Heavy duty sewing machine

Ajax

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Edgewater, MD
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?

 

IStream

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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. 

 

El Borracho

Sam’s friend
6,244
2,328
Pacific Rim
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.

 

23feet

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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.

 

Ajax

Super Anarchist
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Edgewater, MD
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?

 

kevinjones16

Member
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Seattle
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.

 

Ajax

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Edgewater, MD
@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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Zonker

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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

 
 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

 
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nota

Anarchist
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

 

toddster

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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

 

23feet

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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.

 

Max Rockatansky

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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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toddster

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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?

 

weightless

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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?

 

LionessRacing

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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 

 

Max Rockatansky

Max Rockatansky
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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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IStream

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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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