attachment is to small, the table saw attachment is too small as well. Everything
in the work of changing it becomes redundant and rediculous when anyone would
far rather drift over to a stationary machine and turn it on and use it as needed.
I think it would be a pain the butt, frankly.
Personaly, I am setting up to do "neander" woodwork on a classic bench, and the
only stationary electrical tool I will use is a small drill press on another work
For a "table saw" I will make my own sawing box that uses a large backsaw, it will
have 1/2" handled screw clamping going into two sides. it will also have stilts on
the bottom to fit into the benches dog holes for stability. <G>
I have to admit that comments such as these from people who have not owned or
substantively used a Shopsmith are funny. There are a few former Shopsmith
owners in this group and their gripes about the machine are valid - for them.
There are also satisfied Shopsmith owners in this group that know that the
changeover agrument isn't really valid for hobbyists and that you have setup
time with any machine - just different. For example, I can change from a
plywood blade to a rip blade on my Shopsmith in about 30 seconds or less. I can
keep my dado set on an arbor tweaked to an exact size and switch it on and off
at will and never have to reset it. I do not know any hobbyists that have a
horizontal boring capability, few that have a variable speed bandsaw without a
buch of pulley fiddling, or 12" disk sanders with full sized tables and fences.
On the other hand, some changeovers are a little more inconvienient. The saw to
drillpress is one of those. TRhus I own a little 8" benchtop DP that does most
of my day-to-day drilling needs. But when I need a REALLY good drillpress to
swing a big bit or do really precise work you can't beat the Shopsmith in DP
mode for woodworking (it is not slow enough for heavy-duty metal work unless
you buy the low speed attachment which drops it down to 100 RPM). It has its
good points and bad points. If you have space to spare to dedicate to your wood
shop, I would get stand alone tools. Otherwise I would look for a good used
Shopsmith (hey, they have been in production since about 1953 and there are a
LOT of them out there and they are built to last and still supported by the
company). You may want to check out the ssusers group on yahoogroups.
1. Do not buy a new one. They frequently turn up used at prices less than
half the new price.
2. If possible, attend a SS demo/class before purchasing. Class schedules
are on the SS web site.
3. Check out some of the online resources including the SS web site at
www.shopsmith.com, the SS users group at www.ssug.org, and any available
4. See if you can find the book 'Woodworking for Everyone' at your
library or a used bookstore. It is essentialy a SS manual and how to.
Read it carefully paying particular attention to swapping between
5. Look at the cost of the add on equipment and parts at the SS web site.
Unless you can find used parts or add ons, you'll be paying those prices.
6. Think about your own working style. If you can plan a project to the
extent that you are working like a production line (doing all cuts, then
all sanding, then all drilling), the SS may be for you. If you can't do
that, you may become frustrated.
7. If you are not space limited, compare the price of a SS to reasonable
quality stand alone tools.
I bought a used SS about 12 years ago for less than $400.00. Here is a
summary of my experience (note that I am 5'6" tall - this fact will make
1. Table Saw - I found the tilting table very annoying. Anything crosscut
on a bevel had to be clamped solidly to the mitre gauge. For shallow
rips, the table is quite high (the table moves, not the blade). In fact,
after watching a kickback go past at chest height on me I gave up using
it as a saw.
2. Disk Sander - Relatively OK.
3. Horizontal Boring - Never had the need.
4. Drill Press - Pretty good, but a stand alone drill press would have
taken less space and after #1 I now have a separate saw.
5. Lathe - I learned to turn on it. Problem was that even for me the
spindle height was too low and I usually ended a turning session with
At present I use it as a drill press and have a stand alone lathe mounted
on the SS ways. The SS retractble casters on the stand allow me to move
the lathe around until I can get the shop sorted out and build that
permanent lathe stand - real soon now. When I get my act together the SS
will go and I'll use the proceeds to buy a decent drill press.
All said, I'd buy it again. It is space saving and it did let me find out
what I *really* wanted to do for comparatively little cost.
If you do nothing else, do more research first.
A friend of mine had one for many years..... he churned out some wonderful
projects including many with tambour doors. He felt the machine was very
nice but in no way did it replace individual machines. Set up for an
operation and realize that you need to back track to do some previous
operation to more stock..... Those that love their ShopSmiths are much
better at organization than I am....
I've never owned one, but here are a couple of items I have read:
I recall an article in a WW mag in which a guy who makes chairs used the SS
as a drill press. He said that people would laugh when they saw it in his
shop, but because it had two rails that were separated rather than one post,
it was the best choice for drilling into chair legs - the pieces fit between
the two rails nicely.
I have heard that ripping a sheet of ply is dangerous because the table is
small and too high.
I have used a stand-along horiz boring mach to do some doweling and that
feature looks nice on the SS, but I have no idea how it would work in
practice. It is one of the questions I would ask of an experienced SS user.
I've always preferred discrete machinery so I can do a
production run successively through them after setting
each one up for its function. If you have one machine, you'll
be spending a lot more time tearing it down and setting up
another function. And when one discrete machine breaks, the
rest continue to work. If they're all in one housing, you're
"Given the low level of competence among politicians,
every American should become a Libertarian."
I've owned 2, so I have varied and not objective opinions..
First of all, if you can afford one (good used one is well over
$1,000) and don't have space for a table saw, sander, etc., they're
the quality is excellent and they last forever... very well built and
easy to work on... good support on the web from SS and SS users
the saw is fantastic for small, detailed projects due to it tilting
and the saw arbor being attached to the drill press quill, so that you
can make small adjustments...
it is NOT good or safe IMO for anything bigger than maybe 2'x3'
Even using both tables and a rolling stand, I never felt good about
cutting sheets on it... a skill saw and guides were safer and faster..
The drill press is wonderful, the lathe is very good, but I'm 6'2 and
was tempted to use it sitting down.. I used to do most of my drilling
with it in the lathe position..
The 12" disk sander is a great way to destroy a lot of wood until you
develop a gentle touch and learn to use it on the back, so you can
still use the saw..
You get really tired of swapping blades, bits, disks, etc. and
changing the setup, but with limited space, it's a good trade off..
The router is good for what it comes with.. straight bits.. I use it
for a lot of edge routing, but I wouldn't recommend that to a new
Now that I have room/time/some times bucks for more tools, I find that
not using the SS for a saw lets me have it set up as a drill
press-router most of the time, which is very handy.. I still use it
for cutting picture frames and things like that, because it does such
a great job at compound miters..
Post or email any question, I'll help all I can..
I've never owned one, but they seem to come up for sale in the local
classified ads quite frequently. Much moreso that any other piece of
equipment with the exception of the Craftsman radial arm saw. You can draw
your own conclusion, if any, from that. The conclusion I draw is that
people have them, don't like them, and want to get rid of them.
Or that they were aimed at woodworkers who no longer need them, because
they 1) moved up, 2) gave up or 3) passed away.
The Shopsmith is NOT a piece for people aspiring to be the next David
Marks. It WAS a tool that Norm used, before Delta, many years ago.
I made 6 or 8 complex projects on my Shopsmith, before moving up. I wish I
had paid used price for the system, rather than new, but we learn.
The Shopsmith is still here. The earlier suggestion about paying for a
day's training session is a good one. The suggestion about buying used,
should you decide that it is for you, is also excellent.
The important questions to ask are not 'Can it do X?', but rather 'Show me
how it does X, please.' Then evaluate what YOU want to do.
Are you woodworking in a closet? If so, they'll make do. NONE of the
operations are the equal of a medium priced stand-alone tool, and, as noted,
the primary tool, the tablesaw, is underpowered, inconvenient and unsafe for
much over jewelry boxes.
Other than that, I use a vertical clamping jig on the DP for line boring,
any saw can take a sanding disk, and the lathe is a back-breaker unless you
jack it up.
Gee, whish I had had that "expert advice" before I built two shops,
several kitchens, dozens of cabinets of various shapes, sizes and types,
and innumerable other things with mine.
Did you try to build anything bigger with yours?
I've done tons with a Ryobi 10", but would rather have had something
more solid, less of a hobby tool. I'd not mind a Shopsmith at all,
but can't afford all of the attachments. Convenience can be an issue
for some who prefer to move from tool to tool in a well set up large
shop. The Shopsmith is possibly a best buy for a smaller shop. From
what I've seen, tool and production, it's not a toy. It's not
industrial, but not too many hobby woodworkers need that heavy sort of
equipment. A few Tim the Toolman types might want more power, but
that's not common. If one fell off a truck nearby, I wouldn't shove
it on the front lawn with a "FREE" sign.
Gee I wonder why my Shopsmith (over 55 years old) is still going strong and
use it most days. Too bad we didn't have your evaluation then, we might have
bought individual tools that would be gone by now.
On Tue, 2 Nov 2004 13:04:32 -0500, "Charles Callaghan"
Try reading a little more carefully. I was not referring to my own
preference. See below. "some" does not mean "myself". The main
point was the convenience for the small area shop. Personally I'd
love one; could have had my FIL's when he passed on ...with all the
attachments, but didn't speak up. That's what I meant when I said I'd
not put it out on the front lawn. It's called dry humour.
I built an entertainment center, and a bathroom vanity cabinet, with inset
doors, and shelves to go with everything.
What I hated was changing the infeed and outfeed rollers with every change
in the depth of cut. I hated trying to do a miter, with the table tilted.
A crosscut sled helped, when the blade was vertical, but was useless
It p#ssed me off that every dimension was different than the pieces I could
buy at the home center, or at the tool store. That everything that came
with it was some custom size, or worked differently. That processes with
the Shopsmith were different than were taught elsewhere.
And that, if every single possible thing that could come loose weren't
tightened and rechecked for measurement, every time a cut needed to be
made, something would slip, and ruin a piece of material, or push it out of
square, or scare me spitless....
Eventually, I quit using the thing. I don't have the time or patience for
the SS saw. My wife said, just buy what I want. Life's too short. So I
kicked the kid's Mustang out into the street, built a shed for the
gardening crap, called the electrician to bring in 220v, and bought a
Unisaw LT Limited Edition, almost two years ago.
I imagine you could cut dovetails with dental floss, and scrape flawless
surfaces with broken dishware. This hobby, though, for me, is supposed to
be fun. Using the SS wasn't. YMMV.
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