View Full Version : Where would I find used sewing machines for leather?

Scott Shepherd
04-09-2012, 12:13 PM
For many years now I have always wanted a sewing machine to sew leather. I don't know why, because I don't work with too much leather. I'm not in a rush for one. If I find it a year from now, that'll be fine too, but what I'd like to find is just a old, used, good condition machine that I can use as a hobby machine. I have zero interest in buying anything new.

I spent some time with a master leathersmith several years back, but he did all his work by hand due to the products he made.

Any suggestions on what to look for? Brands, etc? Anything to avoid? I assume I'll spend some time on ebay and Craigslist, hoping one will pop up over time, but if someone knows a better source to pick one up, I'm open for suggestions.


Ken Fitzgerald
04-09-2012, 12:17 PM
Scott....do a Google search using "Used shoe repair equipment". My FIL and MIL ran a shoe store and shoe repair store for nearly 40 years. They repaired everything leather.

David H. Mitchell
04-09-2012, 12:32 PM
Try Craigslist. I bought a nice Singer, and older machine for $100.00, works great.

Dave Mitchell

Rich Engelhardt
04-09-2012, 12:55 PM
Most standard sewing machines can stitch leather.
Obviously, the heavier the machine the better.

Singer has special leather needles in (hang on a sec while I look it up) -yep #14 and #16. Sears and Amazon both carry them $5 for a pack from Sears and ~ $10 from Amazon for a pack.

You'll also want to look into a skiving machine for prepping the seams.

Sorry - but - that right there is about the total extent of what I remember from my "hippy days" back in the early 1970's.
I made a few leather items (boots and a couple of hats) and did all the stiching by hand.
I asked @ Tandy about using a machine and they said any good heavy Singer with the right needles and bobbins would work on most leather.

I'd say hit the yard/garage sales for an old Singer and pick up some leather needles and give it a try.

Ben Hatcher
04-09-2012, 12:58 PM
Back in college, I had the opportunity to work with an automotive upholstery shop for a project. They did plenty of leather car seats. Though car seat leather may be thinner than what you're planning to work on, the guy I worked with swore by his Consew machine and the guy next to him swore by his Juki. The feature he said made a upholstery machine different from a regular machine is a walking foot which works with the feed dogs below to pull both layers of material sumultaniously. There are various needle feed options as well. I think the compound feed is considered the best for working with very heavy materials. Good luck. Some of these machines are more expensive than a good cabinet saw.

Zach England
04-09-2012, 12:59 PM
That depends on whether you want a home sewing machine or and "industrial" (clutch drive) sewing machine.

ray hampton
04-09-2012, 7:56 PM
the saddle shops if there is one close to you may be able to help

Dennis Peacock
04-10-2012, 9:33 AM
I can give you several pointers on this very subject. I have an industrial sewing machine and table sitting less than 6 feet from me right now. I can tell you that if you buy a used machine and table? Replace the clutch motor with a servo motor. The control you get with a servo motor is GREATLY better than trying to figure out how to control a clutch motor. On the other hand, it's what you get used to using, but I never liked the clutch motor and the constant hum/noise of the clutch motor. The servo motor only makes a slight noise when you press the foot pedal.

Check your local upholstery shops and especially check your local upholstery supply businesses. They may have an old machine or 2 in the back that could use some minor fixing that you can buy for a song or 2. The BIG names in industrial sewing are Juki, Pfaff, Consew, Chandler, Yamata, and Tacsew. Just make sure you get a "walking foot" machine so that it will walk the thick material through your machine. This helps with quality of stitch and reduces user frustration. ;)

BTW, a real nice machine that is an excellent machine is the Consew 206RB-5. I have a Yamata FY5318 but wish I had of bought a Consew 206 or maybe a Chandler instead. But hey, we all have to learn what we like and don't like. :)

Mel Fulks
04-22-2019, 5:02 PM
The Restore on School Street has had some. Once had a number of beefy machines for $10 each. Interest in sewing
SEAMS to be way down.

Tom M King
04-22-2019, 5:25 PM
Check with sewing machine repair places. We have several industrial machines that need some work once in a while, and our guy always has several for sale, and keeps single phase motors to replace 3 phase ones on machines that people buy at auctions. We bought a couple of ours, at auction, from a place that went out of business that was doing contract work for the government, making cargo parachutes.

Perry Hilbert Jr
04-22-2019, 5:33 PM
Around here the Amish snap them up immediately. While an old "steel guts" household sewing machine can sew deer skin and thinner leathers. For heavy harness leather and belts etc, it takes a very beefy machine. They come up for sale here once or twice a year. Even the manual machines that sew one stitch per step peddle stroke bring a bit from the plain folks. Many decades ago, I had a relative that was landlord of a harness shop. The old German proprietor died and no one ever cleaned the shop out. The relative offered me the contents, It would have taken two stake body trucks to haul the equipment and inventory. My ex said no way, so the stuff sat. The relative then ended up paying an Amish guy to clean out the shop. (I did offer that relative $2,500 for his 57 Chev Bel Air 2 dr, two tone blue. He sold it for $750 to a stranger because he "did not want to take advantage of me." on his old car.)

Mark Hennebury
04-22-2019, 6:36 PM
In the early 70's i had a Singer 29K patcher when i was making boots & shoes. The needles a chisel tipped for cutting through leather. I made some jackets on it also, but it is primarily for shoemaking. The design or the long narrow arm facilitates getting into some pretty tight places, and the head rotates, so they are quite flexible machines. That's my old one in the photo.

Tim Bueler
04-23-2019, 10:29 AM
A saddle shop, as already mentioned. You might even be able to get a few pointers. A good friend of mine is a saddle maker and has maybe 6 different machines that all do different kinds of stitching. Plus he has a dizzying array of other leather working tools, both hand and powered. I'm always in awe when I visit his shop.

My wife has a Consew 226. It has a walking foot and we've sewn through at least 8 layers of cotton canvas. It is both a beast and a pleasure to operate, though I don't recall we've sewn leather on it.

Find a good industrial sewing machine repairman. The guy we bought the Consew from had it so out of whack it's hard to believe he could get it to work at all. We couldn't get it to work well either. There was a repairman with a good reputation close by so we took it to his repair shop and now it runs like a Swiss watch.

Alan Rutherford
04-23-2019, 10:34 AM
I have an old Pfaff 130 I bought years ago to sew sails and leather. It's bulletproof, cast iron and weighs 30-40 pounds. I knew someone in a sail loft who had mounted one in an industrial sewing table and converted it to use a heavy-duty clutch-operated motor. 30 seconds on Google showed several between $120 and $300.

You might have to replace the motor and foot pedal. You should plan on getting familiar with how to adjust the timing and bobbin tension. Pick up extra bobbins and bobbin carriers. It's been a long time since I used it much but it would sew through any thickness of nylon webbing I could get under the presser foot. I didn't sew a lot of leather and much of that was small and I was often turning the wheel to stitch, but it worked.

You can do a lot of good work in leather with hand tools, as you have seen, but a rugged sewing machine is a great tool.

Jared Sankovich
05-08-2019, 5:33 PM
Craigslist is your friend. Juki, consew, pfaff and singer, all 5 here could sew leather, but the three walking foot machines (juki 563, consew 226r and the singer 111g156) would work best (short of shoe/saddle machines. Also they were all cheap $65 to $170 for them.
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v695/jar944/20170302_213706_zpsmkpweosp.jpg (http://smg.photobucket.com/user/jar944/media/20170302_213706_zpsmkpweosp.jpg.html)