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The Brother 1034D Serger has proven to be nothing short of amazing for me and has made my work better and far easier.
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Brother 1034D Serger

I surge up to a modern, well-designed machine, bad pun and all

Text, photos and video by Tom Hintz

Posted – 1-25-2018

A brief but spectacularly frustrating encounter with a not-so-old but hugely inferior serger caused me to swear off these evil machines forever. Recently however, I noticed people making happy-posts about a modern-day serger and I had to see if they had as a group gone goofy or if at least one serger had experienced a miraculous transformation. Internet searches provided even more positive comments that gave reason for hope that a real, live and functional serger existed. While backtracking those comments I noticed that the Brother 1034D Serger was enjoying the bulk of that praise. It also appeared at the top of many sewing-specific Best of Review lists. That cinched it, I’m a guy, it’s a machine. How wrong could it be?

My recent purchase and happy use of the Brother PE-770 Embroidery Machine (Review coming) had bolstered my confidence in the Brother lineup which meant buying the Brother 1034D Serger was easily justified, to myself anyway. I had pangs of concern over the surprisingly low the price of the Brother 1034D Serger but got over that quickly as I am as budget-impaired as anyone. The solid reputation and customer enthusiasm for nearly all things Brother had me whipping out the credit card and getting a Brother 1034D Serger was on its way.

Out of the Box

It is understandable that most sergers, the Brother 1034D included have roughly similar layouts or physical appearance. However, in the case of the Brother 1034D Serger, those visuals are where the similarities end. When it comes to performance the Brother 1034D Serger could not be more different from my old, evil-tempered serger that never worked (correctly) more than 30 seconds in a row. There are huge differences deeper amongst the flailing arms, needles and other pieces of fast-moving hardware that make the Brother 1034D Serger work its thread-based magic at speed with consistency, quality and a surprising near bulletproof reliability.

Using the high-capacity spools of thread never entered my mind with the old serger that could hardly finish a foot worth of edge before blowing up again. The Brother 1034D Serger let me empty these spools without having to re thread or fix it!
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The Brother 1034D Serger emerged from its shipping box and protective foam casing in perfect condition. I suspect the folks at Brother anticipated the initial fear-laden seconds of operation by users making the jump from inferior sergers. To ease the transition to the Brother 1034D Serger, it comes from the factory fully threaded with small spools of thread installed. There also is a small piece of fabric already under the needles, so you can literally plug it in, turn it on and step on the foot pedal. Brother is essentially daring us to just “gas” their 1034D Serger and let it alleviate any fears we carry over from our old, dud sergers. I did as they anticipated and was impressed, as they no-doubt thought I would be.

For me the most pronounced Brother 1034D Serger features are that it is A: very easy to thread and B: keeps working without needing tweaking, fixing, cursing or frequent re-threading. The Brother 1034D Serger was off and running as my fears of owning another serger melted away. This time around I was liking having a serger in the shop.

Threading

Owning that evil serger taught me what true dread of impending disaster (OK, small scale disaster) was like. Usually those problems showed themselves through broken threads, tangled everything and marathon re threading sessions that in most cases brought me back to the next broken thread. The cycle would continue. Complicating all this is that when one thread breaks, you are better off cutting the remaining ones and re threading the machine from the start, in the order the manufacturer specifies. When you see the complicated over, under and maybe even an “around” paths of the threads that produces the unique serger stitch, this threading in order makes sense. In this regard the Brother 1034D Serger is the same, threading in order is crucial.

Somehow the design brain-trust at Brother refined the complex mechanics sergers are based on to produce a remarkably user-friendly Brother 1034D Serger that is very easy to thread. In my case, by the third time I threaded it (just because I wanted to, no broken threads) I could complete the task using nothing more than the color-coded thread paths printed on the Brother 1034D Serger casing and finish in just a few minutes.

I did buy a higher-end, longer tweezers to make getting the thread through the moving parts following the paths prescribed in the instructions a little easier for my literally worn-out 68-year-old fingers. The instructions say to run threads out to the back-left corner (sort of) of the serger and the longer tweezers make that easier. Your mileage may vary, as they say.

The workings within the Brother 1034D Serger show how good the engineering has to be for this machine to keep running at such breakneck speeds and not fail. But it does.
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Thread Tensions

Another of the borderline-magic features of the Brother 1034D Serger is a well-designed thread tension system that allows tweaking those settings and getting the expected results. With my old serger (and many others back then) tension adjusting controls worked more as a detonator than adjuster. Here again, the Brother 1034D Serger is highly responsive, reliable and apparently incapable of causing the threads to break with malice of forethought.

With the Brother 1034D Serger I tightened all four tensions a bit for the multi-layer fabric sandwich I use when making the FlyingRC.net RC Plane Protector Sets. When I tested that setting it worked perfectly, snugging up the stitching a little bit just as I wanted. What was even more shocking was that the Brother 1034D Serger continued to perform perfectly ever since! I recently emptied four high-capacity spools of thread without having to change anything on the Brother 1034D Serger since I installed them. The thread tensions and stitches produced have remained consistent and the threads themselves unbroken. I can’t think of a more fitting way to gauge the dependability/usability of a serger. The Brother 1034D Serger simply works as it is supposed to and then keeps on working.

Versatile Stitches

I never considered that a serger could make more than one type of stitch with all that high-speed hardware inside. While cruising the instruction manual (honest, I am a guy) I found that the Brother 1034D Serger is far more versatile than I anticipated. Sergers appear to have been developed for the clothing industry and the Brother 1034D Serger has 22 stitch variations built into its capabilities. While many of the stitch variations are likely more applicable to making clothes, I need to experiment with more of them to better understand how they might apply to the work I am doing in the RC world.

The standard, four-thread edge stitch is perfect for assembling my FlyingRC.net RC Plane Protector Sets because it makes clean, finished edges where panels are joined. That one capability makes having the Brother 1034D Serger in my shop a no-brainer. However, to be sure I am getting all I can from the Brother 1034D Serger I need to explore more of the Brother 1034D Serger capabilities when I have time.

Differential Drive

Differential drive gives you control over the speed of the two feed dog sets, one ahead of the needles, the other behind. This is most important with stretch fabrics.
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I know this sounds like it belongs in an off-road truck commercial but the Brother 1034D Serger really does have something called “differential drive”. On a serger differential drive means you can adjust the “speed” of feed between the forward feed dog and the smaller rear feed dog behind the needles. This can produce some specialized effects such as ruffling or reduce the ruffling when needed.

The Differential Drive adjustments on the end of the Brother 1034D Serger have graphical markings that indicate stretching the fabric or gathering it depending on the setting. This seems to be most important on stretch fabrics. At first Differential Drive would seem to have very limited use for me but I am looking at producing RC plane-related projects using stretch fabrics that would make the Differential Drive important. More experimenting is in the near future.

In the Shop

Despite seeing so many glowing comments and reviews on the Brother 1034D Serger I remained a bit wary. That skepticism is strictly a conditioned response to the truly rotten performance and deeply troubled coexistence with my older serger. However, the foreboding began to disappear when I ran an edge on the included piece of fabric. Even the “clickety” sound made by the operating mechanism of the Brother 1034D Serger seemed smoother and certainly more consistent because it wasn’t breaking threads or breaking down altogether. This ongoing reliability is new territory in my experience with sergers.

Within an hour of opening the Brother 1034D Serger box I was serging the edge of a large (expensive) wing bag with roughly 14-feet of edge that needed to be finished. The only time I had to release the foot control was to reposition the wing bag. I had never serged such a long edge without stopping to fix the serger. With a little more experience on the Brother 1034D Serger I could focus on steering the fabric rather than anticipating a mechanical failure. At the end of serging that super-long edge I could not find a single dropped stitch, loose loop, busted thread or adjustment that needed re adjusting. I was able to finish the task then sit back to bask in the glory of serging as it is supposed to be.

The tension adjusters (left) and the threading instructions (right) all work as expected which is new territory for me and sergers!
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Having a cutter trimming the fabric during the serging operation requires the operator to pay attention to what they are doing. The only times I had to stop before finishing an edge with the Brother 1034D Serger was when I ran a stick pin into the cutter which is totally my bad. I did this a couple times in the early days with the Brother 1034D Serger, ending when the upper knife gave up when I ran another pin into it and the tip broke off. Again, my fault.

Looking for a replacement knife locally brought to light an important fact. The local Brother dealer is a rip-off artist of the first order. After finding him on line we took a ride (he apparently doesn’t feel the need to answer emails through his site) and sure enough, he had a replacement knife (just the moving upper knife) on hand. He also was VERY proud of having the knife on hand and charged me just over $30 for it. I should have given him one more idea on where to put the knife, but I had projects on the bench that needed to get done so I bought the part and erased the path to his store from my mind forever.

I later found full replacement knife sets on Amazon for about $12 that are also made from carbide steel but come with both the upper (moving) and lower (fixed) knife blades, a lint brush and a package of extra needles. The needles were obviously included by someone who had also snapped a knife off and due to the near total lack of free space amongst the workings also killed a needle during the same incident. I ordered a couple spare knife sets for myself and sent another set to my daughter who also now has a Brother 1034D Serger. Incidentally, the replacement knives I found for $12 have been in my Brother 1034D Serger for over three months now (1-25-2018) trimming my unusually-long edges without dulling or breaking.

Maintenance

The trimming of the fabric (left) creates dust and debris that needs to be cleaned out occasionally. I also follow the instructions on adding a drop of oil (right) as suggested int he instructions. The Brother 1034D Serger works great and I want to keep it that way!
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When sergers trim the fabric edges they generate a good amount of dust-like debris. The mass of moving parts within the Brother 1034D Serger cabinet means getting the dust out is important but with full-sized vacuum attachments is a bit futile. I found a set of down-sized vacuum tools that includes an adapter to connect to a common vacuum hose. Those smaller scale vacuum attachments have proven to be way more effective in cleaning my Brother 1034D Serger.

The instructions identify a couple places to put a drop of oil occasionally. I found a bottle of purpose-designed sewing machine oil in a bottle with an extendable, slender spout that makes putting the oil where it is supposed to go way easier. I remain very impressed with my Brother 1034D Serger and am not going to do anything to encourage wear. A bit of vacuuming and a couple drops of oil now and then are small things to ask to maintain the near-elation I still feel when using the Brother 1034D Serger.

Conclusions

While writing this Review I had to consciously throttle my enthusiasm for the Brother 1034D Serger to avoid gushing over it which is exactly what it seems to deserve. Part of that may be due to my going from a terrible serger to one of the favorites on the market. That is the only legitimate comparison I can make with these two machines. Junk to perfection, my kind of advancement.

The reliability of the Brother 1034D Serger both in terms of function and mechanical durability required quite a bit of run time for me to fully accept. In the early hours of using the Brother 1034D Serger I was constantly watching for broken threads and stupid-looking stitches. That was surely some form of muscle memory hanging over from my old serger. The Brother 1034D Serger produced neither (idiot-based pin encounters excepted) so I have become a believer and now relax while using the Brother 1034D Serger.

Video Tour

With a street price of $177.99 (1-6-2018) the Brother 1034D Serger is a remarkable value. Add the ease of use and dependability and the Brother 1034D Serger is a must-have machine for anyone with serging needs. The Brother 1034D Serger has done wonders in the production of FlyingRC.net RC Plane Protector Sets as well as other projects.

If you still have doubts about the Brother 1034D Serger consider this. Brother backs the Brother 1034D Serger with a remarkable 25-year limited warranty. The corporate world simply does not do that if they have any doubts about the reliability of the machine.

I’m as big of a skeptic as anyone when it comes to corporate hype of a product. In the case of the Brother 1034D Serger, I think Brother Inc. could brag quite a bit more than they do without over hyping this product. The Brother 1034D Serger is well-designed and well-manufactured serger that to me is literally worth its cost. That is a very rare combination in todays cost-cutting at any price manufacturing world.

Resources

Replacement knife set on Amazon - Click Here

See the Brother 1034D Serger product page – Click Here


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