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Old 03-29-10, 02:50 PM   #1
folder fanatic
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Buying Used, New Or Just Repair The Old Thing

My old faithful almost 18 year old 1993 White Sewing Machine died last week. While the sewing machine parts still mostly work fine, one little part gave out. The needle became jammed deep into the machine and could not be removed, no matter what I did to removed it (used pliers, oil around it, etc.). So.....after pricing possible repair at the local sewing machine stores (removing the whole needle parts would be far more pricey than buying most anything new assuming that the part is still available), I bought a new sewing machine. After a quick overview of machines out there and review of prices, I bought a nice basic one at my local Sears store. It completed an important sewing project I was working on at my last machine's somewhat expected demise. It had some unexpected abilities that the other ones I used in the past did not have at all or not as well developed. The foot control is far more sensitive to pressure. That means that I can gently tap on it and sew real slow (almost like that speed control on the higher up machines that I passed up). I bought the second to the bottom of the model line as all I needed was a good lock stitch, zig zag width variety (5 widths at a turn of a dial), and no oiling anymore! I always had to take apart the old machines to oil and adjust them. I really like the 21st century.

Oh and by the way-absolutely no Warranty insurance. Big waste of money.
http://www.consumeraffairs.com/retail/sears_maint_con.html

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Old 03-29-10, 03:14 PM   #2
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Old 03-29-10, 05:08 PM   #3
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If the original machine wasn't a specific heavy-duty or industrial model, then it's likely not worth it for the repair. New machines will be just as capable, as you've discovered, for the price of the repair.

When the machine jams up that bad, it often needs re-timed. If it's an old gear driven timing, that's a very expensive repair, and difficult to get everything 100% correct. I had a 1960s Singer 200 series that I pitched because after 2 repair trips to different shops, they couldn't get the timing nailed down quite right and it would hammer the bobbin and snap needles like toothpicks at high speed.
I bought a $50 machine on sale at Target and it works just fine.
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Old 03-30-10, 11:09 AM   #4
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I'd disassemble the machine until I could get that needle out of there. I'd photograph each step of the process with a digital camera to use as a reassembly guide. You have nothing to lose since you have already replaced it and the old machine is trash as is. You might even learn something about how it works; hey, you might even go into the sewing machine repair business!
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Old 03-30-10, 11:50 AM   #5
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I'm not much of a sewing machine type guy, but I do know from watching my mom and grandma use them over the years that the older ones seem the most durable. My grandma has been using a 1920's manual foot pedal model for over 70 years, and it works perfectly.
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Old 03-30-10, 03:05 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by Michigander View Post
I'm not much of a sewing machine type guy, but I do know from watching my mom and grandma use them over the years that the older ones seem the most durable. My grandma has been using a 1920's manual foot pedal model for over 70 years, and it works perfectly.
Another small tidbit of trivia. Care to guess what machines NASA uses for spacesuits? Early Singers. Why? Tight stitching that just couldn't be duplicated with newer machines.
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Old 03-30-10, 04:08 PM   #7
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Don't decent sewing machines cost $2500, or $3500 with a serger now?
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Old 03-30-10, 04:15 PM   #8
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Don't decent sewing machines cost $2500, or $3500 with a serger now?
Heck no! For that kind of money you can pick up a Juki or a Con-Sew 36" table industrial machine with a 1/2hp under-table motor. Or a really nice sailmaking machine that can stitch 20 layers of denim. That amount is what you're looking at for an introductory model computer controlled embroidery machine, or an upper mid-range overlock machine.
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Old 03-30-10, 04:31 PM   #9
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I use my grandmothers from the 50's. It doesn't do anything fancy but I'll bet it will last another 50 years.
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Old 03-31-10, 04:33 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Keith C. Johns View Post
I'd disassemble the machine until I could get that needle out of there. I'd photograph each step of the process with a digital camera to use as a reassembly guide. You have nothing to lose since you have already replaced it and the old machine is trash as is. You might even learn something about how it works; hey, you might even go into the sewing machine repair business!
I think this is a job for my mechanical engineer trained sister to tackle first. She did try to quickly fix it without disassemble the machine without success before I bought the new one. That old machine has been giving me trouble since I bought it. It seemed to be limping along rather than being absolutely trouble free like most good machines are supposed to beyond simple maintenance. I should have taken it back when the flywheel stuck-just like the needle did-and refused to return to the original position soon after I bought it. I really should have returned that machine. The store that I bought that machine from is not really a sewing machine store but a fabric store. It long since went out of business and sold to a larger chain store. And I never had any similar problems with any other machine-including another model White sewing machine bought at the same time and place as that troubled one. That cued me to believing it is something unique to that particular machine. Your suggestion to photographed each step is a really good one. I am planning to photograph my new very modern machine the first time I remove the inner parts to clean them when I do the job. There will be no confusion as to how to put back the parts afterwards.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Michigander View Post
I'm not much of a sewing machine type guy, but I do know from watching my mom and grandma use them over the years that the older ones seem the most durable. My grandma has been using a 1920's manual foot pedal model for over 70 years, and it works perfectly.
I think so too. I know a older woman who still sews on her mother's 1930's Singer Featherweight. She also has a even older treadle machine from the turn of the last century. It still is in excellent working shape.

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Don't decent sewing machines cost $2500, or $3500 with a serger now?
Quote:
Originally Posted by CliftonGK1 View Post
Heck no! For that kind of money you can pick up a Juki or a Con-Sew 36" table industrial machine with a 1/2hp under-table motor. Or a really nice sailmaking machine that can stitch 20 layers of denim. That amount is what you're looking at for an introductory model computer controlled embroidery machine, or an upper mid-range overlock machine.
I find that the basic mechanical ones-either domestic or industrial sewing machines-with few frills and unnecessary features are the best buy as well as the most useful/reliable. I bought my new one a simple Kenmore (my second in 30 years) model one step up from the most basic one. The reason why I paid 20 dollars more is I wanted the ability to choose the zig zag width I want (not preselected as the basic one is), 2 types of blind hems options (regular & stretch), a couple of extra stretch stitches, and no decorative ones as I never use them.
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Old 03-31-10, 07:28 PM   #11
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I too have an old sewing machine (found on a curb) and a new one too (a gift). The new one is computerized for fancy stitch patterns. I am keeping the old one around because if the electronics fail on the new one, it will become trash, but the old one is purely mechanical, like a bike, and I can figure out how to fix it if it develops a problem. I might even make a new part for it, if needed. (I couldn't do this with an integrated circuit.) This is a big part of why I like bicycles--they offer an alternative to software/electronics which can sometimes be frustratingly problematic. Yet computers can do things that would be impossible otherwise, so I won't reject them either.

So I walk the line between new and old: something to be said for each.
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