How do I get the best movement from my machine?

May 25, 2014
APQS quilting machines have come in a variety of configurations over the years, including systems with horizontal wheels, vertical wheels, and Bliss systems. Choose the section below that describes your particular table set-up and follow the helpful hints to improve the way your machine moves.

Aluminum Alloy Tables with Horizontal Wheels

Table systems manufactured prior to mid-2010 include a separate truss under each long rail (some shorter table systems may not have trusses). The trusses provide upward thrust in the center of each rail to prevent sagging. The trusses are adjustable (see below). Machines with aluminum rails produced after that time have the truss already built in to the rail itself so no adjustment is needed.

Table Adjustment

Use a long level to check that your table is level along its length and across the rails. If you need to make changes to a round leg table, loosen the large locking nut at the bottom of each leg with the leg wrench included with your table. Then turn the large threaded leg extender in or out of the legs as needed, until your table is level. Tighten the locking nut again. (Note: You can adjust each leg extender up to 9 inches, so you can also use this feature to change the overall height of your table.) Download pdf instructions.
On square-leg tables, you will find height adjusting holes on each leg that allow you to change the overall height of the machine. They are spaced about 3 inches apart. To fine-tune your table’s level, you can turn the small leg pad in or out of each leg. However, if you need to change the leg by more than 1/2-inch or so, you may need to add shims, blocking or another support under the leg in addition to adjusting the leveler pad.
While it is very important to keep everything level, it is also important to have the width of the table (outside of rail to outside of rail) the same width all the way down the table.

From time to time the table may loosen up a little, just from normal wear or seasonal expansion and contraction. If your table width varies even 1/16 of an inch, the horizontal wheels may not be able to compensate, making it hard to move the carriage in these areas of the table.

The best way to fix this problem is to loosen all the nuts that are holding the cross tubes in place along one side of the table (the nuts on the pantograph rail are usually the most accessible). Move the machine back and forth along the entire length of the table a few times. This allows the carriage and wheels to help reposition the rails in relation to the wheels. Next, have a helper hold a tape measure across the table directly over each of the cross tube locations, and tighten the nuts so the table measures 23-3/4″ across at all of the cross tubes. Avoid over-tightening the nuts. In most cases you will simply need to snug the nuts with a 3/4-inch wrench, and then give the nut another 1/4 turn to tighten it.

Truss Adjustment

If your table has a truss under each long rail, it can be adjusted to change the thrust on the rails. To check your truss adjustment, you’ll need a helper. Move your machine to one end of your table. Grab a long, sturdy string or plumb line. Have your helper stand at one end of the table and hold the string directly against the outermost lip on top of the rail (the lip on which your wheels run). Hold the other end of the string in the same location at the other end of the rail. Pull the string taut between you, and look to see if the string rests above or below the lip of the rail in the center of the table. Check both table rail trusses. If the string is not level with the table rail, download instructions for how to adjust the truss.

Carriage Adjustment

Tables manufactured prior to mid-2010 will have carriages that also use a “rail system” on which the sewing head travels. The carriage has two rails and two cross tubes that hold the rails parallel. Wear, expansion and contraction over time can also affect the carriage rail alignment. Loosen two nuts on one side of the carriage, and slide the sewing head forward and backward on the carriage. The weight of the machine will level the carriage out. Then snug the bolts back up, once again avoiding over-tightening.
Tables manufactured after mid-2010 will have a single-piece extruded aluminum carriage. No adjustments need to be made to the carriage itself. However, wheel adjustments can be made to both style carriages.

Wheel Adjustment

The wheels on both your sewing head and your carriage should turn smoothly when you move the machine. If your system is older, your wheels may be brown or black in color, and will look like heavily compressed particle board. These wheels are called “Ralmark” wheels. (Ralmark wheels are no longer available; however, APQS has a new wheel replacement kit called “M & M wheels” that will work on all systems currently using Ralmark wheels.) Systems sold in late 2010 and beyond will already have the M & M wheels as part of the system. The M & M wheels are made from a tough polymer that decreases friction, along with a special bearing that provides improved durability and smoother movement.
All wheels are subject to wear and tear, and their lifespan will be different depending on the amount of use a machine receives. In general, you should replace your wheels if you have made the suggested adjustments to the table and carriage as outlined above, as well as made the wheel adjustments, but you see little improvement in your machine’s movement. Wheels should be replaced in sets to avoid uneven wear and stress on wheel bearings (e.g. replace all of the carriage wheels at the same time).
To properly adjust the wheels, you will need a 7/16-inch and 9/16-inch wrench.
When correctly adjusted, your wheels will not ride on the rail or carriage with the lip of the wheel resting on the rail. Nor should the wheel be so tight that the rail rides in the deepest portion of the wheel. Instead, you should see just a small bit of air space between the rail and the wheel lip, without having the rail tight inside the wheel. If you set your wheels too loose, the machine will feel “sloppy” and will feel like it is “fish tailing” as you move it.
NOTE: Systems that have the single-piece extruded aluminum carriage will have adjusting wheels on the carriage. However, these systems will NOT have any adjusting cams on the sewing head wheels themselves. No adjustments need to be made to the sewing head with this style of carriage.

Vertical Wheel Tables

The APQS Lenni, Discovery, and Ultimate II machines may have vertical wheel tables made from steel or wood. No adjustments are necessary to any wood table. However, the Lenni Steel Table can be adjusted slightly.

Adjust the Table

The steel table is constructed from rigid angle-formed steel sections. Two long sections form the rails on which the carriage travels, and two short sections keep the ends of the long rails together. If the table is “out of square” the vertical wheels may bind in certain areas as the carriage travels along the table. To square the table, loosen the bolts in each corner of the table where the long rails meet the short end pieces. Next, slide the carriage along the table from one end to another a few times, allowing the carriage wheels to help align the rails. Tighten the corner bolts on the table again and check the carriage movement. Readjust as needed.

Adjust the Carriage

As the carriage wheels travel along the rails on the table, the wheels should turn freely and should remain centered on the rail itself. Newer steel table carriages are equipped with “floating” front axle wheels. The wheels have a shaft through the wheel and carriage that allow the wheel to move in and out as it travels along the rail. This compensates for any minor discrepancies in the rail. Floating front axle wheel carriages do not normally require any adjustment.
Older steel table carriages have fixed wheels on the front and rear axles. However, the rear axle on these carriages is adjustable. If the wheels feel like they are binding on the table, locate the two axle mounting bolts that hold the rear axle in place on the silver carriage. Loosen the bolts and slide the entire axle assembly forward or backwards as needed until the carriage slides freely along the rail. Tighten the mounting bolts again.

Adjust the Sewing Head

For vertical wheel systems, the sewing head wheels are mounted directly to the axle shafts of the machine. Spacer washers between each wheel and the axle shaft itself keep the wheel centered on the carriage lip. If your machine feels like it is binding in the front-to-back direction, check to see that the sewing head wheels are centered on the carriage lip. If the carriage lip rubs against the wheel’s outer lip, then the wheels are too far apart–remove a spacer washer from each wheel on one side of the sewing head only. Likewise, if the carriage lip is rubbing on the inside lip of the wheel, the wheels are too close together. Insert an additional spacer washer on one side of the sewing head only. (Adding spacers to the wheels on one side of the sewing head will also affect the spacing on the other side, so it is not necessary to add spacers to all four sewing head wheels.)
Remove the bolt in the center of the wheels to which you are adding or removing spacers. (Be sure to support the sewing head axles as you work on the machine.) Add or remove washers as needed, making sure the spacing is consistent on both the front and back wheels. Replace the bolts and check the wheel movement again. Finally, re-check the rubber encoder wheel position on the carriage rail. It should be centered on the carriage lip. If necessary, loosen the small allen set screw(s) holding the rubber encoder wheel on its shaft and realign the wheel. Tighten the allen screws again.

Bliss Table Adjustment

Your Bliss Table requires no adjustment. Simply keep the table clean and free of loose threads that can wrap around the carriage axles or sewing head wheels.

If the machine still doesn’t move smoothly with these adjustments call us at 800.426.7233–we can help!