For years, we’ve had a team mom do our bumpers. With both of her kids graduated, I’d like to bring this process in-house. I’d like a nice industrial machine capable of doing Cordura and whatnot. Can anyone recommend a good sewing machine for this purpose?
Juki LU-563 or Consew 226 are industry standard for canvas or upholstery. They are both “walking foot” machines, meaning the pesser foot is actually two feet that alternate or “walk” as the needle moves up and down.
They are extremely robust machines and are designed to be run at high speeds for long hours with little maintenance. They are purely mechanical machines and will cost less to fix if they do break. I use the juki daily for 8 hours every day and have called the maintenance guy maybe 4 times in the 16 years I’ve been using the same machine. I use the consew at home somewhat infrequently and can go a year without using it sometimes and I’ve never had to fix anything on it in the 12 years I’ve owned it. It always starts and sews great with just a bit of oil.
These are heavy duty machines and are designed for heavy canvas (tailor shops use them for blue jeans) you shouldn’t sew lightweight cotten with them it can get caught up in the hook and damage it if you’re not careful. But it’s great for bumper material.
Like any power tool, (mine just uses thread) you should be very cautious when using it. It can go through your finger if your not paying attention. (Had a coworker once go through her finger and it didn’t even break the needle) make sure any student using it had been trained on safely using it. (Like anything else)
Look for a used one if you can. The age doesn’t matter, these things can almost literally last forever. My main machine I use for clothing is an industrial singer that is from 1912. Best running machine I have.
I would also get a servo motor for it. It has speed adjustments so it will be easier to learn. And uses a lot less electricity.
Also make sure the machine comes with the table and motor. They are often sold separately and you may not realise it when comparing prices.
You can expect the “head” (machine only) to weigh about 50 lbs, and the table to be about the same. (Depending on the motor installed)
That’s about all I can think of right now. I have experience with many diffrent machines and those are the two I’d recommend for bumpers. If you have any questions about those machines, or others you may have seen, feel free to ask me. I’ll give you any knowledge I may have.
Edit: accidentally put the wrong model# is fixed now
If you want a smaller machine, I’d suggest a vintage Singer portable, especially the 221-1 (also called the Featherweight.) There are a lot of them out there for sale and the price is usually quite reasonable. They don’t really do anything but straight stitch, but that’s all you really need and they’re very easy to use for neophytes. They’re also incredibly tough and can easily sew bumper fabrics without a hitch. They’re in demand for quilting, if that gives you an idea of what they can do. I have one inherited from my wife’s grandmother (who bought it new) and it’s still going strong after over 65 years of service. Check Ebay and you’ll find plenty of good ones for sale in the $200-$300 range.
I maintained a Juki industrial machine for a while. It ran like a Vickers gun, like it never noticed it was being asked to work. An impressive machine, second only to the speed and fluidity of the operator when she was in the zone.
The motor had more wattage then my router spindle. Pretty eyebrow raising, considering the general lack of guarding, proximity of your hands and speeds it could hit and maintain.
Super useful advice, I’ve never had a chance to delve into the details of sewing machines much! This is fascinating!
If you are ok sharing, what do you do for a day job? I suspect it is different from most of the folks who frequent these threads.
I sew! LOL
Really I am a custom marine and military textile fabricator. That really means I make boat covers and every so often covers for military helicopters. I’ve covered the big ch-47 chinooks. The entire thing. So heavy duty stuff using canvas and stuff.
The majority of the work I do is custom boat canvas and upholstery. I use a lot of marine Sunbrella and vinyl. I usually use the scraps we have left over for bumpers but it’s really to heavy to sew on a regular machine.
Recently we started using a newer fabric called Weathermax. I really like it. It’s as strong as Sunbrella, but super lightweight. Even has a 10 year warranty like Sunbrella. (Not that that matters for bumpers…) I’m thinking it might be light enough to be sewn by a home machine, but I don’t really have a home machine set up to test it out right now. We tested it out this year on our bumpers, and it was fabulous. Still look like new. I would highly recommend it.
I know my job is not exactly what you would expect when you hear “robotics mentor” but that’s part of what makes it so great. I do most of our patterning so I understand how to convey a 3d object into a 2d pattern and I’m really good with spacial reasoning.
It’s funny, we get quite a few jobs where someone will come in with a printed CAD drawing of a machine and ask for a cover to be made to fit. They’re usually surprised to find out that they don’t have to explain the CAD to me.
And it can also make for some “out of the box” thinking about a lot of diffrent things. And I love teaching the kids how to think just a little out if the box like that.
that is super cool, thank you so much for sharing! I knew someone had to make those things, but never thought how they would come about!!
I’ve got a small Singer (4166) that my mother gave to me. Sews AM heavy bumper fabric fine. Even sewing velcro (no adhesive) on it.
Don’t need a crazy machine, but you do need practice!
Are these currently models? I’m having trouble locating anywhere to buy either of these. Can you recommend any current models that I can by new that would be good for doing FRC bumpers?
Apparently a few years back they replaced the juki lu-563 with the 1508 model. (Not sure about the consew) I don’t have any personal experience with that model so I’m not sure what the differences are but I’ve worked with several different types of industrial juki machines (long arm, sergers, ect.) and they all work beautifully. If you stick to the brand name I’m sure you’ll be fine. If your going to buy new from a dealer I would ask for recommendations from them and tell them you plan to use upholstery weight materials.
That being said, I would personally recommend you buy a used machine if possible. Most dealers sell used machines (especially industrial ones) and they often have a warranty on them as well. I actually find the older machines to be more reliable and sturdy. (I speak more specifically about singer machines as their quality dropped dramatically about 20-25 years ago.)
The mechanical way a sewing machine works hasn’t really changed in over 100 years, so when buying a purely mechanical machine there shouldn’t be much difference. A reputable dealer will have checked the machine out and make sure it’s running smoothly before selling it so it should run the same as a new one.
Newer machines typically have electronics that adjust stitch length, bobbin tension, or other fancy frills that maybe are nice to have, but the more electronics that are on it, the more (expensive) points of failure.
I have somewhat limited experiences with consew, just the few I personally own, but they have sewn well. However I don’t use them as often as I use the jukis.
I do however understand the desire to have a brand new machine, and your organization may even require it. The only personal advice I would give for a new machine would be to stick to a juki and you’ll likely be happy.
I would try H & L sewing machines and supplies in San Fernando Ca.
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