Shopsmith or table saw

  • Advertise with us

« back to Woodworking Skill Share forum

Forum topic by Elvin posted 01-29-2010 12:10 AM 13454 views 0 times favorited 31 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View Elvin's profile


72 posts in 4451 days

01-29-2010 12:10 AM

Hello gang,
I am trying to decide between a fold up table saw or a shopsmith 5in1 saw for cabinet making in a two car garage, one man shop. I don’t have a drill press and I was looking at a combination disk and belt sander. I know the shopsmith has a large disk sander and a drillpress. If you have used a shopsmith for cabinets what trouble or benefits if any did you have?
Any pros or cons would be appreciated.
Thanks in advance.

-- Elvin, Southern California, "How great would life be if we lived a little of it everyday"

31 replies so far

View kosta's profile


946 posts in 4407 days

#1 posted 01-29-2010 01:10 AM

personally I would never get a shop smith just because your really limited in the size of materials that you can feed through it without having to move other stuff around. I really hate having to set up a tool every time I want to use it so there is another issue with something like a shop smith or a combo machine.

View THOMRIDER's profile


104 posts in 4121 days

#2 posted 01-29-2010 01:27 AM

well just to weigh in if you have a limited amount of space and dont mind a few minutes of setup time, then the Shopsmith is a good choice. I have built cabinets and bookshelves with my shopsmith 510 also you can find a used shopsmith for very little money on ebay or craigslist sites. also you will have 5 machines not just a tablesaw. i use the horizontal drill press for somethings but the lathe and saw are the main ones I use along with an addes bandsaw.

good luck and which ever you go with I hope it works for you

Shopsmith for Me but not everyone

-- Its all about the jigs

View Steve Peterson's profile

Steve Peterson

426 posts in 4135 days

#3 posted 01-29-2010 01:41 AM

There must be a reason why so many of them are always for sale on CL. If they worked so great, then why is everyone trying to get rid of them?

I can only recall seeing one person online talking about how great they are. The funny thing is that he had 3 or 4 of them. One was always set up as a table saw, one as a lathe, one as a drill press, etc.

The biggest downside appears to be that you will spend more time re-configuring it than you will spend using it. And the table saw has a really small table.

-- Steve

View Tuuek's profile


56 posts in 4484 days

#4 posted 01-29-2010 03:47 PM

Well I cant speak for anyone else but I love my Shopsmith. Having been in the US Air Force where I had to travel quite a bit in the 20+ years I needed something versatile and easy to setup. I was fortunate when I was able to buy one from a guy whose father had died and left it for him to sell because it needed work. I have a 1955 model and the only thing it required was a new drive belt, adjustment and the 30 yrs of sawdust removed. I built a couple of entertainment centers with it as well as a host of other things over the years. Yes it takes a bit more planning then if you have all the equipment set up ready to go but for the money it is an awesome tool. The drill press is great and it doubles as a drum sander and I can use it vertical or horizontal. The 12” sanding disc is awesome. I have the jig saw attachment which is a scroll saw was a god send before I received one as a gift. Oh and it is a lathe as well. Ok now the table saw portion. Here I have a few observations based on my experience. The Shopsmith is not a cabinet saw and will not have the speed of a cabinet saw. Because mine is an old model it only has a 3/4hp motor and will not handle some of the jobs that a 2+hp will. I haven’t found anything I can not cut with it but I have had to learn to be careful on some of the hardwoods as not to force it. I don’t recommend using it to cut 4×8 plywood but yes I have done so many times with the help of runners on the sides. I can talk all day on it because I love my SS. It comes down to what you ultimately want out of your tool purchase. If the only thing you need is to cut wood, then perhaps the table saw is more for you. However, if you want a tool that has multiple functions with a little setup and takes up a small footprint then the SS is your beast. As for the number for sale, there is usually a story behind why it is being sold and I have yet to meet anyone who sold theirs due to it being a piece of junk. I hope my litany helps.

-- Kelly -- Common Sense, Isn't Common to Everyone. - Me

View sras's profile


5946 posts in 4182 days

#5 posted 01-29-2010 05:43 PM

Hmmm, it really depends on you. As you can see from comments so far, some love them and some can’t stand them.
I have had a ShopSmith Mark V for 27 years and finally got a real table saw last year. I never came across a cut I couldn’t make with my ShopSmith. Then again, I enjoyed the problem solving. You do need to appreciate the limitations and use the tool correctly.
I spent 18 years woodworking out of a 2 car garage – that held 2 cars (and lawnmower, bicycles, yard care items, etc). If you need to tuck your tools into a corner and use your garage as a garage it is hard to beat the compact space of a ShopSmith. It takes up about the same space as a couple bicycles. If you intend to set up a wood shop and leave the tools ready to use the ShopSmith loses some of its advantage. It still provides a lot of tools in a small space.
As mentioned above, cutting sheets of plywood is probably the trickiest, but that is true on a cabinet saw as well – unless you have extensions and an outfeed table. My new saw has extensions and a decent outfeed table and I still get help making the first cut. A better solution is to make the first cut or two with a straightedge and a hand held power saw. After that, a table saw or a ShopSmith works fine.
I have never felt the need to buy a drill press, lathe or disc sander. The ShopSmith meets all my needs for these tools. I rarely use it as a horizontal boring machine, but when I have done so it is fantastic.
If you are willing to go through some set up when you change tools and you need to save space or tuck your tools into a corner the ShopSmith is a great solution.

-- Steve - Impatience is Expensive

View PurpLev's profile


8652 posts in 4701 days

#6 posted 01-29-2010 05:50 PM

I think the shopsmith is great! if you are limited in space or budget it’s a great way to get things going, and have something that works, and works well.

however , I feel that the TS setting of the shopsmith is limited compared to a stand alone TS with a tilting blade and a larger table surface, and with todays saw – better safety devices and standard miter slots – all these are limitations of the SS when used as a TS.

I’d go with a stand alone TS and a SS to accomodate it as a drill press, doring machine, lathe and sander. best of both worlds.

-- ㊍ When in doubt - There is no doubt - Go the safer route.

View dbhost's profile


5777 posts in 4284 days

#7 posted 01-29-2010 06:13 PM

With limited space and budget, a Shopsmith is a real workhorse… I have a real distaste for them based on the table saw part though. As I understand it, the saw table tilts in relation to the blade instead of tilting the blade, and that seems extremely unsafe to me. Which is why I don’t own a Shopsmith…

-- Please like and subscribe to my YouTube Channel

View LittlePaw's profile


1572 posts in 4131 days

#8 posted 01-29-2010 07:00 PM

FYI: I do have an almost brand new SS for sale. It is the 50th Anniversary Edition w/no dings or rust, everything works as new. It came with SS bandsaw attachment, 3 TS extensions, disk sander, lathe, and of course it can be used as drill press or horizontal boring machine. It has mobile casters and moves around really easily. By now, I’m sure you know all about the versatility the SS offers. For my needs, I really need a stand alone TS, a drill press and band saw that I can just walk up and use. If you are interested and come and get it, please make me an offer. Also if you want to see what it looks like, I can take some pix and post them or email them to you.

-- LittlePAW - The sweetest sound in my shop, next to Mozart, is what a hand plane makes slicing a ribbon.

View hairy's profile (online now)


3266 posts in 4585 days

#9 posted 01-29-2010 10:11 PM

I remember the early days of New Yankee Workshop, Norm had a Shopsmith. It wasn’t all he had, but it got some airtime. He would put tape over the nameplate. It’s amazing what some folks have done with one. You will be limited more by your imagination, than the machine.

-- You can lead a horse to water, but you can't tie his shoes. Blaze Foley

View botanist's profile


167 posts in 4591 days

#10 posted 01-29-2010 10:50 PM

I own a very old Shopsmith and the versatility you get with it is nice, I’d rather have a dedicated cabinet saw with modern safety features. The table saw part is the most annoying part because of 1) the size of the table is too small for wider cuts (anything about 5-6 inches wide), and 2) the fence which is incredibly unreliable. I don’t know how the fence works on the newer versions, but my fence skews as you tighten it in place. I constantly have to check to make sure it’s parallel to the blade. If you want a Shopsmith, make sure you get a newer one that will be more powerful (I have to feed my wood through at a ridiculously slow pace) and that might have more modern safety features (like blade guards and dust collection).

View Gene Howe's profile

Gene Howe

12314 posts in 4481 days

#11 posted 01-30-2010 12:31 AM

I’ve owned a Shopsmith for 30 years. I use it every day. The darned thing won’t wear out. With the aid of a couple of roller stands, I can rip any length I can get in the shop. I’ve cut full sheets of 3/4 ply without a hitch. Too old for that any more, though. Now I break it down first.
That machine has helped me build at least 12 kitchens of cabinets, many book cases and, lots of other case work.
The lathe is very good as is the drill press. I love the disk sander and the ability to do horizontal boring.
All that being said, There’s no way I’ll cut a 45 bevel or any other table tilting saw operation. But, the tilting table is a definite asset when using the disk sander, horizontal borer , or the drill press. (Think pocket screws)
If you are not making a living with it, it’s a very viable option to a free standing table saw that only CUTS wood.

-- Gene 'The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him.' G. K. Chesterton

View richgreer's profile


4541 posts in 4127 days

#12 posted 01-30-2010 01:14 AM

I began my woodworking activities with a Shopsmith many years ago and I have slowly transitioned from it to other tools, but the Shopsmith remains in my shop and I still use it for a number of functions, primarily horizontal boring and with the belt sander accessory.

The shopsmith is a very good drill press and it is acceptable as a light weight lathe. The bandsaw accessory is good but small. The belt sander accessory is very good. The jointer accessory is okay but it is only a 4” jointer.

In my opinion, the Shopsmith’s greatest weakness is when you use it as a table saw. Tilting the table instead of tilting the blade is a real hassle. I have the 510 version and I find the fence to be unacceptable. You just can’t set it precisely. Furthermore, it is very difficult (from my experience) to adjust the fence to be truly parallel to the blade.

If I were starting out today and I had very limited shop space, I would probably get the Shopsmith but if more space is available, I would probably not. If you are using all of the 2 car garage, you don’t need a Shopsmith. With the money you would pay for a new Shopsmith you could easily buy a reasonably good table saw, drill press, jointer and bench top sander with money to spare for one or more of a lathe, miter saw and/or thickness planer.

-- Rich, Cedar Rapids, IA - I'm a woodworker. I don't create beauty, I reveal it.

View Elvin's profile


72 posts in 4451 days

#13 posted 01-30-2010 08:48 PM

Thank you everyone for your input. You have really given me some insight on the Shopsmith and its strengths and weaknesses. Lumberjocks is really great and I for one am really happy we have this group.

-- Elvin, Southern California, "How great would life be if we lived a little of it everyday"

View a1Jim's profile


118161 posts in 4630 days

#14 posted 02-11-2010 01:13 AM

I’ve never owned a shop smith because the idea of setting up and breaking down for each use never appealed to me. But I know lots of folks like them. I would say if your limited on space and are willing to take down an set the different operations it might be ok. but the table saw is very small an at best it must only be good for small projects. So if you have room get a real table saw it’s the main tool in a woodshop


View bunkie's profile


415 posts in 4199 days

#15 posted 02-11-2010 02:06 AM

Why are there so many ShopSmiths for sale? That’s a good question. One of the primary reasons is that they have been around for almost 60 years and they are exceptionally well-made. That guarantees a large supply of them on the used market.

There are three distinct versions of the Mark V (as those of us who own them refer to the beasts): The 500, 510 and 520. All are essentially the same basic machine and differ only in the tables and fences. The 500 has a very small table that can’t be expanded. It’s fence is not very good. The 510 has a larger table and a series of extension tubes and floating tables that can be configured a number of different ways. Its fence is better than that of the 510. The 520 uses the same tables as the 510, but has a better system of extruded rails on the tables that work with a much-improved fence that is rock-solid.

The other absolutely huge Mark V advantage is it’s ability to be stored in a very small space. If you’re space challenged, nothing beats it.

Finally, any Mark V can be upgraded to the latest 520 version. There’s even a new version of the headstock (the motor mechanism) that has a new more powerful, electronically-controlled motor. Keeping with company philosophy, the first released version will be the upgrade kit for existing Mark Vs. In other words, existing customers are being given priority over new customers. That’s not all that common these days.

-- Altruism is, ultimately, self-serving

showing 1 through 15 of 31 replies

Have your say...

You must be signed in to reply.

DISCLAIMER: Any posts on LJ are posted by individuals acting in their own right and do not necessarily reflect the views of LJ. LJ will not be held liable for the actions of any user.

Latest Projects | Latest Blog Entries | Latest Forum Topics