Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Industrial Sewing Machines

The main difference between industrial machines and family-use machines is that industrial machines are designed to perform ONE task and perform it very well. Family-use machines are designed to do everything and as a result perform some tasks inadequately. A perfect example is buttonholes - read all the postings on various forums complaining about the poor quality of buttonholes formed on family-use machines, then look at any item of commercially produced clothing and see what the buttonholes look like. The machine that made those buttonholes will do nothing but sew buttonholes 16 hours a day, 5 days a week, but don't try to use it to install a zipper! The vast majority of industrial machines are straight stitch only because that's the kind of sewing that's performed most in factories. What you lose with the household machine is the strength, speed, and consistently perfect stitches obtained with an industrial sewing machine. In most cases, the industrial sewing machine has two distinct parts: the sewing machine itself, and the power stand, consisting of the table and motor. Most manufacturers recommend that a one-half horsepower 3450 rpm or 1750 rpm motor be used on their machines. Using this powerful motor, the machine can achieve a fast sewing speed by using pulleys. On some industrial machines you can achieve a sewing speed of 4500 spm (stitches per minute) or more. Family-use sewing machines have their motors attached to the body of the machine. The motors are usually rated at one-tenth horsepower. The power is limited because of the motor size, so they use a pulley or gearing system to increase the power while producing a slower stitch speed. Most household sewing machines sew at 800 spm.
Sometimes terms like "semi-industrial", "heavy duty", and "industrial strength" are used to imply that a household sewing machine has the power of an industrial. In these cases, the buyer should verify the actual motor power and stitching speed. That said, the Brother 1500 series and Juki 98 series are straight stitch machines possessing some of the features of home machines, like needle threaders and thread cutters. Their throats are slightly larger than standard family machines, making them popular with quilters who are unwilling to upgrade to a true industrial machine. The Bernina 950 probably has the most features on a "semi-industrial" - 21 stitches, 5-step buttonhole, and the 1/2 hp motor will drive it to form 2000 stitches per minute but throat area is no larger than a home machine. At around $1700, that would be my choice if I wanted a bunch of functions combined in one ruggedized machine. However, for the same money, I would buy a used straight stitch industrial ($250), a used zig zag industrial ($600), and one other specialty machine, depending on the sewing you do (buttonholes, grommets, quilting). As for reliability, the major brands are probably best, Pfaffs, Jukis, Brothers and the older Singers are the ones I have used.

If you are looking at a used machine, check the price of any needed parts before buying. I bought a used Pfaff 144 double-needle machine that was missing the feed dog. Knowing that feed dogs for Singers cost in the neighborhood of $20, I willingly gave the $135 for the Pfaff. When I went to order a Pfaff feed dog, the dealer gave me a quote of $695 for just the feed dog! He told me I was lucky I didn't need a throat plate too, because that would add another $350! I have never owned an Adler, but hear that replacement parts for them are similarly priced.


Anonymous said...

Hi Ed, Just found your blog whilst searching for info on the Necchi Supernova. I just won one of those on Ebay but it is not here as yet. It will be my first Supernova.

As to parts for your Pfaff 144, check Ebay Germany. Industrial Pfaff parts are there regularly for very little. That dealer who told you that sum wants the money plus an arm and a leg. One of my favourite sellers on the German Ebay is 'hans-josef23'. They have feed dogs and throat plates for different models. They mainly sell fabric and threads which is why I go there. If you need help leave a message here for me and I will check back. Now that I have found a blog for my Supernova, I'll definitely be back.

germandolls said...

Dear Ed, I just found your blog. It is so much fun to look at. I love the looks of the old machines and would like to own one. But I am wondering whether I would be able to maintain one. Is it hard to keep them running?

marigold said...

Ed...great information about the industrial machines. I had always wondered about them and how they were different. This blog is like a school of vintage machines and related it!!!

Your industrial Singer looks wonderful...I am seriously envious!! I showed the photo to my husband and he thought it was something to behold!

PinkSmoot said...

Hi Ed, I have fallen in love with vintage sewing machines. I recently acquired a 1951 Singer model 147-85. After a good cleanup & tuning, it runs great. My only issue is it runs too fast for me! Since the motor is in excellent shape, I want to replace the pulley with a much smaller one. My problem is the motor shaft has splines. I cannot find a pulley that is splined. I asked a machinist about making a pulley for me but the cost was way out of my price range. So my questions are -
* Do you know a source for spline shaft pulleys?
* Can I safely use smooth shaft pulley instead?
* Can I install a rheostat to safely slow down the motor without damaging it?
* Should I just break down and buy a differenct, slower motor & matching pulley?

I know that alot of questions, but I 've been able to discuss this with a knowledgable person.

Thank you in advance for your assistance. Nancy Y in MO

Ed Lamoureux said...

Interesting machine. The manual says it is "...fitted for binding and plain stitching on mattresses and studio couches." Do you make mattresses or studio couches in your basement?
"My only issue is it runs too fast for me!"

A clutch motor spins at full speed constantly with a clutch disc on its shaft. When you press on the treadle, the clutch disc moves outward and connects to a corresponding clutch disc attached to the pulley. When you don't want the machine to run at full speed, you press on the treadle just enough so the clutch only becomes partially engaged and the pulley does not spin as fast as the motor. This is known as 'slipping the clutch'. To accomplish this, both clutch faces must be clean and smooth. When a machine has been sitting for some time, the clutch discs can have buildup of dust, insect nests, and other crud that prevents the clutch discs from slipping smoothly. My first sugggestion is to open up the section of the motor assembly between the motor and pulley and make sure the clutch faces are clean and smooth. Then, practice slipping the clutch to see if you can learn the feel and make it work. Slowly depress the treadle until the sewing head just starts to spin, then let off on the treadle just a hair. Once you find the pressure point, you can press slightly more or less to speed up or slow down the sewing head.

* Do you know a source for spline shaft pulleys? If anyone can help, it's Bob Kovar of Toledo Industrial Sewing Machines. You can email him at Tell him I sent you.

* Can I safely use smooth shaft pulley instead? I would probably try it but wouldn't tell anyone else to try it. It would depend on the fit of the pulley on the shaft, size and shape of the splines, shape of the locking screw, number of locking screws and other factors.

* Can I install a rheostat to safely slow down the motor without damaging it? I have never known anyone to slow down a clutch motor with a rheostat. If you could, the size of rheostat needed to carry the current of a 1/2 hp motor would probably cost more than a replacement motor.

* Should I just break down and buy a different, slower motor & matching pulley? The current favorite replacement motor is a DC Servomotor. It replaces the clutch motor and works like a home machine speed control. The harder you press on the treadle, the faster the machine spins.