How to keep a sewing machine quiet?
June 25, 2006 9:01 PM   Subscribe

How can I prevent the vibrations and noise from my Juki DDL-8700 sewing machine from bothering my downstairs neighbors?

I bought this machine to do school work in my apartment's living room at night. Unfortunately, from the start, the vibrations from the sewing machine have bothered my downstairs neighbors, who unfortunately are now sleeping in their living room, directly beneath ours, since a sick family member has moved into their bedroom. I bought a thick rubber pad from the sewing machine retailer and placed it under the machine, and I've also bought blocks to place under the four legs that support the machine and its table. Sadly, the noise/vibrations from the machine are still bothering the neighbors. I was wondering if anyone had sound/vibration proofing tips specific to sewing machines or other heavy appliances that may not make a lot of audible noise, but which emit bothersome vibrations. Thanks!
posted by pantufla to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (7 answers total)
It sounds like you're being very accomodating. If the sewing machine retailer's mat isn't doing the trick, maybe cork would work. Cork tiles - the thick ones that are sometimes applied on walls. They're very insulating, and would help with both the sound and the shakes. They have sticky tape backs, usually, but you could just lay them on the floor temporarily and pick them up and move them around if you leave the backing on.

I'm wondering two things:

2. Can you move the machine to another area, such as a spare bedroom, or your dining room?

1. Why does your machine vibrate so much? Could something need to be adjusted? I have three sewing machines and they don't shake at all when I sew, so I'm wondering if it's normal for your machine or if something needs to be tuned.
posted by iconomy at 9:16 PM on June 25, 2006

You have an industrial machine, capable of 5500 stitches per minute, and if you are running it at that speed, with a common table/stand and a single phase 110 volt clutch motor, you can get a fair amount of vibration pretty easily. After all, these type machines are generally developed for use in industrial settings, where speed and longevity at minimal cost is more important than quiet operation. 50 of these things running in a factory sewing room will make a din that is tough to yell over.

That said, your options for quieting the machine start with the basic adjustments of the machine. Never use more feed dog lift or presser foot down force than you need for positive feeding of the fabric in question. There is quite a lot of mass in the presser bar, so things will smooth up a lot if you aren't forcing it up and down more than absolutely necessary. For most woven fabric in common lockstitch seaming applications, your feed dog need not rise more than 1/32" above the throat plate grooves for adequate feeding action, if your feed dog teeth are not dulled. More rise than this generally just starts driving the presser bar into excessive vertical motion, which requires heavy spring pressure to control. If you substantially reduce your presser foot lift, you can also usually reduce your presser bar down pressure adjustment, which, in combination, will greatly reduce the vertical oscillation amplitude and noise your machine creates. Of course, you may need to do some trial and error testing on various fabrics, and you may need to purchase optional feed dog, throat plate, and presser foot attachment sets for your machine, to get proper feeding on all fabrics (but that is why these parts are changeable, and made in so many varieties). With proper adjustment, your machine will not only be quieter and smoother, but will also last longer.

Once you've minimized the vibration the machine head creates in operation, you can look at the stand itself for additional noise reduction. If your table top is made of particle board, you may get a substantial reduction in vibration by switching to a higher density plywood table top, at a cost of about $100 (plus shipping). The plywood top is both stiffer and denser than typical particle board tops, reducing transmitted vibration substantially. But if this is still not enough noise reduction, you could go for one of the very nice ergonomic pedestal stands shown at the bottom of this page.
posted by paulsc at 10:35 PM on June 25, 2006 [1 favorite]

Telescopes have a similar, though inverted issue. In this case, it is the telescope that is sensitive to vibration, rather than the neighbor below the telescope, but the problem is the same, kinetic energy transfered from a source to a sink.

One common defense with telescope is anti vibration pads -- basically, a metal cup embedded in a rubber matrix, that absorbs vibration that passes through it. The issue is that they have to match the mass of the telescope and mount -- if they're not strong enough, the rubber matrix is compressed enough that it doesn't absorb much energy.

They're also not cheap -- not expensive, but about $50 a set, and you might need two sets.

However, making them is easy -- a tupperware bowl and a couple tubes of silicone caulk. this page tells you how. Assuming that you use a 4" diameter bowl, the ideal setup would be a 4" diameter wood pad, a thin slice of silicone rubber, made as above, a sheet of paper, another thin slice, and finally another 4" diameter wood pad. The purpose of the wood is to spread the load across the entire surface of the rubber shock absorber, rather than compresing a small bit of it. The purpose of the paper layer is friction. The rubber->paper->rubber interface will move very slight, friction will turn some of that motion into heat.

You can use more paper/rubber stacks, if need be.
posted by eriko at 5:26 AM on June 26, 2006

It may be as simple as moving the machine to another part of the room (in addition to the pads etc.) The location may be setting up a vibration that travels through walls etc. Moving the machine into or out of a corner or bay could change the structural situation enough to make it better (or worse).
posted by Gungho at 7:12 AM on June 26, 2006

When I was having this problem with my cabinet saw I placed the saw on four of those large (16X24) sidewalk concrete blocks. The blocks were placed on a rubber mat they use for horse stalls. Less than $100 all together.
posted by Mitheral at 8:52 AM on June 26, 2006

Response by poster: thanks for all the great suggestions!
posted by pantufla at 6:01 PM on June 26, 2006

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