Way back in September 2018, I came across a great opportunity to buy a used long arm machine. My original plan was to buy a shiny new machine, but the financing didn’t work out and I had to adjust my mindset to the reality of buying a used machine.
Finding the right machine
I live in the middle of nowhere, and really wasn’t sure how or when I’d be able to buy a used long arm. I had visions of having to drive fifteen hours one way to find something in Wyoming (nothing against Wyoming – it’s just far!) Imagine my surprise when I found a used Gammill only two hours away from my house (and in Canada no less!) I saw the ad on Kijiji on a Thursday, and I was at the seller’s house early that Saturday morning. I was not going to let the opportunity to buy a used long arm machine so close to home slip through my fingers!
Before that Saturday, I had never seen or touched a Gammill machine. I had HEARD about them and their stellar reputation for being a quality industrial machine, but there are no dealers withing a 1,200 km radius of me, so it never crossed my mind to even consider this brand.
The woman from whom I bought the machine was lovely and kind, and was happy to know that the machine would be put to good use. Lynn, if you’re reading this, thanks again for helping me buy a used long arm! You were a big part of making my dreams come true!
What kind of machine is it?
I purchased a 2004 Gammill Classic Plus 26, which means that it is stitch regulated, has 26″ of throat space, and it came with a 12 foot table. This machine can handle BIG quilts with ease. I can say this about this brand: they make solid machines. The table is all one piece (I clearly remember this from when we had to lift it out of the previous owner’s garage, secure it inside the moving truck, and then haul it down into our basement). This thing is NO JOKE. If you are looking to buy a used long arm machine, this is a great brand to consider!
As soon as I got the machine (does it need a name? It feels wrong calling it “the machine”) and got it set up in the basement, I immediately tried it out. I practiced loading quilt backs, free motion quilting, advancing the quilt, and generally getting a feel for it. I bought some Glide thread and some Magna-Glide bobbins, and got to work. I’m happy to say that it makes beautiful stitches! There’s a reason this brand is so well known and respected.
Adding a computer
Of COURSE I wanted to add a computer to my long arm. My goal all along had been to produce precise stitches that follow a pattern perfectly! I did a LOT of research and learned about a computer that you can install onto any long arm machine called IntelliQuilter. Once I picked out the computer and found a dealer, it was just a matter of waiting for the bank financing to come through. So I waited. And waited. And waited. The loan was finalized the week before Christmas, and my IQ arrived on my doorstep on Christmas Eve! What a great present!
I spent the next few days installing the motors and connecting the shiny tablet to the rest of the system. It was a fairly painless operation, and I had the IQ up and running within a few days.
Once I had the computer hooked up, it was quickly apparent that I would need to change some of the settings on the Gammill. I was having all kinds of difficulties right from the start. The thread would loop on the back. The thread would shred and break when sewing from right to left. The tension was all wonky, and my beautiful stitches had disappeared.
I spent more than a month working on the machine, continually adjusting settings and then re-testing, all to no avail. I spent many hours on the phone with the two different Gammill dealers in Canada. Both were very helpful and provided many different suggestions as to what to try. I did everything they told me to, and in the process I learned a LOT about this machine. I can now confidently adjust the following:
- hopping foot height
- needle bar height
- rocking finger timing
- hook assembly timing
- check spring assembly replacement
- and more!
When I asked the dealers why they were spending so much time trying to help me even though I hadn’t bought my machine from them, I was told that it’s Gammill’s policy to help out any Gammill owner, regardless of whether it’s a new or used machine. They believe that “If it’s a Gammill, it should work. Period.” That’s some serious customer service!
Finally finding the right settings
Out of the many suggestions that I received, the most important seems to have been to purchase a Towa gauge in order to determine the exact level of tension on my bobbin thread. I bought one and quickly found out that my bobbin tension had been way too loose. This was causing the bulk of my problems, and once I fixed this it was only a matter of very small adjustments in order to get the perfect stitches I had been missing. They’re back! And they look beautiful!
Open for business?
It has taken me years of dreaming, planning, and goal setting to get to this point. And while I had to readjust my plans and buy a used long arm machine, and it has taken longer and been more difficult than I would have anticipated, it makes me that much more motivated to follow through and get this business rolling! I can’t wait until I’m open for business and can help you turn your quilt tops into tangible, cuddly quilts that you can wrap your loved ones in!
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