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Shopsmith - Supershop Comparison

The makers of the Supershop have compared their machine to a Shopsmith on their company website. Like any business, theyíve tried to present their product in its best light.

The Shopsmith Company has taken the high road and has chosen not to respond. However, I do think there needs to be some balance, so Iím presenting my point of view as a Shopsmith owner. Obviously, there must be some reasons why I chose the Shopsmith over the Supershop, and here is my take on the subject.

General Information
The Shopsmith is an evolved version of a classic woodworking machine. The Supershop is an attempt to re-invent the Shopsmith from the ground up, but there are serious flaws with the Supershop that make it unappealing to me.

Headstock (Power Plant)
The Shopsmith has a reliable, American-built speed control system that is easily repaired, and most headstocks last at least fifty years. Speed changes are made by turning a single dial.

The Supershop is a more complex machine that has both electronic and mechanical components, some of which are made in America, but most of which are made in China. Speed changes are made by first removing a cover plate, then moving a belt to one of three positions on a series of pulleys. After that the speed can be fine-tuned within the given range of the pulleys using an electronic speed control system.

It is difficult for me to believe that electronic components of the Supershop are going to last fifty years. Iíve already replaced several computers in my car; the last thing I need is another computer controlling another machine.

Shopsmith repairs usually can be accomplished by the owner. Shopsmith technicians will help you diagnose your problem over the phone and the company will sell you the proper parts and clear instructions on how to install the parts on your machine. However, if you do want to send in your Shopsmith for repair, there are several authorized Shopsmith repair facilities around the country.

Supershop repairs are more difficult, reflecting the more complex nature of the machine. Supershop technicians will help you diagnose problems over the phone and the company will sell you the proper parts, but I could find nothing on their website that would indicate they are willing to make repairs to their machines.

Dust Collection
The Shopsmith has outstanding dust collection. The dust collection shroud on the Shopsmith does a great job catching dust at the source. In table saw mode it outperforms typical stand-alone table saws, and it can also be used with the disk sander.

The Supershop has dust collection for the table saw, but none for the disk sander. Iíve tried using my disk sander without dust collection, and the dust goes everywhere. Fine wood dust, such as the kind produced by the disk sander, presents a serious health hazard if allowed to circulate through the shop air.

Both machines are warranted for two years, but the Shopsmithís warranty is more comprehensive.

Shopsmith offers a 90 day money back guarantee.
If something goes wrong with your Shopsmith headstock, theyíll fix your headstock and send you a loaner headstock to use while yours is in the shop.

Supershop offers a only a 30 day money back guarantee.
According to their website, if something goes wrong with the Supershop, theyíll talk you through the situation and then send you the necessary parts.

Tool Storage
Shopsmith offers a shelf that is specially constructed to hold all your Shopsmith accessories. The shelf can be mounted on the legs of the Shopsmith or on a wall, whichever is more convenient. If you have a lot of accessories and want quite a bit of storage, Shopsmith sells sets of tool drawers that are designed to fit exactly beneath the machine.

The Supershop has a permanent, undivided shelf that is attached to the legs of their machine. The Supershop website states that Shopsmith has no such option, ignoring the many superior tool storage systems that Shopsmith offers. And, if one really wanted a Supershop-style shelf on his Shopsmith, all he would have to do is attach a piece of plywood to the pre-drilled holes in the legs of the Shopsmith.

Rip Fence
The Shopsmith fence double locks to control flex. Controls are located at the operator end of the fence.

The Supershop fence also locks to control flex. However, the Supershop website makes it seems that this feature is unique to their machine, ignoring the fact that every Shopsmith built in the past sixty years has had this feature. The controls are located at opposite ends of the fence, forcing the operator to reach to the outfeed side of the table to twist a knob every time the fence is moved.

The Shopsmith weighs in at about 200-250 pounds, depending on what accessories and tables are attached. Itís beefy enough to be accurate, but light enough that I can lift one end over an extension cord as Iím wheeling it around the shop. When my father remodeled the upstairs of his house, the Shopsmith went with him.

Lifting the Shopsmith to vertical drill press position is easy for most users. However, a pneumatic lift assist is available for people who want extra assistance.

Removing the headstock (to send back to Shopsmith for repair) can be accomplished by a single person.

The Supershop weighs in at 480 pounds, which means that simple things like rolling the machine over an uneven shop floor are going to be very difficult. Forget about throwing it on the back of your truck to take it to the jobsite, or hauling it upstairs for a remodeling project.

Lifting the Supershop to vertical drill press mode requires a torsion spring.

I do not own a Supershop, but it seems that removing and replacing the Supershop headstock must be an extremely difficult operation. And how would you get the headstock back in place? I canít imagine trying to thread such a heavy object back onto the way tubes. Then again, nothing on their website indicates that it is possible to send the Supershop headstock back to the company for repairs, so maybe it doesnít matter at all.

The Shopsmith (model 510 or 520) has a main table, extension table, and two floating tables. These can be configured for over 102 inches of support, wide enough to cross-cut a 4x 8 sheet of plywood with room to spare.

The floating tables provide support for materials that sag (thin plywood or Formica).

Shopsmith has recently added direct-reading rip fence scales to its top-of-the line machine. With these scales you can set the fence to any length between 0 and 45 inches, and your work piece will be cut exactly to that width.

The Supershop is limited to one main table and one extension.

If youíre cutting a wide piece of thin plywood or Formica, itís going to droop in the middle and probably bind or kick back.

Supershop tables do not have a direct-reading rip fence scale, and the fence must be set with a tape measure or ruler.

Attaching Accessories
The Shopsmith uses a standard ½" drive shaft, which makes it compatible with many after-market accessories (such as the Beall wood buff system) that are available at woodworking and hardware stores.

All Shopsmith accessories are attached to the spindle with a single 5/32" Allen wrench. No tool is required to adjust the Shopsmith lathe tool rest.

The Supershop uses the R-8 collet system which is more appropriate for metalworking. Collets much be purchased at industrial supply centers.

Supershop accessories are attached with a variety of tools. An integral drawbar is used to attach collets. I noticed there is a hole on the back of the drawbar grip, presumably for a metal rod in case the collets are so tight they cannot be removed by hand. An Allen wrench is used to adjust the lathe tool rest.

I believe the designers of the Supershop really intended on making a better machine when they designed their product, but they did not address the problems that Shopsmith overcame when it began producing its more recent models.

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This page last updated 11/15/05
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