ShopSmith II

Basement, Blog, Home, Woodworking / Wednesday, August 29th, 2018

I like to think karma affects me. I like the concept that if you do good things, good things happen and vice versa. It keeps me honest. Sometimes the good things that happen aren’t directly related, but with a big enough pencil I can connect the dots.

Nearly a year ago I was walking on campus during my lunch hour and I came across a wallet someone had dropped. My first instinct for finding a wallet is to snatch it up and check for cash (I think the two times I’ve found a wallet prior to this, the wallet was empty). This time something compelled me to leave it closed and put it in a prominent spot so hopefully the person who lost it would have an easier time finding it again. That’s what I did and went about my walk. 

Sometime shortly after that, I contacted someone on Craigslist about a ShopSmith 10ER they were trying to get rid of. The guy had said to make an offer, so I asked how much he paid. He said it didn’t matter how much, he just wanted it off his hands. I let it go because I had gotten my own ShopSmith. Then, out of the blue, a month or two later the guy contacts me again and asks if I wanted it. For free. I cleared it with Ellie and went off to pick it up. He explained that he got it as a project to restore but hadn’t found the time for it. He wanted to pass it on to someone who would be able to get it in working shape again. I was that guy.

Rusty ShopSmith 10ER
The ShopSmith 10ER in the state I got it from a guy on Craigslist.

To be honest, the ShopSmith was in poor shape, a little more than a bucket of bolts. A lot of the moving pieces were seized in place due to rust. Not heavy, pitting rust but rust nonetheless. I unloaded it from my car into our sunporch and there it sat for a couple weeks. I had every intention of working on it, but a hundred other things called for my attention. Until one day when the humidity spiked and the entirety of our sunporch was covered in a heavy layer of moisture. It was time to move the ShopSmith into the basement to protect it from the elements. 

To do so, I needed to free some of the stuck bits. I’d estimate these things weigh somewhere around 300 lbs. and I cannot carry that into the basement all as one. Some degreaser and a rubber mallet were all I needed to get the heavy pieces off. Everything was then carried down to a pile in the basement. 

Since it was in the basement and it was already disassembled, I decided to start the restoration. All I really wanted to do was clean up the rust, polish things up enough that they worked but still looked like a 65-year-old machine. Then I could put a healthy coat of paste wax on everything so it would be more protected from rusting in the future. All this cleaning was a relatively easy process, albeit tedious. My go-to for cleaning was low odor mineral spirits and steel wool. Combined, they cut through the rust while polishing up the surfaces nicely. Sure, I didn’t get a fresh from the factory finish on anything but for the minimal effort, I’m happy with how it came out.

And then the ShopSmith sat for several months.

All I had left to do was to build a bench to put the ShopSmith on and reassemble the whole thing. I even bought the wood and hardware I’d need for the bench, according to the original bench plans provided by ShopSmith. But that pile of wood sat untouched and the ShopSmith was pushed into a corner of the basement. 

The one day recently I got on a kick for more making in my evenings. I started churning out projects and one of the projects high on the list is the ShopSmith bench. I’ve decided I do not need a second ShopSmith, with a few points to consider provided by Ellie. Plus, I need space for the CNC and the basement shop was starting to get rather cluttered.

So I got to chopping the wood down to size. I tried cutting it with the Radial Arm Saw, but found it difficult and tedious given I was cutting 4x4s. I tried cutting with the circular saw and again, it didn’t seem like the right tool. In the end, I found that brute force and hand saws are what worked best to cut down each board to the proper length. It was therapeutic to exert force to slice the lumber in half.

Slowly, the bench frame came together. I had do do some finagling here and there, but it worked. The biggest issue I ran into was that I used 2×3″ instead of 2x4s for the side rails because I had some on hand, they were cheaper, and generally are in better condition than the 2x4s at the local home goods store. But since I lost the inch of space on the board, the holes I drilled for the bolts were a lot closer together than I wanted them to be. It took some precise measurements and drilling to get a few bolts in place. In one spot, I had to partially drill through the bolt to get another in. You can’t see it from the outside, so I guess it’ll do.

After getting the frame together, I put some planks down on the top so I’d have a surface to rest the ShopSmith on. I had two different sized boards in my pile for this project and for the life of me, I could not remember which boards I intended to use for the top. So I just picked the ones that seemed to have enough board feet and hoped for the best.

ShopSmith 10ER Bench with base
Mounting the ShopSmith on the new bench.

Then it came time to put the whole ShopSmith back together. I had to start by marking and drilling holes to bolt the ShopSmith to the bench. Once bolted down, I started adding pieces back onto the base. The carriage, the headstock, the motor. Fun fact, before the motor went on, I had to wire it up with a new cord because the original cord was starting to crumble. This involved wiring the motor to the switch and the switch to the plug. It was one of my more complicated electrical works, even though it was relatively simple.

ShopSmith 10ER casters
The beautiful, original ShopSmith bench casters.

The last piece of the project was one I had been waiting for since I got the ShopSmith, adding the casters. The casters came with the ShopSmith and they are the original ones sold for building the bench. The have two heights in addition to the position where they do not roll. They’re mounted to the sides of the legs and I think they’re pretty neat. I decided to mount them on the insides of the legs to make the bench have a smaller footprint. I didn’t really know how to mount them properly so I just put them in the “off” position and set them next to the legs to make for the screw holes. I drilled for the screws and then screwed them in place and it worked perfectly. I can now easily list this several hundred pound machine and roll it around just by using my foot to raise it up.

So here’s where I stand today. I have two fully functioning ShopSmith 10ERs. My main one has a fancy treadmill motor and motor speed controller. It’s also on the bench the previous owner put together. I’m selling the second ShopSmith because I don’t need two. The second ShopSmith has a bench I built and it looks a lot better. I want the bench, but I really don’t want to go through the work to swap the benches because I know it will be quite the juggling project. What should I do?

ShopSmith 10ER Complete
The completed build of the ShopSmith 10ER bench with the ShopSmith mounted and with the casters on the bench.

All in all, this was a really fun project, even though it took almost a year to complete. I’m really happy I had the chance to rescue this ShopSmith and I’m glad it will be passed on to someone who will use it and cherish it. If you, or someone you know in the Madison, WI area is interested in the ShopSmith, send me a message.

Leave a Reply