Shopsmith Is It Really That Bad of a Set-Up?

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Forum topic by akmiller907 posted 10-12-2012 05:53 PM 60799 views 0 times favorited 31 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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42 posts in 2585 days

10-12-2012 05:53 PM

So this last winter i bought a Shopsmith from a guy off Craigslist and it turned out I knew him from church basketball. Got a pretty decent deal on it but it’s not the best deal I’ve seen. It’s a 2005 model so not a 30 year old machine and runs strong. Came with a few extras like a talon chuck and nice wood turning chisels. I long debated the situation and before i forked over the money made sure that I wanted to commit to this machine and not stationary machines. Most had to do with the space issue; I was working in a old International school bus so it really was perfect. But now I am in a nice heated garage as of about three weeks ago and loving it. I have a lot more room and had to again ponder my commitment to Shopsmith products. I am trying to start a smaller wood shop side business and had to decide whether I go buy all new stationary equipment or stick with Shopsmith and buy some accessories and upgrades to sup up my already existing tools. I decided to stick with Shopsmith because i already seen the tool is very accurate and diverse and I wanted to be a good steward of what I already have. I am able to do all that I could with Stationary tools and with the same accuracy. No doubt it has draw backs, like any tool ,but overall I love the machine. I have ordered the Incra fence and miter 5000 sled and can’t wait to get that set up. I am maybe not as fast as i was on stationary machines but I’ve liked the slower pace in the shop. I guess I am wondering about the thought of others experience with Shopsmith tools and pros and cons others have had. Success stories and such. There seems to be so much negativity surrounding Shopsmith ,but I have found in my own reading that it tends to be from people who don’t have experience with the tool. Anyway happy to hear your thoughts. Thanks.

-- Kenny

31 replies so far

View DaveDelo's profile


86 posts in 3403 days

#1 posted 10-12-2012 06:45 PM

My 2 cents worth, maybe it will help you maybe not.

I started with a 1954 Greenie 5 years ago to redo my kitchen. Didn’t take me but a few days to realize that maybe it wasn’t the best choice but for 200 bucks I had a tool that could slice & dice. Previous to that I did not have anything except a 20 year old Black & Decker cirular saw. Sold that SS and have owed several other newer 510 models and see their value but I went in another direction with stationary tools and am happy I did. However, there’s something about the SS magic that keeps drawing me back and I’m happy about that also. I’ve gone the SS stationary route with their Pro Planer and their Power Station accessories. Here what I think about those:

Pro Planer: actually have 2 of them and for what I do it beats anyone’s lunchbox type hands down every day of the week. It capable of 4” x 12” so that has some drawbacks but like I said, for what I do it’s outstanding.

Power Station with 6” x 48” belt sander: variable speed makes this a great tool and would be lost without it. Dust collection is very good and it also has a 3” wide drum sander attachment.

Bandsaw: Altough I don’t have one right now, I used it in the past and generally thought it was pretty decent. I might consider getting another for the right price but I’ve got a 16” Jet for straight cuts and a 14” clone set uo for curved work. Wouldn’t mind having a SS and stick a 1/8” blade on it and mount it to the power station. Probably the only thing I don’t like about the SS bandsaw is dust collection because there isn’t any dc ports unless you make your own.

2 items they don’t make anymore but that I’m always on the scout for are the SS Joint-Matic horizontal router table considered to be in its day as good as anything and the SS Sawsmith that was sort of an upside down RAS. Not that I need them, just the magic of owning some good vintage SS equipment from the USA.

View MJCD's profile


598 posts in 2880 days

#2 posted 10-12-2012 08:03 PM

Shopsmith has received, and perhaps continues to receive, a bad rap. My first serious woodworking equipment was a Mark V, and I built some quality stuff with it – a Cherry Quilt Rack, intricate knife holders, and even turned some Cedar Christmas Tree Ornaments. To this day, I believe the Drill Press and Sanding capabilities remain the best I’ve seen. I went to work overseas, and sold all of my equipment.

Where the Shopsmith is seen deficient is when you compare it to a $2,500 table saw with a $500 add-on Fence, or virtually any other high-end stationary equipment which by itself costs as much as the Shopsmith. Also, the table top/work surface and related supports are smaller than most woodworkers are accustomed to.

We all have compromises in our shops – the key is to enjoy the woodworking process of dreaming about a projected; then in a very detailed professional manner, executing the steps to completion. During this process, we use the tools we have.

View Loren's profile


10477 posts in 4156 days

#3 posted 10-12-2012 08:26 PM

Shopsmith makes an accurate machine. It does a real
nice job drilling and the way the table tilts is good for
woodworking. The table saw is accurate for joinery
but at some point when you have to add extension
tables to make accurate cuts and adjust them all every
time you change the depth of cut, it gets goofy.

View DeputyDawg's profile


196 posts in 4474 days

#4 posted 10-12-2012 08:48 PM

I started out with a Shopsmith and still have it but us it only for Drilling and the circular sander. The biggest problem I had with it was accuracy. Plus if you are doing a project with a lot of different changes you need to do with the machine and you forget one or you need another piece because on of them wasn’t right you have to break the machine down and start all over just for one or two pieces. So now I have all the stationary tools and dont use the shopsmith very much.

-- DeputyDawg

View Gene Howe's profile

Gene Howe

11850 posts in 3937 days

#5 posted 10-12-2012 08:51 PM

My MKV 500 is over 35 years old. With it, I’ve built or completely remodeled several houses, built numerous pieces of case work and cabinets and bunches of small boxes and larger chests.
With the use of various out feed supports one can rip almost unlimited lengths. The height of the table makes breaking down 3/4” ply wood some what of a chore, though. At 72 years of age, I don’t even try anymore.
When I first got mine, I used the lathe for spindle turning and found that a live center for the tail stock was a great improvement over the stock “dead” center. Can’t offer much more about the lathe cuz I found that turning was not my forte. But, I understand that, as a lathe, it’s pretty decent.
As a drill press and horizontal borer, IMO it’s excellent. The tilting table makes those functions so much more versatile.
My only accessory is the band saw. It’s limited to 6” for resawing. I use it to resaw and make band saw boxes. There are probably better band saws, certainly bigger ones but, it has served my needs.
Not really and accessory, the disk sander is a great addition, too.
Finally, I would suggest you join the Shopsmith forum Here . Great bunch of very knowledgeable folks over there. And Here is a link to around 50 outstanding videos showing many different ways to use your machine.

-- 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 longgone's profile


5688 posts in 3817 days

#6 posted 10-12-2012 09:11 PM

I have a shop full of quality power tools…Powermatic, Grizzly, Jet, Festool and others. I still have a Shopsmith that I use for horizontal drilling and attaching my buffing wheels. Very satiffied for what it does and it is the second one i have owned. I had one in the 1970’s that I always took out to the boathouse when I was restoring and working on wood boats. The portability was invaluable and it most certainly was accurate enough.

View akmiller907's profile


42 posts in 2585 days

#7 posted 10-12-2012 10:45 PM

Wow thanks for all the input. I am confident I will be able to make it work for my needs. I am young and energetic so the tool change overs aren’t all that bad and they teach me to check and double check the tools squareness for accurate cuts. I admit the new 520 fence is a huge improvement over the 510. Time will tell. Thanks

-- Kenny

View Paul M Cohen's profile

Paul M Cohen

86 posts in 4286 days

#8 posted 10-12-2012 11:11 PM

I have a 2HP PowerPro with 520 fence and double title (so it really is a Mark VII) and I find most of the people that dislike the Shopsmith are thinking about the under-powered, small table version from the 1950’s-1960 era. But the fact that any of those 30-60 year old machines can be upgraded to what I have says a lot about the quality and longevity of the machine. Unless someone specifies what Shopsmith model they are complaining about it is hard to know if they apply to the current machines.

The issues of table misalignment was addressed with the 520 design, lower power motor (vs. standalone saws) was addressed first with thin kerf blades, the upgrade to a 1 1/8 HP motor and most recently with the 2 HP DVR PowerPro. For anyone not familiar with DVR it is amazing technology that allow reversing and speeds up to 10K at up to 2 HP with full torque throughout the range. The ability to digitally slow down and speed up a saw (or other tool) gives very interesting capabilities not available with many other stationary tools.

-- Paul, Beaverton OR,

View Milo's profile


869 posts in 3828 days

#9 posted 10-12-2012 11:18 PM

I have to admit that, with the reduction in workshop size I am looking at, I am seriously considering making my shopsmith the main tablesaw in my shop. I don’t like how high up it is, but I can always work something out there.

Gene, if I do this, I’m writing you for advice! :)

-- Beer, Beer, Thank God for Beer. It's my way of keeping my mind fresh and clear...

View teejk's profile


1215 posts in 3193 days

#10 posted 10-12-2012 11:26 PM

just an opinion from an old guy…we all drooled at the ads for the SS. Biggest draw-back though is set-up for one use only to need it for another use (witness 1/2 the complaints about DP mounted mortisers…the other 1/2 being related to accuracy)

View EEngineer's profile


1120 posts in 4122 days

#11 posted 10-12-2012 11:36 PM

This is my $.02 worth…

I don’t think the ShopSmith is a bad unit. I have a friend who uses one exclusively and the work he turns out is superb. But I run my shop with dedicated machines and the reason is simple: I like to “putter” in my shop. I don’t necessarily know exactly where I am going or how I am going to get there all the time.

Now, I like to have fairly detailed plans to start. But, nearly every time, the plans change, I see a better way to do things or I make a mistake that entails a change to use whatever I have already been working on for 2 hours on or I just change my approach in the middle of things… for me, dedicated machines work out better. I may have one piece go from the table saw to the router table (can you do routing on the ShopSmith – my friend doesn’t), to the drill press, back to the table saw, back to the router table… well, you get the idea. A ShopSmith would drive me crazy with setup and teardown. Dedicated tools… no problem. ShopSmith, with a reconfigure for each type of tool between every step… I would go nuts!

If you are detail-oriented and always follow the plan, or you can put up with the changes between each operation that the inevitable changes force on you then the ShopSmith might be OK for you. For me, I couldn’t do it!

-- "Find out what you cannot do and then go do it!"

View shipwright's profile


8380 posts in 3306 days

#12 posted 10-13-2012 03:54 AM

I have two shops.
One at home in Canada that has everything you could want in stationary power tools.
Another one in part of a garage at my winter place in Az. It has a ShopSmith with accessories and no other stationary tools.
Simply put, there is almost nothing that I can accomplish at home that I can’t do in Az. That may surprise you. I know it certainly surprised me.
Here’s my Canadian shop.
Here’s a blog on my Az shop. Check them out and you be the judge.

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

View kizerpea's profile


775 posts in 2876 days

#13 posted 10-13-2012 12:32 PM

I have a shopsmith overarm pin router early 80s model…so far its work good for me..


View Betsy's profile


3392 posts in 4404 days

#14 posted 10-13-2012 08:11 PM

I started with s SS. It is a great tool. You really have to plan out your project to make the most of each set up. I think the necessity of changing setups really helped me to slow down and really learn what I was doing. I have no regrets having owned one.

-- "Our past judges our present." JFK - 1962; American Heritage Magazine

View 8iowa's profile


1591 posts in 4270 days

#15 posted 10-13-2012 08:47 PM

With very small space to work in, I purchased a Shopsmith 500 in 1983. Included were the bandsaw and jointer. My son and I had this machine in almost constant use, and as our skills increased, we added the dust collector and the planer. There is no way we could have accomplished so many tasks with the limited number of stand alone tools that would conceively fit in such limited space. In ‘05 we moved to Gainesville Florida and this Shopsmith, now fully upgraded to Power Pro MK7 is still situated in only 194 sq ft. All of my original tools are still in use. Shopsmith’s customer support is second to none.

When I built my 24’x28’ dream workshop in the Upper Peninsula, I had space for stand alone tools, but I decided to make it a two Shopsmith workplace. One Shopsmith, a conventional 520 is set up most of the time as a saw with the Incra 5000 sled. The other Shopsmith, converted to Power Pro, does almost everything else. Those who are critical of the Shopsmith, have not seen the Power Pro, double tilt, MK7 in action.

I’ve always found it humorous that some complain that the Shopsmith makes one “plan ahead”.

-- "Heaven is North of the Bridge"

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