Industrial Sewing Machine Buying Guide
Are you on the lookout for a good industrial sewing machine? You have come to the right place.
This article would go over all the different things you need to look for in order to get the best deal on a good industrial sewing machine.
Industrial sewing machines are also called professional or commercial machines. All the same thing.
Let’s start by clarifying what we mean when we talk about industrial sewing machines.
We are basically talking about a sewing machine which is meant for professional use. Other types of models are for home use only. So we are looking at machines which are built for being used all around the clock. This also means they are more expensive and they are often bigger and more durable.
What to look for in a good industrial sewing machine
In a second we will take a closer look at what you should look for in a good industrial sewing machine.
But first, let’s start by talking about whether you need a professional machine or whether you should just go with a solid high-end model for home use.
Do I need a professional sewing machine?
Some of the top models for home use are really good. Like REALLY good. So the answer depends on how much you going to use the machine.
If you’re mostly looking for nice features like a lot of stitches, you should definitely just stick with a home sewing machine. Some of the top models today are packed with features and you will find thousands of creative stitches to choose from.
So unless you’re going to do a lot of sewing every day, you are not going to be more happy with the professional sewing machine.
If you’re going to use it every day (as your day job) you should get a professional machine.
Now let’s take a look at some of the differences between an industrial and home sewing machine.
The differences between industrial and domestic sewing machines?
The weight and size
How heavy is an industrial sewing machine?
Most industrial sewing machines are a lot heavier than your average home use model. They will weigh as much as 100 pounds (50 kilograms), but you can also find portable machines for industrial use, which are much lighter.
There are good reasons why the industrial sewing machines are so heavy general. They are not made to be portable. They are designed to be mounted on a table permanently and stay there for many years. So this is not the typical machine you will bring to class or take to your neighbors’ house once in a while.
They are also a lot bigger.
They can be double the size of your home sewing machine. This is normally because the free arm is longer in order to do bigger projects and be able to have more space (fabric) to the other side of the needle.
So you will have to dedicate a room entirely to the sewing machine unless you get one of the more lightweight and portable models, which also exists.
How it’s constructed
Your home sewing machine is made in one piece. Your industrial machine, on the other hand, is made up of three parts:
- The head
- The motor
- The table
This is important to know before you go out shopping for an industrial sewing machine. Make sure the price quote you get includes all three parts.
The great thing about this is that you can change each part separately. Maybe you want to upgrade your old clutch motor to a servo motor (as we will look at below) or maybe you want a bigger table. Then you just detach that part of the machine and get a new one.
The foot pedal is also different on the industrial models. You can do more things with your foot and it is made this way to save you time. These are operations you can do with your feet:
- Trimming the thread
- Lifting the foot (we’re talking about the metal thing below the needle here!)
- Running the machine (just like on your home machine)
The machine will often be threaded when you get it. If you’re getting a used model just ask the seller to thread the machine before he or she ships it to you.
How the different channels for the thread are set up varies a lot so you will have to check the manual here.
The bobbin, however, is typically threaded the same way as the home sewing machine. But sometimes it will be mounted outside the machine. This depends on the type of machine you’re working with. But normally, you won’t have any trouble with threading the bobbin on your industrial machine.
Here are two other little differences around the needle area:
- The industrial models will often have you inserting the thread (through the eye of the needle) from the left to the right.
On your home sewing machine, you always do it from the front toward the back.
- You will also notice that the needles are a little different.
On your home sewing machine, the needle will be flat on one side of the shaft (the top of the needle). But on industrial models, the needles are completely round.
Another difference between home sewing machine and models for industrial use is the motor.
The motor is bigger and stronger so you will be able to sew at higher speeds. This is because the industrial models are designed to go on and on (day in and day out). When you’re sitting in front of the machine every day you will become very good at sewing, and you will also be able to sew much faster.
If you’re working with a clutch motor on your machine you will not be able to go as slow as a home sewing machine. To do so you will need a model with a servo motor, as we will talk more about later in this article.
If you want to stick to your old clutch motor, you can get a speed reducer installed. It will let you sew at a much slower pace and help you get the perfect stitch every time. They may require another belt.
Dangers of industrial sewing machines
You want to keep your industrial machine away from children.
Because the motor is mounted outside the machine you might get hurt if you don’t know what you are doing.
Should also remember that the engine is much stronger. It can go faster and create a greater pull on the fabric. So be careful as you’re feet the fabric into the machine, and watch the needle carefully the first times you operate it.
Here are some safety tips for your industrial sewing machine:
- Make sure to turn it off when you are done. Remove the cord when you’re not using it for a longer period of time.
- It’s important to keep your work area clean and free of fabric scraps and loose items. We don’t want anything laying around our machine which could cause it damage.
- It’s also a good idea to make sure you are not wearing any loose clothes or neckties around the sewing machine. We don’t want the needle to be able to grab your clothes.
- Always keep children and other people away from the machine while you’re operating it.
Remember to always check the manual before you started using your machine. It might have special settings you need to be aware off in order to operate it properly.
Cleaning & Maintenance with industrial machines
You want to clean the machine regularly just as you would with your home sewing machine.
Make sure to remove all the lint and thread clippings and check the bobbin case often. Take out the bobbin from the bobbin case and remove all lint with the brush that came with the machine.
Make sure to not remove the grease that may be there for reason. Remove only the dirt and lint.
Another thing to be aware off is how often to oil your machine.
This is something that often works differently within industrial models compared to the home use models. On many home use models, you won’t even have to oil it (And you may have learned so the hard way!). This is typically not the way to do it with industrial models.
You will often need to oil your industrial machine twice a week or at least much more frequently than your home sewing machine. Because it runs all the time it needs more attention and care.
Make sure to check your manual before you start applying oil anywhere. If you cannot find it you should consult a repair shop which specializes in your specific brand. It’s really important because if you over over-oil it or start applying oil in the wrong spots, you can easily end up damaging your machine.
You should also remember to always finish by placing your dustcover over the machine. By doing so we make sure that all the tiny dust particles in the air do not enter the vital parts of the machine.
We have written an extensive guide on how to clean your machine. Check this guide as most of it will also apply to your industrial machine.
Advantages of industrial sewing machines
There are a lot of benefits from using a professional sewing machine but they are can also be disadvantages.
Let’s start by listing the most common advantages.
- They are more durable
If you going to sell for many hours each day it will last a lot longer. Sewing machines which are built for home use only will not last for many years if you use them on an everyday basis.
This will save your money in the long run. Not only because they will last longer but also because they won’t break as often.
Industrial sewing machines are often set up to do one task only, or a very limited set of tasks. This is a great thing when you are sewing the same type of project over and over again.
This is also one of the main reasons you don’t want an industrial sewing machine for home use. For home use, we want our machine to be able to do as many different tasks as possible.
Industrial sewing machines have much stronger engines which enable them to run faster. As mentioned above, these machines can be customized in every way so it’s great to have the option to turn up to speed. Especially if you are working with very long pieces of fabric. Some industrial models will sew as fast as 5,000 rpm (or more!).
- Permanent set up
Industrial sewing machines are built into the table, which means you will have a better work area. This is great when you’re working with it every day as you won’t have to pull it in and out of a cabinet. You just sit down and switch it on and you’re ready to go!
- Longer free arm (sometimes)
You will often have a long free arm with the industrial models. This enables you to have more fabric passing by on the right side of the needle. When you combine the free arm with big extension table, you get a very nice setup.
- Easy to use
Because the setup is very limited they are also very easy-to-use. You won’t find a ton of features and different stitches to choose from so you can’t really do anything wrong.
- Automatic features
If you are used to sewing with mechanical models you will probably love the automatic features on the industrial models. They will often trim the thread automatically as well as automatic backtaking etc. You will also find these features in most computerized models today. So this shouldn’t be the reason why you choose an industrial model.
- Strong motors
The last feature we will mention here is the ability to start and stop instantly. This is possible due to the strong and unique motors on these great machines.
Disadvantages with industrial sewing machines
Some of the advantages can also be disadvantages when we look at them from another perspective. So we will mention some of the same things as above.
But there are also some major and unique disadvantages with industrial sewing machines, as we put look at here.
The main disadvantages are:
- A very limited set of features
You will only have a very limited set of features. Many industrial models will only be able to do a straight stitch for example. This is because the industrial models are made for doing repetitive tasks over and over again. You will probably not be able to insert a wide variety of different needles either.
This is the main reason why most home and hobby seamstresses should stay away from industrial machines.
- Very heavy and hard to move
As mentioned above, the industrial machines can often way up to 100 pounds (50 kilograms). So you won’t be able to move them around or put them inside the cabinet when you are having guests over for dinner. Many models will have the motor mounted separately, which means it will not be inside the machine. They are designed to stay in the same place for many years.
- More noise
Because these machines are built to be more durable and last longer, they are also equipped with a bigger motor. This means more sewing speed but it also results in more noise coming from the machine. Some people will have their industrial machine soundproofed but it will not remove the low-end buzz coming from the engine. You can sometimes reduce the noise by placing it on a rubber mat.
You can also get a model with a servo motor, which is much more silent than the standard clutch motors.
- No free arm
Many times the sewing machine will be level with the table it’s mounted on. This also means you won’t have the free arm. So you won’t be able to sew a tube of fabric, like when you are doing a hem on the pair of pants.
For this reason alone you cannot use an industrial model for all your sewing projects. You will also need to have a home model.
- Threading is hard
Your standard home sewing machine will have an automatic threading system if it isn’t too old. This is not the case with your industrial model. It’s harder to thread and you will probably learn to do so from a professional if you cannot find the manual.
What can industrial machines be used for?
As you can imagine, there are a lot of different industrial sewing machine models on the market. Just as we have a wide range of different models for home use. But when we are talking about industrial models we will often be referring to sewing machines that are mounted on a table.
First off you need to know that the industrial machines often have the motor mounted outside the machine. This typically means that they have to a stronger motor.
Because of this many people think that the industrial machines are only made for heavy duty work. This isn’t true.
You will find industrial models which are made for underwear and dresses, just as you will find machines made for heavy duty denim and leather.
Different types of industrial machines
We have a wide variety of different types of industrial machines just as we know from the home sewing machines. Here you can read more about the differences between basic sewing machine types.
You will also find specific industrial machines for quilting and embroidery as well as sergers and lockstitch-machines etc.
They are also are the differences between the different industrial machines.
Heavy Duty vs. thin fabric
The machine can be set up to work with heavy fabric or thin fabric. As we mentioned above, the industrial machines are almost always set up for very specific tasks only.
So before you start sewing you want to make sure it’s set up properly for the type of fabric you are going to work on.
Servo motor vs. Clutch motors
Old industrial models will always have a clutch motor. It will be noisy and sound like your home sewing machine, just louder.
Newer models are built around the servo motors which are a lot quieter. They can be completely silent, and sometimes even more so than your home sewing machine.
You can also choose to upgrade older industrial sewing machines from the clutch motor to a servo motor. Remember, that the motor is mounted outside the machine itself, so changing the motor is actually quite easy to do.
But it’s a lot cheaper to get a model for the servo motor from the start. You will probably not save money from buying a cheap industrial model and upgrade the motor.
The servo motors are great because they are strong and energy-efficient.
The reason why they are often more energy-efficient will be found in the way they are built. The clutch motor will need to be running at all times, while the servo motor can be turned on and off as you start and stop sewing.
So as you can imagine, you will get a much quieter workplace with the servo motor. Not only because it is quieter but also because it doesn’t run all the time.
You will also be able to sew at a much slower speed with the servo motor. That’s great when you need to do finer details or work with visible seams.
Some models will have a very long arm in order to work with large pieces of fabric.
On your home sewing machine, this is typically great when you’re working with quilting and embroidery stitches. In order to be able to move the fabric around easily, you want that extra space around the throat. The same goes for your industrial model.
These are also great when working with extra heavy weight fabric such as canvas, vinyl, leather, and other coated materials. When you are sewing several pieces of thick fabric together it’s not easy to bend or move the fabric around, so you will need that extra space.
Professional sewing machine brands
What are the most reliable professional sewing machines? You will find a whole set of new brains whenever you switch from home machines to professional machines. So forget everything you learned about the most trusted brands for home use.
Here are some of the reliable brands for industrial sewing machines:
Alternatives to buying an industrial sewing machine
Industrial models used to be very expensive. It would often have to pay up to around $5,000. Today the prices have dropped a lot. The market for these machines has become much more competitive so the prices have been driven down.
You can get a very good model from Juki for around $1,300 and you can definitely also find cheaper models. That being said, you often have to pay a little more for all the equipment that goes along. To get a decent setup you will need a table as well etc.
So many times it can make sense to look at other ways to get your hands on a professional sewing machine.
Should I get a used model?
If you are looking at vintage models you should be aware of the disadvantages of getting a too old industrial model.
When you are working professionally with your machine you should always go for a computerized model. If you feel like this sound scary and you are not tech-savvy enough, you just have to get over it. Everyone can learn to use a computerized model and if you’re going to use the machine professionally you definitely need to learn this.
So you should stay away from very old industrial sewing machines just for the fact, that they need to be computerized to some extent.
That being said, there are plenty of good used industrial machines you can find at a much better price.
It’s always a good idea to buy models that are only a few years old. Just like buying a car; you don’t want to buy it straight from the assembly line, but on the other hand, you don’t want a model that is too old either. Go for a model that is one or two years old and you will probably get the best deal.
This way you will also have a good resell price on it if you want to exchange it for another model. If you’re buying a machine which is only one or two years old and you keep it for a year or two, it won’t depreciate much. You will probably be able to get the same amount of money for it as you paid for it.
We have written an extensive guide on buying used sewing machines. Go check that out before you start looking. It’s packed with good tips that will help you get the best deal on your next machine!
Should I rent one instead?
At some stores, you will also be able to rent an industrial model.
This could be a great option if you don’t know if this is exactly what you want. It’s great to be able to bring it back to the store if you don’t like it after a while.
You will find several businesses built solely around renting out industrial sewing machines. Here are some prices we found online:
- Industrial Overlockers (Sergers)
$75 per month or $300 for 4 months lease
- Walking Foot Machines
$75 per month or $300 for 4 months lease
- Double Needle Walking Foot Machines
$110 per month or $440 for 4 months lease
- Double Needle Sewing Machines
$65 per month or $260 for 4 months lease
- Zig Zag Machines
$75 per month or 225 for 3 months lease
- Blind Hem or Blindstitch Machines
$60 per month or $260 for 4 months lease
- Single Needle Machines
$35 per month or $300 for 4 months lease
It’s also a great way to get started without having high costs at the beginning.
Especially if you are starting your own clothing repair business because you will probably need to use the money for rent and other expenses in the beginning.