Sewing Machine Update

A couple weeks ago, I wrote about how I’m probably going to need to get a sewing machine for my holster work. If I can simplify my stitching setup, I’ll be able to speed production for a couple of reasons: Hand stitching holsters is time-consuming and it’s very hard work. Even if I could speed production in hand stitching, I’d get one heck of a case of tendinitis, which would halt production altogether. I need a machine. So, I set out to do some homework, and have come to several, unfortunate truths.

A lot of people doing the kind of work that I’m doing are using vintage machines. Some of the old industrials are unparalleled beasts. The biggest problem is that they are very expensive, and will probably need work and parts to be right. Plus, they are huge and heavy. I simply don’t have the space or money for such a thing, and I need to purchase something that I can immediately put into service, not something that I’d have to tinker with or find somebody else to work on. I’m not into the idea of picking up a project that will eventually lead to production after much investment and much more, subsequent investment.

So, I looked at some new machines. There are several sewing machine shops in town. The heaviest machine that Bernina makes is the 950 Industrial. This is not a leather machine. From what I can tell, it is a really heavy-duty dressmaker. I believe that it would do leather garments quite beautifully, and it shouldn’t have much trouble doing upholstery grade leather. The Bernina reps seemed to believe that it would work for me, until I brought some of my material to demo at the store. Then, they told me that it would not work for that. I visited the Pfaff store, and was pointed to the Grand Quilter. Once again, when I produced sample leather, the story changed. I’m sure that it really is a grand quilter, but it is not a leather machine.

Then, I visited a less-retail store called Huey’s. The people there are friendly and knowledgeable. The first machine they pointed me to was the Juki DNU-1541. This was by far, the most promising machine I had looked at. They had a demo machine that they allowed me to play with. It is tough, and it is smooth. It will sew through about 3/8-inch of leather, which is honestly fine for most of what I do. Then, they broke the machine sewing through my leather. With much tinkering and tuning, they were able to get it to reliably stitch through two layers of my leather, but it was working too hard on it. Sadly, this machine will not work, either. The next machine they pointed me at is about three times as much money. I just can’t justify that right now.

One oddball machine that I stumbled across early in this search is the Tippmann Boss. This is a manually-operated stitcher that operates by a hand-lever like a casino machine. I kind of wrote off this machine early on, thinking that I could get a powered unit for the same price. After everything that I’ve looked at, this is starting to look like a far more valid option. I might ask Huey’s about some of the heavier Jukis, but this is currently on my mind:

I could work with that. At a svelt 23-lbs, and with its compact nature, it would fit my current lifestyle better than a powered machine. It would achieve what I’m currently needing, and for far less money. With the way it would accelerate production, it shouldn’t take long to pay for itself, and possibly a more serious machine later on! Perhaps I’ll wind up buying something like the Bernina or Juki for lighter work, and dedicate the Boss to the heavier insanity that I like to tackle from time to time… I’d still have to figure out some way to come up with the scratch in the first place…

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