The never ending debate...Shopsmith (will I never let this go???)

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Blog entry by SST posted 01-15-2010 06:54 PM 5981 reads 0 times favorited 22 comments Add to Favorites Watch

I stumbled across a place on the web where someone was asking about the merits of the Shopsmith vs getting separate tools & realized that it’s been a while since I blogged about that here on Lumberjocks, and while that in itself would not have prompted me to open this tool box again, when coupled with the event I’ll describe here, it was just enough to throw me over the edge & down that particular slippery slope.

I’m just finally finishing up my son’s Christmas present project (yes, I know it’s a bit late…turned out to be much more involved than I anticipated & no, the lateness was not caused by the change over time between tools on the shopsmith) and got to looking back on all that was involved.

First, let me describe my setup so you can get a picture of what my shop is like. (I’m intending to actually post updated pics of my shop as soon as I can get it cleaned up)
I now have 2-1952 vintage Shopsmith 10er’s, one set up as a dedicated dado saw (VERY handy not to have to change to a dado blade & back). The second is set up in disk sander mode & also used as the lathe.
I have a 1983 fullsize Smith used mostly to run the bandsaw & scrollsaw and for horizontal boring, drill press mode, and as a shaper & drum sander.
I have a 1957 “shortie” (tubes cut down to 34” to save space) that is dedicated as a tablesaw & jointer.

Now I know that somebody might be thinking, where’s the logic in having lots of Shopsmiths…where’s the space savings of a combination tool, you may just as well have separate tools. OK, I get that…but there’s a couple of things to consider, here. First, I’m “Shopsmithtom”, remember??? That ought to tell you that I’m an admitted Shopsmith junkie. That said (and I don’t expect a lot of you to understand, just remember, it’s my world & I’m the only one who has to live in it), there’s a real logical reason to have several Shopsmiths.

In my basement shop which is roughly 15’ x 18’, along with 2 workbenches, I have;
1) dado tablesaw
2) tablesaw
3) lathe
4) 12” disk sander
5) horizontal borer
6) drill press
7) drum sander
8) bandsaw
9) scroll saw
10) shaper
11) jointer
12) overhead plunge router
13) mortising machine
All these tools are on mobile bases (very handy in a small shop)
With 4 units, the change over time that people who have never done it seem to feel is oppressive, but actually averaging 15- 60 seconds per tool, is minimized because there are 4 tools set up at any given time.

OK, the description of my shop has gone on long enough. It’s time to get back to my original point.
Just finishing up a substantial project (that I’ll post as soon as the finish is dry & rubbed out) I looked back on all the things I did including mortise & tenon & dado joinery & realized that I lack for nothing in my little shop.
I’ve done every process necessary to be able to build virtually any piece of furniture.
Even (and this is the thing that actually got me writing about all this stuff again) the much maligned Shopsmith tablesaw was up to the task. My (underpowered at 3/4hp, so they say) machine ripped 1 3/4” oak just fine, the table extensions provided adequate support for my work, and in all this time I never had to make a miter cut which seems to be an issue with non smithers. How many do we really make, after all. I never had to actually tilt the table.

My point, if anyone is still awake, I think everyone should have separate power tools…separate Shopsmiths

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

22 comments so far

View Gary's profile


9386 posts in 3673 days

#1 posted 01-15-2010 07:14 PM

Tom, if you are happy with your shop/tools, why allow anyone elses argument to upset you. If you enjoy using your Smiths and get the results you want, you have the right tool for you, no matter what anyone else says. My choice is different because what I use is right for me.

-- Gary, DeKalb Texas only 4 miles from the mill

View Joe Watson's profile

Joe Watson

316 posts in 3787 days

#2 posted 01-15-2010 07:28 PM

I have always seen the shopsmith as a jack of all trades master of none type tools. However I want one because its a marvelous piece of engineering. I have a fascination with the tool and had it for sometime. It may not fit the needs of everyone but as long as the people who have them like them it really doesn’t matter. Like with anything I see woodworking as being one of those things that has no right way of doing things but multiple ways of accomplishing the same goals with their own downsides. My dad picked up an old 10ER for 150 dollars and has played with it restoring it to be useful. Since he is more of a machinist metalworker type he is planning on giving it to me and i plan on at least getting use of the drill press lathe and horizontal boring machine. Don’t think I would have ever bought a new machine but since older machines when they can be found can be found at a good deal I think its worth while to try one. Shopsmith vs Separate Machines will probably be an ongoing debate like power tool vs hand tools. some will like one more than another. as long as what I do works for me it doesn’t bother me that others think its wrong.

ps post pictures sometime in a blog of all your shopsmiths I am interested in seeing them. Maybe even create a shopsmith series on them post a seperate blog on each and detail how you use it with a couple of pictures. I think it would be neat.

-- Got Wood?

View Don Butler's profile

Don Butler

1092 posts in 3636 days

#3 posted 01-15-2010 07:31 PM

My old SS (28 YO, now) is still in my shop.
Yes, I have other dedicated tools, but I won’t let my SS go for anything.
If I had to buy separate tools for what the SS does I’d have no room to move.
Rarely does a day pass in the shop when I fail to use the Smith for something and often many things.
I take very good care of it because I want it to last for a long time.
I pull it down about once a year and clean and adjust everything.
The tubes get clean, polished and waxed.
I’ve replaced the quill with a 2 bearing one.
I have yet to replace the main drive belt. (It may be coming soon) Best wishes,

-- No trees were damaged in posting this message, but thousands of electrons were seriously inconvenienced.

View SST's profile


790 posts in 4435 days

#4 posted 01-15-2010 08:10 PM

Gary, I agree with you 100% on using what’s right for you. It’s pretty obvious what’s right with me.

I really throw this out there knowing I’ll never the change the tool world, but just to have some fun and interesting commentary. I’ve used separate tools, too, and there’s certainly nothing wrong with that way. I agree with Joe, above, that the Smith is a marvelous piece of engineering & has an interesting history dating to the 1940’s. I think it would be interesting to know what percentage of Lumberjocks have Shopsmiths. -SST

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

View DaveH's profile


400 posts in 4019 days

#5 posted 01-15-2010 08:22 PM

My shop includes.

cabinet saw with a 7 foot bed with a 7×4 foot outfeed table
8” x 72” jointer
Floor model drill press
14” bandsaw with riser
Shopsmith Shorty for a sanding station (a great use of a Shopsmith)
Shopsmith 510 normal setup
Shopsmith 500 setup with travel wheels (includes SS bandsaw and SS jointer for travel)

I use them all. I recommend to my friends / family to start with a SS and add stand alone equipment as the need arises.

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

View Joe Kimmell's profile

Joe Kimmell

32 posts in 3395 days

#6 posted 01-15-2010 08:41 PM

I’m with ya Tom! I got my 10ER (‘53) four years ago and it won’t leave my shop ‘til I’m pushing daisies….and then it’ll go to my son. I, also, like using it for dado cuts a lot. It was well worth the $150 just for use as a dedicated lathe….my main desire. Once I got a live center, it got really sweet! But, I use it for so much more!

-- Beer and Bandsaws just don't mix. Take my word for it!

View danriffle's profile


73 posts in 3814 days

#7 posted 01-15-2010 11:34 PM

Preach it my brother!

Dan in WV (with 2 1/2 Shopsmith 10ERs)

P.S. Tom, do you find it offensive that the Lumberjocks spell checker thinks ‘shopsmith’ isn’t a word? Oh, well, it thinks the same thing about ‘lumberjocks’ :)

View Gary's profile


9386 posts in 3673 days

#8 posted 01-16-2010 12:03 AM

Tom..I agree… I don’t line RAS either and some love them. They scare the squat right out of me. Took me several years to start using a cell phone. Only did it because of job requirements…

-- Gary, DeKalb Texas only 4 miles from the mill

View fatherviking's profile


8 posts in 3294 days

#9 posted 01-16-2010 12:52 AM

I just signedd up so I could comment. I have built a lot of projects using my Monkey Wards Shopsmith No. 1. I’ve got the other tools now, but for 20 years it was my only tool in a 10×12 shop. It is still my lathe. I’ve been out of touch with other Shopsmith nuts, so it’s refreshing to find some. Where do you gt parts? Are any available for the old machines?

-- Dan, Oregon

View Don Butler's profile

Don Butler

1092 posts in 3636 days

#10 posted 01-16-2010 01:32 AM

Parts come from the Dayton factory and from various people selling them from their own stashes. Watch Ebay and Craigs list and do searches in the Internet.


-- No trees were damaged in posting this message, but thousands of electrons were seriously inconvenienced.

View Bill Hayes's profile

Bill Hayes

29 posts in 3893 days

#11 posted 01-16-2010 01:33 AM

Tom, I have 4 ER’s set up now and two MKV’s and two more ER’s in parts to work on and set up. I have been following you pictures and post on several sites for year and love your ideas. I had never thought of a dedicated Dado saw but I have an ER from 48 from the original owner that is like new and tonight it will be set up just that way. Great idea’s come from this group and love to see what you have been doing.

-- Bill, Broken Arrow OK.

View SST's profile


790 posts in 4435 days

#12 posted 01-16-2010 05:16 AM

It’s always interesting to hear from Smith guys. It would be interesting to learn how many are on Lumberjocks. In response to the question on parts, besides ebay & craigslist, I have some 10er parts that I’m going to part with. Just PM me if there’s an interest.

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

View closetguy's profile


744 posts in 4133 days

#13 posted 01-16-2010 05:42 AM

I’m an advocate of going with what works for you. There are a lot of dedicated Shopsmith folks out there. It doesn’t work for me because I subscribe to the theory that whoever dies with the most tools wins…..

-- I don't make mistakes, only design

View Napaman's profile


5530 posts in 4318 days

#14 posted 01-16-2010 06:07 AM

I love my 520…it was a perfect fit for my needs and keeps pleasing me several years later…

-- Matt--Proud LJ since 2007

View Jeison's profile


968 posts in 3348 days

#15 posted 01-16-2010 06:31 AM

I’d love to have a shopsmith, partly because I think they’re just damn cool machines, and partly to have access to tools that would comein handy on an occasional basis, but not enough to devote precious space to on a full time basis (like lathe, horizontal bore, and a back up tablesaw, like a semi-dedicated dado saw as mentioned above.)

I can see the attraction in having multiple machines like that, you may normally have say machine A set up as a drill press and machine B set up as a lathe 90% of the time, but then theres that ONE project where you’d like to have two drill presses set up for different operations for example.

Frankly I’d be happy with just one, I keep trolling craigslist and ebay but never seen find an affordable deal within range (when I actually have the money that is LOL)

-- - Jei, Rockford IL - When in doubt, spray it with WD-40 and wrap it with duct tape. The details will attend to themselves.

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