How to buy an electronic bar tack machine pt 2

In which Graham (Cracker) continues his article from yesterday, originally published in the forum on the trials and tribulations of buying specialty sewing machines.

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The next step was to buy the machine.

Or so I thought. First, I forgot the prime rule of learning things over the phone: have the person spell out what you want from them. What did the guy from Yates say? Was it
Robinson?
Rabesand?
Crap.

It took about three hours to find out that it was R-o-b-e-s-o-n. [Hey, Greg, if you ever read this, go to adwords.google.com and buy yourself some ads…”used electronic bar tack” maybe?]

Then I called Robeson, on their 615 number as intelligently recommended in Kathleen’s book, and asked to talk to somebody about buying a Brother B430e or similar machine.

Greg Fowler, VP of sales, took my call and helped me immensely. However, at first, he presented me with some disturbing news that wasn’t welcome at all: electronic bar tack machines in the USA are almost all 3 phase machines. Over in Turkey, I realized, I had no idea what phase the machines were, just that they were heavy duty 220. I had imagined that single phase power would be sufficient for the machine. Greg told me that he thought that a heavy duty static phase converter could be installed for less than a thousand dollars and that it would power a machine fine.


I told him that I’d have to find out more about this before going anywhere with this purchase, but he kindly laid out the various models that he had in stock, as well as a few models that he didn’t have in stock that I might consider. I took notes on them all, and built out a price series from roughly $2,350 to about $5,000 on different machines.

I knew more or less what I needed, but I didn’t know the nomenclature, or the fancy and specific words used in the industry to describe the technical capability and features of the machine.

My machine would need to:

  • make the same stitch reproducibly. I’ll need to test to failure these bartacks a bunch, and my initial contact recommended Brother because they can be run for days without adjustment, making the same stitch every time.
  • have a work clamp lift amount sufficient to slide a backpack’s shoulder strap underneath and have it make a bartack.
  • have sufficient power to go through up to the equivalent of 15 layers of denim.
  • have sufficient delicacy to work with thread weights between Tex-20 and 90. It couldn’t maul my lightest weight materials, which weigh around an ounce per square yard.
  • have a number of ready made stitch patterns, and the capability to make new ones.

I then called my local electric utility to find out how much it would cost to have power run into the building. $10,000. For the line. Not for the box, not to run the wire inside the building, just for the distance from the pole to the building.

That’s nice, isn’t it?

I then started investigating all the aspects of the phase converter thing. But that’s another post, and let’s just leave as several hundred dollars later, I had three phase power in my office, with a manual breaker switch for safety and piece of mind. I think that I probably should get a rotary phase converter as I do more on the machine, but I can tell you that my heavy duty static phase converter is enough to run the machines non-stop for 3 hours straight as of right now.

Two weeks had passed, I finally called Greg back up and made the order. He actually remembered me, and while the price of the machine I chose –the B430e recommended to me through my cold call– went up a hundred bucks in the interim, I was perfectly content to pay them.

Greg asked me if I was going to SPESA, and if he should delay shipment of the machines to ensure that I would be there when they arrived. That was a good idea.

Let me give anybody buying a machine like this a little teensy piece of advice: make sure your freight quote includes a lift gate for delivery. Or have a forklift nearby and ready to pull your skid off the truck… :wink:

We took delivery of the machine last week, and finally got it up and running today.

In the end, I chose the Brother B430e because, while the maximum pattern size is 30mm by 10mm, I just couldn’t justify buying the B433e with it’s larger size and potential for neat round tacks yet. I have to emphasis that Greg did a phenomenal job at understanding what I was trying to say, translating it from my words into standard sewing machine nomenclature and educating me about the capabilities of the different machines.

During my initial set up, I had to call Robeson a few times because–as mentioned above–I don’t know my tail from my nose about some of these things. Darrell, the technical rep with whom I spoke, was gracious, efficient, and got it working over the phone. I really appreciate the after sales service that I’ve gotten from Robeson, and the patience that Greg showed in selling me the two machines.

More on the second machine, and a detailed explanation of what this 47 kilogram head and 85 kilogram motor and table are capable of early next week…

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Comments from Kathleen:

  • Among other things, the whole discussion of static v.s. rotary phase converters is discussed at length in the forum (see If I were to set up a brand new sewing shop). The cut to the chase consensus is that static phase converters are closer to a jury rig quick fix rather than a long term solution. Eric H, our in house electrical engineer says rotary phase converters are better employed in environments lacking three phase power and that optimally, you should buy three phase equipment (preferably servo motors, I love these!) as those are better machines. Once you move to better digs, you can sell those converters readily. Better yet, before you buy, lease or modify a work space, see Commercial vs Industrial space for more details.
  • Regarding getting a freight quote to include a lift gate for delivery, the delivery charge can increase significantly. Again, do review the entry on commercial vs industrial space because if you were to add on the anticipated costs of ongoing lift gate delivery to a commercial location (without a dock), the industrial space can cost comparatively less. Now, in my case, due to oversight (I used to have an industrial space and didn’t think to mention I now needed a lift gate), I’ve been lucky. It was much easier than I would have imagined to pull a machine I ordered off the back of the truck without a gate but your mileage may vary depending on the resourcefulness (and attitude) of the delivery driver. For occasional deliveries, you can get away without a lift gate delivery if you were eager to assist, attired appropriately for the task as well as having a machine dolly to get it in the door. Either that or extra bodies on hand equal to the task. It’s not the driver’s responsibility to get your product into the premises if you don’t have a dock. To ensure good will with the freight company, I tip the driver $20 for off dock deliveries.

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One comment

  1. jinjer markley says:

    Graham,

    thank you so much for these entries–and Katheleen, for your add-ons. These are the kinds of posts that answer questions I never even thought to ask!

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