Sewing machine mechanics & my new machine!

Posted by Kathleen Fasanella on Oct 31, 2012 at 6:39 pm / Machines & Equipment / Trackback

The only thing harder to find than a good sewing contractor who can sew small lots at a reasonable price (I work with one closely by the way) is a good sewing machine mechanic.

my industrial sewing machine mechanics

As with everything in this business, it pays to develop a relationship. That itself is easier said than done. Take the case of my local guy, Paul Velasquez (his helper on the left is Jeremi):

I have to make arrangements a month or more in advance. Context is important in that I’m calling him to service the machines; I’m not having a crisis. Anyone who is down a critical machine is first in line and of course, the better a customer you are, the higher your priority versus a casual customer. The latter would be me. No emergency, small customer so I’m last. So I sweeten the deal by trying to source what parts and equipment I can through him. Take the example of this new machine I bought today (!), a Juki 1541S:

It’s a walking foot. I have been meaning to replace the half dozen Consews I sold before my last move with something spiffier. It doesn’t have a thread trimmer; the only model (1541-7) that does, comes with air and I don’t have air. [I could get it easily enough, I have the compressor but I really don't want the noise.] On the plus side, this machine is less than half the cost of the one I had my heart set on ($1800 versus $4,200). I’m starting to get over my disappointment, I’m sure this one will grow on me. But back to establishing relationships.

If you’re handy and have the time, I’m 100% behind you in learning to service your own equipment -I’ve done it for 17 years. However, comes such a time that if (hopefully) you become moderately successful and don’t have the time anymore, it becomes less costly to have a professional service and repair your equipment for you. Having someone at your ear means having an adviser who can tell you how to solve an incalculable number of sewing problems.  Often, you need to learn new settings for new materials, learn about nifty attachments to perform cursory functions (roll hemmers are the bomb) and even, equipment on the market you may know nothing about. When someone is getting out of the business and has machines to sell, your mechanic will probably be the first to know. And sure, he or she will get a cut on the deal but this is as it should be. They don’t just source it for you, they’ll deliver and set it up for you too and that’s got to be worth something.  Oh and not just machines. They’ll know about cutting tables and sundry.

If you live outside of an apparel circuit like I do, it is very common that your mechanic is a dealer too. Keep in mind that “dealer” doesn’t mean one has a store front with machines in stock. It means they have wholesale relationships either with the factory or a distributor. My mechanic doesn’t have a store front and doesn’t have much in the way of inventory but he can order whatever I need. Generally, your mechanic cum dealer will charge list price, deliver it and set it up for you for that price. For me that is great. I could have purchased this from another supplier -to whom I would have paid list- but then be on the hook for shipping and then I would have had to set it up myself.

To be fair, it is usually a cake walk to set up a machine. They usually come complete (motor, table and machine) and at best, all you need to do is put a plug on the cord. Perhaps you would be amazed to know that many machines don’t come with plugs. Nobody is trying to cheat you, they don’t put one on as a convenience to you. You might need a trolley plug (if you have raceways) or a standard outlet. In today’s instance, there was a plug but it was too short (hey Consew -it was a Consew servo motor- what’s up with that?). It barely reached 6 feet up (most of us plug machines in overhead). I mean, 6 feet up, not a six foot cord. I think it was 4 foot.  Anyway, Paul switched out the cord with one he had on his truck so it would reach the pedestal outlet overhead. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, just ask and I’ll explain it.

Anyway, I’m glad to finally have this machine. I’d been after him for about 6 weeks to drop it off and of course, to service the other equipment.

Speaking of, a lot of mechanics travel these days. Paul has customers on the east coast that he visits regularly. In fact, he is out of town the first month of every quarter. Which is why I’m glad he has an assistant now. Jeremi only works part time though. He is mostly a stay at home dad. I hope this relationship works out well for the two of them because somebody needs to take over Paul’s business. He looks very young but he’s been in the business for 45 years and is going to have to retire at some point. Rats,  I got off track, if you need a mechanic, it is possible that Paul will travel to your location.  Just don’t hog him to the extent that I can’t get him back to my place. You can contact him at 505-263-0143.

OT: I have got to get some real sewing chairs. The chairs I’m using (as seen in the photos, how embarrassing) are the kitchen chairs from when I lived at the Brewhouse in El Paso TX 10 years ago.

12 Responses to “Sewing machine mechanics & my new machine!”

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Chery
October 31st, 2012
7:39 PM

GEE Kathleen. At LEAST buy a couple of $30-$40 rolling office/computer chairs from KMart or Walmart. They are adjustable to a point and they ROLL. I have these~~~LOVE THEM. HINT HINT… Put it on your CALENDAR to SERVICE the roller wheels every month. REMOVE the THREAD from the rollers. I didn’t THINK about this until I landed on my BACK on the floor because my wheels were CLOGGED with thread and wouldn’t roll. Treat your sewing machine guys like the GEMS THEY ARE. HAPPY FALL :)

Theresa Riess
October 31st, 2012
8:08 PM

Yes, he does look fairly young but he may have started very early, as in helping out a family member so you may have him a little while longer. Congratulations on the new machine.

Marie-Christine
November 1st, 2012
4:39 AM

Congratulations on the new machines! But yes, you need something better than kitchen chairs, unless you want to have to retire early due to back/neck pain. How about some office warehouse kind of place for used equipment? They often have the kind of older stuff that was actually better designed for sitting work, I’ve never found better than that 50s secretary’s chair :-)..

John Rebrovick
November 1st, 2012
7:10 AM

Good info as always, Kathleen. As parts and supply distributors, we at SouthStar hear constantly from sew biz folks all around the country who are looking for a mechanic. We have started a list on our site, but we need more listings. Frankly I think sometimes those who’ve found a good mechanic are afraid to let anyone else know about him! Here is the page:

http://www.southstarsupply.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=3&Itemid=8

If you’d like to submit someone’s info for listing or encourage your mechanic to do so, please use this address and we’ll gitter done:

Sarah_H.
November 1st, 2012
9:58 AM

Also check out on eBay, and suppliers for dr offices/beauty salons. The latter have good, heavy duty stools that are meant to move easily and have lots of adjustment.

Lisa Blank
November 1st, 2012
11:27 AM

Congrats on adding another machine to the stable. She’s a beauty!

You are so right about the value of a mechanic. I depend on DH for troubleshooting the occasional problem, but I have no local mechanic (that I know of yet) who can come out and service the machines or fix a major problem, should one develop. Plus, I’d love to have someone who could help with the occasional sewing problem.

Lisa Blank
November 1st, 2012
11:30 AM

Oh, and I think my jaw dropped when I read that you bought a machine without a thread trimmer! I understand your explanation, and it makes perfect sense. I was just surprised until I read the rest of the paragraph!

Judy Gross
November 1st, 2012
4:45 PM

Kathleen, I couldn’t agree with you more, I have found a gem of a service technician, he will problem solve with me over the phone, and is generally available when I need him, but I don’t abuse the situation. When I need a new machine – I ask him, he finds one, and I buy it through him. I recently had a problem with my new set up – ultralight weight fabrics (0.5 oz / sq yd mylar film with dyneema threads laminated in it), heavy thread, long stitch and the zippers just gave me a headache with thread tension problems. I gave him a call, described the problem, he shipped out new zipper feet the next day which he filed out the groove on the bottom of the foot (made it much larger) – problem soved. He explained to me what the problem was, but I’m just glad he was able to fix this so easily. Like I said, a real gem and I dont’ mind paying a bit extra for his service.

Sabine
November 2nd, 2012
5:55 AM

My old mechanic retired as I sold the store front. I was very sad. The funny and really sweet thing was-he bought ME chocolates as a Thank You. (I served as a drop off location for private customers for machine repair, maybe that’s why) Anyways, I miss him, but at 75 and bad health….

Then my cover-lock screwed up and I needed help. I found a mechanic in Calgary…quick to respond, awesome service, good advise etc. You can even save travel expenses if you bring the machine (just the head, not the table etc) to him. I was impressed.

Chairs: What IS a real sewing chair?

Ronnie
November 4th, 2012
5:26 AM

I’m jealous, wish we had someone like Paul. It has only been in the last month that I have found someone to service my machine, and he is just learning. He’s very nice and all, but can’t really help with any problems. I’m still calling the guys in Denver whenever I have a major problem and hope they can walk me through it.

Natasha E
November 18th, 2012
3:35 AM

In my dreams pleasant
visions appeared of kathleen
new gear. Cute Guy

True story I DID have a sewing related dream after reading this posts where your technician sold me all kinds of wonderful machine that exist only in dreams. Oh and Bill Clinton was there too.

Claudia Echols
November 20th, 2012
12:32 PM

On the topic of sewing machine mechanics, I am changing my career and I’m thinking of refining my machine repair skills. I currently work on Bernina home machines and a Bernina industrial. Is there enough demand in the Portland, Oregon area for another mechanic?

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