I’ve been using this Emco Unimat 3 lathe for the past 3 decades (and counting…) and thought it was about time I reviewed it. I learnt to turn on this lathe and all those years on it is still in use on a very regular basis to machine very small parts. It originally had a number of other optional extras: circular saw, fretsaw, pillar drill, milling machine, grinder etc
Unimat 3 Lathe
The Emco Unimat 3 is the size of a large watchmakers lathe. You can turn items up to around 80mm diameter at a push. However, this lathe though excels turning small parts at high speed and with precision.
The lathe adapts into a very small drill / milling machine / circular saw amongst other options.
- Centre Height: 46mm (1.79″)Between Centres: 200mm (7.8″)Spindle speeds: 130, 200, 350, 560, 920, 1500, 2450 and 4000 rpm
The headstock of the Unimat 3 is solid. The spindle nose is threaded 14x1mm
The belt drive system allows for 4 different ratios between the drive motor and the headstock, the other 4 speeds are achieved with the 2 speed motor. I must admit that I have never been very happy with the lower speed on the motor and so use just the 4 speeds with the higher output speed of the motor. If there is one area where this lathe is weak it is the brush motor – they get hot and have quite a short rating so every 10 minutes or so you need to switch it off, go make a cup of tea and let it cool down. We will come back to this problem later.
Just recently the 3 jaw chuck has been starting to get very tired. I managed to find a brand new original chuck, not cheap, but the reviews of the Unimat 4 chuck were not so great. This came in it′s original box.
You can buy a modern small chuck that is very similar to this chuck at around half the price, but must admit that I do think with a chuck it is worth buying the best you can afford to buy as the quality and feel of it will pay back over the years of use.
The bars are for tightening and releasing the chuck.
To reverse the jaws so as to hold larger diameters it is a simple process of scrolling the chuck until each jaw is released. The jaws are then turned around and Jaw 3 is placed in the slot where Jaw 1 was, Jaw 2 goes into Jaw 2 slot and Jaw 1 goes into slot 3.
This is a very accurate and well made chuck.
The Emco Unimat 3 lathe has been part of my life for over 40 years and I just would not part with it. Mine is a tad tired in some areas but with adjustments here and there is still able to machine almost anything.
The Unimat 3 had a great circular saw attachment. The real benefit of this was the precision with which you can strip and machine wood for model making purposes.
The only downside is the Unimat 3 motor is a tad underpowered for this type of work and so you do need to take your time or you will stall it. Quite frankly anything thicker than 6mm with hardwoods is just too much for it.
The image shows the saw having just been used and the pile of saw dust that is dumped over the leadscrew and onto the base of the lathe. This saw can produce very fine wood dust and so I highly recommend using a mask and dust extraction.
The weakness with the original Unimat 3 was the motor. It was designed to have a continuous rating of just 8 to 10 minutes. It gets very very hot. Too hot to touch if not careful.
The motor on my Unimat 3 packed up after 33 years of service. I looked around for replacements, but the prices appeared just too high.
That made me wonder whether I should just open up the motor and see if it was just the brushes.
There are alternative motors if it has completely failed.
The pillar drill is a great extra for the Unimat 3 system. It is essentially a sensitive drill and quite capable of drilling holes in nearly any material and from 0.5mm to 6mm in diameter.
The one thing that I found frustrating was that I kept having to change the lathe around so that I could use the drilling function.
I thought why not make a base to hold the pillar and make a new fitting on the column to hold the table?
The result of is a really nice small pillar drill with a reasonable amount of power. The design of the base, table etc is also very pleasing on the eye. more…
Haven’t done this for a long time and so thought I would have a go.
I use a mix of wood and metal turning techniques, not really correct but it works for me.