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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Sorry for the long post but I thought this might be useful to someone going through a similar decision process. I recently bought a used Sailrite LSZ-1 but this was not without looking very hard at the clones and vintage machines. Almost all the sailing friends I know who have sewing machines for boat canvas work have a Sailrite or a vintage machine and I had borrowed a friend’s LSZ-1 in the past to do several projects. However, since no one I know has a clone and the clones are generally not sold in stores, I’ve unfortunately never put my hands or eyes on one (although I’d very much like to at some point to put it through its paces side by side with a Sailrite).

Reviews for the clones are wildly mixed. It seems the fundamental problems are a lack of quality control and essentially no post-sale technical support or parts availability. If you get a lemon, you have little recourse but to return it, buy replacement parts from Sailrite, or turn the thing into a backup boat anchor. There are not a ton of comprehensive reviews of the clones from people who’ve really put them through making complex projects or owning them long term, nor are there a lot of independent, in-depth head-to-head Sailrite vs. clone reviews. That said, some of the negative reviews seem to come from people who may not have understood the purpose of the entire Sailrite/Sailrite clone class of sewing machines and therefore compare them unfavorably against machines not meant to contend in this class.

My overall impression of the clones is that, so long as you don’t get a lemon, they can be good machines that perform comparably to a Sailrite. However, they have some limitations – primarily that you are likely not going to get any technical support from the clone manufacturer, you most definitely will be going to Sailrite to buy most of your replacement parts and maintenance items, some of Sailrite’s add-on accessories may not be available for a clone machine (they will not sell you a PosiPin, for example), and your machine will be pretty limited in its potential resale value.

As for vintage machines, a few factors pushed me away. First is that most are not walking foot. There’s some debate about how necessary this is, but it’s a feature I wanted. Second is that the vintage machines are 50-70 years old entering their second and third lives. Although the current trend toward handmade things has resulted in pretty good communities of support and spare parts availability for some of the more popular models, it’s not unlikely that this would mostly vanish if the fad runs its course. Third, vintage machines that only a few years ago could be found for about $100 or so in good working condition are now often going for $2-300 (and up!). This changes the calculus of their value proposition a bit.

All these factors noted above combined with wanting a machine that is still likely to have some level of support and parts availability 10-20 years from now pushed me into the Sailrite camp (cult?!). But I acknowledge, if your budget is very tight and/or you’re just looking to get some canvas projects done soon and aren’t looking for a “forever” machine, a clone or vintage machine could present a very attractive value.

Finally, as an obligatory disclaimer, I am not affiliated with Sailrite or any sewing machine manufacturer or retailer other than as a customer. I bought my sewing machine used and have often purchased fabric and accessories from a variety of retailers. I don’t have a strong affinity to the Sailrite company or brand other than acknowledging that they have filled a niche where few others even compete and I appreciate that they have not reduced the quality of their products or offshored customer service like so many others.
 

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I've never heard of a cloned Sailrite. Sounds too much like a scam. I have heard of people using some commercial grade Singers, which they like.

I just acquired a used Sailrite this year. I've played with it, but no projects yet. The fact that used models are nearly impossible to find says something, I think.
 

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1987 Cape Dory MKII hull #3
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I bought a "clone" on Amazon about 5 or 6 years ago, so much of a clone I used the Sail rite manual as well as instructions.
Brand was Reliable, I think they were overtly optimistic.
Did well for my level of experience, zilch, bought a jib and main kits from Sailrite, learn to make sails?
Also, many other projects, like Main covers, etc, again with materials and how to from Sailrite.
Will I recommend it?
Not sure
Depends on what your projects/goals are, if like me, just a passing interest with occasional low-key projects I think will work.
If your goals and jobs are more ambitious, then will seriously consider Sailrite.
The simple Sailrite does not have zigzag, as the more expensive does.
As material thickness, the clone I have will go with ease thru many layers of canvas or sail clothes
 

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bell ringer
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All I can say is that my $72 Walmart sewing machine has been fine. I had never even used a sewing machine before and used it to make sunbella cover, dinghy chaps with a vinyl strip.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
I've never heard of a cloned Sailrite. Sounds too much like a scam.
The clones are currently sold online with brand names like Reliable Barracuda, REX, Family Sew, etc. Sailrite did "clone" the Thompson machine mentioned and moved the production of their machines to Taiwan. It seems when Sailrite had a falling out with that manufacturer and relocated their production to China, the LS-1 / LSZ-1 designs were copied by offshore manufacturers, likely cheapened, and flooded into the worldwide marketplace at less than half the price of a Sailrite.
 

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All I can say is that my $72 Walmart sewing machine has been fine. I had never even used a sewing machine before and used it to make sunbella cover, dinghy chaps with a vinyl strip.
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Yes, depends on what your needs are, more than enough.
Before I purchased, my "clone" did all the work on a vintage Necchi 1950!!!
The only missing option was zigzag, and the height of the foot, that limited some thickness of the material like sewing a UV sacrificial material on the jib, otherwise will do.
 

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When you start sewing leather and many layers of sail cloth together the "clothing variety" will give out. But if all you ever sew in a couple of layers of sail cloth or fabric the Kenmore works fine.
 

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TBH, I thought the Sailrite was just a "clone" of a Thompson Walking Foot machine. I have a Thompson and I get spares (bobbins, etc.) for it from Sailrite...so....I guess you could call the Thompson a "vintage" machine.
That's right, Sailrite is one of the many clones of the Thompson mini-walker. It is most likely the best clone with respect to quality control and for sure with respect to service which is one of the best I know in any field. I knew that I would be on my own when I bought one of the other clones and I was fine with it. As expected, it came with exactly zero customer service but I was well-aware of that.

As far as I can tell parts are essentially exchangeable between all of the clones. It was news to me that Sailrite refuses to sell certain parts to customers that did not buy their machine. I don't doubt that this is true but they have always happily taken my money when I ordered something from them. I had no interest in the PosiPin, though.
 

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We own a LSZ-1, have for going on 6 years or so. In that time it has sewn a main, jib and asymmetric sail kits. Also a boat load of cushions (yes joke intended), a dodger (I know why canvass people get the big dollars) and have replaced the plastic windows in a dodger.
 

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Moody 376
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If anyone in the Maryland area has one of these and wants to put it head to head with a Sailrite I'd love to have a sewing machine party.
I just bought a walking foot zig zag "clone" on alibaba. its got a 9" throat its got the monster wheel all in around 550 bucks. I live in vienna VA. keep my boat in deale

Im going to start working on a bimini and dodger soon, still working on materials list. I have used it to restitch a few spots on my genoa UV cover.

If you seriously want to play around with the two machine side by side. I'm game.

looking at pics of the sail rite, no doubt that this machine is a bit less refined looking. think chevy vs mercedes. I used the sailrite tutorials to set it up. tips the scales at nearly 40lbs

Sewing machine Sewing machine feet Household appliance accessory Creative arts Gas
 

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Moody 376
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follow up, I did get to play around for a few minutes with the sailrite machines at the boat show. i was correct in my Chevy vs mercedes comparison. albeit the ones at the boat show were top of line sailrite with all the bells and whistles, and likely have been very meticulously cared for and "tuned up" and broken in...so to speak

Davil, Sailrite also has a youtube channel and will respond to questions when you ask... my biggest fear is that i'll get into and jump ahead of myself and be on step 35 of 40 only to realize that I skipped step 8 and have to start ripping seams apart
 

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I'm sure I could google this and find some information - or a ton of youtube videos I don't have time to watch - but aside from "it's a stronger stitch" (ie, be less succinct), what is the big advantage of the zig-zag, and at what point should one switch over to it? In my particular case, I would like to replace a panel or three of my Prindle sails because I've got the old "rainbow" color scheme, most of the dacron is still nice and stiff, and I don't necessarily want to invest in the cost of new sails, which probably exceed the value of the boat. Of course the existing stitching is zig-zag. I can address what I'm trying to fix (with a not-perfect color match) using patches (holes!) and straight stitching is ample. I may also want to add a window. I inherited my Thompson which was originally purchased for doing leather upholstery work. I think it's ample for doing canvas work - cushion covers, maybe dodger or bimini work - but what's the consensus on actual sails?
 

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5 of 40 only to realize that I skipped step 8 and have to start ripping seams apart
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when started sewing finally was faster undoing stitches than actually sewing!!
eventually went to Walmart and bought those hooks to undo stitches by the dozen, make sure don't stick it into one of your fingers, have fun.
 

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- but aside from "it's a stronger stitch" (ie, be less succinct), what is the big advantage of the zig-zag, and at what point should one switch over to it?
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if I remember, the zigzag provides a certain degree of flexibility and also a remark on one of their videos that if not having a zigzag option was ok, a straight double stitching will work.
 

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this is my view,(not even an opinion)
Have always thought that will buy the best tool I could afford, the savings on the projects justify it.
When looking at these machines, went for the "clones"strictly based on money.
Did the job, and I posted the major projects I did, feel the money saved paid for the machine several times over.
However, looking at those videos, seems to me just the walking foot makes a better job?.
I think the Sailrite will have been a more pleasant and satisfactory tool and experience?, may be.
 
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