SPESA: Industrial sewing machines plus

sirubaWhat do you know about Siruba sewing machines? The first I heard of them was fifteen or so years ago. I didn’t pay any attention because I thought these were exclusive to swimwear which is not my area. At SPESA, I learned Siruba (Kaulin Mfg) has been in business about 45 years, starting as a contract manufacturer of machines for Juki and Singer. If you’re anything like me and hear “contract manufacturer” and know they’re now competing in the same space, your antennae are raised. You have to wonder about the IP back story. At least I do.

Judging from the versatility of their machines, the technology is wholly their own (they’re ISO 9002 certified). Consider the BH790 buttonholer which does 30 different kinds for the unheard of price of $3,000. Or maybe the price was $2,000. My notes are horrible. Considering you’re lucky to buy a used machine from someone else that does only one kind of button hole for $3,000, I was sure I misheard the speaker. It has a built in indexer of sorts. Depending on the number of desired size button holes, it’ll do three in a row (spacing is configurable from the control panel). They had three machines I looked at. A coverstitch (awesome, $2,000), the button holer ($3,000) and the flatlock machine for $4,000. Yes, only 4K. Better known used flatlock machines run $4,500.

Siruba has greatly improved their website (entry amended, links updated 1/4/11) with a redesign and I haven’t put it through its paces but it should be easier to find what you’re looking for. If not, refer to the model numbers we saw at the SPESA show because the site may not reflect given machines numbers mentioned here. That you don’t know particular model numbers shouldn’t slow you down any. The subsidiaries page on their site lists the dealer (FL) you can contact by phone or email. Be mindful of using the protocol (include your address) to ensure reply so they can have the right sales rep contact you.

Eric shot a video of these machines in use which you can view at your leisure. Again, feedback on the reliability of this brand would be greatly appreciated.

Another interesting machine related vendor was Camatron. Their site isn’t gorgeous but it works just fine. Camatron is a machine converter. They’re literally machinists meaning they remodel or re-engineer sewing machines for unusual applications. Much of their work involves making jigs to fit machines of varying types. Camatron is the firm that Juki, Brother or Singer are likely to send you to if you need a specially needed part. They work on older mechanicals and newer electronic machines. They’re in NJ, how I’d love to visit their shop or machine graveyard. I’ll bet they have the best stories.

Another new to me machine company is Murata. I think Stu might write about these. They specialize in shirring and smocking machines. Their site is a mixed bag. The content on the home page is well written. After that, it’s a crap shoot. I figured out some of their style numbering system (but it is not consistent, let this be proof to you to issue good ones!) so that will help you navigate the video menu. The first number indicates the number of needles the machine has. Then you have a series of letters. The PT of “PTV” refers to pin tucking. However, P means something else in other series. To make matters worse, functions (indicated by letters) have reversed placement. For example, PQSM refers to a machine that does machine smocking (SM=smocking machine). The 16N PSM_PTV is a 16 needle smocking machine that does pin tucks. Go figure. The video is pretty cool but my download was slow and playback was choppy. Don’t know if it was their site or my connection. Again, I have no clue as to reliability, your feedback is appreciated.

Schap Specialty Machine sells test equipment. I don’t pretend these are appropriate for beginning firms but they have machines that will test seam strength, color stability (crocking) and pilling. Eric filmed a video if you want to see them in action. The first machine filmed repeatedly pulls at seams. The second flexes a corner and the third is the pilling tester plying abrasion mechanically. The exhibitor was friendly and personable. Contact them by phone to inquire about machines, I don’t see my favorite machines from the show on their site.

Of all the machine vendors, there was one sad little booth with a brand I’d also never heard of. They had three plastic home sewing machines on display. I can only think something was lost in translation (or show jurying) for them to have exhibited there. I have to give them credit for not packing it in on the first day. That takes guts.

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  1. Faviola says:

    Hi Kathleen, i’m from Venezuela and some of the best regarded in the market here are the Siruba brand, i have in my possesion two machines of them, one is a 5 thread overlock (it’s second hand by the way) i’ve used it mostly on strech fabrics and putting elastic on bathing suits, the other one is a interlock, as you may see i tend to sew strech fabrics, but i have a friend that also has the overlock and does wonders in non strech materials.

    Great blog, you need to translate your book and get it to other markets like the ones over on this side!


  2. sfriedberg says:

    That link to the Siruba buttonholer is to their previous model. The Siruba website doesn’t even appear to list the current model (BH790), but I found links at a European distributor and a hidden brochure page on the Siruba site. If it’s really that cheap, I am going to get one (he says in a rash excess of enthusiasm) even if I don’t have a full-time use for it. Maybe I can subcontract to local CMT shops.

    I want to emphasize just how extraordinary the machine is. Everything can be set instantly from a little electronic control panel: Buttonhole style, length, seam width. And it does both eyelet- and straight-end button holes with four different stitching variations for the straight ends (tack, round, radial, taper). And bartacks, with or without slicing. And you can custom program another 69 styles! The only thing you would ever have to open up the machine to adjust mechanically is the knife, and that would be optional if you were willing to use a short knife and open your buttonholes with a chisel or other manual operation. OK, that sounds like what a high-end domestic machine offers right? Well, industrial button-holers have never gone here before! And it’s definitely an industrial. I didn’t try to pick it up, but I estimate the head weighs about 85-100 pounds.

    I am going to call this machine a 4th generation button-holer. 1st and 2nd generation machines were totally mechanical. If you wanted to change anything, you had to open it up and mess with wrenches, screwdrivers, and spare parts. And gently tweak things while making test button holes until the machine behaved the way you wanted. 3rd generation machines had electronic controls and did away with the gentle tweaking, but they only did ONE STYLE. You want a different style, gotta change parts (or buy a different variant of the machine). For example, you can have eyelet button holes or straight button holes, but not both from the same 1st-3rd generation machine. This Siruba is really cool. There are model variations for wovens or knits, if you predominantly work with one or the other.

    Oh, by the way, Siruba is using similar technology in their dedicated bar tacker and button sewer machines. Those two machines are so similar that you can (reportedly) convert one to the other by replacing the arm. Dunno if you need to have four hands and 25 years of experience to do the conversion, though.

    And yes, I will say some things about Murata too, a bit later.

  3. Kathleen says:

    Not to put you on the spot Stuart, but you could always write a separate entry on the Siruba. Eric finished the video and we can stick the link in there (too). I can finish digging through my stash to find and call the rep for better pricing info during working hours if you like.

  4. sfriedberg says:

    I just spent 13 hours at the office, 6 of them rewiring equipment in our lab, to catch up from last week. If you don’t keep the pressure on me, Kathleen, I will just go home and sleep. :-)

    We can split off an entry for Siruba. I will have something on Murata and I want to cast a vote for “coolest robot at the show”. An article on color and dyeing from a seminar I went to. And maybe a few words about Lawson’s software product, since they were kind enough to chat with me.

  5. Sarah says:

    Stuart– I ashamedly never go to speak much with you last week… I guess I let the wine and belly dancer distract me (understandable, right?)… what do you do in PDX? I’d love to see your shop and give you a tour of mine if you’re in the Eugene area sometime. Email me off-list if Kathleen scolds me for being off-topic??? LOL!!!


  6. Lisa Blank says:

    I, too, would like to know more about the reliability of Siruba machines.

    By far, I found the Siruba booth to be the friendliest booth at the show, and that buttonholer really wowed me. My recollection is that the price was $3000, which is a steal if the machine holds up over time.

    I looked through my BH790 brochure over the weekend and thought I saw that the machine does not come in 110V. I could probably get away with 220V single phase, but it’s definitely something to inquire about to be sure. Of course, I don’t see any mention of that in the online brochure.

    Can either of you explain how the knife system works with so many different buttonholes? That’s one of the things I couldn’t get my head around, and I didn’t see the machine demoed until I was up against my time to leave for the airport, so I didn’t get to ask while I was there. I know Stu mentioned the knife in his comment. Is a short knife standard, and it just wouldn’t cut open the entire length of a long buttonhole? Do you change the knife when making keyholes? The brochure seems to list 4 sizes of trimmers as standard. (Are trimmers knives?)

    As for the bar tacking and button sewing machines, over the weekend I watched a video that demonstrated how to convert one to the other. It took 1m 45s and looked quite simple. Unfortunately, I cannot find that video anymore! If anyone else comes across it, please post a link. I think the current model number for the bar tacking machine begins with BT, but online the model number still starts with PK, which I believe is old.

    I’m starting to think I spent the weekend dreaming about this machine, since there are several things I distinctly remember seeing and can no longer find! :-)

  7. sfriedberg says:

    I have the Siruba hardcopy brochure sitting next to me. The trimmers are indeed the knives, and they are available from 1/4″ (6.4mm) up to 1 1/4″ (31.8mm), the standard sizes being 3/8″ (9.5mm), 1/2″ (12.7mm), 5/8″ (15.9mm) and 1″ (25.4mm). I am 95% confident the knives just pierce rather than slice, and are therefore make a fixed-size slit. There were some samples at the Siruba booth that had a short slit at one end of a longer sewn buttonhole. By the way, you can get exactly the knife size you need to fit a special button by buying the next larger knife and having a local machine shop grind off a little bit, so you aren’t limited to the stock sizes.

    I am 75% confident that you can tell the machine to cut before, after or not at all when sewing a button hole. So if you had some small button holes to sew among a lot of larger holes, you could use a knife to cut the larger ones, and then sew the small ones with the knife turned off and open the holes by hand.

    I believe the machine comes set up to sew button holes up to 25mm (hair less than 1″) long. There is one easy to change (takes a screwdriver) part that lets you go up to 35mm (1 3/8″) or 41mm (1 19/32″) long. Looks like changing between woven and knit is also quick and easy.

    The bar tacker / button sewer machine is described in the same brochure. Model is BT290, and yes, it’s not on the Siruba web site either. BT290D is the tacker, BT290A1 is the flat button sewer, BT290A2 is the shank button sewer. The bar tacker comes with 41 patterns, including 4 types of eyelets. The A1 button sewer comes with 38 patterns.

    I’d like to see the video showing the conversion between tacker and sewer, too!

  8. Lisa Blank says:

    Stu, thanks for the info.

    I had a demo of a Brother buttonholer in the Henderson Sewing booth, and the cut after buttonhole was nicer than the cut before buttonhole. The cut before button hole had some thread whiskers that the after buttonhole didn’t have.

    Now that I’m at home, I found the video easily.
    BT290 video

  9. Lisa Bloodgood says:

    Now I wish I would have asked the Siruba people to show me all their machines. I have their bright orange plastic tote bag full of their catalogs, a CD of their stuff, a 6″ long ruler w/ 1 side metric, a plastic photo album type book that is sized for biz cards, a combo LED/laser light, and a small zippered tote bag. My hubby is using the zippered bag for his netbook and its cables. (I also have several more pounds of goodies from the show.) Let’s not forget the Reece pocket machines!

  10. sfriedberg says:

    Having raved about the Siruba BH790, I just discovered that the Juki LBH-1790 is an equivalent machine. The Juki documentation, which is a little bit more detailed that Siruba’s, says that you can program the knife to pierce multiple times, making a long slit with a short knife. In addition, you can program a pre-basting stitch (great for knits).

  11. sfriedberg says:

    Zach, the comments in this thread pretty much exhausted our ready information on Siruba. I wrote a separate blog entry on Murata’s machines here.

  12. aminesay says:

    We do have siruba machines in our factory (3 overlock machines). Thay are second hand but they still do their job after 10 years now. So siruba “machine holds up over time” at east the overlock ones!

  13. Tried to find out more info on the Siruba bh790. Local industrial shop said Siruba wasn’t making them anymore? They also said there was no way they could get one for that price. Their supplier quoted between 7000 and 9000 Canadian. Did anyone actually purchase one?

  14. Luis Rivera says:

    Hello all!,
    It’s early back to work after new years (2011) and I come to read this blog about Siruba.
    I am very happy to hear these feedback from Siruba machines.
    I hope you all visit Sirubas new site,www.Siruba.com, which yes, includes the BH-790 and the BT-290 machines along with all others. Please feel free to e-mail me if you have any questions.

  15. Seth Meyerink-Griffin says:

    @sfriedberg: I think that the link that you wanted for the Siruba BH790 is http://www.siruba.com/Product/Product.aspx?id=141. I wonder about their eyelet buttonholes though; do they have knives available to cut out the eyelet part? To expand that, can this machine replace something like a Reece 101 for making jeans?

    I’ve used a Brother HE800A, and the product brochure makes them look similar. One nice thing about the Brother was that you could program underlay stitches so that it could be used for knits; the machine would make between one and seven passes with a straight lockstitch around the where the buttonhole was going to go so that it wouldn’t stretch out during use. (It also had a lot of options for offsetting buttonholes in various ways, but I didn’t understand why it needed those functions.) Anyway, you could program it so that it would do an eyelet taper tack buttonhole, but the ‘eyelet’ options were fairly small; without replacing the jig thingy that holds the fabric in place and using the dip switches (hardware lock to prevent out-of-range programming; you couldn’t program an eyelet larger than 3mm diameter without changing settings on the dip switches) it didn’t really look like a keyhole buttonhole.

    I should probably just ask a Siruba dealer if I ever have the money/space to buy one…

  16. Alicia Renee says:

    Hi Kathleen, I’m in Albuquerque and have a Siruba 5 thread cover stitch machine that I use on knitwear through an existing account. I love it!
    It does single needle, double needle (in two different widths) as well as the cover stitch. I’m considering buying it from my account; however, I fear that I won’t get much use out of it aside from just one account that utilizes it the most.

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