Saturday, June 05, 2010

Tippmann Boss first impressions

I've done some investigation on leather sewing machines, and everyone I have talked to recommended the Tippmann Boss as the best entry-level leather sewing machine.  They are currently on sale from the factory at just about what used ones are selling for on Ebay.

Based on the same recommendations, we drove to Fort Wayne rather than having one shipped, so I could see how these work.  I talked to one of the techs who assembles and repairs Boss stitchers, and he showed me how to set up and use the machine.  He recommended a thinner foot and a 10 pack of needles, both of which were thrown in for free.  Being out of state, I also avoided sales tax.  He also said that he grinds the front of the thin foot off for better visibility, and he can get within 1/8 inch of an edge or raised section.

I threw together a horse out of scrap lumber from a 20 year old waterbed frame and mounted the stitcher.  I plan to modify this horse a bit to make it fold, but for 45 minutes work out of scraps, it works fine.

The Boss is a completely manual machine.  Stitching is done by pulling an arm similar to a slot machine, once per stitch. The arm has a handle like a bike brake lever to lift the presser foot.  Stitch width, foot pressure and thread tension are all adjustable.  I practiced on some scrap leather, and quickly figured out how to get decent results.   I then stitched a holster I'd started to hand sew and abandoned.  Even though I had to carefully monitor the stitch placement because this holster had some of its holes pre-drilled, it was still incredibly fast compared to hand stitching.   Back stitching can be done by either turning the material or by lifting the presser foot and manually aligning the needle for each stitch. You want to backstitch on both ends of your line--the beginning is best done by reversing, so the holes are properly spaced.

I'm nearly certain that I'm going to be very happy with this stitcher.


  1. Anonymous10:02 AM

    I've seen you post on Lissa's blog, and followed the link to your page. I'm impressed with your holsters, they look very good. I've done leather work for about 12 years, and started making some holsters off and on a couple of years ago. I'm still learning on the holsters. I just started using the vacuum bag system for molding, it works really well, although I haven't tried it on 8 oz leather yet. How long do you case the leather? Do you add anything to the water? Do you do additional molding by hand after the vacuum mold?

    I wish I could go to a Tippman place and get live-in-person pointers, I'm sure it would help a lot. I sometmes have problems with the Boss and I'm sure it's adjustment issues. I've read the book and watched the video and used the machine quite a bit, but some days it just laughs at me, I think.
    -Mrs. Doubletrouble

  2. I'm still figuring out the molding myself. So far I'm just using warm water and letting it sit 15 minutes or so before I start.

    I hand mold while the leather is still vacuumed inside the bag, then touch up a bit (mostly smoothing out wrinkles that the bag left) once I remove the bag. I think the bag lets me be more forceful without scuffing the leather.

    I'm not nearly experienced enough to give advice on the Boss. The only trouble I have with it so far is backstitching isn't as clean as I would like.

  3. Anonymous4:51 PM

    I've had my Boss stitcher for about 5 years and when it works, I love it. When it's on the fritz, I hate it. The main problem I have with the thing is that the parts for the main gear constantly break. I don't abuse the machine or use it heavily, but I still break the gear at least 3 - 4 times per year. It's made of cast pot metal instead of machined steel. The part where the screw goes through the handle into the gear will always shear off and break. It's a real pain to get the timing correct after replacing the part.

  4. Anonymous12:04 PM

    sounds like it's cheaper to go get that part machined the way you want it?