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Hey all,

I'd like a sewing machine for occasional canvas work and sail re-stitching. I'm not in the market for a Sailrite LZ-1 or whatever.

I found a Singer 401a, metal gear driven machine. They are old but tough as hell and they do the zigzag stitch.  Any thoughts on this? Is anyone familiar with these machines? Perhaps someone knows of another sewing machine good for my application that isn't necessarily a "marine" sewing machine?

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If it's not too expensive, give it a shot. I've got a Husqvarna sewing machine from the 1990's that'll go through many layers of canvas. It's important to fit it with the right needle. Get something for denim or, ideally, canvas. 

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29 minutes ago, Ajax said:

Hey all,

I'd like a sewing machine for occasional canvas work and sail re-stitching. I'm not in the market for a Sailrite LZ-1 or whatever.

I found a Singer 401a, metal gear driven machine. They are old but tough as hell and they do the zigzag stitch.  Any thoughts on this? Is anyone familiar with these machines? Perhaps someone knows of another sewing machine good for my application that isn't necessarily a "marine" sewing machine?

Yes, worth a shot. I have done much canvas work with a household, but relatively heavy duty, Elna machine. It will not stitch thru the many layers that occur in those nasty few places. But those can be done by hand. The lack of a walking foot can be ameliorated by judicious use of seam tape and a bit of patience in feeding. I've made sail covers and all sorts of shade cloths. The stitching goes haywire in places but it all works out just fine in the end.

I've heard the very same Sailrite machines can be found much cheaper elsewhere. Apparently not an actual exclusive Sailrite product.

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2 minutes ago, 23feet said:

Singer 4411 Heavy Duty. I got mine for about $200 new. I've used it to sew through 6 layers of Sunbrella. One of the biggest bargains around.

Cool. I see these for sale all over the place but I couldn't get a read on how much fabric they could punch through. Are they gear or belt driven?

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My oldest kid was a canvas fabricator for a few years. He has two heavy duty commercial machines. The important part is the walking foot. Also the motors. His machines are powerful, and can easily get through a stack of heavy canvas and Strataglass. The benefit of the extra power and the walking foot is control. He can slow the feed down to an individual stitch at a time, or burn through fabric as fast as he can control it. Those features make your project look nice. Even I learned how to use them, and I'm not that crafty.

Before that I had purchased a heavy-duty household machine to fix some canvas for our ski boat. It was a disaster, and I ended up giving the machine to my daughter. I'll assume all of the blame for the unsightly result. It can be made to work, and if you're keen you can get pretty good results. If you're doing light work and have a bit of skill I'll bet you can get acceptable results. It'll just be harder to get the right thread, needle, feed rate, tension, etc. on a home machine.

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@kevinjones16  You may have hit on one reason why I had trouble with my Susi-Homemaker machine- the walking foot. The Singer 4411 recommended above can be equipped with a walking foot as an accessory, at least.

I'm using an old Kenmore machine that is pretty heavy duty but I think the old sail I was re-stitching was just outside it's capability. I also think I chose the wrong thread.

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Canvas work is generally easier on the machine; fewer layers and easier to punch through.

Sails are easy if it's the middle of the sail; it's the corners that are tough for any home machine.

Use new needles all the time

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 I’ve been sewing for over 50 years, and at the moment own two industrial machines, one all metal singer from the 1950s, and a 100-stitch $300 plastic home machine. 

The singer 301 has been in my family for 65 years, in perfect working condition.  It’s a slant needle like the 401a, with similar construction, power and drop feed..  it is a straight stitch, no zigzag. 

I made a Sunbrella dinghy boat cover with the Singer 20 years ago.  It got the job done but..l. I broke a lot of needles because things slip when  feeding the material heavy, bulky material through through.  The motor struggled to power the needle through 3/16” worth of Sunbrella and webbing.  It took 3-5  times longer than it would on a more capable machine.  It missed stitches when going from two layers to six.  ....  but it got it done.    

Some technical specs relevant to doing heavy work

Max thread size you’ll be able to use is v69 due to the bobbin and thread tension adjustments. (Compare to Sailrite ultra feed LZ which can handle  v92, vs industrial machines which handle V138 and bigger, which is better good for UV covers).  This machine was designed for sewing cloths, with tailoring-size 30 thread.  

The presser foot max height is about 6-7 mm (vs Sailrite LZ1 max height of 9-10) . The Singer will skip stretches going from two layers to thick  seams.  (I measured it on my machines, with difficulty, so that’s not very accurate.  But the Singer’s presser foot height is clearly smaller)

The 401 bobbin is very small for use with heavy thread.  It runs out very quickly because it doesn’t hold much thread.  

My summary: The Singer 401 series will handle the thinner assemblies okay, but will not do well at the corners, curves, and double seams.  Expect to break needles and drop stitches.  If it’s your first experience sewing,   you may be frustrated because you will have problems that aren’t due to your sewing technique. That makes it hard to climb the learning curve, I believe.  

 

 

 

A1290A08-5B99-4855-A06C-5915C5415C65.jpeg

Edited by jblumhorst
Added presser foot height info.
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miami cubans  do   use a much bigger motor on belt drive sewing machines

to do car seat sewing like a 1/4 to1/2 hp to replace the 1/10 hp motors that are too weak

btw you can use the machine as a hole punch without thread on multi layers then hand thread the holes on the ends if the machine will not do it with threads to get a good looking zigzag

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It's kind of like being a Man With A Hammer.  After you sew up the primary project, you start finding more and more things that (you think) can be done by sewing.

I learned to sew on a Singer 301 exactly like that, which my Mom inherited but never used.  I stitched up my own torn farm clothes and made some camping gear, in the 70's.  Eventually, Mom decided "it was broken" because she didn't know how to lubricate and adjust it.  Some con-man talked her into trading it in on a plastic machine. Which she also never used, and that is what I ended up inheriting. :angry:

No matter what you end up getting - it's worth watching some of the SailRite videos - not just on projects but also on cleaning & adjusting the machine. They are rather broadly applicable.  And some of the SailRite accessories work on the cheaper machines of the same design.  

Since I now have both, I keep Mom's machine set up for light-weight fabrics and the SailRite machine set up for heavy stuff.  It's doable, but kind of a pain to stop sewing canvas and dial everything in for curtain material - or face masks...

BTW: I was in Home Despot a few weeks ago and they had these mobile, adjustable-height work-benches on sale, in the front of the store.  Which looked like they'd match up well with a rolling tool chest that I already had. Et voila!  A manly sewing station! :rolleyes:

 

IMG_2712.jpg

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On 5/14/2020 at 9:58 AM, Ajax said:

Cool. I see these for sale all over the place but I couldn't get a read on how much fabric they could punch through. Are they gear or belt driven?

Not sure, I think gear (it is all sealed and I have not had to pull it apart yet). It takes a #18 needle which is big enough for most jobs. It is not perfect and not as heavy as a "real" heavy duty machine but does better than an old all-metal kenwood that I was using before. Like all machines the test is in the corner seams (as Zonker said), but it is amazing value for the money. The 6-layers of Sunbrella is referring to crossing seam junctions (momentary load), but it will sew 4 layers continuously.

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Speaking as husband of a canvas seamstress:

1. Pfaff 130

2. Pfaff 138

( if you want relatively inexpensive zag machines. Both will take a 20 needle which is what you need for V92 thread, the largest either of these will take)
 

3. Consew 206RB: an industrial walking foot straight stitch, which will have to have a k-leg table and a motor, and the best is a servo motor. You’ll blow about 2k on a new setup, but they can be found used

Go forth and Google, there are lots and lots of discussion about good canvas machines. Include in your search ‘barracuda,’ ‘reliable,’ ‘mini brute,’ all of which are the same Taiwanese as the Sailrite, despite what they claim

 

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Apropos of this, I went on craigslist to see what what out there in the PDX area, and there are really (what seems like) a lot of used industrial and heavy duty machines that people are dumping. Some look like pretty good deals, if one is mechanically confident enough to do any needed maintenance.  I'm pretty sure there was not such a cornucopia when I was in the market.  Something to do with the economic downturn?

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On 5/14/2020 at 12:26 PM, IStream said:

If it's not too expensive, give it a shot. I've got a Husqvarna sewing machine from the 1990's that'll go through many layers of canvas. It's important to fit it with the right needle. Get something for denim or, ideally, canvas. 

And you definitely want a walking foot. 

 

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1 hour ago, LionessRacing said:

And you definitely want a walking foot. 

I notice that there are add-on "even feed / walking foot" accessories for home machines. I guess quilters use them. In the pics they look a bit janky and fragile. Looks like they make them for the 401a that the OP has. Any thoughts on their worth?

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21 minutes ago, weightless said:

I notice that there are add-on "even feed / walking foot" accessories for home machines. I guess quilters use them. In the pics they look a bit janky and fragile. Looks like they make them for the 401a that the OP has. Any thoughts on their worth?

i put one  (< $50) on my 30 yr old Husqvarna and it made a mizzen staysail (0.75 oz), a dodger, and sail covers. Keeping the correct tension on the bobbin was my biggest challenge 

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26 minutes ago, weightless said:

I notice that there are add-on "even feed / walking foot" accessories for home machines. I guess quilters use them. In the pics they look a bit janky and fragile. Looks like they make them for the 401a that the OP has. Any thoughts on their worth?

Be advised, any add on walking foot is in no way comparable to a true walking foot machine. 
 

but... canvas sewing is done, even in shops, with drop feed machines. Add springs to the pressor; aggressive toothed feed dogs; and learn the techniques of ‘helping’ the cloth through the machine.

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8 minutes ago, LionessRacing said:

i put one  (< $50) on my 30 yr old Husqvarna and it made a mizzen staysail (0.75 oz), a dodger, and sail covers. Keeping the correct tension on the bobbin was my biggest challenge 

Yup, a walking foot is very helpful. Also, I can trace almost every sewing SNAFU I've had to incorrect thread tension up top, with the bobbin, or both.

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19 minutes ago, LionessRacing said:

i put one  (< $50) on my 30 yr old Husqvarna and it made a mizzen staysail (0.75 oz), a dodger, and sail covers. Keeping the correct tension on the bobbin was my biggest challenge 

Neat. Thanks for sharing that.

Do they only feed in one direction? Is there a trick to running them in reverse?

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I have a Reliable Barracuda 200ZW, that has done everything I have asked, so far. Defender, among others, sells them. Walking foot, straight & Zigzag. Just finished a Mainsail Cover. Have made "coffin" sail bags, soft sling shelves, Mattress/cushion cover, etc. Sews 8 layers of sunbrella, or Textilene. Same base unit as a Sailrite, except it has not been Sailrite upgraded. Binder tape, and other adapters work well with this too (https://www.cutexsewingsupplies.com/attachments-folders/binding-attachments). 

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8 hours ago, weightless said:

Neat. Thanks for sharing that.

Do they only feed in one direction? Is there a trick to running them in reverse?

Mine was actuated from the mechanism that moved the needle up/down, I think it worked fine in reverse, never noticed an issue. 

 

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I have the same machine as Joe Barry.  The only Sailrite upgrade that I wish it had is the positive locking mechanism for the flywheel. 
 

It’s worth getting the Sailrite manual and their carrying case was also a nice upgrade (but the price has gone up a lot in the decade since I bought it). 
 

I also have a Pfaff Hobbyline machine which is their entry level home machine and it does fine on canvas work as long as you don’t ask it to handle too many layers. The foot opens much wider on the Sailrite. The Pfaff is a lot quieter so I use it when the kids are sleeping or on non-canvas projects. 

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Another interesting angle is the type of thread vs machine. I have started using the (expensive) ptfe lifetime thread from Sailrite. I had been using a #18 needle with regular v69 and v92 threads (on the SInger 4411). With the ptfe thread, I use a #16 needle and it is like a different machine in that the operation is smoother and I can sew heavier fabrics. The ptfe thread requires a lot more tension than the regular threads as it is so slippery.

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9 hours ago, 23feet said:

Another interesting angle is the type of thread vs machine. I have started using the (expensive) ptfe lifetime thread from Sailrite. I had been using a #18 needle with regular v69 and v92 threads (on the SInger 4411). With the ptfe thread, I use a #16 needle and it is like a different machine in that the operation is smoother and I can sew heavier fabrics. The ptfe thread requires a lot more tension than the regular threads as it is so slippery.

Very interesting 

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On 5/16/2020 at 7:11 AM, Alex W said:

I have the same machine as Joe Barry.  The only Sailrite upgrade that I wish it had is the positive locking mechanism for the flywheel. 
 

It’s worth getting the Sailrite manual and their carrying case was also a nice upgrade (but the price has gone up a lot in the decade since I bought it). 
 

I also have a Pfaff Hobbyline machine which is their entry level home machine and it does fine on canvas work as long as you don’t ask it to handle too many layers. The foot opens much wider on the Sailrite. The Pfaff is a lot quieter so I use it when the kids are sleeping or on non-canvas projects. 

We've got the older Sailrite machine, worth getting the bigger wheel? I would like better speed control and the manual looks very handy.  We've used it for quite a bit of sewing over the years but that speed control looks very nice.


We make all our own canvas, will likely be making cushions in the next year. Spinnaker pole covers and e-rudder covers next on the list. The e-rudder is a fleece backed canvas, doubled and doubled, with an edge treatment so 6 layers at that point. 

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13 hours ago, Raz'r said:

We've got the older Sailrite machine, worth getting the bigger wheel?

It’s handy for manual sewing, but it is geared lower so your sewing speed goes down even when using the motor. I ended up going back to the stock wheel on my Barracuda (which I think is identical to your early Sailrite lsz-1). It’s easy enough to swap the wheels. 
 

The newer Sailrite machines have a different wheel design and it’s not trivial to switch over.  They have a locking pin to engage the wheel instead of a clutch.  This works a lot better with the bigger/heavier wheel; the clutch can’t always handle the torque and slips.  

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I bought a heavy duty sewing machine maybe 20 years ago from a canvas maker that was closing and going cruising. Best investment in sailing gear ever. It has outlasted many boats and paid for itself so many times over. 

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On 5/19/2020 at 6:08 AM, Alex W said:

It’s handy for manual sewing, but it is geared lower so your sewing speed goes down even when using the motor. I ended up going back to the stock wheel on my Barracuda (which I think is identical to your early Sailrite lsz-1). It’s easy enough to swap the wheels. 
 

The newer Sailrite machines have a different wheel design and it’s not trivial to switch over.  They have a locking pin to engage the wheel instead of a clutch.  This works a lot better with the bigger/heavier wheel; the clutch can’t always handle the torque and slips.  

I’m gonna try it, I don’t mind slower, will like more control. Also getting the upgraded foot pedal.

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Dunno... I find that the big wheel is hard to control with the small motor.  That is, I have to keep adding more and more power at the foot-pedal to get the darned thing to start moving, then suddenly it's going 60 mph. I end up doing small details by just hand-cranking it - which isn't an issue most of the time.

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On 5/17/2020 at 1:32 PM, 23feet said:

Another interesting angle is the type of thread vs machine. I have started using the (expensive) ptfe lifetime thread from Sailrite. I had been using a #18 needle with regular v69 and v92 threads (on the SInger 4411). With the ptfe thread, I use a #16 needle and it is like a different machine in that the operation is smoother and I can sew heavier fabrics. The ptfe thread requires a lot more tension than the regular threads as it is so slippery.

Oh man, this is also great information that I was looking for. Thanks.

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  • 1 month later...

In reply to the OP, the standard for industrial sewing machines is Juki. (Note, I didn't say "Gold Standard." Those machines are only known to the secret society of denim lovers; Bernina, Union Special, et al.)

In a previous life I designed, prototyped, and manufactured clothing. I love industrial sewing machines! They are one of mankind's finest inventions. The mechanisms are remarkably robust and incredibly precise. One can expect a ten to twenty year operating life from a well maintained machine that is used every day. A forty year old machine that has been maintained (generally, that means kept lubricated) and used in a domestic setting will quite easily last another forty years. How many other hand machines do we have these days that can do the same?

Using industrial sewing machines for a living brings their fine design and engineering into focus. In every setting, my experience of the Juki machines was that they were more accurate, easier to use, required less adjustment and less maintenance, and they were longer lasting than the Chinese copies of the same design. If buying a used Juki machine, which is a very good option, do note that there is a tangible difference between a genuine Juki and one which had been "refurbished" with cheap Chinese parts. Try to find a machine which hasn't been used in a factory and if possible, buy a machine which hasn't been rebuilt.

For prototyping heavy-weight textiles I used a Juki walking foot machine (DU-1181). It was impressive. Very smooth. And it would stitch backwards in exactly the same way that it stitched forwards. This was a feat the Chinese machines struggled with. If you have ever made many sewing projects, you'll know how useful this is. I'm no expert with sewing sails but I am sure a walking foot Juki will comfortably sew multiple layers of Dacron. Our projects involved sewing eight layers of Cordura 1000D where two overlapped seams met.

The OP asks of the Singer 401a, otherwise known as the "Slant-o-matic." Um. I'll not make any jokes.

Old sewing machines like the Singer can make excellent stitches. The biggest question is, where to get spare parts from? I understand that in the USA, Singer sewing machines are widely available. Nonetheless, getting parts for 1950's models may be getting difficult now. You might want to check in advance of buying one.

The designs used by Juki, and copied mercilessly by the Chinese, mean that Juki parts and copy parts are available throughout the world.

If you haven't used an industrial sewing machine before, you might consider the following:

- Industrial sewing machines weigh around 35kg and they are bolted to a table which weighs another 10kg to 15kg.

- There are two types of motor; a clutch motor which takes the form of a noisy, power-hungry, "always-on" cylinder that hangs underneath the table (it feeds power via a belt to the sewing machine above.) You'll want shore power to run one. Then there are "servo motors" which use modern high strength magnets in a high efficiency, lightweight electric motor. These motors only use power which stitching is underway. They usually have infinitely adjustable speeds which are digitally set at a control box, or in more modern machines within the machine head itself (see Juki DDL-9000 series).

- If you plan to sew at home, a less expensive clutch motor is perfect. For use at sea, I would consider a servo motor. From a user perspective, IMHO there is only a small difference between each motor type since, with a little experience, it is easy to adapt to the characteristics of either motor. For beginners, a servo motor is probably easier to use (although it's a marginal difference after a day or two of practise.)

- If you're planning to sew on a boat, there's something you need to know. Industrial sewing machines use an oil filled sump that is mounted underneath the machine. It is not sealed and it will spill oil if the machine is not level. Furthermore, standard industrial machines use foot controls for speed, and knee controls for the foot lift. This design leaves both hands free to handle the textile. This is why the Sailrite machines are popular onboard since they don't use the sump/oil pan (they rely on manual lubrication,) and they use hand controls. (A note for millionaires; the latest Juki 9000 series machines use no oil, or minimal oil. They employ sealed bearings. They are also computer controlled and relatively speaking, expensive.)

- If you use any sewing machine onboard, do spray all of the metal parts with corrosion inhibitor. I use ACF-50, a aerospace derived inhibitor made by Lear. I understand that XCP Rust-Blocker and Tech-Cote ACS (Anti Corrosion Spray) TC200 are excellent.

- Use the best quality needles you can get your hands on (such as Schmetz or Organ). Do NOT skimp. Quality needles make a big difference stitching heavyweight fabrics; they last longer, they make better quality stitches, and they feel different.

- Only use high quality thread from a named manufacturer like Coats or Gore. It feeds better and lasts (much) longer than no-name brand thread.

The best machine to choose will be one that does the stitch pattern you need. Unlike lightweight domestic machines, industrial sewing machines generally specialise in one type of stitch. For cushions and canvas work, that would be a "lockstitch." These types of machines are easy to find; see Juki DDL-8700, DDL-8100 (export model), DDL-5550 and 5500 (older). These machines come equipped for lightweight, medium weight or heavy weight thread. It's easy to tell which is which; for example, the Juki DDL-8700H is the heavyweight option. Frankly, a medium weight machine with high quality thread will manage most jobs you throw at it (I found one can slightly exceed the maximum thread weight proved one uses top quality thread).

For sails, a zig-zag stitch is required. I would look for a second-hand Juki LZ-391, LZ-2281 or a similar model from Brother, Mitsubishi, or a Singer 20U83. I haven't sewed sails. You will need to check the maximum stitch width you require, and check the machine will do it. Perhaps a more experienced Anarchist could comment?

Unless you are sewing every day, you do not need the latest model or electronic stitch control boxes. IMHO, a new Juki LZ-2280 would be massive over-kill. A simple, totally mechanical machine is ideal. In many ways, the older machines are better in this respect.

These days I keep a DDL-8700 lock-stitch machine. Through Craigslist and other classified ads I believe these $1000 Juki's can be found for around $250-$400. The non-sewist may be surprised to learn that these machines sew at 5,000 stitches per minute (that's around ninety-stitches per second.) Mind your fingers.

I hope that's a reasonable intro to "non-marine" sewing machines. Ask away, if you have questions.

 

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Sewing is like welding, if someone sets it all up most people can make it work ok. If at all possible ask a local sail loft or canvas shop if you can hang out for free labor some.  Spent a summer interning at a loft and it was a huge help.  After that the right machine will be alot clearer.  Good canvas workers and sail makers are quite amazing.  They make it look way too easy.  

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  • 2 weeks later...
On 5/18/2020 at 7:04 PM, Raz'r said:

We've got the older Sailrite machine, worth getting the bigger wheel? I would like better speed control and the manual looks very handy.  We've used it for quite a bit of sewing over the years but that speed control looks very nice.

The Ultrafeed LSZ-1 I'm using now has the Monster Wheel.  I don't know how that compares to the plastic one but speed control is so-so.  Right from the beginning I went to bare feet for better petal control.  

I'm a total newbie.  For reference, thus far I've gone through only 2 bobbins worth of sewing.

I have tried again and again to get a slow speed feed going but the variable speed petal is really sensitive once the machine starts to sew.  As you push slowly down on the petal, you hear the motor begin to buzz.  Push a bit more and the machine begins to sew slowly, then suddenly takes off.

I've tried getting it to sew at a slow speed consistently and have only recently experienced moments of success.    

Sailrite sells a servo motor, which seems to be on most of the machines they use in their how-to videos.  In those videos I see the machines sew at slow speed a lot.  Not sure if it's the operator or the servo motor, or both.  Those machines also have a large, fixed petal. 
Sailrite-Ultrafeed-Industrial-Sewing-Table-and-Workhorse-Servo-Motor-110V_1.jpg.93f427d5c7bc1399ff9bcd7b0fa963dc.jpg

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8 hours ago, Jules said:

The Ultrafeed LSZ-1 I'm using now has the Monster Wheel.  I don't know how that compares to the plastic one but speed control is so-so.  Right from the beginning I went to bare feet for better petal control.  

I'm a total newbie.  For reference, thus far I've gone through only 2 bobbins worth of sewing.

I have tried again and again to get a slow speed feed going but the variable speed petal is really sensitive once the machine starts to sew.  As you push slowly down on the petal, you hear the motor begin to buzz.  Push a bit more and the machine begins to sew slowly, then suddenly takes off.

I've tried getting it to sew at a slow speed consistently and have only recently experienced moments of success.    

Sailrite sells a servo motor, which seems to be on most of the machines they use in their how-to videos.  In those videos I see the machines sew at slow speed a lot.  Not sure if it's the operator or the servo motor, or both.  Those machines also have a large, fixed petal. 
Sailrite-Ultrafeed-Industrial-Sewing-Table-and-Workhorse-Servo-Motor-110V_1.jpg.93f427d5c7bc1399ff9bcd7b0fa963dc.jpg

The monster wheel has taken some of the on/off edge off speed control. Next step is the upgraded pedal. we've run lots and lots through this machine. You name it, it's got a sun cover. 2 dinghy covers, dinghy mast covers, 2 mainsail covers over the years, an El Toro sail, blade bags, gear bags from old sails, winch covers, wheel covers, etc, etc

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I have 2 Jukis  ddl 8700,  one is  an H ,  heavy duty.  great  machines for straight stiching .  self oiling.its  5500  stitches per  min

 

 walking foot for sailmaking,,,no.      40 years sailmaking....  used one maybe half hour at most many years ago  

 

 

"These days I keep a DDL-8700 lock-stitch machine. Through Craigslist and other classified ads I believe these $1000 Juki's can be found for around $250-$400. The non-sewist may be surprised to learn that these machines sew at 5,000 stitches per minute (that's around ninety-stitches per second.) Mind your fingers"

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  • 5 months later...

The good thing about the industrial walking foot sewing machines is, that they well maintained can sew heavy fabrics every day for many years. And the walking foot got much better control of feed. But they are more expensive and need some space with a table to be on. And you need to learn how to handle them - they are more complicated. Some of the vintage domestic sewing machines are much cheaper. However if you need to sew heavy fabric and thread sizes above Tex 70, then you need to do a few simple modifications, and it will typically be a stronger tension spring and a DIY speed reducer to increase low speed performance and increase torque to the machine. To improve feed, you may modify a presser foot. I have done that on a Singer 201k, and it have sewn 2500 m of Tex 135 thread in heavy vinyl and webbing up to now, and it got no signs of wear yet. The Singer 201k is not for zig zag and in general it is easier for a straight stitch machine to do heavier fabrics.

As weightless points out, a vintage Husqvarna Viking can be a possibility too, because it have got a low gear build into the machine and it do zig zag. I know it can handle Tex 70 thread, but I do not know how it will do with heavier thread and change of tension spring. However the Husqvarna is threaded from the front, and it is an disadvantage, because you will get feed problems without a walking foot, and then a machine threaded from the side is less sensitive, when the needle is bended a bit forward or backwards. The sailrite zig zag machine and more of the vintage zig zag machines are threaded from the side. The Singer 237 is made like that as well as many of the vintage japanese machines made from 1950-1970 sold by many brand names. If you need to sew firm fabrics thickness above 4.5 mm, then the Singer 237 starts to get problems, because you cannot change feed timing on them.

This is a showoff of the Singer 237 sewing heavy thread. On the same youtube channel you can find information about sewing more heavy materials on the vintage domestic sewing machines and most of the possible modifications to do that.

https://youtu.be/e6b5Wz6aCfI

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I just bought a near-new Sailrite LSZ-1 with the heavy wheel and a bunch of other little accessories off Craigslist at a price too good to be true. The seller's husband had bought it new in 2019, put what looks like no more than a few hours on it, and sadly passed away in 2020. This was the third of four machines the seller was getting rid of and I think he just wanted it gone so he priced it to move.

It desperately needed some oil, some polishing of the bobbin carrier bearing surface, and some minor adjustment but it's gone from a loud cacophony to a more pleasant agricultural clattering and moves along nicely now. 

First projects will be some waxed canvas tool rolls for the boat. 

I've still got my all-metal Husky Viking but I may put it away for one of the kids if they show any interest.

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1 hour ago, IStream said:

I just bought a near-new Sailrite LSZ-1

It looks to be a nice machine, and it is not taking up much space either.  It is like a Singer 237, but it have got the walking foot and the speed reducer and is more heavy.

If you get problems with thread being ripped apart or you like to use Tex 135 thread, then it may find some solutions to these problems on that channel too. For instance the shuttle hook can be a problem: https://youtu.be/80WASgbKIX4 

Be aware, that the tensioner have got a spring, so you can get a high stable thread tension of about 8 Newton.

I wish you good luck with your machine.

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I've been fighting with my LSZ-1 and the Sailrite thread. Many skipped stitches. I went down to a #16 or #17 needle which helped a lot, and then the Serv7 needles which helped some more. The fabric you are sewing changes things too, so in their Boat Blanket fabric the #16 Serv7 fixed a lot of sins. That material is slippery and not tight, so did not form a good look apparently. Have made hatch covers, instrument covers, binnacle covers (yes, 2, didn't like the first one, and I think the 3rd one will be really nice...) teak rail covers, fender covers; all Covid projects. 

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If you haven't already, you might want to do a complete once-over of the machine. When I got mine, on general principle I checked needle bar height, timing, driver rotation, bobbin driver hook polishing, and presser foot adjustment. Their YouTube videos cite dropped stitches as symptoms of nearly every misadjustment with the exception of the presser foot (which for some reason isn't on their YouTube channel). Anyway, on mine the timing was perfect but some of the other things were more out of whack that I would've expected. Given how few hours were on it, I suspect it came from the factory that way. 

I'm sure you're aware of their public maintenance video play list here:

https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLAbM539i4biWOFtdRlX6JE0F_Y9uLPO-z

If you need to adjust the presser foot, their super-secret video is here:

https://www.sailrite.com/Setting-Foot-Height-Range-of-Motion-Video

 

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On our Sailrite it would definitely get out of time slightly and taking the time to check all the adjustment points is important.

We also filed the shuttle hook, but more because it was breaking there. And the little thin sheet metal cover plate that is screwed to the bobbin holder. It gets hit by the needle if the needle is deflected, and can get sharp edges.

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Yeah, checked all that. Machine sews just fine with polyester thread in say Sunbrella. But the fancy thread causes it problems. They have tips, similar to what was posted above, tried all that, but going down several sizes in needle was what made the marked improvement. I'm not sure when you know you went too small - maybe thread breakage? But had more thread breakage with a large needle than small so far. 

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On 1/10/2021 at 8:43 AM, DDW said:

Yeah, checked all that. Machine sews just fine with polyester thread in say Sunbrella. But the fancy thread causes it problems. They have tips, similar to what was posted above, tried all that, but going down several sizes in needle was what made the marked improvement. I'm not sure when you know you went too small - maybe thread breakage? But had more thread breakage with a large needle than small so far. 

So I'm re-stitching some canvas on my boat and it was originally done in what looks like a V138 (Tex 135) size thread. The largest size Sailrite recommends for the LSZ-1 is V92. Out of curiosity, have you tried the larger thread in this machine?

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I have an old small straight stitch walking foot machine.  Precursor to the original Sailrite machines.  I switched to Tenara gore-tex thread for all outdoor canvas.  It is supposed to be lifetime rated and it is very expensive.  Strange stuff - reminds me of fishing line.  Sailrite has a how to tip video on needle size and tension.  It took some time to get right.

Stitching always seemed to fail way before the sunbrella.  So I am hoping the extra thread cost is worth it.  No issues after >5yrs.  But time will tell.

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If I were doing a new exterior canvas project, I'd use the Tenara thread but this is just a re-stitch of some 10 year old existing canvas that's still got some life in it. I figure UV treated polyester will last as long as the canvas will but thicker thread would both assure that and also look better.

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20 hours ago, IStream said:

So I'm re-stitching some canvas on my boat and it was originally done in what looks like a V138 (Tex 135) size thread. The largest size Sailrite recommends for the LSZ-1 is V92. Out of curiosity, have you tried the larger thread in this machine?

I've not tried anything larger than V92. I've used a lot of the Sailrite Lifetime Profilen thread as I cannot afford the Tenara :). With this thread strength in Sunbrella is not a concern, but I understand trying to match the existing. 

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HEAVY DUTY SEWING MACHINE:

Adler 166.  1/2 HP clutch motor.  Puts V-207 through about 1/2” of anything, including fingers!  The right needle is out of a Bernina 217, with some V-92 for scale.  

4AB0E365-214A-46FD-B37C-A385989956B3.jpeg

75C20E58-2591-44C8-900F-41F7B2AF9BB6.jpeg

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On 1/15/2021 at 10:14 AM, IStream said:

If I were doing a new exterior canvas project, I'd use the Tenara thread but this is just a re-stitch of some 10 year old existing canvas that's still got some life in it. I figure UV treated polyester will last as long as the canvas will but thicker thread would both assure that and also look better.

All the stuff I did in Jules stack pack thread was 138, no issues. If you are doing alot of zigzag the tension seems to be a little more finiky than 92 but that's about it. 3-4 layers of sunbrella no problem.

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Good to know, thanks. I've got some in my cart but Sailrite's (AKA Sayrite if you watch their videos) ecommerce system seems to be choking on PayPal, even though it worked for my last order.

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@IStream I wouldn’t be surprised if Seattle Fabrics had the thread and needles that you need locally.  I buy V-92 there and have gotten needles for my Sailrite there too. 

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Thanks, Alex. Unfortunately, they seem to top out at V92, at least according to their website. I may call them tomorrow as I'd prefer to buy locally if possible.

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On 1/14/2021 at 9:40 PM, IStream said:

So I'm re-stitching some canvas on my boat and it was originally done in what looks like a V138 (Tex 135) size thread. The largest size Sailrite recommends for the LSZ-1 is V92. Out of curiosity, have you tried the larger thread in this machine?

I was asking Sailrite about this, and the answer was, that they could pre adjust the machine, so it would sew better with Tex 135. They told me, that they would not oversell the machine by specifying Tex 135.

In the video channel referenced you see three Vintage domestic sewing machines (Singer 66k, 201k and 237) able to sew with Tex 135 with a few modifications. The Singer 201k with a few modifications is even able to sew Tex 210, but is is very much at the limit: https://youtu.be/21D5S8ihspI

I was referencing the Vintage Husqvarna Viking machines (the green ones produced 1950-1965). I found a reference stating, that is should sew Tex 90 thread without issues: https://youtu.be/2kAp8OxHjV8  It have got a built in low gear, that makes sewing heavy work much more easy for you and the machine.

I should think the LSZ-1 can do it, but perhaps you need a stronger tension spring. So best to be able to measure thread tension by a cheap spring dynamometer. When so many domestic machines can do it, the Sailrite LSZ-1 should be able to. It may wear the machine faster, but for normal sailor use of a sewing machine, I do not think this should become a problem. If you sew hours every day, then you need an industrial walking foot machine for this.

 

On 1/15/2021 at 5:14 PM, IStream said:

If I were doing a new exterior canvas project, I'd use the Tenara thread but this is just a re-stitch of some 10 year old existing canvas that's still got some life in it. I figure UV treated polyester will last as long as the canvas will but thicker thread would both assure that and also look better.

Yes, I agree. Standard UV-specified bonded polyester thread should be the next best thing compared to Tenara. And I should think that thicker thread and black or dark thread should further block the UV light. So if you can use Tex 135, it should be better for that. The trade name is Serabond thread from the brand Amann. Amann is a quality thread brand most used in Europe. But most respectable thread brand got bonded polyester thread with good UV properties. 
 

On 1/10/2021 at 2:38 AM, DDW said:

I've been fighting with my LSZ-1 and the Sailrite thread. Many skipped stitches. I went down to a #16 or #17 needle which helped a lot, and then the Serv7 needles which helped some more. The fabric you are sewing changes things too, so in their Boat Blanket fabric the #16 Serv7 fixed a lot of sins. That material is slippery and not tight, so did not form a good look apparently. Have made hatch covers, instrument covers, binnacle covers (yes, 2, didn't like the first one, and I think the 3rd one will be really nice...) teak rail covers, fender covers; all Covid projects. 

The most important adjustment regarding skipped stitches is the distance between the hook and the needle. You want it to be near 0.2 mm, but with the zig zag mechanics involved, it can be a challenge for the side loaded machines like the LSZ-1 and Singer 237. This becomes a more serious problem when you sew more stretchy fabrics. I recommend you to watch these two videos:
https://youtu.be/fjjmTxNDkgw

https://youtu.be/ouOxDVtx2Gw 

I do not know how much slack you got in the zig zag mechanics, but I would try to measure it as you see in the first video.

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Thanks for your reply. I have some V138 thread on order from Sailrite to try out. 

Another thing I found out by accident yesterday after rummaging through the various thread cones that came with my machine is that V92 bonded polyester thread from A&E is far thicker than V92 bonded polyester thread from Fil-Tec. I figured that V92 is V92 is V92 but apparently not.

Based on everything I've ever learned, I should've known better than to make that assumption but there you are. The joys of being at the bottom of a learning curve...

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19 hours ago, IStream said:

Thanks for your reply. I have some V138 thread on order from Sailrite to try out. 

Another thing I found out by accident yesterday after rummaging through the various thread cones that came with my machine is that V92 bonded polyester thread from A&E is far thicker than V92 bonded polyester thread from Fil-Tec. I figured that V92 is V92 is V92 but apparently not.

Based on everything I've ever learned, I should've known better than to make that assumption but there you are. The joys of being at the bottom of a learning curve...

I often get suppriced in this world of sewing machines. I read some of the block posts in the Leatherworker forum, and more of them discover problems with their thread, and when they order the same type of thread again, the new lot is quite different and makes problems in their sewing machines. So more thread manufacturers have quality issues with thread. I noticed a post from one former distributor of an European brand of sewing thread in the US, that most thread sold in the US generally got poor quality. The problem for the European brands in US is, that the thread runs much more smooth, and needs other machine settings causing them to be rejected.

V92 thread should be a weight specification according to Tex 90, that means that 1000 m of the thread got a mass of 90 g. I guess you need a very sensitive scale with milli-grams to be able to check your threads.

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2 hours ago, Gymnast said:

I often get suppriced in this world of sewing machines. I read some of the block posts in the Leatherworker forum, and more of them discover problems with their thread, and when they order the same type of thread again, the new lot is quite different and makes problems in their sewing machines. So more thread manufacturers have quality issues with thread. I noticed a post from one former distributor of an European brand of sewing thread in the US, that most thread sold in the US generally got poor quality. The problem for the European brands in US is, that the thread runs much more smooth, and needs other machine settings causing them to be rejected.

V92 thread should be a weight specification according to Tex 90, that means that 1000 m of the thread got a mass of 90 g. I guess you need a very sensitive scale with milli-grams to be able to check your threads.

Funny you mention the European / US quality difference. I've noticed that all of Gutermann's promotional materials tout it as being made in Germany but there were a few cones of Gutermann thread in the mix with my machine and they were all made in India. Not that India can't produce high quality goods but, like made-in-China items from certain US and Japanese brands, there's a high correlation between lower quality and offshore manufacturing. 

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On 1/20/2021 at 2:23 PM, IStream said:

Funny you mention the European / US quality difference. I've noticed that all of Gutermann's promotional materials tout it as being made in Germany but there were a few cones of Gutermann thread in the mix with my machine and they were all made in India. Not that India can't produce high quality goods but, like made-in-China items from certain US and Japanese brands, there's a high correlation between lower quality and offshore manufacturing. 

I am not quite sure of this, but it is from what I remember. I think Gutermann is a kind of brand with a quality assurance organization. So they allow other manufacturers to sell thread and mark it as Gutermann, if they meet their quality program. And of cause Gutermann get somewhat payed for that by the manufacturers. I do not think Gutermann got a quality reputation as for instance Amann. Amann own their factories. I think Amann is the prefered brand by many professional sewing machine users in Northern Europe.

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1 hour ago, IStream said:

Nice.

Any issues with belt slippage? 

No but the wheel can slip if I don’t have it tight enough. I make the belts from polyurethane transmission tubing that is textured on the outside and is pretty grippy. 

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Use those is production equipment application all the time work great, just a hot plate weld.  I think on a mechanical machine like a sewing one you want it to slip if it's too much.

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I have a Viking 170 home machine with an internal clutch that likes to slip when it bogs down but it drives me nuts because I have no means of overriding it by turning the flywheel by hand. I much prefer the pinned wheel and toothed belt of the Sailrite.. I want the needle to be the fuse!

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16 hours ago, billr said:

No but the wheel can slip if I don’t have it tight enough. I make the belts from polyurethane transmission tubing that is textured on the outside and is pretty grippy. 

This video document a comparative test with black V-belts, lug belts (V-belt shape) and round O-ring type belts for sewing machines and discuss some of the issues. The black V-belts should provide less power loss and require less tension to give the same friction. I think we all like to use the newer toothed belt, but it do not fit the vintage machines and it might cause higher peak torque if the machine suddenly gets blocked at higher speed. 


The round PU-belts are not in this comparison. It is easy to make them with right length from scratch, but I guess they do perform like the O-rings in some rubber material. Lug belts are normally also made of reinforced PU (polyurethane). 

This is a DIY solution with speed reducer on a vintage machine, and I know that neither O-rings nor Lug belts can provide the friction needed for the low speed belt here:

You can see the machine sew plywood, and it is simply not possible with anything but a black V-belt on this kind of machine.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Hey guys,

I still haven't purchased a machine. Prices went through the roof during the pandemic as people rediscovered sewing. Checking recently, prices seem to have calmed down.

The Singer 401a with an add-on walking foot is still a contender. Also in the running are:

Singer CG590

Singer 110 or 110a

Rex 607

---------------

Juki's are simply too expensive. Some of the other suggestions are too large. I need something I can store. I am unfamiliar with the Rex. The seller says he upgraded to a Sailrite machine to maybe that's a clue that it's not strong enough...or the seller is taking on large, ambitious projects.

 

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If I'm not in a particular hurry to buy something and don't mind buying used, my most successful strategy is to create an account on Craigslist, run a search (e.g. "sailrite" or "walking foot"), save the search, and set it to active. From that point forward until you cancel the search, CL will email you a list of hits as they come up. It really helps catch high-demand items before a bunch of people jump on it. 

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Well...I found better reviews of most the machines I just listed. The 401a *might* do what I want, but the Rex 607 definitely will.

Here's a good review that compared it to the Sailrite machines which was really helpful: https://cuttingr.com/rex-607z-review-affordable-heavy-duty-walking-foot-sewing-machine/

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1 hour ago, Ajax said:

Well...I found better reviews of most the machines I just listed. The 401a *might* do what I want, but the Rex 607 definitely will.

Here's a good review that compared it to the Sailrite machines which was really helpful: https://cuttingr.com/rex-607z-review-affordable-heavy-duty-walking-foot-sewing-machine/

Yes, to the Rex 607, and perhaps with a few small modifications.

But no to the Singer 401a. The 401a got a slant needle and is a front loaded machine. So other machines got better chances than the 401a. It is also harder to modify for more punching power.

I am quite sure, that the Singer 110 got too much plastic parts in it, so you should not choose that. I do not think it will last for heavy work.

I do not know the much about the Singer CG590. Try to find information, if somebody have used it with Tex 90 thread.

Good luck.

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9 hours ago, Brain-O said:

2020 Singer "heavy Duty" 4423 went through 5 layers of Sunbrella and single layer of webbing, no problem. 

In my opinion, there is nothing heavy duty about the Singer 4423, but the advertising. Most modern domestic machines can do the same with up to a Tex 70 thread. But for how long?
Can it do it with a Tex 135 thread? Can you make it do that controlled and slow and lock the seam by reverse stitching in the seam ends? When I see this and the results in a video, then I might be convinced. In the specifications for the 4423, you find nothing about max thread size for it to use.

This line of new Singer machines have been sold for some years, and it got some plastic gears and parts, that may wear out quite fast. So I like you to see these two links:

And this link:

https://vintagesewingmachinesblog.wordpress.com/2017/10/04/why-i-dont-keep-post-1975-machines/ 

You can get all metal new machines, but they will normally be significantly more expensive. But some machines actually do have a long operating life with some plastic gears, and they can eventually be replaced. So I guess it is also a question about designing machine right and in a way, so it lasts.

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On 5/17/2020 at 10:32 AM, 23feet said:

[  .  .  ]   I have started using the (expensive) ptfe lifetime thread from Sailrite. [  .  .  .  ]

Had a canvas/cartop shop resew my Jeep Sunbrella car cover because the thread was rotting away.  They charged $100USD more for Coats Helios P PTFE thread instead of UV resistant polyester thread.  I asked why and they said thread cost, and more difficult to sew with.  They guaranteed the thread would outlast the Sunbrella or they'd resew it for free.

I used Gore Tex PTFE dental floss thread to make masthead bird deterrent triplines 20+ years ago.  It's still up there.

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25 minutes ago, axolotl said:

Had a canvas/cartop shop resew my Jeep Sunbrella car cover because the thread was rotting away.  They charged $100USD more for Coats Helios P PTFE thread instead of UV resistant polyester thread.  I asked why and they said thread cost, and more difficult to sew with.  They guaranteed the thread would outlast the Sunbrella or they'd resew it for free.

I used Gore Tex PTFE dental floss thread to make masthead bird deterrent triplines 20+ years ago.  It's still up there.

I pay $105 for a 8oz cone of Tenara TR which is 1750 meters, and $46.50 for a 1 pound cone of Heminway and Bartlett Dabond 2000 (UVR Dacron) which is 2300 meters!  So, Its over 3 times the cost by length sewn.   I have my machines tuned to use either thread without complication.  I've had Tenara unravel in items such as flags, but mostly it's a great product.  I just used two 8oz cones of Tenara on a 75' by 20' cover.  The cost of the thread was a very small percentage of the cost of the project, and it's replacing a five year old cover that the thread is starting to fail on.  I think $100 extra to restitch a car cover is a bit excessive, but maybe they had to purchase a whole cone of thread just for your project.   

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22 hours ago, Mulligan said:

[  .  .  .  ]   I think $100 extra to restitch a car cover is a bit excessive, but maybe they had to purchase a whole cone of thread just for your project.   

They had a cone of it for me to look at.  It is weird thread. They use it for making convertible car tops, where the "cloth" would outlast polyester thread and they need high strength.  I too thought $100 extra was a bit high but cheaper than buying a new car cover, $680.

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Tenara is very good, but pricey pricey and can sometimes be a bit funky with machine settings.

 

In my loft we have tried multiple brands of thread, but come back to Coats, well priced and most consistent. 

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I found a bunch of reviews on the REX607Z. Horrible. Many people complained of the quality even after fitting them with Sailrite's monster control wheel.

I keep finding rave reviews of the old Singer 401a and videos of it sewing multiple layers of leather, so I pulled the trigger and bought a freshly rehabilitated unit. If it can't do the job, I'll Craigslist it and get most of my money back.

The reason I was willing to take a chance on something other than an LSZ-1, is because this is only an occasional use item. My boat isn't a 50-footer, my sails aren't that thick. My old Kenmore machine can *almost* handle it, so the Singer 401a should make short work of it with the right needle and thread.

Oh- to give myself a fighting chance, I also ordered a walking foot for it.

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Wow, machine arrived already.  Upper thread tensioner bomjacked, needed partial disassembly and reset.  Some sweet thing on YouTube guided me through it. 

The walking foot and heavy needles haven't arrived yet.  I gave it a try just to see what the machine could do. I got some good stitches after tweaking the tension.  It should do fine when the rest of the parts arrive. 

 

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The wife has been looking at machines for quite a while. She sews a ton and only maybe 10% of it would be considered heavy duty. She has used a White Jeans Machine for probably 20 years. It held its own pretty well against multiple layers of sunbrella and about 4 layers of denim. Its finally started to crap out and we agreed that she should get the one machine that would do everything she imagined wanting to do. 

Today, this followed her home. It looks like you might need a PhD to run it but she's quite excited. Its a Janome M7 Continental Professional.  She already ran some silk thru it, did some adjustments and put 10 layers of sunbrella thru. Both turned out pretty much perfect. 

 

20210210_152456.jpg

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