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.
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.