Help me buy the right industrial sewing machine
June 10, 2010 1:46 AM   Subscribe

I need an industrial sewing machine. But which one?

I've been fooling around sewing webbing and cordura for a while, making cycling and climbing related gear. I've worked up a few designs for bags and accessories for cyclists and I want to do some small runs of these and sell them through a local shop.

Up until now I have been using an ancient Pfaff 20. To be fair, it struggles on anything beyond a single layer of fabric. I have to hand crank it through a lot of stuff and the stitch length is very uneven, probably due to feeding problems. I think I need a machine designed to handle this sort of sewing.

I would be sewing a mixture of nylon webbing (think car seat belt), cordura, vinyl coated nylon, canvas and the odd bit of leather. Most likely using a heavy bonded nylon thread.

There are a million different varieties of industrial sewing machine out there, but for my purposes I'm looking at fixed foot machines that just do straight stitching, fixed foot machines that do straight and zig-zag, and walking foot machines that do straight stitching. I want something with enough grunt to sew multiple laters of cordura and canvas at slow speeds without stalling. I doubt that I need any sophisticated computer control, although things like automatic back tacking or being able to select needle up/needle down might be useful.

Any suggestions on specific models, or on the sort of features I should be looking for. Common brnds here in Oz include Consew, Juki, Pfaff, Singer, Brother, Bernina, Mitsubishi etc.
posted by tim_in_oz to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (9 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Are you in Sydney? There's an industrial sewing machine shop in Dulwich Hill on New Canterbury Rd. Go there and try a few out. Juki and Mitsubishi are mainstays of the industrial market.
posted by wingless_angel at 2:03 AM on June 10, 2010

Consew 206rb. I have one that I sew mostly webbing for caving gear. I picked it up locally for $500. I had to fix a few things and replace a few parts but it works great now. Consew is the most popular brand around here. Followed closely by Juki and Brother. I see a few Pfaffs. But, really any of those, as long as they are in good shape, should be fine. I would recommend the walking foot and a reverse bar—both make life a lot easier. Get lots of needles and it loaded with a sharp one. Don't skimp on thread, get the good stuff, it just works better. Good luck!
posted by I'm Doing the Dishes at 3:00 AM on June 10, 2010

What's more, for local advice, find a master-rigger at a sky diving/parachute loft place. They usually have lots of difference industrial machines and know how to work on them.
posted by I'm Doing the Dishes at 3:33 AM on June 10, 2010

If you've gotten used to the Pfaff 20, you might want to try a slightly newer model, like the Pfaff 230 or 260. I've got my grandma's 230, and it is very sturdy and can easily sew through several layers of demin, so I think it might work for your purposes. They are readily available used here in Germany on Ebay and the like.
posted by amf at 5:02 AM on June 10, 2010

Have a look at DIY Tactical. It's a community of hobbyists making tactical webbing and nylon gear. This community is also a source for buckles, fabrics and other supplies.
posted by Harald74 at 6:12 AM on June 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

I had a Juki industrial that I dumped for a 1952 Singer 15-91 that I purchased for $25. The Singer sews through multiple layers of leather, webbing, straps and canvas (I make a lot of handbags) flawlessly. It is dedicated straight stitch, but there are attachments for it to give it zig zag capability, buttonholes and a cheap walking foot is available.
posted by hecho de la basura at 8:08 AM on June 10, 2010

Pfaff is normally a very good make. Have you had your current machine serviced? This might help the feeding problems, and correct whatever else is wrong.

In any case, if you buy your industrial from a dealer in used machines, the Pfaff might have some trade-in value. Good luck!
posted by Pallas Athena at 12:09 PM on June 10, 2010

Thanks for the answers so far. The machine is serviced, and is set up for the sort of thread and needle that I'm using. It just isn't powerful enough. The DIY Tactical link had a very good overview on different sorts of machines if anyone is interested in the same sort of answers as I am. I might drop into my repair guy and talk to him about what he recommends.
posted by tim_in_oz at 9:47 PM on June 10, 2010

The machines used in a rigger's loft are referred to as "medium duty". White used to sell a "Jeans Machine" that was medium duty, yet consumer priced. (former parachute rigger here)
posted by Goofyy at 7:39 AM on June 11, 2010

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