Tips and Techniques for Buying Shopsmith Tools

Tips and Techniques for Buying Shopsmith Tools
You are at an exciting place in your woodworking hobby; you’ve been sold on Shopsmith tools and now you’re looking for the best way to add them to your shop. I’ve written about my own experiences, so I’ll try not to bore you any more than totally necessary…

  • My first tip is that when you are through reading this post that you take a look at my post titled “Tips and Techniques for Selling Your Shopsmith Tools”. In it I explain to sellers what I would do in order to get you to part with as much of your money as possible! Knowing this will give you some good ideas about what to look for, and what I would consider fair and honorable behavior when selling tools.
  • Take a look at the individual posts relating to the tools you are interested in buying to make sure you know about the history of that tool. Shopsmith tools have gone through a lot of change over the years, and you need to know the details to make sure that the tool you think you are buying is in fact the tool you get.
  • If you are buying the tool online make sure that the photos are clear and cover every detail that concerns you.
  • Don’t assume anything! I write in my “Buying a Suit on eBay” Blog (seriously!) that many suits today are made in China by people who don’t read English. The English labels inside a suits lining may say “Wool“ or “100% Silk“, but that doesn’t mean that the suit is made of wool or silk! There is a label in a suit that must disclose the country of origin and the actual material, but the “show labels” can say anything you want! Back to tools. Just because you see a “Forest Woodworker II” carbide saw blade on a Shopsmith saw arbor hanging on the pegboard behind the Mark V in the photo in the eBay listing; that doesn’t mean it’s included with the Mark V. What should you do? Make a list of all the items you see in the photos, then read slowly through the listing and check-off the items from your list. If something on your list but not in the description, send a message to the seller and ask of the item is included in the sale. If something is listed but not shown, ask if they can email you a photo of the item. There may be a reason why they didn’t show the bandsaw… because it fell off the shelf and has a huge crack in the casting! This tip has saved me so much money, and has even won me some great items that were not noticed by buyers who just look at the photos.
  • If the serial number of all the tools are not shown in the listing, write the seller and ask for them. With the numbers in hand visit Shopsmith’s web site and find the birth date of the tool. On the Mark V the serial number is located on the left side of the Headstock (Power Plant), on the vent plate or on a Red/White Sticker. Note that the serial #’s were switched to a date code in 1988.
  • The color of the tool MAY indicate the age of the tool. The Original Shopsmith 10er’s was gray. The original Mark V of 1954 was two-tone green. (Known among Shopsmithers as “Greenies”) This was changed to two-tone brown (or gold) in 1960 and so on. Again, read the post for the individual tool that you are shopping for. The point is if you are looking at a grey Mark V you may be looking at a Mark V from the 1960’s, or 70’s, or 80’s, or 90’s or 00’s or maybe it’s a Greenie with a new grey paint job! The only way to know for sure is to check the serial # or to ask the seller if the paint job is original. I actually like the color of the Greenies and the Gold Anniversary Mark V, but I loathe Mark V’s with non-standard paint jobs because they always look like Chinese knock-offs to me.
  • Ask the seller to confirm that the speed dial turns freely and that there is no bearing noise. If they aren’t sure, as them to turn the Mark V on and run the speed up to fast, then back down to slow and to report their findings back to you. If they are selling the tool for a friend, or if it’s a tool they inherited let them know that they want to make sure that the headstock isn’t coupled to the bandsaw or any other SPT tool, and that they make sure that the tool is running while they are turning the speed dial. Feel free to suggest that they view this and the Sellers post mentioned above.
  • The Mark V has been manufactured by no less than five companies, so ask for either a photo of the name plate or at the very least the serial number and the other text on the name plate.
  • There have been several versions of the Shopsmith 5-in-1 tools, including the 10e, the 10er, the Mark I, II, V, 7 and VII. There has NEVER been a Mark IV, though the Mark V is regularly listed as a Mark 4 on eBay. I think sellers must know that the tool they own is an older unit, so it must be the model before the current Mark V. Now, the Mark V has been made in several models with distinct differences. There has been a Mark V model 500, 505, 510 and 520.
  • Ask the seller if they’ve added any upgrades to the tool. This is important if the tools age would indicate the presence of undesirable features. For example, many older Mark V’s have been upgraded with a new two bearing quill. Without this newer feature the drill press will have more side-play, and faceplate turnings will tend to grab and chatter.
  • How will the seller ship the tool? Will it ship assembled or will they partially disassemble it? If so ask them to include photos or better yet a video of the disassembly process and to make sure that all loose parts, set screws, etc. are placed in well labeled Zip-Loc bags. The Mark V is a very easy tool to break-down and reassemble, so don’t let this scare you off. It the tool is to be shipped assembled I would still suggest that the seller remove the legs. They are held in place with five screws each, and with them removed the tool will ship much more compactly (saving you money) and the tool will be less likely to become damaged due to toppling as the center of gravity will drop dramatically.
  • Never fall in love with something that can’t love you back. Just because you think a tool is a great find doesn’t make it worth all the money in the world. Set your top price and stick to it. Rather than sitting around waiting to snipe at the end of the auction, set your top bit from the get-go. Should someone outbid you let it go. That said, don’t bid in even numbers. A top bid of $10 will always be beaten by an earlier bit of $10.01. I tend to bid 1.0507 times my pre-established top price. That means if my top price is $100, I’ll bit $105.07, or something like that. Again, I’ll beat all the folks who try to snipe at the last minute with a $100 or $101 last minute bid.
  • Before you bid, make sure that there isn’t an identical tool for sale elsewhere on eBay. Nothing sucks worse than entering a bid only then to notice the identical tool selling for half the price several auctions down the page.
  • Before placing that bid do a quick Completed Auction Search of the item. This will let you know what the current going rate is for that item, and unless there is something special about the deal such as the location or additional items included in the auction, use the going rate as a rule of thumb for establishing your top bid.
  • That last tip reminds me of one of the most valuable tips on this post. (see, there’s a reason you read this far!) Tool prices are seasonal because woodworking is seasonal. Woodworkers are active hobbyists and as such are in their gardens, on their Jet Skis and climbing rocks during the Spring and Summer. That means you will have fewer competitors if you can plan your purchases and buy in the Spring and Summer.
  • Use the links on this blog to find hidden Shopsmith tools. I’ve been searching for, buying and selling Shopsmith tools on eBay since 1998, and I’ve gotten pretty good at sorting through the SPAM that clogs the tool category. eBay’s own analytics have proven that you have a stronger than normal likelihood of winning the bid when you go from my links to tools on eBay. Cool huh? Good luck, and let me know how your tool purchase goes. Scott


  1. I tend to go to eBay when I really want something that I think might be available there. In this frame of mind I will win what I bid on. This is probably not the best way to approach eBay. Sometimes I bid more than is reasonable.

  2. Scott, I'm retiring soon, and want to start purchasing some tools for a basic wood shop. I haven't done any woodworking for the past 40 years, but it's something I've always thought I wanted to do when reaching retirement age. I have found a guy selling his Shopsmith tools, as he no longer uses them. He has a Shopsmith Power Station, Shopsmith dust collector, 4" joiner, 12" disc sander, 6" blet sander, 12' planer, Performax/JEt 1632 drum sander. I will need to find a lathe, and a table saw, along with s few other tools as I put the shop together. he says the tools are all lightly used and in excellent condition. His thought is to sell them all for 50% of what he paid for them. Can you please give me some sort of help, or idea about how to price these tools. I'm a total rookie here, and have no clue how to go about valuing and buying these tools. Thanks...Mark

    1. Hey Mark. The value of used woodworking tools are totally in the eye of the buyer and seller. Shopsmith tools can retain their value but I have found that a seller has to split up their shop tools in order to get the maximum value for their shop. The guy who needs a dust collector will value it greater than the guy who is there for a scroll saw and learns that a dust collector is also part of the deal. So is half the retail price a fair price? Not if you are buying all those tools together. I would expect to pay between 1/4-1/3 the MSRP, if the tolls are in good shape and if I’m taking th entire shop. In my head I normally begin by pricing a Mark V at $500 and then add $100 per SPT. The sanding disc was part of the PowerStation package so I wouldn’t evaluate that separately. The PowerStation is worth $200 to me and the drum sander is a mystery, though I’d love to have one. The 12” planet has some problems so I don’t value it too high either. So for that package I would value it at $600 and offer $500 to begin the negotiations. Hope this helps, Scott

  3. I’m looking at a Mark V 510 that seem to be extremely lightly used and has the bandsaw. Just curious what a decent price would be for this. Thanks

  4. I'm just looking for a ripfence/ table saw fence for my model 520 shop smith,any help out there? Thanks

  5. We Have Inherited Multiple Mart V Powerheads, Bandsaws, Jointers, Disc Sanders and Manuals With My Fathers Passing, Any Info on How on How I Can Price These Items And Sell From His Estate ?


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