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Should I buy this?

2657 Views 23 Replies 22 Participants Last post by  roofner
Quick background: I am very new to woodworking as a hobby. I have hardly any tools (drill, jigsaw, scroll saw). My "shop" will be 1/2 of a 2-car garage. I have been "hanging out" here at LJ for 6 weeks, or so, and have really come to appreciate the helpful/inspirational environment here. And now I'm asking for some help.

I've been scouring Craigslist looking for good deals on tools and I came across a listing for a Shopsmith that looks promising. My dad has had a Shopsmith for 20+ years that he uses regularly, so I know they are good machines. I feel like the Shopsmith route may be a good way to get several of the bench tools that I need to really make a go at this hobby, but for less than buying them individually - table saw, band saw, drill press, disc sander, etc. Also, the Shopsmith seems like it would take up less space than all of those other tools would individually.

So… is the Craigslist post:

What do you guys think?
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looks decent. a bit on the high side price wise, but it could be that your area is like that (here they go for 350-500 generally speaking with same attachments +jointer sometimes).

I would check it out make sure it runs smooth, and negotiate a bit on the price somewhere closer to 500…500+ but without knowing your neighborhood this could mean absolutely nothing ;)
ehh… No.
Not sure about it at that price. Kind of depends on what you plan on doing. In my mind, a balanced woodshop starts out with the basic trifecta: table saw, jointer and planer, which that shopmith does not provide. You can avoid the jointer and planer for a while if you purchase only new, surfaced on 4 sides material/wood. But as someone starting out, like myself, I dont relish the idea of buying expensive wood to "practice" and learn on so I've been using reclaimed wood and odd scraps that I come across. This generally involves milling my own wood, which happens to be considerably cheaper in the short and long run.

Start with a decent table saw, the best you can afford and I'd suggest getting a used one on Craigslist or a garage sale. Something with a full cast iron/steel top or granite like on the older Ridgid TS. Make sure it's belt driven…
I own two - both bought used. Perfect for a small shop. That price isn't too bad, considering it has the band saw and the jig saw and it's a 510 model. Check to make sure it runs smoothly and can go through all the speeds (changing ONLY with the motor running). Also might want to ask if it has a two bearing quill. It probably does, but might not. Lastly, you might take off the access cover (back of the headstock - the Shopsmith logo) and make sure that it's not full of sawdust and has occasionally been oiled like it should. Also, connect both the band saw and the jig saw and see how they run. Doesn't appear that there is too much rust on it, but that's another negotiating point. Might try to get it down to $650. That would be a deal.

P.S. If you get it, toss out the magna wobble dado blade. They're a pain. When you want to make dadoes, you can start with a good cross cut blade and nibble your way across. When you get good at that, buy a decent 8" dado set on sale.
Shopsmith is a good alternative for tight spaces. It might not do everything, but lets not start chasing the impossible. Tool collecting is a slippery slope my friend.
Not bad . 11" Shopsmith Bandsaw has best capacity. But there must be any other better machine .
When I first started, I tried to find a shopsmith that was in decent shape for my first tool purchase. Had I found one in my area, in decent shape, I would have purchased it and been better off doing so. There is a great deal of knocks on cheap tools (btw shopsmith is not in that classification) but it is hard to avoid when you first become interested. Budgets don't allow most to purchase a good deal of top notch quality products when your shop is empty. You either buy cheap or you just simply don't do. A shopsmith is a better deal than buying a cheap tablesaw, bandsaw, drill press, etc. I purchased about 500 dollars in cheap tools at the onset. Some I learned to hate, but they taught me a great deal. They are in the hands of other new woodworkers now.

On the threads here, there are some very skilled woodworkers with a shopsmith as their primary tool. Use the search function on the upper right and you should get a number of blogs and forum topics on them. Get in touch with the members who post and you will get a great deal of assistance from these folks. The fact that your dad has one is a good thing. You have someone close to you that can help you with any of the quirks of setup. Even if you don't use is at a primary your whole life, you would have the potential for a 2nd dedicated table saw or have it permanently set up as a lathe, etc. that will keep its usefulness for a long time.

I don't know the availability in your area, if you see them frequently posted, work with the poster on lowering the price or look for another. If availability is limited, try to work it down a little. Seek your dad's help a little on this, I can't think of one shopsmith owner who doesn't like taking a new owner under the wing and teaching them a few things about it :)

Good luck,

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David made a good point. Seek your dad's help a little on this. Ask him what he likes the most about his shopsmith and what he likes the least. Then decide if that would be factors that would make a difference in your decision. Most will admit that it's not the quality of the machine that is usually the deciding factor but the changing of each attachment to do a task….and the overall limits.
Big picture: the skill of the woodworker is more powerful than the tool. Therefore it boils down to your own personal preferences. I'd say that if you're like your Dad, you'll probably like the tool.

A garage bay is plenty big enough for full size table saw and workbench and router table and lathe and bandsaw and one or two other pieces, if you're willing to give it up entirely to the shop. I found in these tiny New England homes that I only need floorspace to fit my feet and the work floats around off the floor from tool to tool. Any ONE of those pieces could run you what the Shopsmith will so realistically you're not risking much. (Sorry if I burst your notion about getting cheap tools.) I would wager that if you like the Shopsmith and keep working the wood you'll go for those other tools anyway and take over the garage.
I've never owned one but I don't think I would like breaking it down and setting it up for each operation. I know people who love Shopsmith's. From what I see in my area the price seems at least $200 to high.
I'm with Jim. I won't even change blades in the bandsaw.
No, don't buy it. Get separate tools. I realize that there are plenty of ShopSmith afficionados in the LJ community, but I doubt that you would regret going in the other direction.
So, in our typical LJ fashion, the answer is yes/no :) You got to hear arguments on both sides, which should give you food for thought on the decision. As you can see, tool choices are very much an individual decision. The last part is up to you. Let us all know how it worked out :)
When I started into woodworking I too looked for a Shopsmith, but didn't like the idea of having to change the machine around to use different tools. There are times were you need to preserve a setting on your table saw, do another operation on a different machine and come back to the t.s. exactly where you last set it. This applies to other machines as well. You also have to look at time. How much shop time will you realistically have? How much of that time do you want to spend in setting up and breaking down the machine? This is a hard earned lesson that I keep in mind as I design my shop - what needs to be setup and what can be setup when needed, what needs to be mobile, what can be fixed, what can be stored and what has to be available.
One more suggestion… Someone said to talk to your dad… I'd say go work with him. Use his and make all those changes, etc. See what you think of actually using that machine.

As Jim said ..."I've never owned one but I don't think I would like breaking it down and setting it up for each operation."

Multi Purpose Tools just Don't cut it.
Um, I vote no. Just my preference. I've never owned one myself but I know I prefer less set up time. I started seriously woodworking in a small 18'*18'garage on an extremely limited 2008. I did buy a few new tools in the beginning. But I quickly learned CL was a great source. One of my first awakening moments came in the middle of a small commission when my tiny craftsman TS burned out, within a day I picked up a Delta contractor saw for 75.00 and completed my job on time. From then on it has been one CL find after another. Now I even go to machine/tool auctions. I have also found a dislike for extensive set up tasks. 4 years later we run 3 shapers and a router table, 2 table saws, 3 sliding miter saws, 2 RAS saws. All this is for redundancy and to help minimize set up times. What we have is overkill for a hobby, but more to the point is a tight budget can go a long ways with patience and CL. If you can afford to drop 750.00 on this shopsmith, you are likely in better financial shape then what I was in when we first began. That sort of money can buy you a good quality ts on CL and likely a good used bench top planed. I have never owned a jointed myself and we manage very efficiently without the jointed.
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If you just want to make small pieces like boxes and gift
type items, a Shopsmith is adequate.

If you are looking to do casework, you'll need something
else to cut out sheet goods and square large panels. The
Shopsmith table saw has design features that make it
awkward for working on wood parts that weigh more than
a few pounds.

So… it really depends on what you want to do. A shopsmith
won't serve especially well in building cabinets and bookshelves
but for making chairs and other open-framed mortise and tenon
furniture it's a serviceable joinery and turning machine.
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Thank you all so much for your input. I've been hanging around the site for about 6 weeks now and I got pretty much the input I was expecting. You talked me into and out of and into and out of buying it! ;-)

In the end, I decided to pass on it. Largely because of the input here, and the price. I think the setup issues that were pointed out were what really sealed the deal for me.

Again, thank you! I knew I could count on you guys to give both sides of the argument and that helped a lot in making the decision.
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