Friday, April 19, 2013

Read's Sailmaker

Here's one I haven't heard of. That's not saying a whole lot, because I haven't been dinking around with sewing machines for a very long period of time.

So I'm at the local Goodwill and spot the lone sewing machine case on the shelf. Looks like any other generic case I've seen hundreds of times before.

Hefting the case off the shelf (upwards of 40 pounds) tells me there is a generic cast iron sewing machine housed within. Upon popping the lid off, I see a generic Japanese zig zag machine. Hmm, "Read's" it says on the label. Not one I've heard before and kind of a strange name for a sewing machine.

But wait, what's this? Now *that's* a handwheel. Looks a lot like a discus, not that I've ever seen one in person, but this is what I picture when I hear the word 'discus'.

Has someone added a "monster"-type handwheel to this baby? And why would they do that? Wait a minute, there's a plastic handle in the storage tray. What does that do? Ahh, it threads into the handwheel. Now things are beginning to make sense.

I didn't bother to put on my reading glasses (you turn 50 and everything starts to go downhill) at the store to get a somewhat clear and close-up view of this thing but when I got home and took some photos, I realized I got me a Read's Sailmaker sewing machine.

I know nothing about the Read's company but I would assume they took a standard heavy duty machine of the day and put on a large handwheel and Dayton motor (and maybe adjusted things for heavy thread), then sold the machines aimed at the sailboat owner.

I did a quick online search for J.J. & J. Read LTD in Southampton but couldn't find a web presence, so I'm not sure if they are still in business.

This machine I picked up was most likely used for (or on) a boat since it came with a cone of white V-69 thread. It also came with a couple packages of size 16 and 18 needles, perfect for heavy duty sail sewing. If only sewing machines could talk. I wonder what exotic locations this one has been... besides the local Goodwill.

The bobbin is the left/right-shifting shuttle type (is there a term for this?), meaning the shuttle/bobbin slides left when the needle zigs to the left, and slides right when the needle zags to the right. Or is it right zig and left zag...

Here are a few more photos.

Yet one more reason I like this hobby. There is usually something new and interesting that turns up at the local thrift store.


  1. I have the same machine, ny mother used it to fix sails and tents as well as sew clothes. Mine has a separate removable geared hand crank.

  2. Nice machine would you be interested in selling it?

  3. Billlion, your hand crank sure sounds a lot nicer than the large handwheel/handle on mine.

    Christos, I can't say if I'll ever sell. That's part of the fun of this hobby, things are ever-changing. Best regards.

  4. I have this machine without the foot pedal or electrical cord. Know where I can get one? READS in England won't ship to the U.S.!

    1. Most sewing machines of this era, Read's included, use a very standard motor controller. If you have some soldering/wiring knowledge or know of someone that does, you can adapt almost any controller (found at your local thrift store) to your machine. I made a post and video showing how I did it for a Morse machine:

      Hope this helps.

  5. Made by Toyota in Japan. They also made Morse machines. I have 5 Morse/Toyota machines but none are hand crank.

  6. The only difference between this machine and a regular one is hand/Balance Wheel. Larger and heavier. Machines in the 60's were shipped without motors. Less taxes to pay. Have see Balance wheels on Ebay. 1.5 amp motor and one will sew almost anything.

  7. I just found a Reed's machine in my parents address. Also missing manual and foot pedal. Anyone willing to email, photocopy, horse drawn carriage (any or all options are viable) a copy of the manual to me? Would be greatly appreciated and of course I would reimburse for any expenses. Thanks
    Bill Conklin

  8. I just bought a dressmaker model 90, badged as Wheeler (santa ana, CA). It looks lot like yours. Adjustable zig-zag, tensioners in the same place, bobbin spool on the wheel (still need to figure out how to use that). The motor is only 80 watts. I got it to sew up a main lug for a Caledonia Yawl from Sailrite, so thrilled to see that it seems to be a fit for sailmaking! - Joe, Woodinville, Wa