Looking for advise on selecting a Shopsmith

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Forum topic by HallTree posted 04-08-2010 09:12 PM 1670 views 0 times favorited 4 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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5664 posts in 3943 days

04-08-2010 09:12 PM

Topic tags/keywords: question resource shopsmith

I have had a woodworking shop all my adult life untill I moved into a condo a few years ago and gave/sold most of my woodworking stuff. I now have sold the condo and brought a mobile home in a retirement park. I am going to build a small sheld for a shop. After reading Heath’s post ‘Shopsmith Mark V Restoration’ I am thinking that this might be the way to go. My question is:
What should I look for when buying a used Shopsmith?

-- "Hold on to instruction, do not let it go; guard it well, for it is your life" Solomon

4 replies so far

View crank49's profile


4032 posts in 3147 days

#1 posted 04-08-2010 11:22 PM

I just saw one listed on the Craigs List in Nashville, Tennessee for $1995. Said it had all acessories and less than 30hrs usage. Looked good in the pictures. A friend of mine has one; she inherited it and loves to play with it.

View bunkie's profile


412 posts in 3323 days

#2 posted 04-08-2010 11:36 PM


Here’s what I would look for:

Try to get a model 510 or 520. The larger table and the floating tables make a huge difference. You can always upgrade a 500 to 510 or 520, but you will need to factor in the cost.

Look for a two-bearing quill. All 510 and later and a lot of 500s have this. Again, you can upgrade.

All of the upgrade stuff is in the ShopSmith accessory catalog which is on-line at

Check the castings (table, brackets, etc.) for cracks. Check for smooth operation of the quill and the speed control (which should be checked when running). Turn the unit on, run it up the highest speed and turn it off. Restart it. It should have no trouble starting and coming up to speed. Issues here could be bad belts or a bad motor. Belts are easy, a new motor is pricey. If the speed dial is off, that’s not too big a deal, there’s an adjustment procedure to get that straightened out. One weakness is the speed dial itself, it has a cast-in gear on the inside that can get chewed up. Not that big a deal, it’s replaceable. Look out for rust on the main (way) tubes. These need to be nice and shiny. Bring some paste wax, apply it to the way tubes, let it dry and buff it off. Once this is done, the headstock and the table carriage should move very smoothly. If the way tubes are bad, they can be replaced.

Make sure that the saw shroud and the blade guard are included. The 510 and 520s have a very good guard, it’s easy to use. The shroud protects you from the blade spinning below the table. Don’t run the saw without it. The 520 has a much better fence. The upgrade isn’t too expensive, I’d factor this in when negotiating price with a seller.

That’s a start. I’m sure others will chime in. The ShopSmith is an exceptional choice for space-challenged woodworkers. There’s definitely a ShopSmith “way”, but you’ll find that with a little creative thinking, there’s little it won’t do.

-- Altruism is, ultimately, self-serving

View richgreer's profile


4541 posts in 3250 days

#3 posted 04-09-2010 12:09 AM

The ShopSmith can do a lot of things reasonably well and they are ideal if you have limited space. One function they do not do well (in my opinion) is serve as a table saw. I’d recommend a ShopSmith as a drill press, lathe, and horizontal boring machine. They also have some accessories that work well. At the top of the list is their belt sander, scroll saw, and jointer. Ideally, you would get a ShopSmith and a separate table saw.

Be advised that as you go from the 500 to the 510 to the 520 the primary thing that gets upgraded is the table saw. If you use a separate table saw, you don’t care if you have a 500 or 510 or 520.

You want a ShopSmith that has been well maintained. In my opinion, you should buy directly from the previous owner and you should be able to get a sense as to whether or not that owner was good about maintenance work. You want the way tubes to be smooth and essentially rust free.

Bunkie is right about the 2 bearing quills. However, virtually everything on a ShopSmith can be upgraded.

Be advised that ShopSmith is about to introduce a new headstock with more power, more speed and electronic variable speed. The price is a well kept secret. Nonetheless, when this headstock is available, it will make all ShopSmiths more appealling.

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

View HallTree's profile


5664 posts in 3943 days

#4 posted 04-09-2010 03:01 PM

Thanks guys. Very helpful information. Just what I was looking for.

-- "Hold on to instruction, do not let it go; guard it well, for it is your life" Solomon

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