Worth the Price
Dec 16, 2001
Review by cbrewer15
Rated a Very Helpful Review
Pros:Small footprint, multiple tools in one, A+ quality, Great Company (like Family), Accuracy
Cons:Price (as with everything, it would be nice if it were free!) ;-)
The Bottom Line: Buy it. Don't mess around any more. Reap the benefits of a meticulously engineered machine, and the down-home support of a 50 year-old company.
I purchased the Shopsmith Mark V model 520 from a lady whose father passed away before even turning the thing on. It still had the factory rust protectant and switch tape.
Recommend this product?
My review will focus on a few quick areas that I've found to be crucial:
The difference between the model 520 and 510 is the fence. The 520 fence is a work of art. Unlike my last table saw (an enormous Craftsman cast-iron monster), this fence (once set) is dead-on straight across the entire width of the table. Alignment is easily set via two allen screws at the top of the fence. The extruded aluminum fence rails at the front and back of the table provide a true gripping surface for the hefty aluminum fence to mount to. You can easily tweak width on your cuts by (get this) rough-setting the fence, then moving the entire table & fence towards the blade in minute amounts. This keeps the fence parallel and means you only set it once! Best of all, that same investment in this first rate fence transfers to all the tools included in this Shopsmith Transformer: Drill press, horizontal boring machine, disk sander.
One very unique aspect of this machine is the configurable table layout. Basically, you have a machine aluminum table with chromed extension bars that allow you to expand the table to the left or right in order to support large materials at either end. An example of how handy this is: I built a furniture-grade rail for my deck. It was great to have my Delta mitre saw sitting on the left-hand side of the Shopsmith table extension, while I simultaneously used the right hand side of the Shopsmith table saw to rip the stiles from 2x4x8 pieces of redwood. With any other table saw system, you'd need another work area for the mitre saw to sit on. Best of, when I was done, the mitre saw went up on the wall, the Shopsmith table saw quickly compacted and rolled out of the way.
As with any saw, the most important tip is the spend the time up front when assembling to true the various components. The table has a super-simple (read: quick and easy) tilting mechanism for dead-on compound angle cuts. A flick of the wrist and a push of a spring-loaded steel button locks the 45 degree angle. Nice.
Infinitely adjustable speed with plenty of guts and the hum of a well-engineered piece of machinery. What more can I say?
While there are numerous add-ons (planer, jointer, bandsaw, scroll saw, biscuit jointer, belt sander, and more), the base model transforms into a core set of table saw, drill press, horizontal boring machine, disk sander, and lathe. When doing my aforementioned furniture-grade deck railing (can you tell I'm proud of that?), I drilled screw-pockets after ripping the stiles from 2x4x8 stock. The transfer from table saw to drill press was accomplished in only a few minutes, and the results were fantastic. That fence! Oh! And a large table is something you don't get with a small-footprint drill press. You get that with the Shopsmith!
The art of lathing (which I have mastered only to the point that I've made two miniature baseball bats), is a kick in the pants, especially since this lathe isn't a large separate piece of equipment that serves only as a "I-can't-honestly-justify-to-my-wife-thing-that-makes-it-hard-to-park-in-the-garage" nuisance. I look at the lathe as a built-in hobby-growth path. When I have more time, I know that lathing will be for me.
Disk sanding: Wonderful. Watch a demonstration at your local home and garden show of the Shopsmith in action, and you'll instantly recognize the very real benefit of being able to set your saw table, make a cut, then switch out the saw blade with your sanding disk, all without changing the angle of the table. It makes sealing end-grain a breeze, and truly results in tight mitres.
The horizontal boring machine makes drilling alignment pins in bunkbed legs a breeze. You may not think there's much use for it, but let me tell you, when you find the use in the middle of a project, you'll thank your lucky stars for it!
Yes, it's pricey. But Shopsmith's literally last decades. They are accurate, and provide you with the base set of tools that a wood-worker needs. My brother-in-law has had his for 10 years, and has literally built his house with it, including custom cabinetry, built-in bookcases, dining room tables, etc. His experiences and, more importantly, the fine results he has achieved prompted me to look at this machine. I'm glad I did!
I grew up in the Mojave desert, where my father was the proud owner of an industrial machine shop (which he purchased from the wife of a deceased engineer, who, most notably, designed the lathing equipment for creating reflectors for NASA's lunar distance measuring project). We're talking BIG lathes, horizontal boring machines (large enough to take on engine-block boring), and more! The quality of this industrial equipment was impressive, and, without a doubt, the Shopsmith is built from the same stock. I'm a very satisfied owner.
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