While combination woodworking machines have long been the norm in European shops, the one combination machine that has been sold for decades in the United States has been the Shopsmith. It’s touted as the Swiss Army Knife of woodworking machines, with the current model – the Mark V – able to serve as a table saw, drill press, disc sander and lathe right out of the box.
While, at first glance, it might seem like the perfect tool for a cramped woodworking shop, opinions about the tool run the gamut from deep, abiding love to an intense loathing.
So, this week’s poll is trying to determine whether or not you own a Shopsmith, and what your thoughts are about this interesting woodworking machine.
14 thoughts on “Quick Poll”
It seems like a good idea at a glance, but with research…
I think it makes a terrible table saw with such a small table. Another huge drawback is that when making a bevel cut, the table is tilted instead of the blade. I like the fact that the drill press has variable speed without having to change belt positions on stepped pulleys. The table doesn’t look very rigid in drill press mode. I also like the variable speed lathe mode with large swing and distance between centers. It doesn’t look like the lathe has a moving tailstock ram, another huge drawback.
I wanted one something fierce way, way back when I saw “NORM” demonstrate one at a show in Chicago, but I couldn’t afford it then.
Now, I’m kind of glad I never got it and instead purchased equipment one piece at a time as my skills developed.
There are a lot of guys out there who own one and love it.
I have one that is a 1962 brownie. I have been using it as a lathe for about 3 or 4 years now. I have rebuilt/replaced everything inside of it and it rattles and shakes real bad. I have never used it as a saw but the drill press and sanding disk I love.
My dad had one from the forties, but it looked just like this. It made a decent drill press, lathe and horizontal boring machine. The table saw was okay, if inaccurate, for square cuts but I didn’t care for cutting angles with a tilting-table saw. The biggest problem was that you had to break down your setup to change functions.
I own one that I bought used for $500 off of Craigslist. It included a 4″ jointer. For a small shop, or a hand tool shop, a used shopsmith is a great way to have access to pretty decent power tools without spending a fortune. People complain a lot about the table saw, but the newer machines (model 510 or 520) have a bigger table. I would say it’s as good a saw as any contractor saw your going to buy at a box store. For my needs it’s pretty hard to beat. I can park it in a corner while I use my hand tools and roll it into the middle of the shop when I don’t want to rip 10 boards by hand, or want to turn something on a lathe, or drill a piece of metal accurately.
I needed more than a radial arm saw and hand tools, so bought a Shopsmith Mark V. Been 12 years now and have built many furniture projects with it. Am happy with the machine and with the Shopsmith Company. Now I have upgraded to a PowerPro headstock. (250 to 10,000 RPM).
Some think they will be limited by the size of the saw table, but today I expanded the table with floating tables and had a saw table 6 feet wide. Sawed exact pieces from a 4’X4′ oak ply sheet. Also today horizontally drilled 1/2 holes into plywood sides using a forstner bit. These half holes will nest the shelf posts. Can’t do that with most combination saws!
They haven’t made that “small table” in almost 30 years. A more accurate photo is warranted I think.
I have used many wood working tools In the past. As well I heard-read comments about the drawbacks of the Shopsmith. I am pleased to report that the too often reported criticisims must originate from those who have not used the latest revision.
I know of no other tool that provides the manufactured quality, ease of use, many tool incarnations, consistent high quality results and customer support as does Shopsmith. I am quite pleased.
If you have limited shop space like me, there is no better tool available for the price. My workshop is a 2 car garage that I park 2 cars in. The Shopsmith sits nicely along the side when not in use. I have built many nice things with it.
I have mine since 1983 and I have provided one to each of my kids and they still have them. I have made pens, flag boxes, and garage cabinets that are 8′ tall. Most criticism seems to come from people who have never had or used one. Change over time is not a problem, and set up time is the same as for any other tool. As for accuracy; The SS can be tuned to provide accuracy that is as good as any other tool.
Can you turn a pen on your Unisaw? Of course you can’t, it wasn’t designed for that.
The SS was designed as a multipurpose tool and is the best when that is kept in mind.
I bought my Mark V-500 new in 1980 and it was my main machine for 20 years. Other than the table saw function, I think it is great machine. In 2006 I bought a Powermatic 64A, but I still use my SS for drilling, horizontal boring and sanding and I really appreciate the versatility. Over the years I have added the jointer, 6″ belt sander and the bandsaw, so I would never sell my Shopsmith.
Bought my Mark 5 Shopsmith new in 1963. I still use it today. I have since acquired other versions as well as special purpose tools(jointer, bandsaw, belt sander, strip sander, planer, scroll saw, jig saw etc.). With several possible base machines(Mark 5, power station, Mark 510, power station #2, Mark VII, Model 10E, Mark2, shorty Mark 5) I have the best of both worlds.
Yes some alternate methods are required at times, but that is where a craftsman steps up to the plate.
Setups are not an issue if planning is included. Setups get changed on standalone tools during normal use also.
As far as saw accuracy goes, all saws will be inaccurate if not set up properly. Same for any other tool function.
As for the ‘small table’, tis as large as many contractor saws.
Finally the ‘current’ shopsmith model is a Mark 7 which is quite different from the Mark V 500 shown at the top of this poll.
I used a Shopsmith from about 1980 until about 2001. For a shop that was smaller than a 1 car garage, it was quite useful. It taught me a great deal about being organized while working to decrease the changeovers that needed to be done. I learned to do a good deal of all sorts of woodworking using that machine. Once I decided to get a Table Saw, however, the lure of single purpose machines with different abilities sucked me in.
I no longer have the machines because it no longer had the capacity or power to do the projects I started working on, but I don’t regret the time or money spent with it over the years. It has it’s place and has it’s uses. For over 20 years those met my needs well.
I’ve got the ER model, which has an even smaller table. The table saw function on a Shopsmith is been known as it’s least loved feature, both because of table size, as well as the tilting table, instead of tilting arbor.
BUT, as a lathe it is amongst the best. and as a drill-press, it can’t be beat. Also, how many of you non SS owners have a horizontal drill-press?