Basement, Blog, Home, Woodworking / Tuesday, January 16th, 2018

When Ellie and I were looking for a house, one of the items I was looking for was a space to work on things. I didn't really have any criteria in mind. More or less, I figured the space would dictate what I could do in it. Sometimes it felt like Ellie made it more of a priority in the house search than I did, which was great. In our house, I ended up with a small portion of the basement. I decided I would work on things down there.

At first, I tried to restore some old radios, actually, make them better by wiring in a Bluetooth connection. It didn't go as planned as I only half knew what I was doing. Plus, what I really wanted to be doing in that space was woodworking of some sort. I had a bunch of hand tools but didn't know where to begin. Everything I wanted to do seemed out of reach of what my small arsenal of woodworking tools could accomplish. And then I found it.

Craigslist is one of my favorite sites. It is my most commonly opened tab. I cruise the free section on a regular basis but for a while, I was in the tool section trying to piece together a woodshop. Let me tell you, power tools are expensive. $50 for this, $125 for that. It added up quickly and even if I got everything I needed, I'd have no place left in my space for me. I also didn't want to expand my footprint because Ellie graciously lets me have that space for me to work on things. I wasn't going to get greedy. So when I came across a brand name that I had never heard of, one that promised to do everything I needed, I became that lustful, giddy Danny who knows there's something he really wants. I found a ShopSmith.

What is a ShopSmith you ask? Why it's an all in one machine. It's a table saw, a drill press, disc sander, lathe, shaper, horizontal boring tool, jigsaw and so much more. Here's the thing, I generally shy away from tools that try to do more than one thing, but for some reason the ShopSmith just made sense. It has one motor that drives all of the different tools when set in different configurations. It was conceived in the 1940s and marketed to the booming new homeowners as a way to build their new homes. It's one of those items that has achieved cult status. When I asked my dad if he's ever heard of one, a man who has had a basement woodworking shop as long as I've known him, he said he had and he even looked into getting one years ago. The price set him off from the idea though.

But I found one on Craigslist and the price was reasonable. It was such a good price because it was one of the early models. I think the ad boasted that it was a 10ER model build around 1952. Dear lord, I thought, that's old but it's still kicking. I had to get it. Subtly I convinced Ellie that we should drive an hour away to Mt. Horeb to pick it up. 

ShopSmith 10ER
Newly set up ShopSmith 10ER

It took about an hour to get the thing disassembled and loaded into my car and that was with the help of the man who was selling it. The ShopSmith, the bench it came on, and the boxes of parts filled the back of my car. It was heavy and awkwardly placed and every time I hit the breaks I thought it was going to go flying through the windshield. But I got it home.

Then, I needed to figure out how to get the thing out of my car and into the basement of the house where it would live to work. Every piece of it was heavy. More cast iron than anything else. I couldn't lift it all at once. It needed to be broken down further and further until I could carry it bit by bit into the basement only to put it all back together. That's just what I did. I even polished it up nicely so it'd look a bit better than a 65-year-old machine.

ShopSmith 10ER, Drill Press Mode
The ShopSmith 10ER setup in Drill Press mode.

So what will I do with such a fine piece of woodworking history? Only time will tell. I know there are a number of home improvement projects Ellie and I want to accomplish. It is a good thing that's what this machine is built for. Stay along for the ride and I'll post updates about what I'm working and the things I learn about the ShopSmith as I go.