Shopsmith for novice?

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Forum topic by Treads posted 01-06-2014 03:07 PM 663 views 0 times favorited 8 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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2 posts in 1024 days

01-06-2014 03:07 PM

Topic tags/keywords: question

Hi all, I’m looking for some gut advice, though I realize there’s a lot of unknowns here. I might be able to pick up a late 1980s shopsmith V for about $500. Is that a no brainer good price? It was one-owned by a retiree who recently passed away.

I don’t really have a lot of other tools, and this would cover nearly all the basic things I keep borrowing from a not-so-nearby friend.

From what I’m reading here, most of you are way classier at woodworking than I’ll ever be. I do some basic stuff, but I’ll never be in it as a professional.

I imagine the upkeep on it is the big unknown, but I’m not afraid of having to do some work if that’s needed.

In any case, thanks for any feedback if you’re so inclined!

8 replies so far

View JustJoe's profile


1554 posts in 1460 days

#1 posted 01-06-2014 03:43 PM

Price on those things is all over the map. It depends on what accessories are there, and how much the owner thinks it’s still worth. On my local CL right now there are a five for sale – $150, $300, $400, $400, $465. If I expand the search to the next higher city I can find someone asking (not selling, just asking, and he might be asking that price for a long long time) $500 and $900. And then there is the ever popular “I’m stoned out of my mind so I think I have a pile of gold in my garage Shopsmith” and that one has an asking price of $1600.

As for using. Some like it, some love it, some (me) hated it. The big open space under the tablesaw table always bugged me – like I was going to lean in to take a look at something and end up being bobbitized. But upkeep is rather simple: Don’t get it wet and don’t lose any parts.

How useful would it be for you? That depends on what those tools are that you borrow from your friends. The Shopsmith is a drill, lathe, tablesaw. It can also be a jointer, bandsaw, shaper, mortiser, 12” sander and more if you’ve got all the accessories. That doesn’t mean it does all those things great, just that it does them. A 12” sander is a 12” sander, and a drill is pretty much a drill. But there are 27.6 million other tools (in my humble opinion) that are better at being a lathe, tablesaw, jointer, bandsaw, shaper etc.

EDIT: And welcome to lumberjocks, the third friendliest place on the internet!

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View Jimbo4's profile


1420 posts in 2185 days

#2 posted 01-06-2014 05:32 PM

About the only problem I see with a Shopsmith is the saw table – too small. If you get one, I would recommend all the attachments to go with it. Also, it can be bought with the Nova Teknatool DVR XP motor, or retrofitted with same.

-- BOVILEXIA: The urge to moo at cows from a moving vehicle.

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Gene Howe

8102 posts in 2851 days

#3 posted 01-06-2014 05:48 PM

Owned and used one for many, many years. Like you, I bought it for all the tool capabilities. I now have two. I only have the bandsaw as an add on. Though, the jointer, planer and belt sander are well built and useful.
With the older one, I’ve built dozens of kitchens of cabinets, remodeled or built several homes and, now in my retirement, thoroughly enjoy just making smaller stuff.
The original table is a bit small but, there are upgrades that negate that drawback. I just use roller stands for longer stuff.
As Jimbo4 said, it can be retrofitted with that new DVR motor. I understand that it’s an amazing bit of technology.
IMHO, $500 is a decent price. Go see it and see what all will go with it. You may just have a really sweet deal.

-- 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 Nicholas Hall's profile

Nicholas Hall

350 posts in 1529 days

#4 posted 01-06-2014 08:12 PM

I think a shopsmith is a great foundation for a shop for $500, provided it has the bandsaw and jointer. I use a shopsmith for most of my work. It’s adequate for a lot of things, but not great at anything.

I’d much rather have a shop full of stand alone Grizzly tools. I just don’t have the space or the budget, or the ability to haul 500LB of cast iron down my basement stairs.

It also really depends on the type of woodworking you’re doing. If you’re building cutting boards and a few coffee tables, the shopsmith will be a great tool for you. Contrary to what some may tell you, you don’t need a 5hp, 700# cabinet saw to build a few small pieces of furniture a few times a year, which is all most of us here do.

Best of luck.

-- Outside of a dog, a book is a man's best friend. Inside of a dog, it's too dark to read. -Groucho Marx

View Treads's profile


2 posts in 1024 days

#5 posted 01-06-2014 09:51 PM

Thanks for all the input, I’ve been scouring different places all over to see what people think, and this forum looked to be a place where you’d get intelligent answers instead of the pure LOVE/HATE.

There’s a jointer on it, but a band saw isn’t listed. Still, there are some miscellaneous sundry items, like “extra” couplers, wrenches, sandpaper, etc. I don’t think he knows much about it (in which case I’m just barely ahead of him) and just wants to get rid of it, but that’s just an impression. I’ve done the CL search as well, and for my region over a period of time, this looks like overall a decent deal in comparative terms.

“How useful would it be” is definitely THE most important question, and I think it would be. Except for a horizontal borer, I’ve borrowed everything else, and that’s a pain. I’ve read “I’ve built kitchen cabinets” so many times, I think an upcoming project will be new bathroom cabinets, as that room is badly in need of renovation.

View bigblockyeti's profile (online now)


3579 posts in 1143 days

#6 posted 01-06-2014 10:11 PM

I really like having separate tools. When I get to the shop, I don’t usually have a lot of time to work and I’d rather spend my time making something than setting up my one machine to perform the needed operation. When I first started, I had a few hand held power tools and nothing else. I heeded the advise of several others and saved up, the first “machine” I bought was a slightly used Unisaw, I’ve never regretted my decision and the saw still works at least as good as it did when I bought it. Buying the best tablesaw you can as your first tool would be my recommendation as well.

View Betsy's profile


3336 posts in 3318 days

#7 posted 01-07-2014 02:08 PM

I started WW’ing with a Shop Smith. The set up time when needing different functions was a bit of a hassell but if you plan your project in advance to get the cuts done in an efficient pattern then it works great. I had mine for about 10 years. Unless the machine was abused $500 may not be a bad price – however, I do think a bandsaw should be an accessory – so I’d lean on waiting to get one with a bandsaw. With that said – you could probably find a bandsaw accessory on one of the sale sights.

Long and short I loved my Shop Smith and got tons of good use out of it. When I got more serious about woodworking and had more space I did get rid of it and replaced it with larger stand alone tools.

-- "Our past judges our present." JFK - 1962; American Heritage Magazine

View MrRon's profile (online now)


3893 posts in 2666 days

#8 posted 01-07-2014 09:33 PM

The Shopsmith is a great way to start. It is a very capable machine, although somewhat inconvenient when switching from one function to another. You have to program your woodworking steps to minimize set-ups. I used one for years before switching over to dedicated machines. Sometimes an operation comes along where a Shopsmith would be the perfect tool to use (horizontal drilling)

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