Legendary Leathercrafts

Singer 15-91

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I'm looking at a Singer 15-91. Does anyone have any experience with one on leather? The thickest I'd likely need to sew is two pieces of 6oz veg tan. Happy for any feedback regarding one of these machines.

Thank you,

Mike

Edited by Legendary Leathercrafts

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Mine maxed out at actually sewing about 8 ounces, with #69 bonded thread, using a #16 or 18 leather point needle. Anything thicker either stood still from the increased drag on the top, or lifted with the needle and skipped stitches.

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Yeah, what The Wiz said!

But don't stop looking for one. It's one of the most robust and versatile of the home straight stitchers. You'll max out at about 6 1/2 sti and anything heavier than 4oz is gonna lift the pressure foot unless you use a huge diameter needle (book says it'll take up to a 21 needle but 18 is the largest I've found) and forget anything heavier than 69 thread but all that said, it's one of the cheapest ways to get started sewing suede and light upholstery leathers. If you get one that runs well(most do with very little work) keep it!!! It's a great "goto" for any heavy fabric work you might need. Parts are cheap and easy to come by for now. You can learn a lot on one of these machines even with its limitations.

Singer commercial machines are done for and I hear the home machines are next but these have survived 50+ years and will serve you well for a long time to come (unlike the home machines they've sold for the last 20).

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Thank you both for the imput. I can sntach one up for about $150, do you think that sounds reasonable? They claim it is in perfect working condition.

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If you want a good straight-stitch only domestic sewing machine for lightweight stuff the 201k is a much better bet than the 15k. The 201 is fully rotary and geared throughout, so it is both smoother and more robust than the 15k which is an oscillating hook machine.

The 201 has a higher and wider clearance than the 15k too.

Neither, though, are designed for sewing leather but if you're doing really lightweight stuff then you can put a teflon foot on them which will help the feeding. It won't help with the foot pressure though.

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Side by side, I've found the 201-2 much pickier about thread and less able to handle as wide a variety of heavier material. The 201-2 has hands-down the best stitch of the old Singers. Same motor different power trains. It was the "Tailor's Standard" of home machines. The 15-91 was known as the "Farmer's Wife" of home machines due to its versatility and ruggedness. I've had both, sold the 201,still own and use the 15-91 for those reasons.

But to speak to the question: $150 for either machine in working order with a case or in a console is reasonable. You are more likely to find a good 15-91 at that price (or cheaper) for the very reason Al has mentioned. You don't NEED a console or case for either of these machines to sew on them (tho on certain few 15-91's you may need to shim the back of the casting's "feet" with a piece of leather or thick rubber on a benchtop) but getting one helps. A lot of tailors and seamstress' built their businesses on the 201.

I've had both in my shop at the same time, were I sewing fabric, I chose the 201; leather or suede the 15-91 gave me better and more consistent results. These are "low shank" presser foot machines. A Teflon or roller foot might help in a marginal case but neither will make either into a walking foot machine. Nor will the Singer "Walking foot/Pattern Matcher" accessory you can still find.

Edited by Ole South

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Thank you again, I appreciate the knowledge. I'll take a look at it then and go from there!

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Are you looking at the one in Dartmouth or East Hampton? Don't see any 201-2's for sale in your area but there is a 17-23 you might talk the price down on. And I see what may be a 16-88/188 in Woburn. Both appear to have tables and motors.

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I was looking at both, but Dartmouth is closer to me so I was going to check that one out first. I have a 29-4 but it is not running right now. The previous owner let it sit out in a garage and it got all gunked up inside. I mention that because it is similar to the 17-23. Maybe I should just get that repaired rather than buy a new machine.

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The -91 and your 29 (or a 17) could buttress a shop. Why not clean the cobwebs out of the 29, get a can of WD40 or PB Blaster and without a major disassembly clean up the gunk and surface rust, get it turning and see if it'll sew. I think the 17 comes closer to what you want to do than the 29 but people still want the old patchers. Turn it for seed money. You can get a -91 to "learn & earn" on for now. Check out this post: http://leatherworker.net/forum/index.php?showtopic=21807 . It gives you an idea what you have and you're up against with the 29.

Be ready to change the motor brushes out if you get a -91. Both the -91's appear to be circa 1950's (striped chrome plates). You may not need any immediate rewiring of electrical to use. Dartmouth has all her decals, could indicate light use over her lifetime. Actually they both look in good to great condition. You should be able to pick either of them up for $100-135.

Luck

Edited by Ole South

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I should mention something important about the Singer 15-91. It does not accept any external motors. If the built-in pod motor burns up or seizes, it must be replaced, rebuilt, or rewired. Machines with external motors can have newer, higher power motors attached on the back.

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Many thanks. Definitely got some thinking to do. Might start with the machine I already have and go from there.

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my 15-91 out sews my 201k under heavy loads. The 201k is a little smoother. They are both potted motored machines (no belt, gear driven). With the 15 I can use t90 thread and a number 18 needle no troubles. 201k is a little picky with t90, 69 is fine. Over all I think the 15-91 is a better machine for working at these machines absolute limits. Also since they are home machines they see very little use compared to the commercial machines, both old commercial machines I own are realy beat up and show it inside and out. So I'd go with something newer if its going to be commercial. I have picked up a lot of 15-91s over the years and I would say don't pay more than $75-100 for them locally.

I only use these for canvas work. I feel they are not really leather machines.

Edited by henrye718

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The feet are the easy part, it's the hands that need all the skill.

I'm amazed she's doing it on one of those machines though. That's one of the new Indian (I think) "Singer" machines. You can tell because of the garish decals, the modern polyurethaned case, and the fact that the decals on the bed haven't worn off yet.

I was talking to a repair man a while ago who's seen quite a few of these come through his shop and he's never managed to get one to sew without basically tearing it apart and completely rebuilding it, which just isn't worth the effort.

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I was talking to a repair man a while ago who's seen quite a few of these come through his shop and he's never managed to get one to sew without basically tearing it apart and completely rebuilding it, which just isn't worth the effort.

Are you referring to the Indian made Singers?

That's a statement of economics... from a repair/service company's perspective; he's right. They generally only see machines with problems. Additionally most repair shops have, or have had old Singer's stacked like cordwood. A minimum service charge is on the average runs $60-110.00... he's already got $10-35.00 in it as trade-in, so the first part he has to replace makes the unit unattractive to a prospective buyer who is most probably looking for a fabric machine with a few or a lot of "bells and whistles" or at least a ZigZag stitch.

But for us... we can cherry-pick lightly used units from home users, spend some sweat-equity in a machine, learn something along the way and still have a good machine to sew denim and canvas after we've upgraded to a "real leather machine". An inexpensive straight stitch is where we live... or at least where we begin.

Edited by Ole South

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Are you referring to the Indian made Singers?

That's a statement of economics... from a repair/service company's perspective; he's right. They generally only see machines with problems.

Yes, the Indian ones. The ones this guy was dealing with were new, not ones people had brought in with problems. All I'm saying is that it might look like a 15k, but it isn't built with anything like the quality of the original.

But for us... we can cherry-pick lightly used units from home users, spend some sweat-equity in a machine, learn something along the way and still have a good machine to sew denim and canvas after we've upgraded to a "real leather machine". An inexpensive straight stitch is where we live... or at least where we begin.

Sure, so long as people understand the limitations of domestic sewing machines, which IME not a lot of people do. They hear about the 15-91 or 201 or whatever being these amazing heavy duty machines and think they will do things they were never designed for.

Better, IMO, to start with an true industrial straight stitch like the 31-15, Pfaff 35-4, or Singer 331k which are mechanically simple, easy to get parts for, take high shank feet and which will actually sew light leather and canvas jobs, often without costing more than $100-$150 more than people are asking for the domestic machines.

Don't get me wrong, I love my 201. It works beautifully and it'll sew things that will choke modern domestic machines, but it was never designed for leather, and the limitations of low shank feet are just not worth it for anything other than occasional work with garment-weight stuff.

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"Sure, so long as people understand the limitations of domestic sewing machines, which IME not a lot of people do. They hear about the 15-91 or 201 or whatever being these amazing heavy duty machines and think they will do things they were never designed for."

People need to understand that no matter what the advertising says, there is no such thing as an "Industrial Strength" machine, and just because a machine is made of cast iron, and painted black, it does not make it an industrial machine !! A lot of newbies are mislead by ads on ebay, and other places. I wish folks would check on this website before spending their hard-earned cash !!

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Over the last couple of years my business partner and I have imported both Indian and Chinese versions of the Singer 15.

The Chinese version has reverse and a knob on the bed to drop the feed dogs. It looks great but is complete and utter shite. Despite replacing numerous parts and 12 hours of work it was never going to run.

The Indian version is closer to the original Singer machine but still had numerous problems. I replaced the shuttle with a Taiwanese version and cleaned up a number of parts which got it working. Unfortunately the footlift lever is badly made so that it does not relieve the tension when the foot is lifted.

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As stated above, the 15-91 has a potted moter. I've heard tell of the gears blowing out in these ... something about 60-year-old fiber worms, or something.

I would recommend the belted 15-90 (or converted -88). I actually just got one on eBay for $75 shipped. Will need some wiring and a base, and who knows what else -- it's still in transit. This will be used as a dedicated buttonholer, with matching Singer buttonholer automaton.

It's actually my second 15-90 -- dunno why I bought a second one. Gotta collect all the faceplates, I suppose.

Did a little write-up about my first one here: http://leiflabs.blogspot.com/2011/05/singer-15-90.html

Good luck! These are cool little machines.

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