I've owned many of the all metal home machines. My collection is finally down to just four, but they they still tend to follow me home, get oiled and adjusted, and go on Craigslist to make someone happy.
I'm very partial to the Japanese machines from the 50's to the early 70's. They tend to have powerful motors, all metal construction, and many of them have really cool styling.
My absolute favorite machines from that era are the Kenmores. The styling tends to be boring, but I think they have some features that slightly edge out the other machines from that era. One example would be the high lift
presser foot that let's you deal more easily with bulky projects. If....IF....you go with a domestic machine, you would be very well served by any of the 158 series machines from Kenmore that are labeled, made in Japan
. You might see a Kenmore advertised as a model 16 for example, but if you have the seller check the metal plate on the base of the machine it will say model 158.165200.
You'll pay anywhere from $20 to $120 for a Kenmore. You should not hesitate to pay in the upper range if you know for certain that it is properly oiled and adjusted. Most that are for sale
, need to be thoroughly oiled and adjusted, which is something you can learn to do. Even if you buy one that's been serviced, you'll need to learn to oil
and care for it. Not difficult, but it has to be done.
The Kenmore will be great for clothes, etc., and I just got done sewing a Sunbrella sail cover
for my boat. You'll be able to use heavy, outdoor thread like bonded polyester V69 (you can get it at Sailrite), but you probably won't be able go heavier than that. If you want to use it to repair your sails
, and your sail is constructed with heavier thread (very likely), a home machine may not be ideal for you.
I'm a fan of the Sailrite machines. The zig zag model could serve you well. It'll use the heavier threads and has a walking foot. You can find similar machines for half as much (Barracude, Reliable), but Sailrite has BY FAR the best support and by a reasonable margin, the best machines of that type (portable and canvas/sail capable). It will sew clothes, but doesn't have the variety of stitches a Kenmore offers (stretch, blind, decorative). The Sailrite will handle heavy materials and sails, but will ultimately be limited by it's small throat size (like a domestic machine)...if you have to sew in the middle of a large sail, you can reach a point where you're unable to roll up the sail tight enough to fit through the machine.
The best solution is a table mounted, full size industrial machine, and a full featured home machine. But you're going to need to get a bigger boat. The Sailrite, IMHO, is the best compromise for someone who wants a heavy duty machine on their sailboat.