Woodworking for the Blind

A Hands-On Eyes-Closed Description of a ShopSmith

Standing in front of the tool, it is about 5.5 feet across, 2.5 feet deep, and 30 inches high. The main support consists of two flared steel legs with 2-inch steel tubes running horizontally, spaced about 8 inches apart, spanning left-to-right, about 18 inches off the floor. The entire machine without options is about 250 to 300 pounds.

About 8 inches above the two steel tubes are another pair of steel tubes, call the way tubes. These are also about 8 inches apart and again horizontal and parallel. The way tubes support the headstock and the table.

The headstock contains the motor, on/off switch, vari-belt drive speed control, quill handle, main spindle, and two auxiliary spindles. The main spindle points to the right, just over 12 inches away above the two way tubes. The two auxiliary spindles face left. The upper is the same drive as the right-facing spindle, and the lower is a high-speed spindle. These two are used for accessories or for turning in reverse. The vari-belt system allows the main spindle to run from 700 RPM to 5200 RPM. The High-speed spindle runs up to 10,000 RPM at the highest setting. The right-facing spindle is attached to a quill system with a handle that allows it to extend further to the right another roughly 6 inches. This is used ideally for the drill press operation, but I has use it in disc sanding and sawing operations. The headstock can be slid along the way tubes and locke in place, to allow more flexibility in setting up operations.

The other component that slides along the way tubes is a 24x24 inch table. This table has a saw slot, two miter slots, and rip fence rails. This is most commonly used when cross-cutting or ripping, but is also the table for sanding, drill press, or horizontal boring operations. The table can be raised and lowered with a crank, moved along the way tubes, and also set at angles from +45 degrees to -90 degrees.

At the far right end of the way tubes is a carriage assembly that is hinged where it fastens to the lower tubes and foot. The purpose of this carriage is to allow the entire set of way tubes, headstock, and table to be lifted to a vertical position and locked in place. When in this position, the lower tubes remain horzontal, and the way tubes are vertical. The table is usually set to the 90 degree position so that you have a drill press.

Since the table is doing the tilting and the saw blade nver tilts, bevel cuts are done by tilting the table. Compound miter/bevel cuts can be done with a tilted table and the miter also tilted. In the drill press position, you can tilt the table to other than 90 degrees if you want to drill at an angle.

At the far end of the way tubes, part of the carriage, are two mounting holes to allow a 7x24 auxiliary table to be set, to help support longer workpieces. This table can also be set at the far left end of the way tubes in a similar set of holes. The table can be adjusted up/down to be level with the main table.

The left set of mounting holes are also used for some accessories. They are mounted and locked in place and use either the upper or lower left-side spindles for drive power. Some accessories that mount here could be a 4-inch jointer, scroll saw, a bandsaw, and a planer.

Various accessories come standard with the Shopsmith: - 10-inch saw blade mounted to an arbor. This is locked to the right spindle, the table is moved to the left, and lowered down so that the saw blade protrudes through the slot. The cutting depth is adjusted by moving the table up/down, since the headstock shaft is permanently fixed in one vertical height. This saw setup is for general crosscut and rip operations. It is the most common setup used. The quill adjustment allows for some very fine adjustment of the blade-to-fence distance for precision rit cuts. - 12-inch sanding disc. This is mounted to the right-facing spindle, and can either extend through the saw slot, or more commonly set just to the left of the table edge. Sandpaper is either attached using self-adhesive backing, or by purchasing a hook and loop system for the disc and sandpaper - quick change. - 1/2-inch drill chuck. This attaches to the right spindel for horizontal boring or the drill press setup. - Lathe faceplate, drive spindle and center. The drive center and faceplate attach to the right spindle and the center sets into a tailstock mounted on the far right end of the way tubes. You can turn up to a 12-inch bowl, and I believe a 40-inch spindle. - Drum Sander. This attaches to the right spindle and is usually used in the drill press setup to do shaping operations.

Some of these attachments can also be used on the left-facing spindle, to have them handy for quick operations, or when an operation calls for turning in the opposite direction. The saw blade is never used on the left-facing spindle.

Other accessories you can purchase are too numerous to describe here. See the web site for details.

This is a multi-purpose tool so it requires that you remove one tool and attach another and adjust the table when making changes. After some experience, it only takes a couple minutes to change from one operation to another.

It should be noted that changing from a 4-inch jointer to a bandsaw or scroll saw would require a bit longer, since a major component is being lifted off the tool and another is set into place. by Dave Carlson