Author Topic: Anybody have a Shopsmith?  (Read 4129 times)

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Online Peter Halle

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Anybody have a Shopsmith?
« on: December 20, 2014, 08:50 PM »
This will certainly come across as a weird post from me - a portable tool evangelist, but I have been looking around for used Shopsmiths.  I have always wanted to learn to use a lathe and kinda like the idea of having something at the house (my shop is 25 minutes away) for small projects and some mental therapy time.  I am not looking for a dedicated lathe.  Craigslist always seems to have some used, and I am looking at the older Mark V machines- I definitely am NOT going to buy a new one. 

Anyone have one or have experience?


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Offline Don T

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Re: Anybody have a Shopsmith?
« Reply #1 on: December 20, 2014, 09:00 PM »
That is what I started woodworking on. It is a fair piece of equipment. I think the thing I miss on it is the horizontal boring ability. The lathe is nice.  I had the jointer, bandsaw, and scrollsaw. As long as you are not trying to build cabinets I think you will be happy.
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Offline Steve Rowe

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Re: Anybody have a Shopsmith?
« Reply #2 on: December 20, 2014, 11:34 PM »
I had a 1979 vintage Mark V for about 25 years and sold it about 10 years ago.  It was a well built machine.  Being a combo, it did many functions.  Being a combo, it did none of those functions very well.  The lathe function was probably one of the better features particularly variable speed but it still had some odd quirks.  I hated the toolrest and having to use the allen wrench to adjust it.  The tailstock had way too much flex in it and the lack of a handscrew on the tailstock is too limiting. 

The tablesaw is the pits primarily because of the tilting table and the odd bore of the blade.  The fence was horrible.  The drill press was okay but expect a lot of flex in the table.  Disc sander was okay but the dust collection capability is -273 Kelvin (yes - absolute zero).  Horizontal drill was okay.

Be aware that sometime in the mid to late 80's Shopsmith did come out with an updated version that addressed some of the limitations identified above. 

Offline wow

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Re: Anybody have a Shopsmith?
« Reply #3 on: December 20, 2014, 11:51 PM »
i just sold mine last week. I bought it used as a 'vintage' machine and never did use it.

Shopsmith has a pretty good forum if you want to learn..
Trying to be one of the most helpful members on the FOG.

Offline kcufstoidi

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Re: Anybody have a Shopsmith?
« Reply #4 on: December 21, 2014, 07:52 AM »
After having to use a Shopsmith for a couple of projects many years ago my advice would be to get yourself a dedicated lathe Peter. I believe you will become very frustrated with the setup time and inaccuracies of the machine. They were an interesting concept for the time and fairly well built but need constant checking and you are in continual setup.

Offline James D

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Re: Anybody have a Shopsmith?
« Reply #5 on: December 21, 2014, 11:42 PM »
Hi Peter,

ShopSmith, guys either like them or they don't.  I have had one for 20+ years, you do have to plan your work flow a little more due to tool swapping, yes it's true they really can't compare to a stationary cast iron tool (but like any tool, you eventually get a feel for using it).  They do have advantages, if you don't have to much room to spare they are on casters, they take up little floor space and the additional tools can be placed up on shelves out of the way.   I have turned on it many times with the stock tool rest and I also have a cast iron banjo tool rest for it as well.  If you are really interested, make sure you take a quick look at "Song of the Great Lakes" web site for example, and look for the Evolution of Models to get a good sense of the versions over the years (since they pretty much look the same at a glance).  Keep an eye out on CraigsList and watch for one with a RED plastic safety switch on the headstock...these units have a two bearing quill and have less run out, better tables, and drive belt arrangement.  I picked up a real good deal on a 2nd one a few months ago...$400 and had a ton of extras.

I'd be more then happy to answer any more questions you, thanks for all you do here on the FOG.


Online Peter Halle

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Re: Anybody have a Shopsmith?
« Reply #6 on: December 22, 2014, 05:40 AM »
Thanks for all the responses!  I did visit the website and found the listing of the evolution of the tool.  Interesting that almost if not all changes / revisions / improvements over the years can be made to the older machines.

Prices on Craigslist are all over the place and of course vary based on what is included.  I have my eye on a couple now but will hold off a little bit while I do more research based on all your tips and suggestions.

Thanks again everyone!


Offline donwon

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Re: Anybody have a Shopsmith?
« Reply #7 on: December 24, 2014, 03:03 AM »
Hi Peter

I learned how to do wood working in the 80's on a shopsmith mark V 500 model. My dad had bought one as we only had a basement shop. 

Later on I bought a used one to do home renovations. I was lucky to get it cheap enough that I upgraded to the 520 model. I did not buy any of the big accessories such as the planer, jointer, etc.

As people have stated, it is not the best of any function. However it will do a lot for you. The quality has been good and fairly robust. You can buy one inexpensive and other than some maintenance, they are fairly reliable. Most of the problem listed have been fixed now.

If you buy one, I would try for the 510 or newer model.  Go to a demo if possible. You will learn many tips from the people who do the presentation.

Offline gregfreese

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Re: Anybody have a Shopsmith?
« Reply #8 on: December 24, 2014, 08:15 AM »
Try estate sales, I see quite a few Shopsmiths at them. I personally have three of them 2 in my garage (1 is a spare) and I have one in my trailer. It is very nice having a drill press, small band saw when I need it, and being able to duplicate turned fret work on the porches around here is very nice.

Offline whitesys

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Re: Anybody have a Shopsmith?
« Reply #9 on: December 24, 2014, 11:48 AM »
Hi Peter,

Hope you are doing better.

My dad bought his Shopsmith in 1957 and used it for all the cabinetry and trim for the two houses that he built.  I learned woodworking on it before I was 10.

My brother has it now and has used it to remodel his house.  It just keeps on going and there are still replacement parts available from Shopsmith (plus a large community of EBay sources).

I purchased my own back around 1984/85 (they were a lot less expensive then and were always on sale) and upgraded it to the 520 tables.  The table upgrade is a big improvement. I still have it and use it.

I you are looking at one, look for a 520 model.  I have seen entire systems that look like new for $500 or so.

I would not recommend it for production work but for personal/hobbyist endeavors it work fine if you stay within its limits.  Yes it does take a little time to setup for each task but that is the trade off for being able to store it in the floor space of a bicycle.  I don't have space for dedicated machines, so this is acceptable for me.  I also do not mind the setup.

It is also a good adjunct to dedicated machines.  I have a dedicated drill press but have setup the Shopsmith as a second drill press on occasion.

The table saw definitely has its limits.  One of the reasons I was attracted to Festool was that the track saw overcame many of the Shopsmith table saw limitations.  Once you have a track saw, then the Shopsmith table saw works well for ripping and smaller piecework.  The newer style tables can also be aligned/calibrated quite easily. The Incra table saw fence will mount on the Shopsmith.

The other functions work OK and are accurate as long as you observe the limitations of the tool.

Shopsmith is also similar to Festool in that it is a German designed tool system (although from the 1950s).  Everything works together (just in a more retro way).  It is still made in America (located in Dayton).

BTW - hope you are doing better.

Offline RussellS

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Re: Anybody have a Shopsmith?
« Reply #10 on: December 29, 2014, 04:57 PM »
If your main purpose is a lathe, then I would suggest getting one of the mini lathes for about $300 new.  Less used.  Delta and Jet make them.  For $50 you can add an extension to the bed.

Offline Birdhunter

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Re: Anybody have a Shopsmith?
« Reply #11 on: December 29, 2014, 05:24 PM »
Turning can be as addictive as buying and enjoying Festool products. Generally, one starts off turning spindle stuff and then moves on to bowls. Lathes are a lot like table saws, mass counters vibration and power equates to better cuts at lower speeds. The biggest, heaviest, most powerful lathe you can afford is far better than an econo model.

Really good dust collection is very important as power sanding is very dusty. I wear a full face shield (Airshield) as it isn't unusual to have the workpiece fly off the lathe. High quality cutting tools and a low speed grinder are required.

Good luck, turning is fun!