July 9, 2016

Regular Maintenance: Important, Tedious, Necessary

Now that the cabinet is finished, and I've logged a lot of hours of shop time, it's time to do some routine cleaning and maintenance before starting my next project.  I don't particularly enjoy this process, but it's necessary to keep the machine running smoothly, and to get the absolute best performance and results.

I started of with a good cleaning, first brushing all the dust off, then wiping tables, posts, and all tubes with mineral spirits.  Then a scrubbing with Johnson's Paste Wax (a good discussion on that here) and a couple of different coarsnesses of Scotchbrite.  I let the wax "soak in" a bit, then buffed it out with a soft rag.
A quick rundown of the process.  If only it were this fast in real life!
After the cleaning was all finished, I did a full alignment check.  There are several different phases to this process, but it all leads to better projects through better accuracy and precision.

90-degree Table Stop Alignment

Putting the machine in drill press mode, you can check the accuracy of the positive stops for the 90 degree left table tilt.
Reposition main table carriage and headstock

Make sure to secure the way tubes when in the upright position

Tilt table until it hits the stops, then mostly lock table

Extend quill until bit is just below the table

Blade of square should touch full length of bit

Adjust stops to just touch the underside of the table

0-degree Positive Stop Alignment

Using a square and saw blade in table saw mode, you can check the 0-degree positive stop

Replace drill chuck with saw blade

Tilt table to 0-degrees and lower until just above headstock

Check for square (I lucked out!)

Make any necessary adjustment to the small scale

45-degree Positive Stop Alignment

Continuing to use the saw blade, 45-degree positive stops can be checked and adjusted with the combination square

Raise table above blade, tilt to 45-degrees right stops are engaged

Extend quill until blade is centered in slot. Lower table over blade

Check for any gaps.  If necessary adjust stops.

Stops are the brass-colored machine bolts in the upper right

Alignment of Miter Slots

Using the miter gauge and the long 5/32" Allen wrench, you can check the miter slots for parallel to the blade.  I was fortunate, as the track ran very parallel, so no adjustment of the trunnions was necessary.

Long Allen wrench secured in miter gauge.  It is just touching the blade.

Slide from front to back, checking for gaps or drag

This looks pretty good, but a second type of check adds to reliability

Wrench just touching outside edge of saw tooth

Rotate blade while sliding gauge backwards, check against the same tooth

Alignment of Miter Gauge Face Positive Stops

Using a speed square and saw blade, alignment of the positive stops at 0 and 45-degrees (left and right) can be checked and adjusted.

0-degree stop is off.  Loosen lock knob, disengage stop plunger.  Adjust to square and lock

Adjust stop until it just touch plunger and recheck

Similar process for 45-degrees left...

...and 45-degrees right

Alignment of Fence

Again using the long Allen wrench secured in the miter gauge, the alignment of the fence can be checked and adjusted.  Be careful when making adjustments to not gouge the fence.  It is incredibly easy to scratch, gouge or otherwise mar the fence.  I ended up with a couple of light scratches, but nothing too bad.

Fence just touching the wrench and secured

Slide gauge from front to back.  Check for gaps or drag.

If adjustment is needed, loosen these 4 screws, unlock rear (top latch) of fence, adjust, tighten, lock and recheck

Alignment of Extension Table

A good straight-edge and 9/16" wrench are used to check and adjust alignment of the extension table.  Due to some oddities of the ShopSmith, it's pretty much impossible to switch the extension table from the left side to the right side and maintain perfect alignment, so when performing this alignment, it's best to pick the side in which you use the extension table the most.  Three sides will be aligned to the main table: the infeed end, the outfeed end, and the front rails.

Loosen the lower nuts on the extension table.  Allow approximately 1/4" of room for adjustment

Nuts loosened, approximately 1/4" of bolt is visible below the flange

A straight-edge pressed firmly against the main table front rail allows forward alignment

Adjust upper nuts until infeed side of table is coplanar with main table

Do the same with the back

After verifying that all 3 areas are coplanar, and all four top nuts are touch flange, bottom nuts can be tightened

Alignment of Splitter

The splitter in the upper saw guard needs to be aligned with the blade in order to function correctly.  The 5/32" Allen wrench is used to mount the lower saw guard and blade, as well as make an necessary adjustments.

Secure blade and lower guard to spindle and quill

Insert and secure splitter into rear bracket

Splitter is aligned, no adjustment needed

Alignment of Lathe Tail Stock

The final alignment step uses the drill chuck, the lathe tail stock, and the cup center.  Adjustments are made to either the stop collars on the tail stock, or the eccentric bushing in which the center sits.

Install and secure the tail stock on the right-hand side

Move carriage and headstock all the way to the right, install drill chuck

Cup center installed in tail stock and chuck jaws closed

Extend quill until almost touch center and lock in position

Lateral adjustments made to eccentric bushing

Set screw in tail stock secures bushing
And that does it!  Alignment and cleaning of the main machine are complete!  I still need to clean, align and adjust the band saw and planer, but for right now they are not critical, and it was hot today!  I'm all set to move forward with a couple of projects/lessons before I need to do this all again!

Big thanks to my wife who took all these pictures as I was working.  It was incredibly warm in the shop, and she was a trooper!


  1. Just discovered your blog and am impressed. I'm an old Shopsmith fan and former SS Academy instructor and I have to say that I appreciate your approach. FYI: You may have already discovered this, but the eccentric center on your tailstock is off my 180 degrees and therefore the tailstock itself is positioned quite high. Keep up the good work, Scott

    1. Thanks for pointing that out! I hadn't actually realized that was an incorrect setting, so I will fix that post haste! I just got back into the shop recently after an unexpected hiatus, and tried turning for the first time.

      I appreciate the kind words, and more posts should be forthcoming. Just getting back into the swing now!