Shopsmith Opinions

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In December of 1996 I posted to rec.woodworking to get opinions on the price/performance of the Shopsmith woodworking system. I promised I would record the results in a web page, so here it is.

Enjoy.

I have yet to make a decision as I don't have enough $$$ to put together a shop either way, but I found these replies very informative.

You can e-mail me at johns@swri.edu, but I don't know any more about the Shopsmith than is presented on this page.

Shopsmith, Inc.
6530 Poe Avenue
Dayton, OH  45414
(800) 543-7586

From doors@atl.mindspring.com Mon Dec 30 08:42:38 CST 1996

Subject: Re: Shopsmith vs. individual components

When I first ventured into the woodworking field I bought a Shopsmith and it worked well for me. But as I progressed I found that eventually it took too much time to reset the various components to do one thing, then reset to do another. Eventually sold it to buy stand alone tooling.

With a Shopsmith one must plan very extensively so you can do one kind of a chore all at the same time then reset to do all of another. It's just a pain in the neck to go back and forth all the time. Especially if you have one cut to make and have it set up for the lathe(for example).

Suggest stand alone tools-less frustrating-in my opinion.


Greetings.....I have had a SS for about 10 years now. There are good and bad points The table saw is very insufficient ! It can do small stuff, but that's about it. The other functions are OK. The variable speed feature makes the functions better.

E-mail me: sailing@midtenn.net


From gilliumm@aol.com Thu Dec 12 17:57:27 1996

Subject: Re: Shopsmith: What is price/performance?

There is a similar article in this newsgroup regarding combination machines. I replied to it since I have owned a Shopsmith for about 6 years. Personaly I really like the machine. I have turned out quite a few projects on it from tables to grandfather clocks and they have all turned out really great. I spent some time "surfing" today and you can get to a Shopsmith user group and the Shopsmith web site by going thru http://www.ssug.org I hope this helps you as far as the Shopsmith price goes and how it compares to other machines. I'm happy with mine and feel it compares quite well with other machines.

Marty


From someone requesting anonymity.

Let me first tell you that I have owned a Shopsmith (the cheaper version, 500 I think) for about nine years. It was purchase first because of space requirements. Three years ago I moved in to a house with a lager shop area. I then purchased a delta contractor saw with uni fence and band saw. I considered selling the Shopsmith and buying all the separate tools but don't think that will ever happen. It still pack a lot of tools into a small space. I still us it for the drilling and sanding plus it will do things that other tools just will not do. Ever try to drill a dowel hole in to the end of a 7' board with a standard drill press?

How good are the tools the comprise the Shopsmith (i.e. does it >compare to Sears, Delta, Dewalt, etc.)?

The tools comprised in Shopsmith in my opinion they are good tools. They are not great tools. The saw does not even come close in the pleasure of using my new Table Saw. But even still the machine has earned its place in my shop.

How does the Shopsmith's price compare to buying separate components of similar quality? Better quality? Rephrased it might be, "How much are you paying for the compact, fit-in-your-garage-corner design?"

I think that 5 tools (actually more like 4, I tend to count the drill press and horizontal boring as one tool) included in the base unit are a pretty good buy when compared to tools of equal quality. Plus when buying a Shopsmith they seemed to always have a deal like a free accessory tool or some other package deal.

As far as paying for the compact design, that is the only reason I think anybody would buy one. if you have the room, then the separate tools are the way to go. If you don't have the room the your choice becomes do woodworking on a Shopsmith or don't do any woodworking. This is why I bought my to start with.

How reliable are they?

I have had only one problem with mine. My motor died about a year after the warranty expired. I had had problems before the warranty expired but it had appeared to be a bad capacitor which when replaced had corrected the problem. To make a long story short, they stand behind their tools and I had a new motor in my two day later!

How much do they depreciate?

Watch you local papers and see what they are selling for. Give it a week or two and call to see if they sold or not. It generally seams that they hold there value pretty well.

I'm pretty organized, and don't think that the switching back and forth would be too much of a problem, BUT I haven't used it so... If anyone out there has a REALLY strong feeling that the switching really stinks, let me know.

Planning helps a lot but switching is still a pain. Like I wrote before, to me it is the space issue for one tool or multiple tools. The difference of woodworking or no woodworking.


From: Dan Trippe < trippe@mass-usr.com >

Subject: Re: Shopsmith: What is price/performance?

I have a Shopsmith, built in the 1950's, which is still going. It sat unused in my father-in-law's basement for many years (I don't know how many), so it hasn't been in continuous use (the fact that it actually works after sitting for so long is probably important).

My machine has the a jointer in addition to the standard saw/drill-press/lathe/horizontal borer/disk sander.

The saw is adequate provided that the workpiece is not too large. A large table and better fence would be nice. The drill press and horizontal boring functions are great. I haven't used it as a lathe or disk sander, but have been told that the lathe is quite good. The jointer is only 4" and has relatively short tables, but works well enough for most of what I attempt.

Switching from one function to another is not difficult; there are no belts to move around, or anything like that.

This machine is very solidly built. I can't comment on the quality of more recent Shopsmith products.

I have seen several used Shopsmiths advertised in this ng recently for well below the price of a new machine.


From rjbates@centuryinter.net Mon Dec 16 16:33:31 1996

Subject: Shopsmith

I saw a reply to your post re: the Shopsmith (did not see the original). Just a couple of thoughts for you. I have a Shopsmith 510 which I upgraded a few years ago. I bought the unit used, but it was in excellent condition. At the time I bought it, I paid a little more than 50% of the selling price. It took me several months of looking in the want ads to find one for sale! ('Course when I bought mine, I saw two more right after it!)

1) Quality is excellent. It is a well-built piece of equipment.

2) I think if you bought quality pieces of all the machines, the cost would be more than a new Shopsmith. But, you may not use all the machines. I have found that over the years, I have used every set-up, multiple times.

3) If space is an issue (it is for me, as my shop is a small room I was able to set aside in the basement), it is an excellent buy. You do have to do set-up/take-down, but that is not a problem .... generally you can change with 1-3 minutes.

4) Add-ons (e.g., band saw, jointer, speed increaser, etc. ) are all proprietary from Shopsmith, so they're not cheap (or inexpensive). I have found that you can buy them "reconditioned" from the factory in Dayton, OH, at a considerable discount, and with warranty. (You have to call the factory and specifically ask for them.)

Although it would be nice to have several stand-alone machines, it is not possible. PLUS, when I adjust the Shopsmith for accuracy (and you must occasionally, just like any other tool), then ALL the setups are accurate.


How good are the tools the comprise the Shopsmith (i.e. does it compare to Sears, Delta, Dewalt, etc.)?

The SS tool set is above average in all their parts and service is better than any. There are differences between the tools comprising the SS set and any of the other single use tools. I would put them above the Dewalt tool series, but in a different category. Sears is a "lowest bidder" jobber, so they are useful only to get a tool in a hurry to finish a task. I wouldn't plan on a Sears tool lasting for more than 1 or 2 hundred hours. My SS is a 1955 and has seen some use. The SS blades are OK but again if you want good you pay good. Woodworker II blades make the tool much better.

How does the Shopsmith's price compare to buying separate components of similar quality? Better quality?

This is their stock and trade. Go to a demo and watch the tool in action, then try to get those tools of similar quality for the same price. The thing is you may not want some of the "tools" they include.

Rephrased it might be, "How much are you paying for the compact, fit-in-your-garage-corner design?"

If space is even a small concern (like, how much space will all this take up when I'm not using it) you should think hard about the SS.

How reliable are they?

A tool is only as good as the service organization behind it. SS has an excellent service organization, and they treat the owners the same whether the person bought new or from a previous owner (my case).

How much do they depreciate?

I bought my 1955 model in 1992 for $800. They depreciate as fast as the owner wants to get rid of them. How much is a three year old Dewalt compound miter saw worth? New it's $380.

I'm pretty organized, and don't think that the switching back and forth would be too much of a problem, BUT...

Changing modes is no problem, and forces you to organize the project by making you want to minimize changes. Not that the change is tedious, but the repeatability and accuracy suffer if you change from sawing to drill press and back.

Incidentally, try asking your question on the SSUG:

The Shop Smith Users Group List.

All "request" are sent to:
LISTSERV@UBVM.ACSU.BUFFALO.EDU

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NOTE: Come join us on IRC (Internet Relay Chat) on the #shopsmith channel. You will need to be on an EFnet server. Also visit the SSUG web site at http://www.cris.com/~jwirtz/ssug

Shopsmith, Inc.
6530 Poe Avenue
Dayton, OH  45414
(800) 543-7586

How good are the tools the comprise the Shopsmith (i.e. does it compare to Sears, Delta, Dewalt, etc.)?

Tough one; I'll pass. Personally I believe it's in a different class altogether, since the SS is completely user serviceable. Mine is 42 years old, and still quite accurate.

How does the Shopsmith's price compare to buying separate components of similar quality? Better quality?

Some say more, some say less. I say the SS is more expensive by far. Depends on who you ask and what you would have bought instead of the SS. One can sink lots of dough into accessories, too.

Rephrased it might be, "How much are you paying for the compact, fit-in-your-garage-corner design?"

If you buy a new one, the answer is 'a great deal.' I bought a used one, and needed the compact size - it was a perfect fit for my needs.

How reliable are they?

Again, mine is 42 years old (I've owned it for 7 years now). I just bought a new Jet cabinet saw, but the SS is still my primary: lathe, disk sander, grinder, bandsaw, jointer, drill press, scrollsaw,.... I have replaced: motor ('96), belts ('92), power cord ('90), jointer fence guide casting ('96), and various other small parts with which I've been somewhat less than gentle. I'd say "very."

How much do they depreciate?

Bought mine ('55 model) for $600. Don't know what actual cost was at the time. '80's and later models sell for $1500 - $2K+ all the time. BTW, I expect I could easily get more than $600 for mine today. Shop for a bargain.

If anyone out there has a REALLY strong feeling that the switching really stinks, let me know.

Only when you forget something and move on, only to have to come back and re-setup a tricky operation. Happens to me frequently, but that's my own fault.


From smits@frontiernet.net Fri Dec 13 09:20:19 CST 1996

Subject: Re: Shopsmith: What is price/performance?

Stephen Johns wrote in article

I'm sure these questions have made the rounds many times, but I dare ask them since I have searched the Web and the FAQs and have not found the answers. I promise to save the answers for future reference.

Yes, this has been discussed. If I may be so bold as to summarize - if you have the space separate tools of good quality might be less expensive. If you are planning to build lots of large furniture and cabinets you might consider separate tools, but if you are a hobbiest with limited space and want a great variety of professional grade equipment get a Shopsmith. Better yet - if you are a hobbiest as stated with a limited budget - buy a used Shopsmith and enjoy the best of all worlds.

How good are the tools the comprise the Shopsmith (i.e. does it compare to Sears, Delta, Dewalt, etc.)?

Shopsmith is a quality tool that will last multiple lifetimes with heavy use - a Delta equivalent in my opinion. (I have owned two Shopsmiths and used delta and powermatic equipment)

How does the Shopsmith's price compare to buying separate components of similar quality? Better quality?

Space saving is THE thing.

Rephrased it might be, "How much are you paying for the compact, fit-in-your-garage-corner design?"

You are paying some, but not all that much if you are going to purchase quality separate pieces not just a collection of benchtop tools.

How reliable are they?

They maybe a little under powered, but they do not break.

I'm pretty organized, and don't think that the switching back and forth would be too much of a problem, BUT I haven't used it so... If anyone out there has a REALLY strong feeling that the switching really stinks, let me know.

Switching is no problem


Tom Almy tomalmy@aracnet.com

How good are the tools...

The weakest part is the table saw, especially on the older "Model 500" versions (I've got a 1982 Mark V Model 500). The table top is small and the tilting table (vs. tilting arbor) design is bothersome. I use a RAS for crosscuts on large pieces, so it's not much of a problem for me.

The other functions are very good.

There are also "major accessories" that can be attached -- bandsaw, jointer, belt sander, strip sander, planer, and scroll saw. These are good quality but tend to be undersized. I own the bandsaw and jointer.

How do the prices compare to separate components?

When I bought mine, it was about $1000. Since then the price has nearly trippled. My feeling is that now separate components would be a better buy if you have the room. The major accessories haven't gone up that much in price. They are now fairly reasonable.

Used ones tend to be good deals.

How reliable are they?

Never had any problems with mine. Stays in alignment, and nothing has broken.

How much do they depreciate?

New ones seem to halve when you buy them, but that's typical for tools. People with units they bought in the 50's and 60's can easily sell them for more than the purchase price.

Switching modes?

The time spent to switch is negligible -- you spend far more time setting up for each cut (with any tool). Switching is also very easy. Switching the major accessories is more of a hassle.


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