With all the searching and studying it came down to just going for the real thing.... a post-bed, wheel-feed machine. The Cowboy 8810 is one of a series made in China that has a lot of user development baked into it (or so the net says.) It is identical to the Artisan 4618. I suppose that the bizarre and hard to use stitch length adjustment is part of what keeps the cost down, it is not however a cheap or poorly made machine.
This type of machine is primarily for shoes and accessories only. It came with a low speed servo motor because that's the only way you can control the stitch path to the degree necessary for shoes.
Wheel feed means that both the upper and lower wheels are gear driven; the "presser wheel" is not just holding the material against the lower wheel but is driven in sync with it. There are machines with just a lower driven wheel and a friction wheel on top, and honestly I am not sure that that is all I needed. It is a machine that takes much practice before it gets to the "point and shoot" level and going around turns is not a snap, my suggestion is to run tight turns one stitch at a time until you get good.
I picked this up directly from Bob in Toledo a great guy to work with.
Customizations so far: