Startrite C310 P
Monday 20 October 2008
Alan Holtham is quite pleased with machine from Startrite
One of the oldest established woodworking machinery suppliers, Startrite, have recently entered the fast evolving universal machine market with two new offerings, with the C310-P being targeted at the smaller workshop.
There is a lot of competition in this sector of the market at the moment, but some of the machines are rather lacking in quality, whilst others are somewhat overpriced for what they offer. Startrite have recognised this and introduced a machine that ticks most of the boxes as regards quality, but still retains a realistic selling price. They make no secret of the fact that this machine is made in Italy by the well-known manufacturer, Minimax, which gives some indication of its pedigree.
If you have a small workshop and space is at a premium, a good quality universal is often a neat solution, provided you can get somewhere near to the ease of use of separate machines without too much compromise. Let's have a look and see how this one stacks up!
SawingThe C310-P has three separate 3hp motors, so selecting the drive for a particular function is simply a matter of flicking the switch on the front mounted control panel - you do not have to mess about with any belt changing at this level of machine.
The saw department is well catered for with a 250mm (9 3/4in) diameter blade giving a theoretical 80mm (3 1/8in) depth of cut, though this is slightly reduced by the fixed crown guard. A professional quality-sliding beam with a stroke length of 1600mm (63in), sits right next to the blade. This runs on steel guide strips that allow the sliding table to move freely but always maintain its accuracy. Another real bonus if you're using faced panels, is that the machine is fitted with a scoring saw to enable a perfect clean cut without chipping. The small contra-rotating 80mm (3 1/8in) blade for this is adjustable for height and lateral position using an Allen key accessed through the saw table, making it very simple to set up.
If you are cutting panels, a large squaring frame attaches to the sliding table to give maximum support via a heavy-duty articulated arm. This frame is fitted with a fairly standard telescopic cross-cut fence that incorporates spring loading stops for repetition cutting. The whole action of the sliding table and frame arrangement is free and easy, and inspires confidence that it will cut accurately and consistently. Much of this perception is due to the massive solidity of the machine, as with its cast iron tables, it weighs in at a hefty 430kgs.
The rip fence is not particularly sophisticated and has a rather crude locking handle, but in practice, it remains rigid and moves easily. Although lacking a fine adjuster, the scale is highly accurate, which is not something you can always say about the competitors. The full width fence support bar allows you a maximum cut width for ripping of 800mm (31 5/8in).
PlanerThe controls for rise and fall and tilt, are star knobs, rather than the more conventional handwheels. This takes some getting used to, particularly if you need to make a quick adjustment, but it does allow fine control for making minute alterations - once again, I was impressed by the accuracy of the scales. One minor niggle is that the crown guard has to be removed before the blade can be dropped below the table, when you need to changeover to another function. This is only a small point, but if you have used a machine where the whole lot disappears below the table as a job lot, it does seem to make the changeover process a little bit more cumbersome, though I suppose it is inevitable where the sliding table is right up against the blade.
The planer function is good, with a working width of 300mm (11 3/4in) and overall table length of 1260mm (49 5/8in); very useful if you need to straighten twisted material, particularly as the infeed table is 720mm (28 3/8in) long. The fence is the same one that is used on the saw and has to be adjusted from the far side, rather than having its own location on the infeed table. This is perhaps the weakest feature of this machine, and I would also have preferred to see a tilting fence. Depth of cut is adjusted using a twist handle, which I found rather stiff to operate, but it does allow a maximum cut of 4mm (5/32in). The ends of the table nearest the cutterblock are drilled for noise reduction - an interesting variation on the normal slotted arrangement, but I'm sure it provides a much stronger solution, and appears to work just as effectively.
BlockPerhaps the best feature of the planer is that it is fitted as standard with a Tersa block, which allows you to change the blades very quickly without the need for any time-consuming setting up. This is a real bonus and is normally an expensive optional extra. The surface finish left on the work really benefits from this three knife block, and even passes at full depth of cut are smooth and vibration free, as all three blades are guaranteed to be set perfectly. The bridge guard is the fairly ubiquitous arrangement supplied by many different manufacturers; I just wish there was some way to lock it in place more effectively when the tables are hinged back for thicknessing.
ThicknessingBoth tables open out for the thicknessing operation, and a neat built-in dust chute hinges over to provide the necessary extraction and to guard the cutterblock. The feed rollers are both metal, the infeed one having a spiral pattern designed to provide a more positive grip. The substantial cast iron thicknessing table measures 300 x 450mm (11 3/4 x 17 3/4in), so it provides plenty of support. The rise and fall adjustment on the central column is nice and smooth, and gives a range of finished thickness from 3 to 205mm (1/8in to 8 3/16in). You do not often see such a small minimum thickness available without some form of special jig. Maximum stock removal is 4mm (5/32in) and the relatively slow feed rate of 7m/min, coupled to the three-knife cutterblock, ensures a really good finish.
Spindle moulderThe spindle moulder has an adequate, but not excessive, 115mm (41/2in) spindle projection above the table. There's a good size trough to accommodate the cutterblock, and you can fully retract tooling up to 140mm (5 1/2in) in diameter and 42mm (1 5/8in) in depth. Three insert rings are provided to surround the spindle and maximize support for the timber, and as you would expect, it is fitted with a good variety of collars to allow coarse adjustment of the tooling height. The fence and guard arrangement is fairly standard, but a good feature is that the outfeed fence is independently adjustable, and the guard hinges up to allow easy access to the cutterblock without having to dismantle it all. A ring fence is available, but it is an extra.
There are three speeds for the moulder, and these have to be manually selected by changing the drive belt, accessed through a hinged door at the rear of the machine. This is not the easiest of jobs, but fortunately it is not something you need to do on a regular basis. Dust extraction for the moulder is excellent with an additional hood supplementing the spout on the fence, although you need to provide support for the hose or it can get a bit tangled with the swinging arm of the sliding table.