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Old 21-03-2018, 09:39   #1
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Vintage Alternatives to Sailrite Sewing Machine

Short version: What vintage industrial (or nearly-industrial) zig-zag sewing machines could rival the value of a new Sailrite machine?

Long version:
My old Aldens zig zag sewing machine just blew out its motor. I could fix it for $150 but I think it's past time for me to upgrade. The Aldens was nice but under-powered for almost everything I was doing. I'm now wondering if it might be possible to find a vintage machine that's both cheaper and better than a new Sailrite.

I will be using the machine for mainly for canvas work, upholstery projects, and random craft & leather projects. The first big project would likely be a winter boat cover. I want to be able to repair or build sails too but that is not my main usage right now. I really do want a zig-zag machine even though it is limiting my options dramatically. I don't care if it is portable and an integrated table would be a big plus.

I've obviously considered the Sailrite machines. The "Fabricator" looks amazing but is very expensive and has no zig-zag. The LSZ does have zig-zag but it is still quite expensive and there are some things I don't love about it. If I add a table it's just as expensive as the fabricator. I'd greatly prefer a servo motor.

But my gut tells me I could spend less than half the money and get an old industrial zig zag machine w/ table like the Consew 99. If it had a clutch motor I would swap it out with a servo for more control and less noise. I think I could end up with a cooler, simpler and more robust machine for less money. But it's way more of a gamble than buying a new machine with more features and good customer service.

Any opinions, experiences or specific models to be on the lookout for? Thanks.
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Old 21-03-2018, 10:16   #2
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Re: Vintage Alternatives to Sailrite Sewing Machine

Attached is a simple walkiing foot zig zag machine, I have repaired sails, made lazy bag, repaired biminis with it for a 45 ft cat. Instruction book not that easy to follow. A Sailrite may be a better machine, but more expensive.

https://www.defender.com/product3.js...928&id=3136117
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Old 21-03-2018, 11:58   #3
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Re: Vintage Alternatives to Sailrite Sewing Machine

Our old Singer (mid 1950s) was capable of sewing up to 4 layers of 9.4 oz Sunbrella. It was a straight stitch with zig-zag attachments and no walking foot. There are many other walking foot industrial machines (with longer arms) that could be used but most of them are straight stitch

We currently are using a LSZ-1 clone (Consew) and it works great. Very rarely do we need the zig-zag, but in straight stitch mode, the zz feature allows the needle to be moved (right/left off center) closer to a bolt rope, zipper etc. for tighter stitching areas.

The Barracuda is another clone of the pre-posi-pin Sailrite machine (although they will not admit it). There are others including this one that is relatively much cheaper than the LSZ-1. You don't really need the posi-pin, but could be nice to have option. Every optional accessory Sailrite sells will fit on the clone.

The biggest downside to the clones are the poor instructions that are included with them. We purchased the instructions from Sailrite for the LSZ-1, then it was much easier to adjust/use our clone properly.

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Old 21-03-2018, 12:08   #4
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Re: Vintage Alternatives to Sailrite Sewing Machine

We picked up a Kenmore circa 1974 from the Salvation Army thrift store near the St. Mary's (Georgia) boat yard for $25, and apparently it is a beast. Chris took it for service in Atlanta, and all it needed was regular maintenance! He watched a couple of videos and began making projects with no sewing knowledge. It does zigzags and has handled Sunbrella just fine (dinghy chaps, covers for louvered doors, winch covers, etc.). I scoffed when he bought it and thought I'd wait for the Sailrite. NO NEED! It's a Sears Kenmore Model 1703 Zig Zag Sewing Machine. Worth a try!
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Old 21-03-2018, 12:41   #5
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Re: Vintage Alternatives to Sailrite Sewing Machine

If you are in a city, then your best bet is second hand stores... Seriously, I picked up numerous machines from second hand stores for like $20 each. I just kept buying machines until I found one that was powerfull enough for my needs. Took 3 machines before I got an old Singer slant-o-matic with zig zag. It has pretty much sown anything I have thrown at it including multiple layers of sunbrella type fabric wrapped in webbing.
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Old 21-03-2018, 13:39   #6
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Re: Vintage Alternatives to Sailrite Sewing Machine

We had a Brother industrial for 20 years and now a Sailrite. They could both sew the same things but the Sailrite is much easier to use and keep going. The other was finicky and you were constantly adjusting something, cleaning it, etc.. The new Sailrite is pretty good all the time without much fiddling. The Brother was cheaper.
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Old 21-03-2018, 19:55   #7
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Re: Vintage Alternatives to Sailrite Sewing Machine

CF member Senor Mechanico is a sewing machine pro and has posted several times about appropriate industrial type machines that are good for what you want. Try some searching and you will find some broad based advice... better than anecdotal praise for some individual machine..

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Old 21-03-2018, 21:09   #8
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Re: Vintage Alternatives to Sailrite Sewing Machine

Hello Orange Crush,

First I'm wanting to say something, then I'll give you a link I found by doing what I'm going to tell you.....

When you want to look for some concept on CF, such as sewing machines, first, click on Search, you're looking for CF Custom Google Search. Then type in "sewing machines", and you will find many references, including this one.....

Here's the link: http://www.cruisersforum.com/forums/...e-40451-2.html

Now, the plain CF search does not do ideas, it does exact matches, so, if you happen to know exactly--it's also case sensitive--what you want, it can find it if it's there, but for most searches, the Custom Google Search works much more user friendly.

Ann
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Old 22-03-2018, 09:38   #9
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Re: Vintage Alternatives to Sailrite Sewing Machine

Thanks, I did read that thread earlier and got some good tips and model names from there. I guess I was also trying to gauge the community's overall feelings on the Sailrite machine as compared with an older machine. Very simply put, the general impression that I get is that the Sailrite is a great design with the right features but is pricier, while the older industrial machines may be more finicky at first but could be cheaper and longer lasting.

I also really like traveller's suggestion to just look for used machines until I find one that works for me. Hopefully I haven't spent too much money by the time I inevitably get frustrated with the search and end up buying a Sailrite
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Old 22-03-2018, 13:22   #10
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Re: Vintage Alternatives to Sailrite Sewing Machine

One of the good things about real SailRite is that the company will really work with you to help you get your projects done to your satisfaction. They have excellent customer service. [I sent them an e-mail, as a purchaser of a 2nd hand machine: it was answered helpfully the same day they received it.] Some of their products (like the little oil "can" with the flexible spout) can make life easier for getting oil to where it needs to go.


My old Pfaff 130 (my mom gave it to me when I was first pregnant, and I used it up until about 3 yrs. ago) was much simpler and faster to oil than my LSZ-1. To compare them, I find the stitch length adjustment less user friendly on the latter, but I really like the walking foot. The latter is a noisier machine to use, it has a lot of machinery that stays noisy even though the machine is well oiled....but I had to wind up drizzling oil down a toothpick to get it into where it was supposed to go.

Any old machine that is all metal inside will do most of your "stuff". If you have a small boat with dacron sails, and plenty of space for lofting, you still will need a professional machine for the clews. The throat on the LSZ-1 is quite narrow (not much better than the Pfaff), which is a problem for large projects. It can be adjusted to handle fine fabrics and thread. Sapient Sue, a member of this forum made herself a pair of silk slacks on her LSZ-1. I think this is really cool!

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Old 24-03-2018, 17:01   #11
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Re: Vintage Alternatives to Sailrite Sewing Machine

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bill O View Post
Our old Singer (mid 1950s) was capable of sewing up to 4 layers of 9.4 oz Sunbrella. It was a straight stitch with zig-zag attachments and no walking foot. There are many other walking foot industrial machines (with longer arms) that could be used but most of them are straight stitch

We currently are using a LSZ-1 clone (Consew) and it works great. Very rarely do we need the zig-zag, but in straight stitch mode, the zz feature allows the needle to be moved (right/left off center) closer to a bolt rope, zipper etc. for tighter stitching areas.

The Barracuda is another clone of the pre-posi-pin Sailrite machine (although they will not admit it). There are others including this one that is relatively much cheaper than the LSZ-1. You don't really need the posi-pin, but could be nice to have option. Every optional accessory Sailrite sells will fit on the clone.

The biggest downside to the clones are the poor instructions that are included with them. We purchased the instructions from Sailrite for the LSZ-1, then it was much easier to adjust/use our clone properly.

Bill O.
They are all, including lsz, clones of old Thomsons. The sailrite machines have MUCH better castings and there is a fork inside that sailrite uses a stronger and improved design. If you can afford it you should get the sailrite.

That said I have a Chinese knockoff that I upgraded withe the big wheel and posipin from sailrite. It needed some attention when I got it that a sailrite would not have needed. And the castings look like they were made with barely sifted beach sand. But it now sews nicely with everything from noseeum mesh to 6layers of cordura with 4 layers of webbing. Click image for larger version

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Old 24-03-2018, 17:15   #12
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Re: Vintage Alternatives to Sailrite Sewing Machine

Research says the old Singers will do a great job. We bought the Sailrite LSZ and have been working it hard. I have NO complaints. This thing is a beast. Good money well spent in my opinion.
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Old 24-03-2018, 19:17   #13
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Re: Vintage Alternatives to Sailrite Sewing Machine

Read sewing machine from England was the do it your sellers sewing machine back in the day. Think the LZ-1 was/is a Chinese knock off of the Read.
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Old 25-03-2018, 10:37   #14
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Re: Vintage Alternatives to Sailrite Sewing Machine

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Originally Posted by Cu Mor Glas View Post
They are all, including lsz, clones of old Thomsons. The sailrite machines have MUCH better castings and there is a fork inside that sailrite uses a stronger and improved design. If you can afford it you should get the sailrite.

That said I have a Chinese knockoff that I upgraded withe the big wheel and posipin from sailrite. It needed some attention when I got it that a sailrite would not have needed. And the castings look like they were made with barely sifted beach sand. But it now sews nicely with everything from noseeum mesh to 6layers of cordura with 4 layers of webbing. Attachment 166988Attachment 166989
The Thompson 201 was a straight stitch portable walking foot, while most of the other vintage industrial machines were not portable. It all depends on how/where you intend to use the machine.

If setting up for home use only, we would get an older/used straight stitch that had a longer arm with a bigger industrial type table and larger motor. In most cases (unless you are making sails), the straight stitch will fulfill 90% of the project needs.

IMO you are giving Sailrite way too much credit for having better internal parts than the clones. In reality, all they do is buy a specially painted case for theirs, look it over/tune it and then add on accessories to make it different when it shows up in Indiana. Looking at the mechanical guts, I can't tell the difference between the clone and the LSZ-1. Agree some parts are poorly casted aluminum like the needle displacement regulator, but Sailrite's replacement looked to be the same material.

Don't get me wrong, we buy the Sailrite's accessories to put on our clone as they have put some thought into them and are helpful to complete projects easier. All their videos are also extremely helpful.

In the long run, we are very happy with our clone and it has more than paid for itself many times over for the projects we have done with it (everything including interior upholstery, storm dodgers, awnings, sail covers, cockpit cushions and more). We purchased a basic clone and slowly upgraded it over the years as we needed things. Didn't really add up $$, but it appears if you purchased a clone for $298 and accessorized up to a "standard" LSZ-1, you would save some $$ over purchasing completed by Sailrite. Maybe not for everyone, but worked for us.

Cheers,
Bill O.
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Old 25-03-2018, 11:43   #15
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Re: Vintage Alternatives to Sailrite Sewing Machine

The Chinese versions of the Sailrite can also be found with a 9" throat which makes them better for canvas work.
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