Well, it’s done. After weeks of searching on Craigslist, an hour-long phone call with a smart stranger about a different machine that didn’t meet my needs, and a two-week delay while the seller and I waited for their unwitting exposure to COVID, I am the proud new owner of a vintage Consew 206RB-3 industrial sewing machine.
So far it’s exactly what I wanted – at least a few decades old, in good condition, built by a reputable manufacturer, and it has a clutch motor that I can turn into a booster if I want. I even like the color of the head, the table and the small hidden drawer on the left side. Connie Consew is perfect!
Definitely not portable
The internet was right – these things are heavy. According to the manual, the machine head alone weighs 25.5 kg (56 lb). The motor probably still weighs 50 to 60 pounds. There is a small wooden peg sticking out from the table that has the job of holding the head up whenever it is tilted back for maintenance or bobbin changes. I’ll admit I didn’t trust the small peg at first, but it does a great job supporting all that weight on a single contact point about an inch in diameter.
Despite everything, the nice lady I bought the machine from offered to deliver it to my house as if nothing had happened. One of the first things my husband and I did when we went to see him was try to lift the table. It didn’t happen to us. But using the magic of a shoulder cart and the physics of gravity, the saleswoman and her husband floated this thing to their trailer and back across town to my house.
A low liter
So let’s go for a walk, okay? You’ve probably seen a sewing machine before, but there are some obvious differences from an industrial machine. The most important is lubrication. While the average homeowner’s instruction manual will tell you to put a single drop of lily white sewing machine oil in the bobbin area once every two months, even with heavy use, a machine industrial machinery must be oiled frequently and in dozens of places. . On top of that, there’s a small reservoir in the underside that holds about an ounce of oil. This machine has an oil pan, but it’s not meant to be filled with oil – it’s just where the oil collects and drains from the grease points. However, some machines have a pump and fill line in their oil pans.
For the record, this machine did not work the first time when I went to check it. The engine ran fine, but the steering wheel didn’t move at all and the pedal didn’t do anything. I suggested adding oil. After putting oil in all the ports, she started to move again. Apparently he had been sitting for a while. That’s okay, because it means I get intimately familiar with it when I clean and re-oil it.
This foot is made for walking
This is a compound foot machine. Let’s break this down. “Walking foot” means that the foot – the varied and interchangeable part that holds the fabric up to the bed – has a set of feed dogs that help push the fabric along the top side at the same time as the feed regular. dogs feed the fabric from below. The “compound” part refers to the small piece in the middle, which goes up and down along with the needle and also feeds the fabric forward.
Here is a great visual explanation differences between drip feed, walking foot and compound walking foot machines. Compound foot machines are ideal for my needs in that they give an even stitch through several thick layers of fabric, which is what I need for sewing vinyl, canvas and leather. As I said in the first article, industrial machines are purpose built. This one is meant for heavy duty use and it has spent many years doing upholstery work. He even made a motorcycle seat!
This engine well
The motor of a standard household sewing machine is quite small – about the size of a fist. Even the motor in my “heavy duty” Singer 4452, which is supposed to have 50% more power than a regular household motor, is pretty darn small compared to Connie Consew’s motor. It is a 1/2 horsepower clutch motor. The manual I have is for a 206RB-4, and I really don’t know what the differences between the 206RB-3 and the -4 are, although I suspect they are slight. According to the manual, it will do 3300 stitches per minute! Watch how fast it goes:
Because it is a clutch motor, it runs continuously when powered, even when not sewing. It’s quite loud too, although not as loud as I expected. Still, I’ll have fun replacing it with a servo that’s much quieter and easier to adjust the speed. It’ll miss those cool controller buttons, though. Maybe I can reuse the engine for something else, like a kart. Just need an inverter.
For a few dollars more
Although I really like this machine as it is, there are a few improvements I would like to make. Many of them go in the direction of what [Eric Strebel] did to his industrial Pfaff – move the pedal further to the right, replace the clutch motor with a booster, and augment the built-in light with something containing many small LEDs.
I will try to replace the knee lifter pad, which raises the presser foot from its normally lowered position. While there’s nothing wrong with that, the exterior is all cracked and flaky. I have already reviewed it, and it looks like I will have to buy the full set of the knee brace. I might make a little shower cap style cover instead. I also think I would love to have a chain link belt because they look cool, although it might not be a good idea. I’ll have to check with my local sewing machine store and see what they think.
Now that I got this baby, I can do better bags and backpacks with less hassle and at higher speeds. I might even start making leather stuff. I plan to start my sewing adventure with Connie Consew by working on a half-finished upholstery bag that the Singer 4452 couldn’t handle. But first, I’m going to give it a tune-up, making sure it has plenty of oil.