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kmealy

Shopsmith, and other brands

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Reading a recent thread on saw blades, I noted several people with Shopsmiths.   Can we start a discussion on this?

 

Hi, I'm Keith, and I'm a Shopsmith owner.

(all) "Hi, Keith."

 

I started off many years ago without much direction, not knowing any woodworkers.

 

I grew up with a Homecraft table saw that I believe my father bought when he (with a lot of help and subs) built the house I grew up in.

 

I started out on an apartment balcony and storage room with a drill, a hand saw, a few chisels and screwdrivers, a hacksaw and a cheap wood plane.  I made a number of things with them, including bookcases, TV stand, cradle, camp kitchen and other small pieces.   A few years later, I added a B&D cheap circular saw and jig saw.  Built some more bookcases.

 

My first saw was a small (8") table top table saw.   Don't remember the brand.  Worked ok, but quickly outgrew as I got more into woodworking.  Sold it to a co-worker.

 

Then I got a Craftsman RAS because in reading a book was amazed at all the things it could do.   Well it was a piece of craft -- wouldn't stay aligned.  This was in the day before Taiwanese imports.   So about the only choices were Craftsman or more industrial equipment like Delta/Rockwell.

 

So as I was getting more serious, my BIL talked me into a Shopsmith.   He'd had one for 20 years as his sole machinery.  Got the MarkV (later known as a 500), band saw, jointer package.  Worked fine.    Then went to a class with Roger Cliffe.   He convinced me a Unisaw would be a good idea.  By that time, the 510 was out with larger and more tables, but I decided to take that substantial upgrade money into a new machine.  I do still use it and it's a fine machine for most other functions -- drill press, horizontal boring, disk and belt sander, band saw (though smallish).   I was also active in an early Shopsmith forum and user group.   They're about 1 hour north of me.   But they keep getting smaller and smaller as I go driving by.  Retail store is closed.  A friend used to be a traveling pitch man and got laid off.  Don't see them at the malls or fairs any more.   I have had several factory tours and the factory gets smaller and smaller each time.   Part of it is lean and JIT manufacturing, but probably part of it is lower volume.   I was also a bit surprised to see that most of their components are fabricated elsewhere and they really just do some final milling on some pieces and assembly. 

 

But, I digress.   I ended up with a new Unisaw.   I was amazed that it was so easy to set the rip fence for width.   I did not have to go to one table for narrow widths, aux table dropped down for intermediate, and aux table at same height for wider rips.   And bevel cuts were done with blade tilt, not bed tilt. 

 

About the same time, a Cat5 tornado went through the family farm and my dad, who was taking a lot of the blow-downs for firewood, saved me a number of ash, hickory, and butternut trees for lumber.   Soon after, I needed a planer.   Ryobi had the first and only lunchbox planer out and the dealer convinced me that they're only expected to last a few years.  SInce I only had 120V in the shop, that narrowed it down to a Hitachi F1000A jointer-planer combo.   Still have that and use it regularly.  About this time the RAS was only being used for a table for holding wood parts, so got rid of it.  My wife also reminds me that "free" lumber cost a trailer and a planer.

 

Somewhere in there, I got a PC 690 router.   The B&D I'd gotten a couple of years before self-destructed its motor.  So I'm learning cheap tools were not a bargain.   Norm started his show and it seemed he never changed bits, he just had another router with that bit in it.   That was my only router for many years.   Even went to a class where I felt inadequate when the instructor asked for show of hands, "Who has 1 router?  2? 3? 4? 5? 6 or more?"

 

A few years later, I was doing a large picture framing job for an artist.   The frames were quite large and elaborate, with compound mitered corners, so I sprung for a miter saw (Hitachi, still in use).   Not absolutely  necessary, but useful.

 

As far as portable power tools, I started out with Porter-Cable and found them good, with the except of a POS detail sander.  When B&D - Stanley ended up taking over,  quality went to Joe Garage, so I've expanded out to Bosch, Hitachi, Makita, DeWalt whatever.

 

Lately, I got a Delta band saw from a guy who passed and his son was a friend, and a spindle sander from another friend down-sizing, retiring, and moving.  Along with a few other pieces picked up here and there.

 

What's in your shop and how did it get there?

 

So, I guess I'm not really brand loyal, but looks for what is reasonable at the time, or I run across as a used piece of equipment.

 

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Well, I started out with a Shopsmith MK V, the band saw and all their lathe tools. Quickly determined that, although one good turn deserves another, I couldn't get the first good one. So, sold all the lathe stuff. 

Built a lot of furniture and toys with the MK V and, tons of band saw boxes. Then, got into kitchen cabinets, then commercial fixtures. 

Along the way, a Craftsman RAS found it's way into the shop. It didn't stay long. But, I still have the 6" Craftsman (Emerson) jointer I got at about the same time as the RAS. Around 1978, if memory serves. It still runs like a champ. 

When we relocated from Southern AZ to the sticks, where we are now (about 20 mi, south of I 40) we got out of the cabinet and fixture business. Not much call for that around here. Our last cabinet job was our own cabinets and a Hoosier. So then, I got serious about having fun. Bought a Delta Planer, 5 more routers, a Bosch 10" SCMS and, another Shopsmith. Turned the original Shopsmith into a dedicated rip saw with a Jointech Saw Train modification which included an integrated router table which has a Jessem lift and a PC 7518. That pretty much eliminates many of the unique functions of the Shopsmith. The second one, runs the band saw, a wee little 4" jointer and a great 6x36 belt sander plus an assortment of 10" disc sanders. And, when I got the 2nd Shopsmith I was able to get rid of the HF bench top drill press. 

Recently, the Delta planer cratered on me and, was replaced by a DeWalt. 

I think I'm done acquiring major tools. Ran out of room. Plus, Phyl is getting anxious about how to dispose of everything when that time comes. 

Does anyone want a good 6" jointer? Hey...gotta start somewhere.

 

 

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I had always admired the Shopsmith...and used to think I wanted one. I saw the demos at a couple of malls one was at Tri-County when it was just a strip mall....if you can imagine that. For those outside the Cincy area, the Tri County Mall is seemingly making a run for the "biggest" crown held by Mall of America. The thing I could never get past with the Shopsmith was the tilting table for bevel cuts. Anyway, my first stationary tool was a Craftsman RAS. My F-I-L convinced me it was the saw of all saws, he knew...he had one rolling.gif. So I bought a used one, a mid-70's model, generally considered to be one of the better ones. That was my only big tool until 1990 when I bought a Delta table saw (contractor model). I was so impressed by how good it was the RAS quickly became an also-ran. By this time we had moved back to Ohio from Kansas, and had a really big 2 car garage that was also heated. So the tool collection starting growing fairly quickly after that. The RAS sat around for another 8 years or so until I grew tired of trying to keep it aligned, then it went to the great recall in the sky. Even so, I missed that saw a lot, since I saw the RAS as a very useful concept. Then one day I stumbled onto a Dewalt MBF (a 1957 model with cast iron arm), rebuilt it and re discovered the joy of an RAS; especially one that would stay in perfect tune. Since that one I've had 5 others until I got to the one I have now. It's probably my last one and it's a good'en. As for brands, there was a time when if I wanted a tool I'd look in the Craftsman catalog to see what the Sears offerings were....then get whatever it was I wanted needed. That ended probably 30 yeas ago when the other brands  became more accessible to hobbyists types. I've switched favorite brands as companies merged, sold out, whatever....and now find I probably don't have a favorite brand for everything....it's usually tool specific.

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thought about getting one..

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I can't recall when the last time was that I needed to tilt my table. I DO NOT like doing that. It really makes me nervous. Especially with long bevel cuts. Several jigs and a host of router bits have eliminated that need. 

I love building jigs.:D Good attitude to have if you have a Shopsmith.:unsure:

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Another couple of thoughts occurred to me.   Those Shopsmiths seem to last forever.  I remember on the factory tours, there were a number of 10ER heads right there on the production line.

 

When my son-in-law and daughter were looking for a small table saw to do what has turned out to be extensive home remodeling on their home, I visited and used a borrowed portable table saw.   It was a piece of junk.   I found a used SS for them for $500 that included the Mark V, band saw and jointer.   Much better set up for the $.    And that seems to be the going price for a set up like that $400-600.   That seems a higher % of depreciation than most other old iron.   My BIL found a newer Model 500 with a whole bunch of accessories for not much.   He bought from a guy who was terminally ill and spent most of his last year drooling over the catalog and ordering stuff.   Most of it was unopened.   My BIL passed his old greenie on to his only son.

 

The other issue with SS (as was with most of the equipment of the time) is almost no allowance for dust collection.  

 

Maybe it was just my stage in the journey, but I found myself always making an extra part with the SS so II didn't need to go back and re-do all the conversion and set up in case one got spoiled later in the process.

 

Edited by kmealy

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17 hours ago, Fred W. Hargis Jr said:

I had always admired the Shopsmith...and used to think I wanted one. I saw the demos at a couple of malls one was at Tri-County when it was just a strip mall....if you can imagine that. For those outside the Cincy area, the Tri County Mall is seemingly making a run for the "biggest" crown held by Mall of America. The thing I could never get past with the Shopsmith was the tilting table for bevel cuts. Anyway, my first stationary tool was a Craftsman RAS. My F-I-L convinced me it was the saw of all saws, he knew...he had one rolling.gif. So I bought a used one, a mid-70's model, generally considered to be one of the better ones. That was my only big tool until 1990 when I bought a Delta table saw (contractor model). I was so impressed by how good it was the RAS quickly became an also-ran. By this time we had moved back to Ohio from Kansas, and had a really big 2 car garage that was also heated. So the tool collection starting growing fairly quickly after that. The RAS sat around for another 8 years or so until I grew tired of trying to keep it aligned, then it went to the great recall in the sky. Even so, I missed that saw a lot, since I saw the RAS as a very useful concept. Then one day I stumbled onto a Dewalt MBF (a 1957 model with cast iron arm), rebuilt it and re discovered the joy of an RAS; especially one that would stay in perfect tune. Since that one I've had 5 others until I got to the one I have now. It's probably my last one and it's a good'en. As for brands, there was a time when if I wanted a tool I'd look in the Craftsman catalog to see what the Sears offerings were....then get whatever it was I wanted needed. That ended probably 30 yeas ago when the other brands  became more accessible to hobbyists types. I've switched favorite brands as companies merged, sold out, whatever....and now find I probably don't have a favorite brand for everything....it's usually tool specific.

Sounds like we were walking the same path.

 

Yes, Tri-County mall is suffering just like most malls these days.    I lived in Chicago in mid-70s.   I don't think Tri-county had a chance of being a giant mall of that scale.    I don't go into Sears any more.  After many years of not going, I gave them another chance.  I got so po'd the last time I was in one I swore I'd never go in one again.   And yes, I worked for Sears when I lived in Chicago.

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Not dissing SS, "Some of my best friends and good craftsmen are SS only users."

 

I visited George Reid in Dayton while he was still alive.   He was probably the best craftsman I've ever met, and I've met a bunch.  He worked in a dingy basement shared with a washer and dryer, and his "finish room" was a dark corner underneath the steps.   All of his equipment was early 1940s old iron and he did not have that much of it.   Had a very nice collection of sharp carving tools that he'd purchased from an estate.  I heard him say once he did not own a router, "but could see how it might come in handy."

 

 

I also had a soft spot in my heart for him because he looked enough like my dear grandfather that he could have been one of his ten siblings.

 

https://books.google.com/books?id=1HPnwXyp4OUC&pg=PA31&lpg=PA31&dq=george+reid+cabinetmaker+dayton&source=bl&ots=clhdOxoXF1&sig=b-u_hUPtm2oD2aIZyCFLuAR4_bk&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjAo4jFrq3XAhXHQyYKHRD5AZcQ6AEILjAB#v=onepage&q=george reid cabinetmaker dayton&f=false

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I started out with welding as a hobby.  Made trailers gun safes did repairs modifications to trailers.  I was helping a friend pack up his inlaws who were moving to Florida.  The father-in-law had a purchased but never used Craftsman RAS.  He made me a deal I couldn't refuse for helping him so I took it home and set it up in the basement.  Couldn't get it to cut straight for nothing until I decided to read the instructions.  There is a process to setting them up to cut well.  Duh!!  I soon learned that if you moved the saw on it's stand even a little the saw would need recalibrated.  So I welded up a solid stand for it and bolted it to a wall in the basement and the saw became a joy to use.  Made quite a few projects with it.  I did wood projects in the winter months welding projects in the summer months.  I ran across Norm and the New Yankee Workshop on PBS and became a faithful viewer.  I noticed the table saw was his go to saw for most cuts and looked for a used one.  Found a used Rockwell 10" for sale and purchased it and the world of wood working lights came on and I was hooked.  I saving for and buying tools as I could afford it.  I really like the table saw and stayed with the Delta brand and purchased a new jointer and miter saw from the local hardware store I was loyal to until their demise.  Sadly they were forced out when Lowes and Home Depot moved in.  I also have a two Delta lathes and a thickness planer.  I have tools of other brands since it is hard to be loyal to a defunct Delta Co.  My Delta tools have all served me well but the others have too.  Woodturning has become my favorite part of woodworking.  It is very addicting and enjoyable.  I have always been curious of the Shopsmith but have never had the opportunity to work with one.  I have seen them go cheap in the used market but don't have the room for one.  But never say never.  It may happen and live in the weld shop whish already has a second table saw, RAS and band saw.       

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There are guys that find good deals on used Shopsmiths and buy them just for the lathe and/or drill press/horizontal boring functions.

Sure, the price of an older 10 ER or MK V may get you a DP or lathe but, not both.

I've never bothered to add up all the $ I've not spent on single purpose tools (and floor space) that the Shopsmith has made redundant but, I'm sure it's a bunch. 

Using one takes patience, there is a learning curve, but once you begin to understand how all it's idiosyncrasies work together, it's one fun machine. Sorta like a woman.:D

 

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Speaking of demise, when I first moved here in 1979, there were few options for lumber and hardware stores.  One local home center that my wife refused to ever go back to because they treated her with a condescending attitude.  Another (Swallen's (Fred)) that was more like a homey building center, but did have some stuff, eventually closed after old man Swallen died.  Then a string of failed hardware stores,  Western Home Center, Central Hardware, Furrows, HQ (which I think was a subsidiary of KMart, enough said), Builder's Square, Contractor's Warehouse, 84 Lumber and so on. I was really glad when Lowe's first came in (the original store was just a small building center) and Home Depot came in town.   A few years ago, Menards made their mark, too.  There a still a few Ace and Do-It-Best hardware stores, but don't carry much other than dimensional lumber and portable power tools (drills, routers, etc.)   Sears, well, we've already bashed them.  We do have EB Mueller, where I got all my big iron and they're still in business and do both retail and commercial.  There was also one hardware store near downtown that carried Delta back in the day.   I didn't find out about them until after I'd purchased most of my shop.   They're gone, now, too.

 

We did have one local hardwood supplier, but shortly after I started buying there, they closed, some said because of EPA regs on their kiln, I don't know.   Paxton was first a commercial supplier, then opened a retail store (that Steve Mickley ran for a few years) and decided they didn't want retail, then after five years or so decided they really could.   Steve Mickley and his partner started a lumber store and Rockler hardware, but he either ran out of money or just decided to retire and move to the mountains, so that's closed.

 

Rockler has been in town for some time and has decent hardware.   Woodcraft was first a company store, then a franchise, then franchise sold to another franchisee, then back to a company store.   They've been in 3 locations (though two of those are in the same strip mall), right around the corner from Rockler.  Both do carry some stationary power tools, though Woodcraft seems more interested in turners.   I've heard turners spend a lot of money on gadgets and tools.

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7 minutes ago, kmealy said:

  Sears, well, we've already bashed them. 

 

I stopped at Sears yesterday to get some screw drivers replaced.  They looked as though the tool section is being drastically reduced or eliminated.  They had a lot of things drastically reduced.  They had a bin of the most common screw drivers and they picked from it to replace mine.  They had sets to sell but no individual screw drivers.  I took a substitute for two that they didn't have.  But yeah the tool section looked sad compared to what it was just a few years ago.

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I see a distinct similarity in these posts! Almost everyone has had a Craftsman RAS at the start of his woodworking life. I got married in 1972, but literally had no room for any tools beyond a power drill (Wen) and a hammer. In our second apartment, we had a garage large enough to build something in, so I borrowed my B-I-L's old Beaver contractor's TS and loved it! Moved to our third home, which had a full (but LOW) basement we shared with the landlord, so I decided to get my own saw. Money was scarce, and when I found an RAS for $150 LESS than the cheapest TS, (Sears), that became my first stationary power tool. A little fussy to set up, but it has served me well, and still sees occasional use. I DID have to replace the rods that the rollers travel on, as the originals got a little sloppy after we built our house.

     I added a full-size drill press, bench-top belt sander, several grinders and sharpeners as I saw a need. Then Dad had a stroke, and no longer felt safe around power tools, so I first got his old 8" TS/ 4" jointer combination (grossly underpowered) and then his 1952 model ER ShopSmith. The saw was given away, and replaced with a Ridgid TS, but the ShopSmith is my lathe and occasional boring machine, as well as disk sander. A Craftsman miter saw has pretty well replaced the RAS. I took that miter saw out of the box set it on the table, and the first test cut was RIGHT ON! Have never had to adjust it. A King SCMS, on the other hand, was so out of whack that countless hours of playing with it have resulted in a machine that is only borderline useable. :(

     Also got a Craftsman 1/4" router somewhere around 1975, (on sale, half price) which still runs like a charm. Got a Triton router for the router table,  but haven't used it yet.

1 hour ago, HandyDan said:

I stopped at Sears yesterday to get some screw drivers replaced.  They looked as though the tool section is being drastically reduced or eliminated.

Sears Canada, as you may have heard, is closing. No big loss, as their tools just aren't what they were in the 70"s.

John

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The Sears store near my daughter was closing last year, so my SIL and I went over to see if we could snag some bargains.  Pffft.  At most stuff was 10% off list price.   I could have gotten better deals at the Christmas sale.    Unfortunately, SIL's father is one of those die-hard (pardon the pun) Craftsman tool fans (he believes "They make the best.")  So SIL gets a lot Crapsman gifted to him. I think dad's about 45 years behind times, maybe he's remembering when he was in high school and starting out.   SIL's batteries failed last year.   I was all set to get him a Ridgid drill-driver for Xmas (so he never had to worry about another battery).   Unfortunately, same battery is used in his circular saw, jig saw, drill-driver, and maybe something else.   Reluctantly, we got him two new batteries for the price of two Ridgid batteries, charger, and drill-driver.

 

There was a Sears Hardware store down where I do a lot of shopping.   If Sears wasn't having enough problems, Menards moved in across the street 18 months ago.   Sears is gone.

 

Sadly, too Delta seems to be not much of what it used to be.  

 

When I started I got a lot of Porter-Cable.   Wither them, too.

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We had a Sears Hardware on the west side of town that has been gone for about three years now.  I feel them getting rid of their catalog was a big hit for them too.  They should have morphed it into an online part of their business.   

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31 minutes ago, HandyDan said:

We had a Sears Hardware on the west side of town that has been gone for about three years now.  I feel them getting rid of their catalog was a big hit for them too.  They should have morphed it into an online part of their business.   

Yep.   I saw a news article on them a couple of weeks ago.   Amazon took their model (updated to the interweb) and ate their lunch with it.   Sears started off mail-order only to remote areas that didn't have a good retailer.  Only later, they got storefronts.  When I worked for Sears in the mid-70s, my co-workers always said Sears: Macy's prices; KMart quality.  

 

My wife even grew up in a Sears home.

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Sears homes?

I've always been a bit puzzled about the nomenclature. Our SIL owns one in WA. When she talks about it, she calls it a Craftsman home. Its a far cry from any true Craftsman home I've ever seen. But, she and I are not the only ones bumfoozeled. Her neighbors live in similar homes and refer to them as Craftsman homes, too.

I think they're all 'cornfusing' the Sears Craftsman name with the Arts and Crafts homes. She swears those homes were built by Sears. More likely, they sold plans or kits to a developer.  But, there are none of the architectural details, inside or out, that are associated with the A&C era Craftsman home. 

 

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4 hours ago, Gene Howe said:

Sears homes?

I've always been a bit puzzled about the nomenclature. Our SIL owns one in WA. When she talks about it, she calls it a Craftsman home. Its a far cry from any true Craftsman home I've ever seen. But, she and I are not the only ones bumfoozeled. Her neighbors live in similar homes and refer to them as Craftsman homes, too.

I think they're all 'cornfusing' the Sears Craftsman name with the Arts and Crafts homes. She swears those homes were built by Sears. More likely, they sold plans or kits to a developer.  But, there are none of the architectural details, inside or out, that are associated with the A&C era Craftsman home. 

 

Gene Sears did sell homes. They came as a kit I think and there are still some in use today.

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14 hours ago, kmealy said:

 I think dad's about 45 years behind times, maybe he's remembering when he was in high school and starting out.  

I believe that's true of a lot of folks who aren't as close to the tools business as most of us. I search CL tools every once in a while, and by far the most stuff offered for sale is the craftsman brand products.

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3 minutes ago, Fred W. Hargis Jr said:

I believe that's true of a lot of folks who aren't as close to the tools business as most of us. I search CL tools every once in a while, and by far the most stuff offered for sale is the craftsman brand products.

Same here, with B&D a close second. 

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