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

  • Advertise with us
View akmiller907's profile

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

by akmiller907
posted 10-12-2012 05:53 PM

26 replies so far

View DaveDelo's profile


86 posts in 2890 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


541 posts in 2367 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.

-- Lead By Example; Make a Difference

View Loren's profile (online now)


10380 posts in 3643 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 3961 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

10479 posts in 3424 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 3304 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 2072 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 3773 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 3315 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 2680 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


1102 posts in 3609 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


7980 posts in 2794 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 ..............If God wanted us to have fiberglass boats he would have given us fibreglass trees.

View kizerpea's profile


774 posts in 2363 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


3391 posts in 3892 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


1580 posts in 3757 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"

View NormG's profile


6111 posts in 2999 days

#16 posted 10-13-2012 09:09 PM

There is one on the Richmond Craigslist for $60.00.

I have never used one, have seen others use them and it did the job they needed it to do.

-- Norman - I never never make a mistake, I just change the design.

View Bart Steed's profile

Bart Steed

24 posts in 1632 days

#17 posted 12-12-2013 09:10 PM

I found this thread helpful. I’m new to woodworking and just needed the basics to get started with cabinetry. I just bought a used 1985 SSMV500 in excellent condition for $500. I plan to upgrade it eventually…

I am 6’3” so the height is actually a bonus for me.

I can imagine how the unit setup changes could be frustrating to some people. But, I tend to work with more expensive material so I don’t find myself having to “redo” very many things.

I feel confident that I got a great deal on a phenomenal tool. I do wish that there were better quality, more beginner-oriented video resources on the machine, online though.

I have to agree 100% about the customer service. They survived the roughest part of the recession and the staff has always been knowledgeable and extremely helpful to me. A+ there.

-- Bart Steed, Apprentice, Ohio USA

View apopj's profile


8 posts in 3090 days

#18 posted 11-22-2015 02:18 PM

It seems most of the controversy is over the time involved in changing over an SS from one function to another. I didn’t buy my ShopSmith as a production machine to make tons of money, but rather, as a hobby machine used for stress relief and enjoyment. So, rushing from one function to another isn’t a race, but a means to relax and enjoy. As a Police Officer, I race from one call to another, when I’m home, I want to slow down and enjoy.
I know it would be quicker to have separate machines, but quick isn’t what I’m after. Using those parameters, the SS is EXACTLY what I want and need. It does everything well and lets me relax while doing it. Isn’t that the purpose?

-- I ride waaaay too fast to worry about cholesteral

View akmiller907's profile


42 posts in 2072 days

#19 posted 11-22-2015 04:42 PM

Well its has been a couple years and Still rocking the SS! Its a great machine and still meeting my tiny shop needs. But the truth is most of my time is now spent at the workbench with hand tools. The only tool that i want stationary is a lathe. The SS works pretty well but too light and bounces around a lot. That being said Ive managed to turn mallets, tools handles, and bowls just fine. The SS will serve me for many many years to come.

-- Kenny

View Cuencanolenny's profile


2 posts in 712 days

#20 posted 06-09-2016 07:31 PM

I see this is quite old, but if you don’t mind I’ll add my two cents worth. I have owned two SS. The first was a brand new Model 510, the second was a little bit older that I bought used, so maybe a Model 500? The newer unit had some much better features and I’m sure the newest model is superior yet. Wow, what a price increase. My first new unit was purchased in 1986 so thirty years ago. I found that with taking time and using accurate setup equipment I could adjust the tables, fence, etc. to be very accurate and once adjusted were reliable. Like many folks I wondered about the changing from one setup to another. One evening I was working and my middle daughter was keeping me company. I had a stopwatch handy, she was playing with it. I needed to go from vertical drill press to table saw for a compound bore and cut. I told her when to start and when to stop. I hated this piece of information, three minutes and twenty seconds! Knowing that makes a person feel lazy if they decide they will stop and do it tomorrow. I think the ability to perform a compound cut, sand, bore in one setup cannot be readily copied on multiple other pieces of equipment.

View Paul M Cohen's profile

Paul M Cohen

86 posts in 3773 days

#21 posted 06-09-2016 07:44 PM

I have upgraded a 500 to a digital Mark VII, show me another tool that has that kind of upgradablity or a saw with digital speed control. No other saw on the market can run an 8” dado blade at 6k or more (some blades are rated to 7.5K) producing a cut as smooth as glass or slow it down to not melt plastic. Set an angle to cut and use the same setup to drill or bisquit the end no problem. You can find 50 year old used machines and the upgrade takes just a few hours and you have a machine your great grand children will be using.

-- Paul, Beaverton OR,

View kizerpea's profile


774 posts in 2363 days

#22 posted 06-09-2016 08:12 PM

If you see a lot of the same tool for sale .., there’s your sign.


View Paul M Cohen's profile

Paul M Cohen

86 posts in 3773 days

#23 posted 06-09-2016 08:51 PM

Over 1 million Shopsmith machines have been sold over the past 60+ years and from the 60’s every machine can still be repaired and upgraded if something is wrong, they were not built to be disposable. Show me another tool that can make that claim. The reason “many” machines are for sale is because people die and their descendants have no idea what they are or have no interest in woodworking.

-- Paul, Beaverton OR,

View Cuencanolenny's profile


2 posts in 712 days

#24 posted 06-09-2016 09:18 PM

I think that used machines are much like the used one I bought while living in Seattle. The fellow’s father had bought it for use in retirement. Over $7,000 worth for $1,500 and I think I only had to pay shipping from Sacramento as the fellow had a business with a location there. The jig saw had never been used or had oil installed. I had duplicates and triplicates of many items. So I think maybe sometimes the equipment was purchased and used very little, somebody died or didn’t like it.

The original dust collector I had was great, but a wood chunk took out the squirrel cage. The replacement was stronger by having fewer vanes, it was much louder in use. However, being able to just drop the bag, tie it off and put it out with the trash was very convenient and better, in my opinion, than using a shopvac. One other feature, and other equipment may offer it as well, are the blank plastic plates for thin cuts, dados. I had several of those set up so that I didn’t have to cut a new one all the time, just swap it out and go.

View Paul M Cohen's profile

Paul M Cohen

86 posts in 3773 days

#25 posted 06-09-2016 09:43 PM

I usually end up with duplicates when I buy an accessory at a garage sale and the seller has no idea what it is so they sell everything as a package. I take the duplicate stuff and sell on eBay to help pay the cost of what I purchased, I needed one shaper cutter and the seller sold me every shaper cutter (27), shaper fence, 2 router chucks, shaper arbors and some other stuff for $75, one cutter sells for $19 plus shipping. When I upgraded to the digital motor with dual tilt ($1,200 at the time), I sold the parts I removed for almost $800 profit so the upgrade was very cheap. I also did this for my 500 to 510 upgrade, and 510 to 520.

-- Paul, Beaverton OR,

View MrRon's profile


4764 posts in 3239 days

#26 posted 06-11-2016 04:34 PM

I started my woodworking with an old model 10ER Shopsmith that I bought 40 years ago for $100. I really got my money’s worth out of that machine. I used it for 2 years and sold it for $100 to a friend who used it for about 6 months. He really didn’t like woodworking, so he sold it back to me for $100. I used it to fix up my house and make projects around the house. I finally sold it for good for $100 and moved up to stationary machines. I’m sorta a tool junkie, and wish I had kept the SS. If I find another one, I will get it, but it probably will cost more than $100.

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