“All grown-ups were once children... but only few of them remember it.”
I got my singer at a yard sale for 2 bucks.
I, a 19 year old nostalgic person, chose to buy a vintage Singer sewing machine. Vintage like.. a 1906 model. Works like a dream. Got it from someone my age who said it was her great-great grandmas, for sooo cheap. Beautiful machine, but heavy. Doesn't take electricity though! Good ole foot powered. I love it, and wouldn't want it any other way.
They are found on craigslist for ~$50 average.
I love vintage, retro, antique, classic, time-honored stuff; especially cars, and outdoor gear & equipment.
I apologize for hijacking your post. So what should we be looking for when buying a sewing machine, medal gears, no electronics, types of stitches?
For gear making, you don't need any fancy stitches and in fact you could make everything you need with just a straight stitch machine. Personally I kind of like have a zig zag stitch as well. For the money, an older all metal machine that has a few stitches will work well for you and last you a long time if you take care if it.
Don't let life get in the way of living.
The machine I'd want (I tried DIY gear once time before) would sew backward and forward for bar tacks, do button holes (you also need the right presser foot for that) and some zig zag. But most importantly the machine needs to grip slippery nylon fabric. Additionally it is most likely that you will never need to sew heavy canvas nor leather. Possibly you may need to consider if the machine can handle bar tacking folded strapping.
+1 on thrift store or yardsale...if you know what you are looking at! At a thrift store, make them plug it up and run a little fabric through it. Yes, this means you need to be prepared with a little fabric and thread in your car in case you find a good one, but it is well worth the preparation. I found my Atlas at a thrift store for $50, and it is wonderful. It is actually a 1950-something rebadged Japanese Brother. I found my other Atlas on Craigslist for $20.
If you are mechanically minded, this can be a good way to go. If you don't know your way around wrenches, screwdrivers, and geared machines...then find a local reputable dealer with an old machine that they have gone over and will certify.
Nice things to have:
Zig Zag Stitch
Ability to offset need position
Adjustable stitch length and width, or 3 or 4 different set stitches for each type.
Button hole ability (1 step or 4 step)
I bought this machine when it was on sale for $80, and it's paid for itself at this point.
do older machines have the ability to stop needle up or needle down? that is one feature I wish my singer had but it is no big deal.