Seriously Considering a Shopsmith

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Forum topic by monkeykoder posted 12-14-2010 07:25 AM 7471 views 0 times favorited 29 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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19 posts in 3307 days

12-14-2010 07:25 AM

I’ve been looking at the cost of a full woodworking shop for quite some time and really don’t have the money for it. Then I remembered my dad’s old Shopsmith and I’ve been considering finding an early Mark V just to have the basic tools I need to make some sawdust. I’m hoping with that and a benchtop bandsaw (a Jet) I could build some basic furniture and feed my need to build something. Any thoughts on the idea? I figure buying a used one for $3-500 has to make it worth it even if it doesn’t give me quite the benefits of the truly high end gear.

29 replies so far

View PurpLev's profile


8548 posts in 3885 days

#1 posted 12-14-2010 07:52 AM

I think it’s a great solution. While I don’t think it rivals stand alone separate machines, I still think it’s an excellent machine, and will do what you need it to do. I would however try to find a later model Mk-V as in the 510 or better yet the 520 for the upgraded motor although even the earlier models were fantastic machines.

-- ㊍ When in doubt - There is no doubt - Go the safer route.

View Dan's profile


3630 posts in 3117 days

#2 posted 12-14-2010 08:07 AM

ShopSmith has a pretty good bandsaw attachment. Could save you from even needing the bench top saw. I see them come up on Craigslist a lot. I have seen a few for as low as 150.00, mind you they were in rough shape but as far as I know they still make all the parts for the Mark V and have a service number. My dad has an old Mark 7 which aren’t common and he had a problem with something on it just this year and I got him to call Shopsmith and they were able to help him fix it.

-- Dan - "Collector of Hand Planes"

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19 posts in 3307 days

#3 posted 12-14-2010 08:53 AM

Well the benchtop bandsaw is already on it’s way my dad ordered it for me for Christmas always nice to have more than one bandsaw though. I saw one on craigslist with bandsaw attachment for $225 which would be nice…

View richgreer's profile


4541 posts in 3311 days

#4 posted 12-14-2010 04:28 PM

I began with a shopsmith many years ago and I still have it in my shop. It is now reduced to a limited role since I have most of the standard stand-alone tools now. I still use it with the belt sander attachment and the band saw attachment and I also use it for horizontal boring. A good horizontal boring capability is a great thing to have.

Shopsmith does some things very well and other things not so well. I do not like to use it as a table saw (but you can). I also think it is underpowered for the planner attachment and I think a 4” jointer is too small. However, it is a reasonably good lathe (sufficient for a beginner) and the band saw attachment is good for smaller projects. The belt sander is very good.

I started with a shopsmith, a stand alone planer (DeWalt 733) and a miter saw. A few years later {when I had the room) I acquired a stand alone table saw.

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

View Gene Howe's profile

Gene Howe

11143 posts in 3665 days

#5 posted 12-14-2010 06:48 PM

My Shopsmith is a MK V with the band saw. Bought it new in 1980. I also have a bench top Delta. Man o man, the difference in quality and capabilities is HUGE!
Just my opinion but, for the $, you can’t find a better drill press and with horizontal drilling capabilities. The disk sanding capability is superb, also.
I struggled with the small table and the need to tilt the table for 45 cross cuts or rips. These shortcomings are easily overcome with shop built tables and jigs.
I have a stand alone jointer and planer simply because they were less expensive. However, Shopsmith’s units are well built and do the job nicely.
I don’t do any turning, so I can’t comment on the lathe.
In the near future, I will be changing the motor for their new 2 hp Power Pro DC motor.

-- 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 okwoodshop's profile


448 posts in 3411 days

#6 posted 12-14-2010 06:50 PM

I have never used a shopsmith but I have talked to a lot of people who have and almost unanimously they have moved on to bigger and better tools. you already have a bandsaw(on the way) so if you have the room why not get the others even one at a time. I see to many of these for sale on craigslist and that makes me think there is something not satisfactory with the whole setup. I can’t imagine having to reconfigure my tools to make a cut only to have to do it all over again to joint an edge. Just going by what I have been told by people who owned them.

View Lee Barker's profile

Lee Barker

2170 posts in 3087 days

#7 posted 12-14-2010 06:59 PM

There are several LJs who are advocates of the old 10ER machines. I have never had anything newer, so I can’t compare, but these things show up on CL for $250 now and then. I’m wondering if going that way would give you a little more ballast on the other end of the seesaw so you could invest in something like an old, good small table saw.

Thinking about any Shopsmith as not including a TS seems like the way to go. Regardless of the model, the table is high and inadequate in size.

-- " his brain, which is as dry as the remainder biscuit after a voyage, he hath strange places cramm'd with observation, the which he vents in mangled forms." --Shakespeare, "As You Like It"

View Cousinwill's profile


131 posts in 3126 days

#8 posted 12-14-2010 08:17 PM

I own a Shopsmith and love it. I inherited it from my father-in-law who bought it new in 1963. For shops with limited space, such as my shop, Shopsmith is the way to go in my opinion. You can have the drill press, lathe, sander, bandsaw, and planer in a small location. It does have some down sides, I wish the table was larger. I use my Shopsmith on a daily basis and on nice days I roll the Shopsmith outside and enjoy the weather !!

-- William from the oldest town in Texas

View tnwood's profile


263 posts in 3323 days

#9 posted 12-14-2010 08:33 PM

I have one and still have it to use as a drill press and occasionally as a lathe. It is a compromise but it is a good starting point. I moved on after realizing that the table saw function was pretty poor and that the planer accessory was not of much use. If you shop around, you can probably find one is good shape with a lot of accessories for well under $500. I’ve seen them with all accessories for about $150.

View Peter5's profile


66 posts in 3040 days

#10 posted 12-14-2010 10:14 PM

I grew up using my dad’s shopsmith, and when I finally got my own shop I was in the same boat as you- I did not have the funds to buy a bunch of stand alone tools. So I bought a 1970’s shopsmith for $350 on craigslist and I was up and running. This allowed me to mine craigslist for great deals and save money to slowly build up my shop while getting things built and having fun. Eventually I found a great deal on a high-end table saw, but I still use the shop smith as a drill press, disc sander, lathe, and jointer. I also prefer the shopsmith to my table saw for datos, since it’s so quick and easy to switch out the blade. I’ve never seen a stand-alone disc sander or horizontal drill press as sweet as the shop smith. Trust your instincts, buy a shopsmith and take your time building up your stand alone tools, it’s the way to go!

-- Pete, Long Beach, CA

View DaveDelo's profile


86 posts in 3130 days

#11 posted 12-15-2010 12:39 AM

I could write multiple paragraphs on this issue but the long story short for me is: my 1955 Shopsmith bought for 200 bucks about 2 years ago is relegated to vertical/horizontal drill press status. I’ve just completed a total kitchen remodel project and the 50+ year old machine performed it’s functions flawlessly. I have a nice sized table drill press with variable speed for less than 50% of what it would have cost for a new dedicated variable speed drill press. I recently cut the tubes on my Shopsmith to make it a “shorty” in order to reduced the height needed to move it around my basement shop, so it’s here to stay and I really like this machine for this particular function.

View shipwright's profile


8185 posts in 3034 days

#12 posted 12-15-2010 03:24 AM

If you have any doubts as to the ability of ShopSmith to deliver in terms of quality and precision, please check out this project. The majority of the stationary tool work and certainly all the critical parts were done on a 1950 ShopSmith 10ER that I bought for $50 and restored for the price of a couple of cans of spray paint and a few days work. The project made #1 on the “Hot Projects” list. ShopSmith is as good as the man behind the switch.

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

View basset's profile


19 posts in 3637 days

#13 posted 12-15-2010 03:24 AM

I guess my experience with a Shopsmith was a little different. My wife’s family inherited one from her uncle and we put it in my shop since I was the woodworker in the family. For me it was a very cumbersome machine. I found that hanging from one task to another to be very time consuming and difficult. Since I had just bought a contractors table saw and my dad had a drill press and RAS i used the Shopsmith mostly as a lathe. It performed well for me and I kept it set up as a lathe until I cleaned out my garage after I quit doing much woodworking. Now that I’ve returned to the hobby having the Shopsmith set up as a lathe would be nice.

-- Don aka Basset Hound,

View monkeykoder's profile


19 posts in 3307 days

#14 posted 12-15-2010 03:58 AM

My last experience with a shopsmith was when I played with my dad’s 10E but that has been in storage for 10 years. I never had a problem setting it up.

View 8iowa's profile


1591 posts in 3997 days

#15 posted 12-15-2010 03:58 AM

I’ve had my Shopsmith since 1983 and here in Gainesville Florida I have only 192 sq ft to work in. The Shopsmith shines in this type of environment. Through the years my machine has been upgraded from the original model 500; first to 510, then to 520, and now to the Power Pro. With this advanced DVR motor I now have the power and capacity to be competitive with most stand alone tools.

Most of the comments regarding the “small table” refer to the older 500 model. When shopping for a used Shopsmith, look for a model 510 or 520. These upgrades feature a fence that locks front and rear and a 17” x 22” table that can be expanded to over 50” ripping capacity, with the attachment of the extension table and two floating tables.

-- "Heaven is North of the Bridge"

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