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What type of machine to get?

Discussion in 'Do-It-Yourself & Gear Modifications' started by DiverDn, Jan 27, 2010.

  1. DiverDn

    DiverDn Loaded Pockets

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    I have been thinking of getting a sewing machine to do different projects.

    Do you need to get anything "special" to sew the heavier material?

    If you didn't have anything what would you get?
     
  2. Ghillieman7

    Ghillieman7 Empty Pockets

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    Oh yes, you kind of do.

    What You want is either an industrial or industrial "strength" sewing machine. They cost a bit more but most will even sew leather. So needless to say it would handle anything else One would want to sew. I found mine on E bay for about $400.

    Those dept store jobs just wont cut it with heavier materials, period.
     
  3. jma78

    jma78 Loaded Pockets

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    I use a Pfaff 332 which was probably made in the 70´s.. It´s sort of like a semi-industrial, and handles multiple layers of cordura easily.

    So like ghilleman said, go with the industrial machine(could be quite expensive for a first machine, though) or get an "Old school" sewing machine like my Pfaff.

    http://cgi.ebay.com/PFAFF-332-AUTOMATIC-ZIGZAG-WITH-WALKING-FOOT_W0QQitemZ170435358048QQcmdZViewItemQQptZBI_Sewing_Machines?hash=item27aebd2d60

    For sewing cordura is use size 22 denim needles, which are pretty heavy duty.
     
  4. Mitty

    Mitty Loaded Pockets

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    Some thoughts:

    1) Usually when I start some new endeavor, I find that whatever tool I buy initially will teach me what I really should have bought. So I normally find myself selling the first tool and buying a second. Between Craig's List and eBay, this is not an expensive scenario and can even be profitable. So I no longer go into analysis paralysis when selecting a first tool.

    2) You do want a machine that is gear drive, not belt drive. And the simpler, the better. Just forward and reverse. I have a Singer 404, bought on Craig's list from a sewing machine tech who buys old machines and gives them tune-ups and refurbishment. I think it was $100-150. The machine will happily sew a piece of heavy Cordura or nylon webbing to a piece of the thickest leather that Tandy sells. It will also sew through three layers of webbing and, with some encouragement, four. It will not sew two pieces of the thick Tandy leather together.

    For the few times I needed really heavy sewing, I simply took the piece to the local shoe repair shop. $2-$4 and you're done, often while you wait.

    3) I then ran across (Craig's List again) a "Thompson Mini-Walker." This is a small upholstery machine and has the capability to do any heavy sewing that I need. When I bought it ($200) I thought it was a replacement for the 404, but what I have found is I use the 404 for any task that it can handle and pull out the heavy gun only when necessary. The 404 is faster and easier to use.

    4) Re industrial machines, I looked at these fairly extensively after buying the 404. First, there are hundreds of specialized variations. Some sew only forward, having no reverse. You need reverse. "Industrial" can also mean a machine designed to sew gossamer materials in an industrial setting. So you have to be very careful. Second, they take a lot of space. Third, it is hard to evaluate their condition, assuming you're buying used. They don't have odometers. Though I love having the highest quality tools, my conclusion was that such a machine was totally unnecessary for me. YMMV of course.
     
  5. jsmitty1967
    • In Omnia Paratus

    jsmitty1967 Go Big Blue

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    I use my wife's Pfaff. We both tried using a borrowred Singer, but she couldn't quilt with it and it sure wasn't going to work on heavier material. A sewing machine is one of those items where you get what you pay for. Even a $1600.00 Pfaff is worth every penny when comes down to it.
     
  6. Ghillieman7

    Ghillieman7 Empty Pockets

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    I have a White. I was actually bidding on a Pfaff 332 before I got this machine, but was drastically out bid. I like my White, but still hope to get an older model Pfaff eventually.

    The seller I got mine from is a retired sewing machine repairman. He has an E-bay store, (can't remember exactly the link), but he goes by the handle of Singerman.....something. He's out of Canada and is very helpful with his products even AFTER the sale. I have called him a few times with questions and he always is happy to answer.

    Might be worth a look :shrug:
     
  7. DiverDn

    DiverDn Loaded Pockets

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    Thanks for the feedback, it will be a while before we get anything, but this is more fuel for the fight to get something.
     
  8. Hannibal Lecter

    Hannibal Lecter Loaded Pockets

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    My Dear Friends,

    Though it might be contrary to a bit of the wisdom thus far dispensed here, I stick with my old standby - a Singer Treadle machine. They can be had in perfectly servicable condition at antique stores for about $125. My circa 1887 model will sew multiple thicknesses of Cordura, and I have sewn 3 - 4 layers of webbing with no problem. Sure, it doesn't have reverse (and reverse would admittedly be very convenient) but is a fraction of the cost of the industrial machines.

    Of course, it helps that I started sewing on this particular Singer machine over 35 years ago.

    One additional consideration is your thread; I use a 50-lb test nylon thread I obtained at a local upholstery shop and it is tough enough to sew rappel harnesses if you know what you're doing.

    ------------
    Hannibal
     
  9. echo63

    echo63 Loaded Pockets

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    Good bit of advice hannibal

    I am currently using my grandmothers sewing machine (prob 35 years old) it is cast iron, and very heavy, but it does have a few little niggles

    When I get around to picking it up, I have been given my wife's grandmothers old singer treadle machine.

    Getting hold of big needles, and tough thread is the hard part for me, but it is a big internet out there, and I think I can find everything I need
     
  10. Hannibal Lecter

    Hannibal Lecter Loaded Pockets

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    My Dear Friend,

    The thread should be easy enough, but if you have trouble with the needles drop me a PM. So many people here in rural Appalachia still use these old machines that accessories are still fairly simple to obtain. I'll be sure you get what you need.

    --------
    Hannibal

     
  11. jma78

    jma78 Loaded Pockets

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    I don´t think anyone suggested a new machine, quite the contrary.

    I also know some people who sew perfectly well with early 1900 singers and why wouldn´t they, those machines were made to last.

    About the reverse; My Pfaff does have a reverse but since sometimes reversing breaks the needle ( i really have to look into that some day), i don´t use it at all.. So yes, reverse is quite handy, but you can live without it.

    Most milspec gear are sewn with #69 bonded nylon thread, which you can find easily from the internet. So if you sew heavier materials which will be put to hard use, that´s a good choice for a thread.

    When i started, i used this super strength polyester thread but i later learned that although it´s traction strength is good, it´s friction strength is not.
     
  12. Ghillieman7

    Ghillieman7 Empty Pockets

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    I have been researching treadle machines, they absolutly fascinate me!!!
     
  13. Mitty

    Mitty Loaded Pockets

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    I have black bonded nylon in both #46 and in #69 but your post reminded me that I've been meaning to ditch the random assortment of polyester and mystery threads I have and get an assortment of the right stuff in a few other colors.

    Found these guys: http://www.thethreadexchange.com who have great info pages like: http://www.thethreadexchange.com/miva/merchant.mv?Screen=CTGY&Store_Code=TTE&Category_Code=nylon-thread-information

    and also found: http://www.luthread.com/ who have a really good assortment of thread sizes, spool sizes, and colors. So I placed an order with them this afternoon. This evening I decided I wanted to add one more color to the order, so I emailed the request and asked for the charges so I could PayPal the balance. Within a couple of minutes, came back: "Hi, I will throw you one in there, don't worry about it. Thanks for your order and hope you have a nice evening." Wow.
     
  14. echo63

    echo63 Loaded Pockets

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    thanks for the offer Hannibal,
    i have to pick the machine up, figure out exactly what it is and get it running smoothly before i start buying needles and thread.
     
  15. TempestV

    TempestV Loaded Pockets

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    I picked up a new home that was made in 1961 for $20 this fall at a garage sale. Besides the machine, I also got the table that the machine fits on, along with scissors, spare parts, extra needles, thread, and all the other stuff that you might store in a sewing cabinet. The machine had just come back from a re-builder and had received over $100 in new parts (I saw the receipt). I tested it before I bought it and put it through 3 layers of webbing pretty easily. Sometimes it struggles a little, but the only thing I wasn't able to sew with it was 4 layers of tube webbing, and that was because it was too thick and the needle wouldn't go all the way down, not because it couldn't shove the needle through. Those old machines are build sturdy, and if you look around, you can probably find a cheap one.
    I've also got a singer 306 heavy duty machine that needs restoration (it only cost $6), and my girlfriend has her fancy digital quilting machine as well.
    The 306 will be my heavy hitter once I get it running.
     
  16. DiverDn

    DiverDn Loaded Pockets

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    Lots of great information.

    I found an old machine from my Mother in Law, but she said the tension may be off.

    How big a deal is that to fix or have fixed?

    I will get the model and make once I see it.
     
  17. Ghillieman7

    Ghillieman7 Empty Pockets

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    Shouldn't be too hard to fix. My advice would be take it in to a sewing machine repair shop rather than do it yourself.
     
  18. Megalodon

    Megalodon Loaded Pockets

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  19. Mitty

    Mitty Loaded Pockets

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    Two answers, one irrelevant and the other not:

    1) Probably not, assuming multiple layers, as the machine has a belt drive.

    2) An ounce of data outweighs a pound of theory. Just go try it.