10 August 2015

Drinking The Koolaid & Joining The Sailrite Cult | Sewing Machine Review

You always read horror stories about people who join cults.  

They become enraptured by the teachings of some charismatic guy, who usually has an unkempt beard down to his waist, flowers in his hair and a Mercedes parked in the driveway. His eyes pierce into the depths of their souls and they believe whatever he has to say without question. Then, before you know it, they've sold all of their worldly goods and turned over their bank accounts to their new guru. They've drunk the Koolaid, so to speak. 

When we first started thinking about getting a portable, industrial sewing machine for boat projects, I did some initial research and the one name that came up time and time again was Sailrite. The reviews were glowing, people raved about their machines and how much money they've saved using them and I was strongly encouraged to fork over hundreds and hundreds of dollars and embrace Sailrite ownership.

It was starting to feel a little bit like all the Sailrite owners had been drinking way too much Koolaid. 

I couldn't find anyone who would say a bad word about Sailrites. Had there been some brainwashing going on? Surely these were rational folks who wouldn't mindlessly fork over $700 plus for a sewing machine

Oh, wait, these are boat owners that we're talking about. I'm not sure anyone sane buys a boat unless sanity is defined as spending all of your time and money constantly fixing things and buying new stuff for it. Expensive stuff I might add. Like a sewing machine.

I was starting to get sorely tempted to buy one of those shiny, blue machines. After all, the promise of having my life transformed by things made out of Sunbrella fabric was intoxicating. But I put my credit card away and decided to do some more research before drinking much more of the Koolaid and joining the Sailrite cult. 

I actually didn't find it all that easy to find a ready comparison of Sailrite and other "look alike" machines.

Maybe you've had the same problem too. I thought I would share what I found out in the off chance that it might be helpful to anyone else out there thinking of investing in an industrial sewing machine. For the rest of you, you might want to tune out and read something more entertaining - like the time I sent someone porn accidentally when I was researching sewing machines. So utterly embarrassing

We were in the market for a portable, industrial sewing machine with a walking foot that could do zig-zag.

One of the things I realized early on was that you really need to be clear what kind of machine you're looking for. Otherwise, the choices are just too overwhelming and you'll end up buying a toaster instead. These were the things that were important to us:

1 - Zig-Zag Stitch

Some machines just do straight stitch. But if you're thinking about sailmaking or sail repair at some point, then zig-zag is an important feature. Plus it's handy to keep certain types of fabric from fraying.

2 - Industrial Machine

We wanted something that had the oomph to sew through multiple layers of heavy fabric so that we could tackle serious canvas work. You can do a lot of boat projects on a home sewing machine (and they're a lot cheaper), but they don't always have the power to tackle the kind of sewing projects that we have on our list.

3 - Walking Foot

I actually didn't have a clue what a walking foot was, but everyone told me that this was a must-have feature. Turns out they were right. The presser foot works with a feed dog underneath to pull material through the machine. When you're working with multiple layers of fabric, especially heavy materials, if you don't have a walking foot, the bottom layers can slip. And then your stitching looks horrible and in your frustration you end up eating way too many chocolate chip cookies.

4 - Portability

There are other industrial machines out there, but they're heavy and some have motors which attach under the table. Once they're set up, they're not really designed to be moved about easily. Because we live on our boat, we needed a machine that was portable which we can bring out when we need it and put it away when we're done. 

So with those features in mind, we checked out Sailrite and some other comparable machines. 

So here's the scoop on what I found out. I'm sure I'll have some things wrong and have missed out on key points, so please let me know if there are any additions or corrections I should make so that other folks looking to buy a sewing machine can benefit. It would be especially useful to hear from folks that own machines other than Sailrites. Also, please note that all prices are in USD and were as of August 2015. If you look around, you might be able to find better deals.

Let's start with the Sailrite Ultrafeed LSZ-1. We drank the Koolaid and ended up getting one of these.

  • Sailrite sells two Ultrafeed machines - the LS-1 (the red machine) which is a straight stitch only machine and the LSZ-1 (the blue machine) which also does zig-zag.
  • You can buy the Ultrafeed LSZ-1 direct from Sailrite. They're based out of Indiana, USA.
  • We paid $699 for a Basic Package (plus shipping). There are two other more expensive packages you can get, both of which include a carrying case (which you can buy separately for $159). Please note that the details below of what's included only relate to the Basic Package.
  • Used machines don't seem to come up very often and when they do, they get snapped up right away. Apparently, Ultrafeeds go on sale in October at the time of the Annapolis Boat Show. I'm not sure what kind of discount you can get, but if you're not in a hurry, it might be worth waiting until then to buy one. 
  • Wooden base included (larger than the one that comes with the carrying case).  
  • Comes with foot control, thread stand, bobbins, needles, sewing machine oil, tool kit, manual and instructional DVD. 
  • Machine has an EZ set stitch length plate (new feature that comes standard with all 2015 models), Posi-Pin clutch system and a Power Plus balance wheel. I think Sailrite would say that these are features that differentiate them from look alike models.
  • The presser foot has an integrated welting tunnel for making piping and the needle position can be adjusted for sewing zippers. No extra feet required.   
  • Weight - 48.6 lbs / 22 kgs (including wooden base)
  • Machines are individually tested - Sailrite includes samples that they've tested on your machine.
  • 2 year warranty
  • Sailrite's website has lots of instructional and project videos. They also have a DIY Advice blog. 
  • If you need another copy of manual, you'll have to buy one for $19.95.
  • Have a strong reputation for customer service and support.  
  • Sailrite claims that they've improved the casting of the machine and make the components from a higher grade of metal than you'll find in look alike machines.
  • You can read a review of the Ultrafeed LSZ-1 from Wooden Boat and Sailrite has a video explaining why they believe their machines are superior to look alikes. You can read more about the history of Sailrite here.        

For $100 less, we could have gotten a Reliable Barracuda. 
  •  You can buy a Reliable Barracuda 2000U-33 for $599 from Defender or direct from Reliable (based out of Toronto, Canada). If you're going to buy a Barracuda, check out shipping costs - Reliable offers free shipping to Canada and the continental US. Defender will charge you.
  • I've seen "scratch and dent" machines for $499 on Defender.
  • Extension table and handle included. The handle attaches to the top of the machine and it looks like the extension table slots around the front of the machine. You can buy a carrying case separately for $179.
  • Comes with foot control, thread stand, bobbins, needles, screwdriver and manual.
  • Weight - 42 lbs / 19 kgs (I believe this includes the extension table)  
  • Machines are individually tested.
  • 3 year warranty - they claim that this is the best in the business and that appears to be the case.
  • Defender's website has four instructional videos.
  • You can download a free copy of the manual from Defender

It was a toss-up between the Reliable Barracuda and the Sailrite LSZ-1.

Despite everyone raving about Sailrites, the idea of saving $100 on a comparable sewing machine was something to seriously consider. In the end, we leaned towards Sailrite for three reasons:

1 - Resale Value

Everyone knows about Sailrites and folks are always looking for used machines. If we ever want to sell ours on, we figured we would get better resale value from selling a Sailrite LSZ-1 than a Reliable Barracuda. I can't say for sure that this would be the case, but my hunch is more people know about Sailrite than Reliable.

2 - Additional Features

The 2015 Sailrite LSZ-1 model comes with the EZ set stitch length plate which allows you to switch between forward and reverse more readily and lock in your desired stitch length. The Reliable Barracuda comes with the older stitch adjustment control (which looks to be the same as found on earlier Sailrites). 

Plus, you get a little bit more stuff with a Sailrite machine - a more complete tool kit, sewing machine oil and a DVD.

By the way, I'm not sure how the other two features that Sailrite flag up, the Posi-Pin clutching system and Power Plus balance wheel, compare to the systems used in the Reliable Barracuda. If anyone has any insight into this, can you let me know? 

Is the EZ set stitch length plate and the extra stuff worth an extra $100? Probably not. But that brings us to our last reason for going with a Sailrite. 

3 - Customer Service & Support

You can't put a dollar value on customer service and support, but if you have any problems with your machine, then you want to know that the folks that sold it to you will be there to help you out. Everyone talks glowingly about Sailrite's after-purchase service and support. And, I have to be honest, this kind of swayed me.

Both companies have decent warranties (2 years for Sailrite and 3 years for Reliable) and are based in North America, but Reliable makes lots of other products other than sewing machines (like irons and steam cleaners). I'm not sure that they have the same focus on support for DIY sewers that Sailrite has. I could be wrong - please tell me if you've experienced something different.

I've only had one experience so far with Sailrite when something went wrong. When I got my machine, one of the set screws that attaches the machine to the base wasn't included. I contacted them, they responded quickly and they got another one out to me in a couple of days. Of course, I would have much rather preferred that the set screw hadn't been missing.

(By the way, if you order a Sailrite, some assembly is required. It never occurred to me that this would be the case. It was all really simple and the directions were clear. But if you think you're going to whip it out of the box and start sewing right away, be prepared to attach and screw in a few things first.)

Of course, while the customer support and service is just for folks who buy Sailrite machines and other Sailrite products, the instructional/project videos are something everyone can access and would be a handy resource no matter what machine you end up getting. And from what I understand, the parts between the Sailrite LSZ-1 and the Reliable Barracuda are interchangeable, so if you want to upgrade your Barracuda or get accessories, you could go through Sailrite.

But before we drank the rest of our Sailrite Koolaid, we also looked at cheaper look-alikes.

Supposedly, many of the portable, industrial sewing machines with walking feet are all fashioned from the same base machine originally made by Thompson. Sailrite claims to have made patented enhancements and changes to the base machine, which are reflected in their price tag. I'm not sure how Reliable compares in terms of comparable enhancements and changes given the fact that the Barracuda is one of the more expensive look alike machines.

However, if you're looking to save some money, then you might want to check out some of these other alternatives to Sailrite and Reliable. I know people always say that you'll get your money back that you spent on a Sailrite in no time if you do a few projects. But you would get your money back even faster if you bought a cheaper machine.

We gave serious consideration to buying one of these - especially given the significant cost savings. In the end, we ruled them out because I suspect we drank a little too much Koolaid.

1 - Rex 607Z
  • Sold by Sewman and the Sewing Machine Outlet for $375.
  • I think these are made in China.
  • Looks similar to the Reliable Barracuda, but without the extension table.
  • Review on You Tube where you can see the Rex 607Z in action. 
  • Comes with foot control, thread stand, bobbins, needles and manual.
  • I didn't see any warranty information on Sewman's or the Sewing Machine Outlet's websites. Sewman tells you to email if you want to know more about the machine. I couldn't be bothered.

2 -   Consew CP146R
  • Sold by Sewman and National Sew for $460.
  • Built in China by Yamata.
  • Looks similar to the Reliable Barracuda, but without the extension table.
  • Has a handle on top of the machine.
  • Comes with foot control, bobbins, needles, screwdriver and manual. 
  • 1 year factory warranty.

3 - Tuffsew Zigzag
  • Sold by Tuffsew for $499.
  • Tuffsew is based in California, think the machines are made in China.
  • Looks similar to the Reliable Barracuda, but without the extension table.
  • Comes with foot control, bobbins, needles, sewing machine oil, two screwdrivers, seam-ripper, accessory box and two extra feet (zipper/cording and hem).
  • Each machine is tuned before shipped.
  • 90 day commercial labor and 1 year parts warranty

So there you go, a long-winded account of the research I did and the sewing machine options we looked at before we to joined the Sailrite cult! Hopefully, it is of some help to folks out there.

Do you own one of these machines - if so, what's been your experience? Are you thinking about getting a sewing machine for boat projects - if so, what machine are you thinking of getting? And, more importantly, what should we name our sewing machine?

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  1. Brilliant research here, they should pay you. I loved your first paragraph. Boating is not my friend, I get dreadfully seasick, airsick and car sick :(. Have a great week, Rae x

    1. They should pay me! Let's hope they read this and decide to give me all sorts of free stuff :-)

      Too bad about your motion sickness - that's a real shame!

  2. I have a friend that has a Janome HD3000 Heavy Duty Mechanical Sewing Machine. It seems to do a wonderful job and has held up well. It was easy to use the few times I sewed on it. It's the one I've thought about getting. It runs about $400 on Amazon. Did you do any reading on that one? One of our isinglass needed mending the other day and the sailor next to us had your machine...she is definitely part of the Sailrite cult! It's a great machine.

    1. I think I looked at the Janome that you're talking about and it does sew through heavy material well. But from what I remember, it didn't have a walking foot and you can't put a monster balance wheel on it so that you can sew without electricity. But I could have it all wrong - I looked at quite a few sewing machines and they all kind of ran together after a while.

    2. The Janome HD3000 is a terrible machine for heavy duty fabric, it doesn't have enough power to push through any material thicker than 1 layer of denim. Any of the cheap Chinese walking foot machines are far superior.

    3. Thanks for sharing your feedback on the Janome. I'm not sure where I read that it sews thru heavy material well. It's really useful to hear from someone that's used one that it doesn't actually perform all that great.

    4. Not sure about the info on the HD3000 either. I have a Janome 8077, which I believe is the "digital" version of the HD3000 and it will certainly sew through multiple layers of denim as well as many layers of Recacaril (similar to Sunbrella) at once. Only real issue I've had with the Janome is that it is not a walking foot so feeding heavy materials can sometimes be a problem. I have since bought a walking foot attachment but have not used it on a heavy project yet.

    5. Can you explain how they handle the walking foot? For the foot (presser foot) to go forward to stabilize the material, it would seem that it would need a complete front-end overhaul? Am I wrong? Is there a video of this machine somewhere? (I'm just looking at machines for someone else - I have the Sailrite LSZ-1 and wouldn't trade it, except for an industrial Consew long arm ;->). What a fun site!

  3. Welcome to the cult. We are on our second Sailrite machine. We bought the first one used and wore it out. Our second one is still in the box. We are hoping to unpack it next week while anchored in a Chesapeake Bay cove and make some boat covers and canvas sides to our bimini,

    You may find this amusing: http://www.creampuff.us/2014/10/sailrite-ultrafeed/

    Hope you guys are doing great.

    Mark and Cindy
    s/v Cream Puff

    1. ps - We like your new blog theme. It is nice and clean and easy to read.

    2. Two Sailrites - wow, you guys are true cult members! I love the picture of Mark hugging the Sailrite in your blog post - very cute. Post pictures of the new things you make. Glad you guys like the new blog theme.

    3. Unfortunately my membership all application to the cult has been refused on the grounds of living in the wrong country.
      It seems to be quite an elitist cult.

  4. Mmmm, Koolaid. Delicious AND refreshing.

    I still love my machine. Getting braver - doing larger projects. Only been using it for a year. As soon as our new hard top gets here in the next week or so, I get to start on an enclosure! Weeeeee! (I'm a bit terrified. Maybe I need another glass of Koolaid.)

    Feel free to poke around on the blog - I have pics of most of the big projects I've done over the last year - including indoor cushions/covers, outdoor cushions/covers, genoa sacrificial replacement, lazyjacks bag...

    Great, detailed post. Keep up the good work!

    1. I just checked out your projects - you've done some amazing work! Keep drinking the Koolaid :-)

  5. Before we started blogging I bought Mike one of those lookalike Reliables. At that point Sailrite was the only game in town but I just couldn't cough up the dough; mostly because I want my sewing days to be over. After using the machine, I wanted those days to be over even more. Mike could figure it out, but I am spoiled by having sewing machines that I can just sit down and use without forever tinkering with stuff. It sat in our closet for a year or two collecting dust. Then we sold it for probably half of what I paid for it. should have drunk the Koolaid, I guess, except, wait, I want my sewing days to be behind me pretty much at this point. Good luck with yours! Looking forward to seeing how easy you think it is to use.

    1. Funny, I was just talking with someone about whether it was easy to use the Sailrite. I've found it really straightforward, no real fiddling required except adjusting the tension for different fabrics, which I think you have to do anyways on a home machine. The big problem is user error. I'm still working on sewing in straight lines and my seam ripper has been my best friend :-) I've only done a few projects, but so far, so good.

  6. I did a lot of the same research and then picked up the cup of grape Kool Aid as well. 1. They do have great support, 2. I could easily sell it once done with my major project list. 3. (I bought the big package) The 7lb fly wheel lets me sew by hand with no electricity. Long term boat usage that could come in handy.

    1. Sean - thanks for the info on the monster wheel. I definitely want to get one but am keeping an eye out to see if they go on sale.

  7. Drank the Koolaid. Have the Tshirt to prove it (and the dodger and the Bimini and the settee cushions and the fitted sheets and the pillows and the handy storage bags and dozens of jobs for pay...)

    SV Kintala

    1. Yay - another Koolaid drinker! You've made some amazing stuff on your Sailrite. I keep drooling over the pictures you post on SOB. I'm currently working on slipcovers which are inspired by the Vellux one you recently did.

  8. I come from a sewing background and already have 2 machines (for home, fashion and quilting) and a serger, so I couldn't justify dropping the $$$ on a Sailrite. Got a Necchi HD22 for half the price and loaded with accessories. It's old school, but once you understand the bobbin/needle tension you can work on Sunbrella, Phifertex mesh and boat blanket fabric without a hitch. Takes a size 18 needle and V90 thread with no worries. Only 15 lbs and covers all basic stitches. Love it!

    1. That sounds like a really smart move! Happy sewing!

  9. WTF! If been drinking koolaid for 4 years now, plus a whole lotta other stuff, but still no sailrite. They cost twice the price, yes twice, here in the EU!! And even if I wanted to, the "capital control" thang going on in Greece prohibits exporting money at all (like I cant even buy a book off Amazon or an app for my dumb phone!).
    Soooooo after a few (lots) bottles of whatever I found laying around, I forked over 100 clams and bought a 1970 Imperial. (https://sailingzootallures.wordpress.com/2014/01/16/holiday-gifts-and-toys-for-sailors/). But my koolaid hangover has me sewing away (winch covers plus some other stuff) with sairites' youtube channel by my side. Those guys are awesome!!!!
    I bow in your general direction and cant wait to "seeusew"!

    1. Twice the price - that's just crazy!! Sounds like your Imperial is working out fine though. And the Sailrite videos are amazing, no matter what machine you have.

  10. I have an Ebay Sailrite Look alike... It is a consew, sans handle on the top. I have used it for a 12 years of so with not issues. (it was $285 new) The good news is that the Sailrite Monster fly Wheel and belts were a drop in replacement for the factory wheel. Also I have purchased little springs and such from sailrite that are also drop in replacements. I have repaired sails, bikinis, Sacrificial Sunbrella, make curtains for the boat, cushions and so many tote bags (my best learning pieces). I just V96 and v138 dacron and nylon threads with most size 20 and 22 needles.


    1. Thanks so much for sharing that Rick. That's really good info for people thinking of going with a Consew. Reading your comments, I kind of wish I had gone with one instead of the Sailrite. Much cheaper. Sounds like you've done a lot with your sewing machine. Do you have any pictures of your projects on a blog or anything?

    2. I know this a really old post, but like me, I found the information interesting. My comment: An FYI - the Consew name is a premium workhorse brand in the industrial sewing world. If this midget machine is as good as any of the factory machines, I wouldn't hesitate to get one in a minute.

  11. We opted for the Tuffsew Straight Stitch. We did not need a zigzag machine, so this made sense. I did A LOT of research on sailrite, reliable, consew, tuffsew, and even more real cheap machines. We picked the tuffsew because of their feedback history on eBay. They had more positive reviews than any of the other competition. I thought that was the only fair way to compare these "clones" and even "sailrite" because each company talks a big game on their own website, blog, or forum. So independent reviews seem best.

    Had the tuffsew for about 3 months now - completed one boat cover project. Honestly these machines are different than regular household machines...but once you get how the walking foot works...the machine is a dream. The max thickness i got to work is about 3/8" canvas. Keep that in mind. Anything over that is not going to be as consistent. That's still pretty thick.

    John and Em

    1. John and Em, I've been considering buying the Tuffsew Straight Stitch or the zig zag model but kept looking at reviews and a lot of people said it was junk. Then, I read your post. Totally confused as to what I need. I see more people who make sails and boat stuff on a lot of these sites but I need a machine to make leather handbags. Have you tried the TuffSew on leather? I do not plan to make this a commercial endeavor. I might make 6 or 7.....maybe 10 or 12 bags a year. Any suggestions on a machine?

  12. Thanks so much for sharing this. I think this will be a great help to others trying to decide what machine to get. Do you a blog or FB page with pictures of your boat cover project? I'm sure folks (including me) would like to take a look.

  13. We drank the Kool-aid, and I feel great! My LZ1 just paid for itself on this last project I just finished. The canvas maker makes no more money on us. We have installed solar panels on a bimini, made new cockpit cushions, replaced the salon cushions and master berth bunk, sunscreens for the cockpit, sold untold numbers of canvas grocery bags, made a "pack and play" for the settee, pillows,and the list goes on. No one beats Sailrite for customer service - they will help and answer almost any question, help you fix your machine when you do some thing stupid (yup, they were great) and their videos are superior. If that makes me part of a cult, well I will follow the lemmings willingly off the cliff. My boat looks great, the items fit perfectly and I can still afford the rest of my life. Great info. Thanks for sharing.

    1. That Koolaid is pretty tasty stuff, isn't it :-)

      Sailrite definitely has awesome customer service and their videos are amazing. It's good to have a fellow lemming along for the ride. Do you guys have a blog or FB page? Would love to follow along and see your sewing projects in action.

  14. As usual your blog is chuck full of good info. It does make me feel better that you drank the koolaid; I am considering it now.

    1. Too funny! I think you may have started in on the day drinking a little early today if you think this blog is chock full of good info :-) I got you FB message and messaged you back. Let me know what you end up doing. It's a tough decision and an expensive one.

  15. I am a one woman drapery and window treatment workroom, looking to take the load off my Bernina sewing machine by purchasing an industrial straight and zigzag machine. Sewing mostly drape panels, shades, valances, and pillows, using upholstery weight fabrics about 25% of the time, can I get an opinion on whether or not a Sailrite would be perfect, or would it be overkill?

    1. Hi Hannah - it's really hard for me to say whether going with a Sailrite would be a good idea or not. It's the only machine I've used (other than an old home sewing machine I had many years ago), do I don't really know how it compares to other machines. They certainly have a good reputation, but I've also heard good things about some of the Sailrite clones, which are a lot cheaper. Sorry I can't be of more help. Maybe there's someone near you who has a Sailrite you could try out?

  16. Well Hello. Just passing and I thought I'd chip in as, (1) I've owned a LZS1 for about 10 years and (2), I've been a professional Marine cover-maker for 20 years in the UK.
    So, some observations in the order they occur to me.
    Size. If you want a portable sewing machine to do everything, then there will be some compromises. Generally, Industrial walking foot machines are significantly bigger but the main advantages of this is that you get a lot more space under the arm of the machine, which makes sewing bigger boat covers far easier. However, these machines always come with an industrial table and motor. None of them are portable. However, the LSZ1 has eaten all I can throw at it so far, from boat covers to roping. A word of caution here - I don't think (though I've not tried) stitching through heavy patching at the tacks and clews of a sail. I think that the Sailrite might have a problem, but then, so do larger machines.

    Also, the small size can mean a problem with access for maintenance and adjustment. I'm currently wrestling with it to move the hook race eve so slightly closer to the needle, as the size 14 needle I'm using just misses the hook. I'd rather not have to do this as I'll have to adjust it back for the big canvas winter cover I'm working on, but that's that price of portability.
    It also means that with larger jobs in a heavier fabric, planning to do the awkward bits in the centre of the bunt have to be done first, and so there's a finite size to the amount of cover or sprayhood you can roll up and feed under the arm.

    Finish. The one thing that I gripe about a lot of the time with the Sailrite is the quality of the finish on some of the bits, notably the pressed metal covers for the actions at the end of the sewing arm. These may have been improved since, but on mine I found them to be all sharp metal stampings, which weren't filed off. I've since done this.

    I've also found the pozipin to jump out when I'm sewing hard, which is annoying but its an occasional annoyance. I think the moral of the tale here is not to hammer the machine to death, the way industrial machines get hammered. Frequent TLC pays dividends.

    Final thoughts? I've made my own foldable machine table, so that the machine fits flush and makes a good sturdy sewing base yet is easily transportable, useful as the Sailrite won't fit into normal industrial machine base tables. Its a light plywood and timber base, and one of these days I might actually publish the plans for it online as it really makes the sailrite a useful machine. I suppose if you are taking one with you on a long voyage, making the cabin table take the machine would also be very very useful.

    In general, the only awkward thing about the Sailrite is its like a shrunken professional Industrial one. It works fine, sews what it has to, within limits, and can be packed in a sturdy wood box, and be hand cranked if the need arises.
    So, for occasional use and home projects its fine.

    Feel free to ask me about it.

    Mac McDonald

    1. Thanks so much for popping by Mac! You've got some really useful feedback and tips that I'm sure others will really benefit from.

  17. Most if not all of the machines mentioned are exactly the same machine with different names and paint colors. Barracuda,TechSew 611 Rex 607z, Tuffsew, Consew, Omega wf22zz, Family Sew FS388z, Yamata, Thompson etc and on and on all sell the same Chinese made machine. I got my Rex 607z for 240 on Amazon a while ago. It is now 279...still 1/3 of Sailrite. Sailrite does have great service and I use them for many products, never had a bad experience except for exorbitant shipping charges. 8 dollars shipping for a pack of needles? Hello Amazon, Hello Ebay. Any part you need for your broken 'other' branded machine can be bought from Sailrite (because the machines are the same) and that equivalent LSZ part may even be an upgraded version. Sailrite owns a Taiwan factory and does upgrade the parts as problems arise. The machine is a study in basic mechanics and can be fixed by nearly anyone who is handy. The Monster wheel fits all the other machines because there is no difference. There is also less expensive version of the Monster wheel sold by Barracuda it is also available on Amazon. Download a copy of the Sailrite LSZ manual available online from some helpful soul which has all the adjustments and owner info in it you need. When you look at the Sailrite manual you can instantly tell all the other machines are identical. Anyway, I am a sailor, notoriously cheap, handy, and really can't bring myself to pay 750 more for the same thing.

    1. Thank you for the valuable lesson. This will make purchasing my next sewing machine angst free!

    2. Anyone who thinks a clone is the same machine is only fooling themselves. Hopefully others reading your post are smarter. Google ....Cognitive Bias, Post-Purchase Rationalization or Choice Supportive Bias.... Bet you have a fake Rolex as well.

    3. MarineMan -- just to make sure I understand your post: are you stating that the factory that produces Sailrite machines does NOT produce machines for other brands, using the same components?

      I don't see why ClamSteam's assertion is so hard to believe. After all, the very same bicycle factory in Taiwan that pumps out a million $300 Giant-brand bikes every year also produces tens of thousands of $3,000 Colnago-brand bikes. How many Colnago customers would be as willing to shell out that premium if they knew this? Very few, I would guess, and neither Colnago nor the factory in Taiwan would want to admit the connection.

      And "badge engineering" has long been going on in the world of cars and motorcycles, as evidenced by the fact that many parts on cheap Fords were interchangeable with expensive Lincolns.

      So I would not be surprised to learn that the same factory that produces Sailrite machines also produces other brands, using the same molds and tooling. Sailrite may specify certain features, and may require greater quality control, but that doesn't mean that other brands aren't the same, "under the hood".

  18. Needing advice on an entry level walking foot machine for making leather handbags. What are the suggestions of all you pros??? I don't want to have to take out a mortgage on my home. Mostly will be used for personal use but might sell one or two a year.

    1. Carolyn - I'm not sure what the best machine for your needs would be. I know that people who make handbags do use the Sailrite. If you're on Facebook, there is a Sailrite's Users Group which you might want to check out and see if you can get any advice from them.

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  20. I also contemplated purchasing a Sailrite clone, but the resale value sold me on the Sailrite. I kept watching eBay and Craigslist and kept my fingers crossed. Finally an unused 2016 LSZ-1 (standard model with wood base) showed up on Craigslist, 2 hours from my home (retired man became ill and died before it was ever used). Total cost was $500.00 plus it came with $60.00 worth of extra needles, bobbins, and thread.

    During the first 15 minutes of use, the feed dog broke in two pieces. After contacting Sailrite and explaining the situation, they offered the part free of charge (I paid shipping), even though their warranty isn't transferable from the original purchaser.

    I'd have to say that customer service really must factor into the price of the machine. If I ever needed another machine I'd buy a new Sailrite without hesitation.

    1. Their customer service is legendary. Everyone mentions it when they recommend Sailrite. Glad you had such a good experience.

    2. I need a little advise and thanks in advance. How easy or difficult is it to change ones thread and bobbin to make a repair or change small projects? I have a heavy duty singer 4423 and I can so quickly change over with the drop in bobbin. I guess I'm spoiled when it comes to this. I'm hoping that there is just a small learning curve and the lsz can be switched over from one thread to another. I realize that someone commented about the possible tension change from average size woven material to a heavy and multi layered canvas or duck. My little disposable singer. I say disposible because I paid under 150.00 for it and with the help of a little slow sewing and the turn of the wheel by hand, have been happy. But now...I'm very much considering the purchase of a new lsz. Please comment (anyone) on my topics and also on the topic of the specialized bigger hand crank, in case you have no power. I can see using it for many things just to help out the motor now and then for one.
      Thanks again. Rick G.

    3. I find changing the bobbin and thread to be really simple and straightforward. Seems similar to a home sewing machine to me.

      You do have to play around with the tension when you sew different fabrics and that can be a bid fiddly, but I haven't had too many problems with it.

      In terms of the monster wheel, I just used mine for the first time in the Bahamas to make some repairs to our bimini. It worked great and went through layers of sunbrella easily. So nice to be able to sew without electricity.

      Hope that helps.

  21. Just to let your readers know what is possible (and what I am draming of):
    No Koolaid, no lookalike, even no "HD". But: 2nd vintage Bernina since 2003, the first one being from the 1950s (530 Record)was getting really "old" with brittle Bakelite parts and dials, so I bought a fresh Bernina 830 dating from the mid 70s as a successor. 1. Bernina 1 still lives on a catamaran in the Pacific but is more or less retired. Bernina 2 has gotten a walking foot this year (which I should have purchased much, much earlier, big advantage!) and has just finished our huge sun awning between mizzen and main, plus one for the foreship, plus mizzen deck plus bimini. Not to talk about cockpit cushions saloon upholstery stuff, clothing. She takes V92 thread and needles slize 18/21 and even bigger - no problem, but I do no sail repair, and to push huge amounts of fabric through a household machine (that's what she is...) needs some patience. And so, from time to time, I am dreaming of a big cup of Koolaid (there was one for sale only today - very tempting).

    Thanks for the research!

    1. If you're going to drink the Koolaid, it's definitely worth waiting until there's a sale :-)

  22. After tons of research, we went with a Mini Brute Walking Foot with ZigZag. As some of the other knock-offs, it is nearly identical to the LSZ-1, and parts are mostly interchangeable. We added the bigger feed dog and the Monster Wheel from Sailrite. The reason we went with this model is that it has 2" more "throat" than the LSZ1, give you just a bit more room to do bigger projects. But... when my machine broke (I was too heavy on an adjustment screw and broke a casting) and I was waiting for a repair part, I borrowed a friend's LSZ1. Other than the throat size difference, I would opt for the LSZ1 in a heartbeat. It is a MUCH smoother sewing machine. I sewed through very heavy material for 2 weeks and never had to adjust the machine. Somehow the walking foot grips the fabric better than my machine does. Hard to give up the extra 2 inches of space, though.

    1. Thanks for the info on how the two machines compare - that's really useful to know :-)

  23. Enjoyed reading the article above, really explains everything in detail, the article is very interesting and effective.Thank you and good luck for the upcoming articles. Affordable Boat Upholstery USA
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  24. I bought a $200 straight stitch China mini walker in 2002 at way less than half of a $499 Sailrite...I'm looking at the 2002 Sailrite catalog prices as I write this. 16 yrs and quad dozens of sunbrella covers later, I've had zero machine problems and still no complaints. At that time the difference between the China machine and a Sailrite was 99% color repaint plus 1% Sailrite setup, support and accessories...cheap plastic case, thread, needles, oil.

    Does anyone complain about their old Sailrites breaking or having problems? No. Does Sailrite advertise this? No. Do you need the new and improved Sailrite to happily sew any and everything for a boat at 2x-3x cost? No. Do any of the many China mini walker critics have experience with them. No.

    If I was buying today it would be the Rex zig zag mini walker for under $400 delivered.

  25. I would have loved to get the Ultrafeed, but budgetary constraints are a real thing, and I have more of an abundance of time than money. I purchased the Rex 607Z and a Consew CSM 1100 servo motor, as well as Sairite's Power Plus Wheel. With some work on a custom bracket to mount the servo motor to the Rex (I don't have a dedicated/permanent sewing table to mount a motor to), a new cog and belt, and modifying the Rex pedal to control the CSM 1100 digital controller, I now have a machine that will crawl along as slow as 3.5 seconds *per stitch*, or zoom along as fast as I want it to, all with exquisite speed control. It will also drive the needle through literally anything that I can stuff under the foot, to include multiple layers of canvas, vinyl, webbing, leather, etc. The thing is a beast - I call it the 'T-Rex'. :-) I've had to make some additional adjustments and tunings to the Rex - it seems clear that the Ultrafeed comes in a much more ready-to-rumble state. But in the end, I am immensely satisfied with my little T-Rex, and the time-vs-money trade-off was definitely a win for me, personally. (Hats Off to Sailrite - they sell great stuff - I have several of their accessories, and they have absolutely amazing videos, etc online.)

  26. Excellent article, thank you. The only feature you don't mention is the ability to sew without electricity. I admit, having only lived aboard 2 years this is not a feature I've used. However the thought of being offshore and having to quickly repair canvas or sails while underway is comforting to me. However the monster wheel is an advantage for this scenario (I use my monster wheel constantly and like the way it makes the machine sew).

  27. And my blog, lots of sewing articles, is http://sailingEurybia.com

  28. Terrific article, with excellent comments. I keep my bottle of Kool-Aid handy whenever I have to switch from my Bernina 1020 back to the LSZ-1 - or vice-versa. Love both machines and each of them has their strong points. Wish I had room on my little cruising cat for both, or even one of them! When/if we trade up to a bigger, 40' catamaran, the LSZ-1 will go too. I'd love to buy a Consew long arm, but that really is out of my price range.


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