Emco Unistar 310
Monday 24 November 2008
Another classic machine test from Colin Eden-Eadon
The Emco Unistar 310 is another combination machine from the now familiar manufacturing stable of Emco of Austria who make the Emco Rex planer, Emco Max saw and Cesar bandsaw. They produce five universals, two of them with different size planers and saw tables, and they have an extensive rage of accessories for all of them.
This one is the most modestly priced of the universals that Emco produces and it fits in with the striking red range of the Rex planer thicknesser and the Max saw. It is, however, pitched at the top of this range with its cast table and solid engineering. It is a five function machine - surface planing, thicknessing, spindle moulding, sawing and crosscutting, with an optional sixth function of slot morticing. It has 300mm (12in) planer tables and there is a 260 version with 250mm (10in) tables.
ConstructionThe machine is slim looking and painted grey with a jazzy plastic red cowling on the side. The tables are all heavy cast iron and this gives a positive, dependable feel to it - all of the Emco machines have the planed finish.
It is easy to use and will certainly help to relieve some of the physical effort if you're on the machine for several hours. Extraction nozzles are both at the back, which is useful, with another on the crown guard of the saw.
ElectricsThere are both single-phase and three-phase machines available. The motors are all plenty powerful for the job and are electrically braked - Emco claim that they stop in eight seconds and I can be believe it. Like many of the top quality combinations these days the Emco Unistar 310 has three separate motors, one for each of the main functions - saw, planer and spindle. These are all switched independently as well as being connected to a key system. Before turning on, each function is selected by turning the key to the appropriate position. There are also micro-switches on the access doors of various parts of the machine.
SawbenchThe rise and fall on the saw is of the lever type which pushes the blade up or down with a locking twist grip. As with many of the mainland European machines the tilt mechanism is of the swing-free type with a locking-off lever - which takes a bit of getting used to, but if you were using it regularly, you probably wouldn't give it a second thought.
The rip fence is aluminium and is a good quality one, although I did think it could do with being longer, particularly as it doubles as planer fence as well.
Sliding carriageThe sliding carriage is set further away from the blade than on the other Emco carriages I have recently tested. It has the usual smooth and light action that I have come to expect from them, having tested several now. Emco have obviously spent a lot of time and effort - and it has paid off.
Fitted to the Unistar I tested was a carriage support with a swinging arm which is necessary for panel work and is available as an optional extra.
Surface planingThe planer is an excellent part of this universal and has everything you could ask for - a smooth running motor and substantial table adjusters. The bridge guard is well made and well thought out. The guard behind the fence swivels over to accommodate its double function as the rip fence on the saw. The cutter block comes as a standard two-knife but an optional three-knife one is available. The tables are a good length for jointing and are well engineered.
Slot morticingSlot morticing is an optional function and wasn't fitted to the machine I tested. There is a range of these available from Emco.
The verdictOne of the aspects of all of the Emco universal machines that I have tested recently is good sound engineering and, coupled with that excellent Emco trade mark of the sliding carriage, this is a good package.
Any user will feel confident about undertaking projects on this machine. It is a similar feeling to that of having a good, well honed plane in your hand - it gives you the feeling you can make anything.
The price of the Emco Unistar 310 is great for someone setting up their first workshop or a keen amateur - plus the advantage that it saves space! I have some reservations about a few of the bits of plastic on the fences, but it is a good quality machine, at a good price - and if I had started out with a machine like this I would have been more than content!