Beginner’s guide to sewing with industrial machines pt.3

I meant to follow up last week’s beginner’s guides to industrial machines (pt.1 and pt.2) with a mention of getting electrical service to the machines. If you just have a machine or two, the space is relatively small in that you can locate machines close to outlets, this isn’t much of a problem. However, if you have a larger open room, electrical service delivery becomes a bit trickier. For this example I’ll use my shop.

electrical_service_to_sewing_machines_smEven though my space is small as these things go (less than 3,000 sq ft.), I don’t have the option of locating machines next to outlets. In the short term one can use extension cords but that can get you into trouble with the authorities if yours is a commercial venture. Even if it’s just you, electrical cords are unsightly and unsafe.

You have two basic options; both involve drop down electrical service from overhead. You may not have known that but most of the electrical service in a sewing facility comes from overhead. It makes things much neater and safer. Mr. Fashion-Incubator installed pedestals. From the circuit overhead, he installed junction boxes and then electrical outlets closer to the point of delivery (larger image). We also used the outlets to wire in the overhead lighting for those machines. This type of service is good if you are settled and won’t need to shift machines around. Oh and if you’re wondering, the brown fabric are covers for the machines and thread stands (again thanks to Stu who sent me the fabric!). It is so dusty in the southwest, I need to do that. You should probably do it too.

If you need more flexibility, the better option is to install what I would loosely describe as overhead power strips. This product goes by a variety of names: feeder rail, Feedrail®, raceway, bus rail, busway, overhead trolley, trolley rail, trolley feed rail, trolley busway etc. At right is a photo I took of feedrail at Patternworks in LA. feedrail_sewing

Feedrail® (a registered trademark owned by Universal Sewing) is pretty neat; it’s sort of like railroad tracks but inverted and suspended. You need a special jack or plug that rides on the rail so it can travel freely up and down the track with just a slight tug. The photo of the rail at Patternworks shows a box at the bottom which is what a machine plugs into. This kind of power set up is mandatory for cutting tables, you really don’t have any other options. The power supplied to a knife can travel up and down the table.

Feedrail track comes in 10 foot lengths and are easily joined together. You can buy it used fairly easily with those synonyms above. The best option if you have it, is to lease space that already has feedrail installed. It is usually listed as an amenity, particularly for spaces that had been set up as light industrial commercial sewing. I’ve left links below to the previous entries on commercial space in the event you need information like that.

Plant organization
Plant organization pt.2
Plant organization pt.3
My shop: Plant organization pt.4
Commercial vs Industrial space

Beginner’s guide to sewing with industrial machines

Get New Posts by Email


  1. Valerie says:

    This is exactly the kind of system we have at my school, with electrial outlets dangling from the ceiling. I never noticed it, until I was forced to look for outlets to plug in a lamp so I could see the black fabric I was sewing. It’s nice that you included this information about Feedrail. It’s too bad they don’t have those at my retail job for vacuuming…

  2. Jason says:

    Thank you for posting so much information. I am very new at all of this and everyday it seems I learn more, which usually consists of me learning that I don’t know what I thought I knew.
    My question is thus: I think I need to buy a compound feed machine to sew 1 oz. ripstop nylon fabrics for sleeping bags that I am designing. I wanted to buy something like the Econosew 206RB-5, can this sort of machine be adjusted to sew these nylons well? Thanks!

  3. Julie Bergeron says:

    Help, I just bought a old Consew 230R-1 from a friend. I downloaded the user guide and parts manual, but i need more instruction. I can’t figure out many things about it.
    any idea’s, books, skype, etc.?

Leave a Reply

You have to agree to the comment policy.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.