Why everyone needs at least one Shopsmith & other ramblings #2: (actually reason #1) The dedicated extra tool

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Blog entry by SST posted 01-16-2011 07:14 PM 11938 reads 2 times favorited 18 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 1: Now that I have your attention...let's talk Part 2 of Why everyone needs at least one Shopsmith & other ramblings series no next part

I thought it would be easy to find the time to knock out a blog piece every now & then, but I was mistaken. Maybe if I were a faster typist…then again, maybe not. Life (in this case, the holidays & re-building a couple of Shopsmiths…that’s sort of a holiday for me, too) just got in the way. But,

Here goes. I’ve been going through in my head exactly how I should approach this, and since it’s been an ever-changing thing, I’m going to keep the format somewhat free flowing & just let it evolve as it will.

I’m approaching this not with the purpose of trying to convince separate tool guys to get rid of their stuff & go Shopsmith, but rather to show those with Shopsmiths some ideas they may not have thought of, and show any separate toolies, who might tune in why also having a Smith in the shop may make sense.

Almost all of us could use another power tool, right? To my way of thinking, It might as well be a Shopsmith.

Now, I’m not advocating you go out & spend up for a new machine. (you certainly can if you want to) I couldn’t afford to do that. My newest machine is 25 years old (a 510). I just paid $300 for it & it came with a bandsaw & about $300 worth of high end lathe tools. Probably my best find so far, but I’ve paid anywhere from $75 -200 for older Mark 5’s. My point is; you don’t have to spend thousands, or even many hundreds. They’re out there. (I hope to get to tips on buying a used machine in the future.)

Sorry, rambling, again. A Mk 5 or 10er takes up a space roughly 72” x 24” in the shop, so it can easily sit in a corner as an extra tool, and I’m going to ask that you remember that as I mention a tool or reason for it to sit in the corner of your shop, keep in the back of your mind the fact that beyond a particular thing I mention, there’s at least a half dozen other purposes it can fill out of that same space. Just consider it bonus stuff. (The stuff of future blogs)

Okay, Here’s the first one. I’m not going in the order of what I think is important, just in the order of what I think of first, or maybe of what I just used it for. I’ll start out with the dedicated dado saw.

This is a pic of one of my 10er’s that I keep set up with a stacked dado blade set in it. (and yes, I know the blade slot is too big, I used this table insert for the picture because the zero clearance one I used for the project was tossed out…time to make a new one) This particular set up is to make box joints. It’s set at 3/8” width. The neat thing about a Smith is that you can get as many blade arbors as you want. I have a second arbor with another dado set at 3/4” for other dado/shelf work. It takes about one minute to swap. No re-stacking the blades or messing with widths.

Here’s a couple of pics of the box joint jig.

Here’s my first try at a box using box joints. (seemed like the right joint to use) The dado was also used to cut rabbets in the bottom of the box. The lid edges were done with an overhead shaper…Shopsmith, but more on that some other time. Remember what I said about the bonus stuff from the tool in the corner.

I suppose a question might come up as to just how often one would use a dado set up, so why have a dedicated one? I actually didn’t start out with the idea of having it this way. I set it up for a project and, since I have 4 active Smiths in my shop, I left it that way upon its completion. What I found was that I used it fairly often, so I made up another arbor/blade set in the other size I’d used, and find that it saves me time & effort to keep it that way.

Well, that’s it for the first reason. Not very exciting by itself, but I hope you’ll find it to be useful. I hope that as I do more of these, and you take the info collectively, you’ll see why I feel the way I do. Looking at just the one use, or each individual chapter of this blog, might not be very convincing. Hopefully, you’ll be patient with me & let this unfold. I was truly delighted with the response to the introduction.
I hope you stay. -SST

-- Accuracy is not in your power tool, it's in you

18 comments so far

View lou's profile


344 posts in 4600 days

#1 posted 01-16-2011 07:51 PM

From one Shopsmth owner to another,hello Tom.I have a 510,ser.#53 which i bought new.I am always interested in pictures of other Shopsmiths and how they are used and modified.I dont use mine as a table saw as i have a 10 inch contractors saw that i have had for many years.Time for a new saw but thats another story for another time.Nice to see you posting and will check back soon to say hi.By the way.when i bought mine,Shopsmith had a factory demo show here in my town,and the factory guys did some very cool things with thier 510.Maybe a blog apart from lj would be in order.just a thought.thanks again Tom.

View sras's profile


6245 posts in 4286 days

#2 posted 01-16-2011 08:43 PM

Good post Tom. I have had my MarkV since 1982 (bought new). A couple years back I got a cabinet table saw. Up until a couple weeks ago if you would have asked me, I would have said I was using it as a dedicated extra tool – that being a disc sander.

BUT, I then had a bearing freeze up. I have ordered parts and they are on their way. In the meantime, I have come to realize that I am still using mine as a versatile tool. The only thing I am not using is the table saw feature.

When time comes to use a dado setup, I could easily find myself going back to the Shopsmith because it is so easy to set the stack up on the arbor. Once set up, I can put it aside until I need it again.

-- Steve - Impatience is Expensive

View shipwright's profile


8734 posts in 3955 days

#3 posted 01-16-2011 11:31 PM

Hi Tom

I have all the stand alone tools anyone could ever want including a shaper and a dual drum sander so OK I’ve got a well stocked shop with very good quality tools, but I still find myself using my SS 10ER (1950) on almost every project. I agree entirely with what you are trying to say here which (I think) is if you’re going to spend money on something to take up that extra space, why not put five (or more) tools there instead of one.
On every project I find some small (or maybe large) operation that the SS can do better than my stand alone tools. If I didn’t have the 10ER, I’d get it done just fine without, but I do so I use it because I can.

I could go on but here’s an example. This is a shop made copy lathe attachment that came with my $50 purchase. The way tube mounting of the lathe rest makes it a natural for this kind of setup. I can’t do this on my Delta lathe.

-- Paul M ..............the early bird may get the worm but it’s the second mouse that gets the cheese!

View Gregn's profile


1642 posts in 4141 days

#4 posted 01-16-2011 11:38 PM

Hi Tom,

Quite often I have left the dado set up in my RAS for cutting my dado’s. To keep from changing over the table saw for cutting dado’s. Having only one dado set means changing sizes will always be a issue, although having another machine dedicated to dado’s is a big plus in its self.

Since our last discussion on your last blog and stating I had no use for a ShopSmith, and having given one away things have changed a bit. My brother in law offered me his fathers Mark V for free. He said it was like new and about 35 years old. We just have to figure out shipping from Colorado to Oklahoma.

So I’ve decided when it gets here, I will accept your friendly challenge and see why Why everyone needs at least one ShopSmith in the shop. As a separate toolie you’ve already sold me on the extra power source idea. The dedicated dado set up machine is another plus. Keep ramblin Tom, will be interesting to see the advantages and disadvantages to having a ShopSmith in the shop.

-- I don't make mistakes, I have great learning lessons, Greg

View SST's profile


790 posts in 5352 days

#5 posted 01-16-2011 11:51 PM

Shipwright, when I do turning, (did my first bowl recently, got a Nova midi chuck & spindle adapter from…much cheaper than the ones on ebay) I use my other 10er because the sheer weight of it makes it so stable. That little setup you showed looks really neat. I couldn’t see if you had a speedchanger on the 10er, but if not, I highly recommend getting one. Very handy when using the lathe.

-- Accuracy is not in your power tool, it's in you

View shipwright's profile


8734 posts in 3955 days

#6 posted 01-17-2011 12:48 AM

You can’t see it Tom but it’s there. The whole machine is here:

-- Paul M ..............the early bird may get the worm but it’s the second mouse that gets the cheese!

View Bob Kollman's profile

Bob Kollman

1798 posts in 4348 days

#7 posted 01-17-2011 02:19 AM

Good blog Tom, I know I hate typing too!!!

Also nice work with the box joints…It does seem like the right joint>:)

-- Bob Kenosha Wi.

View Napaman's profile


5535 posts in 5234 days

#8 posted 01-17-2011 03:59 AM

Okay…let me get this clear—-you think everyone needs a shopsmith? you must be a crazy old hoot!

-- Matt--Proud LJ since 2007

View Napaman's profile


5535 posts in 5234 days

#9 posted 01-17-2011 04:01 AM

HAAAAAAAAAA….just couldnt resist…great BLOG SERIES…I am stoked that I will learn so many ideas on how to use my shopsmith…professional lessons…maybe you can add a blog about upcoming blogs…like a table of contents…

-- Matt--Proud LJ since 2007

View Pop's profile


433 posts in 5103 days

#10 posted 01-23-2011 05:59 PM

Ok ! All you Shopsmithers, Let me ramble on about my Shopsmith experiences. I was starting the 7th grade in the early 50s. I was in Monroe, La. My shop teacher was John Pennington. I had Mr. Pennington’s shop class in 7th., 8th. & part of the 9th. I also lived across the road from him. Let me say that if you want to know how he relates to my woodworking I have his picture along with my dad’s hanging in my shop. I talked with him in the mid 90s and found out I was in his 1st. class out of LSU. Shopsmith was just coming out with the Mark V and filled a room with machines for the industrial arts seniors and let them have at it. Needless to say he was impressed. In his 1st. class I was convinced that a Shopsmith was better than sliced bread. I made my way to the local Montgomery Ward and drooled every Saturday. I got my own SS in the mid 60s. It was a old greenie. Rebuilt it 2 times. Finally sold it and bought a TotalShop. bad move McGoo! Used this unshopsmith for several years. Retired and got a bonus. Bought a new 520 and all the trimmings. Jointer, bandsaw, belt sander, strip sander, speed increaser, speed reducer, lathe rest, tenon system etc. etc. Had a Magna jigsaw. It’s a great machine. At that time my shop consisted of a Delta RAS & the Shopsmith 520 along with some portable power tools. Then I really got deep into woodworking and went to work at a woodworking store. Armed with an employee discount and funds I bought my shop. I’ll make pictures and give you a major machine list sometime down the road. I now have stand alone machines & every portable power tool known to man. My 520 is now my vertical & horizontal drill press. It’s the greatest woodworking drill press on earth. You have a fence, “T” miter gauge slots that let you attach all kinds of jigs. My SS is also my back-up and special use tool. You can rig a SS to do things nothing else will do. I also have a SS clone that has been cut down & turned into a disk & belt sander.

You’re right! EVERYBODY need one Shopsmith in their shop. Can’t Imagine being without mine.


-- One who works with his hands is a laborer, his hands & head A craftsman, his hands, head & heart a artist

View SST's profile


790 posts in 5352 days

#11 posted 01-23-2011 06:45 PM

Great story, Pop. Thanks for the input. -SST

-- Accuracy is not in your power tool, it's in you

View Dennisgrosen's profile


10880 posts in 4272 days

#12 posted 02-01-2011 09:34 PM

I know I asked you ” when do you come up with a new blog about the Shopsmith
and then it totely blew over my head ….LOL
but better late than never …right

thank´s for taking the time to do them
its a pleassure to read and learn a little about the old maschinery
even thow I doubt we cuold find one in Denmark or europe :-)
ceep let them come


View 8iowa's profile


1591 posts in 4918 days

#13 posted 02-02-2011 02:14 AM


There are some unique aspects of the Shopsmith that are not covered, or covered very well, with stand alone tools.

I’ll start in drill press mode. There aren’t any other drill presses on the market that are as useful and versatile. But when you put the Shopsmith in horizontal drilling mode, it becomes the indispensable tool that just isn’t offered anywhere else.

I’ll grant you that there are many fine lathes on the market, many arguably better than a Shopsmith. However it is easy to drop more than three grand for a good full size lathe. If your need for a lathe is too infrequent to justify such cost, the Shopsmith as a lathe looks pretty good. In fact, if you add Shopsmith’s 35 lb universal tool rest, it gets even harder to become interested in a dedicated lathe.

There are a lot of Shopsmiths virtually set up as a permanent sanding station with the 6” x 48” belt sander and the 12” disk sander. This is a lot of sanding power, and with variable speed it beats any of the stand alone units. I can’t leave this thought without mentioning shopsmith’s 12” conical sanding disk. Shopsmith didn’t invent this accessory, but they are alone in providing it. The conical disk sands on a vertical line upward from the axis of rotation rather than along the whole surface as on a flat disk. This sanding line can be used to smoothly “joint” wood with burl or a lot of figure without any tear out. Likewise, it can joint plywood. With a purchased, or shop made jig, it can even be used to sharpen planer and jointer knives, which in itself is enough to pay for this disk many times over.

It’s been said that the Shopsmith is a “weak” saw so many times that almost everyone believes it. I guess I’m like the bumble bee who didn’t know that he wasn’t supposed to be able to fly, as in the past 25 years I’ve done every type of sawing on my Shopsmith , including breaking down dozens of 4×8 sheets. True, at 1 1/8 HP it is underpowered, as are a lot of other saws that are designed to operate on the standard household 15 amp circuit. However, with a 7 to 1 speed range, the blade speed can be cranked down to around 2500 rpm, gaining torque, and making it possible to do heavy ripping. Lowering blade speed can also eliminate burning on sensitive woods.

Finally, saving the best for last, Shopsmith now offers a headstock powered with a computer controlled digital variable reluctance motor (DVR). With a speed range of 40 to 1, and torque sensing ability, The Shopsmith is now comparable to cabinet saws in terms of power, and has speeds necessary for routing and shaping. To their credit, Shopsmith offers DIY upgrade kits that make it possible to install this DVR power plant in existing headstocks. Thus, Shopsmiths made over 50 years ago can be fully upgraded.

-- "Heaven is North of the Bridge"

View SST's profile


790 posts in 5352 days

#14 posted 02-02-2011 06:26 AM

Well, you’ve about summed it up. If I never wrote another thing, there would be no information deficit. (but I probably won’t shut up…just can’t)

Thanks for re-stating what any long time Shopsmither understands. I agree with all but one point. I have never found the machine to be under powered in the saw or other mode. (The Mark 5, that is. The 10er, especially with the speedchanger on it it a little weak in some modes).

I’ve ripped all that I needed to without any problem, and lots of stuff on a greenie with the 3/4hp motor. (that actually tests out at about 1hp) I’m going to try to hit on these same things as I go along, not that we need to know stuff, but to show some of the other guys examples of why we love the usefulness of the Smith.
Since I don’t have the new headstock, I’ll gladly bow to you or any of the others who do for details. -SST

-- Accuracy is not in your power tool, it's in you

View Pop's profile


433 posts in 5103 days

#15 posted 02-02-2011 06:40 AM

Now that I and everyone else has sang Shopsmith’s praises. let’s talk about it’s shortcomings. The basic tool in the form of the 520 has solved most problems. The old fence had to be rule checked on both ends for set-up. The darn thing would never square up. The 520 fence cured that. The speed reducer great, the speed increaser NOT. The stand-alone tools I have owned are: The strip sander – one of the best tools SS has ever came up with. I haven’t seen any other with the rear idler roller shift to the front feature. The 6 X 48 in. belt sander is an ok machine. The bandsaw a good light duty saw. The jointer – bad design. The fence is attached to the bed at the feed end. I had a aux. fence on mine and had to use clamps to keep the out feed end of the fence down when using fetherboards. Now I get to the 2 machines you couldn’t run fast enough to give me. The scrollsaw cost a fortune. It gives you nothing that another companys saw gives you for less. Look at the new Delta or DeWalt machines along with their mother the Excabler and compair. The old Magna jigsaw runs circles around it. SS should never stopped making it. Last I’m going to give their surface plane heck. SS wants close to $1000 bucks for it. And that’s without a motor. DeWalt has a fine 3 blade semi-portable machine for 500 or600 dollars. If you’re going to spend a thousand go for a 3 hp. 15 inch machine. I love my SS and I wouldn’t be without it, but the machines do have their faults. Just thought I’de point out a few in case we were moving into Shopsmith worship.

One final thing. Nobody but Shopsmith has yet to put a complete woodworking shop in a 2 X 6 ft. area.


-- One who works with his hands is a laborer, his hands & head A craftsman, his hands, head & heart a artist

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