Five Stars for 5 basic tools

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Review by SST posted 03-02-2008 10:20 PM 24539 views 2 times favorited 24 comments Add to Favorites Watch
Five Stars for 5 basic tools Five Stars for 5 basic tools Five Stars for 5 basic tools Click the pictures to enlarge them

The year was 1947. Hans Goldschmidt thought that post war America could use a quality combination woodworking tool. Most do-it-yourself folks at the time didn’t have the luxury of having a large basement or spare building to devote to a workshop. He was right. It became the largest selling power tool of its time.

The ads talked of having 5 power tools in one, with accessories for at least a half dozen more.

In 1952, my dad was listening.

This is a long overdue review of that very machine.

Wow, where to start? This might be more of an undertaking than I figured. Oh well, here goes.
Since I was going to turn a pen, I’ll use that project as the basis for the order of tools used. My machine was set in the most used mode of table saw which I used to cut some larger stock to workable size. The Smith uses a tilt table rather than tilting arbor.Photobucket This is necessary to give it the ability to convert to the other modes. Most non-smither’s think this to be a big disadvantage, but I found it to be only a minor issue, and when balanced with the resulting versatility, and given the relatively small percentage of non 90 degree cuts I actually make, I’ve never had a problem. When I do a beveled cut, the assembly is moved to the far right so that any long stock clears the end of the machine. the miter gauge is adjustable to get the angles set correctly and the hold down works great. The rip fence adjustment is not up to today’s technical standards, but with a good ruler and a bit of tapping, it’s as accurate as I’ve ever needed for any piece of furniture. Although it’s only an 8” blade, the depth of cut is 2 1/4”.

Next, let’s bore the holes for the pen mandrel. (Change over time table saw to horizontal borer 1 minute, 45 seconds)
The vertical drill press can also be used…add 5 seconds.Photobucket
If you only have a drill press for boring tasks, you are really missing out. The horizontal borer is one of best parts of this machine. It’s especially great for larger or longer stock like table legs. Utilizing the rip fence, miter gauge, and extension table and a clamp or two, and you can bore almost anything you’ll need to.

Next, I’ll true up the ends of the stock with the 12” disc sander. (Change time 31 seconds)Photobucket
this is a very useful sander in that you don’t need to move the stock to the disc, you use the quill (think drill press movement) and move the disc to the stock which you can clamp if necessary. Very precise.

Next, let’s do some turning. (Change time, including mounting the mandrel/stock, 1 minute, 20 seconds)Photobucket
The heft of this old machine is an asset as this lathe feels very solid. The max length is 34”, and the tool rest, while simplistic, is solid. I used the drill chuck for the pen mandrel, but there is also a lathe center that fits the headstock directly which works fine.

Additional accessories available include: bandsaw, shaper, drum sander, grinder and jigsaw. I have used all the accessories as well, and they all work well enough to have completed my posted projects as well as many others. The model 10ER was Shopsmith’s first model, and was replaced in the mid 1950’s by the mark 5 which is still made today, although they are struggling.
These are still available on Craigslist, ebay, and at rummage sales. The price range is about $25.00 to $300.00.
If space is an issue for you, you’d like some backup tools, or you just like playing with cool old tools, you just can’t beat a Shopsmith 10ER.
Well, that’s my review, and I’m stickin’ to it… and I wouldn’t exactly call it unbiased, after all, I’m Shopsmithtom

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

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790 posts in 5358 days

24 comments so far

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18619 posts in 5324 days

#1 posted 03-02-2008 10:57 PM

A great review.
Two years ago I saw an ad for a Shopsmith – selling it (with all its pieces) for $500. I remembered the name and concept but had no idea what the machine really was. (I hadn’t started my woodworking journey yet and hadn’t discovered Was there a at this time in 2006?)

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (, Young Living Wellness )

View Grumpy's profile


26812 posts in 5014 days

#2 posted 03-03-2008 12:46 AM

Great review SST. Looks like that machine has plenty of life left yet.

-- Grumpy - "Always look on the bright side of life"- Monty Python

View juniorjock's profile


1930 posts in 4929 days

#3 posted 03-03-2008 12:48 AM

I remember when I was a kid watching their shows on TV. I guess it was more like the “Info Mercials” these days. I would stay glued to that set as long as I could. We only had one TV (maybe the only TV on the block) and usually my grandfather would show up and want to switch the channel to a baseball game or something. He always won that battle. I kept telling myself I’d get one of those jewels someday….. but I never did. Now I really wish I had.

View ND2ELK's profile


13494 posts in 4937 days

#4 posted 03-03-2008 12:51 AM

What a cool old machine. What makes it extra special it was your Dad’s. Very nice review. Thank you.


-- Mc Bridge Cabinets, Iowa

View teenagewoodworker's profile


2727 posts in 4931 days

#5 posted 03-03-2008 03:06 AM

thats a cool machine. i remember hearing about that a few times but it looks even cooler than i had heard in the pictures. i recently got an old handy man sort of book from my grandfather (a set of 10) that he bought with his first house. i ofter see references to these machines in it.

View motthunter's profile


2141 posts in 4962 days

#6 posted 03-03-2008 03:16 AM

really cool. I can see why people either love or dont love the shopsmith concept. Enjoy your machine

-- making sawdust....

View DaveH's profile


400 posts in 4942 days

#7 posted 03-03-2008 04:07 AM

My dad died awhile back and he owned a Shop Smith mark 5. Must have been one of the early models because he had it while I was a small kid. My younger brother has first take on it but if he doesn’t take it, it is mine. I’ve been watching the ads but around here they start about $700 and go up from there.

-- DaveH - Boise, Idaho - “How hard can it be? It's only wood!”

View scottb's profile


3648 posts in 5490 days

#8 posted 03-03-2008 04:27 AM

great review – and thanks for showing me a couple better ideas for using mine! – which is roughly the same vintage !

-- I am always doing what I cannot do yet, in order to learn how to do it. - Van Gogh -- --

View reible's profile


34 posts in 4925 days

#9 posted 03-03-2008 08:57 AM

It looks like you took good care of the machine!

A lot of them you see on ebay have a lot of rust, nothing that a little elbow grease can’t fix, and they still function quite well for being what, 55 years old (or more)!

I own two newer models, a 1976 and a 1980 and if I had any more room in my shop I would like it to be for one of these oldies.

Thanks for a great review of an icon in american woodworking. By the end of 1952 125,000 Shopsmiths were made worldwide… can that be right?? Yes it can. Now the number is over 500,000. Not bad for machine they said would never sell.


-- Knight of the Shopsmith

View Zuki's profile


1404 posts in 5240 days

#10 posted 03-04-2008 04:24 AM

I have never seen one of these for sale in NL. Neat looking though.

-- BLOG -

View 8iowa's profile


1591 posts in 4924 days

#11 posted 03-11-2008 03:20 AM

Many thanks for showing us pictures of this vintage machine, which is still delivering on it’s original promises. It is amazing at how the Shopsmith has developed such a mult-generational family attachment, certainly unique among woodworking tools.

-- "Heaven is North of the Bridge"

View Napaman's profile


5535 posts in 5240 days

#12 posted 03-31-2008 02:29 AM

Wow…great review…your machine is beautiful…I was just looking at your shop a copuple days ago and saw your machine pictured above…but did not see this review…and to see more picts is a great reward…

I love my shopsmith too…I have the more modern variety…and like it very much…but I am sooooo impressed with your machine…it is beautiful!

Great review—-taking us through the basic set ups of pens…great…so nice for me…since you took the time to send me the set up of how you do pens a while ago—-NOW i have the photos to see it!!!


-- Matt--Proud LJ since 2007

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11295 posts in 5038 days

#13 posted 03-31-2008 10:18 AM

Thanks for a well done review.

View johnb's profile


7 posts in 4871 days

#14 posted 04-03-2008 02:15 AM

Great review, and demonstrations.

I own one of the newer models and often wondered what some of the “oldies” looked like. Seeing this one up close and in action was great.


View Dadoo's profile


1790 posts in 5154 days

#15 posted 04-17-2008 05:42 PM

Excellent review! I inherited an oldie as well. Did a little on-line research and read: The first Shopsmith was produced in 1948 and shipped at Christmas time. The following year (1948) Magna produced 20,000 more Shopsmiths and the serial numbers were assigned sequentially. Mine is # 13048! Think I’ll restore it to new again!

-- Make Woodworking Great Again!

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