ShopSmith Mark V Review

Ladies and gentlemen: I almost don’t have the words to describe the beauty of this piece of machinery. Ahhh…the Shopsmith Mark V! It will make you sweat just to behold it. If you are a woodworker – nay, if you even rarely work with wood, you must have this in your woodshop. The Shopsmith DOES ALMOST ANYTHING YOU CAN ASK OF IT (without getting naughty). But, like most families, it’s got a few “issues” too.

It’s a drill press (outstanding feature), horizontal drill, table saw (not quite as outstanding), wood lathe and sander. Variable speeds for each accessory is an added bonus; (VERY nice for the sander option). With a couple of adjustments, it transitions from one woodworking tool to another with “relative” ease. (You definitely have to go through the process of converting from one tool to the next a couple times before it goes smoothly.) The space it requires is minimal and you can wheel it out of the way when not in use. Total cost is less than buying each individual tool and piece of equipment. This baby is a woodworker’s dream come true.

I know, I know…some people are critics: “It takes too long to switch functions.” (Sob.) Or, “I’ve heard it’s a pain in the ass to use.” (Boo-hoo.) Or, “It doesn’t rip a bevel as cleanly as I’d like.” (Tiny violins playing.) Get over it. By the way, I don’t love the table saw function either. The table is too short in my opinion, making it hard to manage lengths of wood; they cantilever off the end and that’s how you end up with sh*%ty cuts.

Besides, most of us aren’t going to get rid of our favorite tools and equipment anyway. Not every feature is perfect; so don’t use the ones you don’t love. On the flip side; some of the features (like the drill press) are as good/accurate, if not better/more accurate than many individual presses on the market. Think of the Shopsmith as a sweet back up or addition to your woodshop.

Example: I have a fully loaded woodshop on the first floor of my barn. It’s equipped with table and miter saws, wood planer, all my favorite hand tools, more space than I usually need…the works. I also have a basement located directly below my fat ass; not across the expanse of an acre. When it’s negative three degrees in the middle of a Central New York January, and I’m not up for tying a guide wire to myself and wading through four foot snowdrifts to get to my barn, only to risk a coronary hauling a friggin’ sander (or whatever) back to the house; guess what? I warmly and comfortably walk down a flight of stairs to where my Shopsmith permanently resides. I roll it out from against the wall and… problem solved. My project moves on undeterred.

The bottom line is; everybody has his or her own opinion. The Shopsmith probably isn’t for everyone. (That’s why you’ll often see POSERS pawning them at really good prices – keep an eye out, but make sure all the accessories and parts are included, and not MIA.) You can often find a Shop Smith Mark V on ebay as well. In all seriousness though, as a backup for your woodshop, or an additional tool when using more than one person for a carpentry project, the ShopSmith Mark V fits the bill. It performs. And in the end, that’s all I care about. That and Sundays off. And a cold beer. And my dog.



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