Simple improvements make an old industrial sewing machine new again

Well that’s a pleasant surprise: it looks like the industrial designer [Eric Strebel] recently got their hands on an industrial sewing machine to tackle the softer side of prototyping. What doesn’t surprise us is that it made a few updates to make it more user-friendly. Check them out in the embedded video below.

So what’s the difference between a machine like this and what you might have at home? Household sewing machines have a motor the size of your fist, and it sits inside the body of the machine. Modern servants can do light work, but they can’t handle making bags and upholstery or sewing a bunch of layers of any material together. Industrial machines have clutch motors or servo motors which are easily five times the size of a domestic motor, and are integrated into the table with the machine.

[Eric] found this Pfaff 463 on Craigslist. It was built somewhere around 1950, and it only does one thing – a single needle, a straight stitch, forward or backward – but it will do it through anything you want (unlike those pieces of computerized plastics manufactured for household use nowadays). Again, these machines are always built into a table and come with a lamp. While the machine itself can be a workaholic, the light is dim, so [Eric] replaced it with a gooseneck LED light that has a magnet to stick it wherever light is needed around the machine.

Regardless of their size, electric sewing machines are driven by a foot pedal. On a servant, the pedal is loose and you just put it on the floor wherever you want, but the industrial pedals are built into the table frame. [Eric] Drilled a bunch of new holes in the side of the pedal so that it could bring the connecting rod closer to the pivot point. This gives it better control with less footwork.

Biggest and Worst Upgrade [Eric] did was to the engine. While there is nothing wrong with the stock clutch motor, it does keep the machine going really fast so that textile workers can meet their quotas. For this reason, it is difficult to control. It switched to a brushless DC servo motor for higher accuracy and easier prototyping. He was also very lucky, as he rode straight into the old holes.

We fully agree with [Eric]the feeling of old sewing machines, or any old machine for that matter. They tend to be oversized because planned obsolescence wasn’t a thing yet. If you can’t afford or find an industrialist, an old singer or something similar will probably serve you well, as long as you use the right needle.

If you already own an old home machine, you might be able to breathe new life into it with a 3D printer.


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