Saturday, September 13, 2014

Willcox & Gibbs

We went to the weekly auction last night.  I was drawn in by the photo of an electric Willcox & Gibbs machine that appeared to be in good condition.  I keep saying I have too many straight stitchers and I am trying to downsize but, here I go, chasing one more sewing machine.  When we got there, the machine was in as good condition as the auction website indicated.

Decals were almost 100% and the lot included the foot control, manual, and box of accessories.  I had a maximum bid in mind but that lowered when I looked into the vent holes in the end of the motor.  There was lots of carbon or dirt and I could see some bare widings that should have been covered with electrical tape.  I was afraid the motor was toast and there was no way to plug it in to test it.  My mental bid limit didn't factor into the decision because bidding ended at $100 and that was way over my maximum.

There were two more sewing machines, a Singer Spartan (not the 3/4 size black one - the newer green one). It sold for $5 with no accessories or manual or any other go-withs, just the machine.  This is not a photo of the actual machine, just a file photo to remind you what it looked like.

Then there was a Singer 66 in a treadle cabinet. The cabinet was worn and the sewing head had rust and decades of dirt on it but it still brought $55.  Maybe the buyer wants to use the treadle base to make an end table.  I wish I had taken a picture of that one because the decals were some I had never seen before and I can't find any like it on the internet. They weren't Redeye or Lotus, the two I am familiar with.  I thought maybe they were 127 decals that had been applied at a rebuild but that's not what they were, either.  The auction website has changed so I can't download photos of items up for bid and now that machine is gone so I can't research further.

Sunday, September 07, 2014

Singer 401/403/404 Tension Adjustment

Today I dug out a Singer 403 that I haven't used in a long time (maybe never).

I'm not sure I ever serviced this machine when I got it because there's some tape residue on the vertical pillar that I would've cleaned off if I had ever cleaned and oiled The machine.

As I was sewing on my project, I noticed suddenly I was getting loops on the underside of the fabric. It had me stumped for a minute until I saw that my upper tension dial was at zero. The tension knob was so loose that just the slightest bump moved it from its desired setting.

As I was getting ready to correct that situation, it occurred to me that maybe some others would like to know how that's done so I got the camera out and took some pictures of the process.

  There are many styles of tension assemblies, this is the one used on the Singer 400 series. Once you get the external knob off, you find that all upper tension assemblies are very similar inside.

Here is a clip from the service manual telling how to disassemble the 401/403 tension assembly.  To merely tighten the knob, you only need to perform these two steps.

After the thumb nut L5 is removed and the split stud is exposed, insert the blade of a flat screwdriver in between the two halves of the split stud Q2 and spread the two halves slightly apart. That will tighten up the thumb nut L5 when you screw it back on.

If you get the stud halves spread too far apart and the thumb nut L5 will not go back on, squeeze the stud halves back together a bit with pliers and try again until you get it where you want it.

 I had previously noticed that the +|- indicator was skewed off to one side so while I had the tension assembly open, I thought I would fix that also.

There is a set screw inside the nose door that holds the entire upper tension assembly in the machine. Loosen that set screw and you can turn the assembly to any position you desire. When you have it where you want it, tighten that setscrew and you're ready to reassemble.

Assembly is the reverse of disassembly.

After the tension assembly is reassembled, you want to adjust the tension so that you have a good balanced stitch with no regard to the numbered dial.

Once you have a good stitch, push in the numbered disc D5 and rotate so that the number 4 appears at the top of the dial at the +|- indicator. Release the numbered disc and make sure the pin C5 is seated in one of the holes in D5 and you're done.


Monday, September 01, 2014

Singer 615U

On my second trip to a new thrift shop in town, I spotted a modern-looking cabinet.

The cut-out in the top told me it was a sewing machine cabinet and it was so modern, I wouldn't have given it a second look, except for the SINGER nameplate on the door.

The machine inside turned out to be a 615U, a 1968 Touch & Sew made in Japan.

The cosmetic condition is exquisite although I am not too crazy about the gaudy blue plastic faceplate.

It had the instruction manual and a unique attachment box. Most of the attachments are still in their original plastic envelopes.

The store owner plugged it in and ran the motor and that's when I noticed that the hook was not rotating.  Anxious to demonstrate my extensive knowledge, I told him it had a broken gear.  Imagine my embarrassment when we opened up the bottom plate and found that this model does not use gears to transmit rotation from the upper section to the lower, it uses a cogged timing belt.  Here is what remains of the belt.

I didn't make any decision that day, I came home and checked the internet to see if a replacement belt is available and it is, so I put one in my cart.  Yesterday, I stopped by to see if anyone had taken the machine for parts and it was still there.  The owner said he would take $15 but I was with Kathie, so I couldn't take it then.  This morning, Kathie was at a sew-in so I went to the store and picked it up.

Except for the belt and the camstack, it is all metal inside.  Everything is clean and rust-free, even though the dropping feed dog and one of the cam selectors are frozen, common ailments on old sewing machines.

The machine is in such nice condition that I would like to get it running but the idea of replacing that timing belt has me nervous.  I have yet to find instructions anywhere in my service manuals or on the internet.  The lower pulley is easy, it is at the end of its shaft

but to get the belt over the upper pulley, the belt has to go over the main shaft.  It would be nice to know if I can remove the rear bushing and slide it in that way or if everything on the main shaft has to be removed or loosened so the shaft can be slid out far enough to insert the belt from the top.  If anyone can provide guidance, please do.

The jury is still out deliberating whether to invest in a belt and try to replace it or just carve the machine up for parts

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Presser Feet

About a week ago, a Necchi owner asked me to order her a set of high shank snap-on presser feet.  
  I ordered a set for her and thought that others might like the convenience of snap-on vs. screw-on presser feet so I ordered another set to try out with the intention of listing the sets on Etsy if they seemed of decent quality. 

While cruising Ebay today, looking to identify an orphan set of Necchi accessories, I ran across a couple folks selling the same set of snap-on presser feet (at $5-$10 above full retail).  In one description, the seller said that some buyers had asked if the feet came with instructions.  They don’t but the seller referred to a book in her shop telling how to use all sorts of presser feet.

That got me curious what the book might be, so I checked out her store and found no such book listed.  Then I Googled “Book how to use sewing machine attachments” and about the 5th line down was a link to the Singer website,  I clicked on it and I was taken to a page that has free, downloadable pdf instructions and video clips for all the major sewing machine feet.

You don't have to own a Singer to find these instructions useful, all sewing machines use basically the same attachments.  Most of the information is contained in the sewing machine instruction manual, but if you are missing your manual, here’s a place to find out how all those shiny doo-dads are supposed to work!


Friday, August 01, 2014

Kenmore 1400

A few days ago, a friend gifted (cursed?) me with a Kenmore 158.14000.  Her daughter had bought it at a yard sale for the cabinet and did not want the sewing head.

The preliminary inspection told me that the machine had been stored in a high humidity area

 but in spite of the rust on the foot control, there was relatively little rust inside the machine itself.

My guess is that the machine was stored in a basement or garage, the cabinet held the sewing head suspended while the foot control sat for a considerable time on the concrete floor.

The next thing I discovered was the lack of a thumbscrew needle clamp. You have to use a screwdriver to change the needle.

Presser feet are also not held on via a thumbscrew, there is a little lever on the rear of the presser bar that loosens and tightens a screw to hold the presser feet.

This means that most presser feet do not fit but a general purpose foot came with the machine and I did manage to scrounge up two other feet that work.

One feature I find really neat is this little insert that sits in a groove in the needle plate.  You turn it one way for zig zag sewing, then turn it around the opposite way for straight stitching.

Saves having to remove the screws and change out the needle plate.

When I first tried to sew, straight stitch was perfect but zig zag would only make a stitch on one side. The most common cause of this problem is incorrect needlebar height.  At some time, the sewist hit a button or zipper and drove the needlebar up so that now, the needle is too high for the hook to catch the thread.  Needlebar height is easy enough to adjust, just loosen the clamping bolt on the collar, slide the needlebar to the correct position and tighten the bolt back down.

In order to see the hook point passing the needle eye, I need to remove the feed dog and I didn't have the proper tools with me so I just loosened the needle and dropped it down about 1/8 inch.  The result is the same as lowering the needlebar and zig zag works properly.  Now that I have verified that needlebar height is the issue, I will remove the feed dog and adjust the needlebar so that when the the hook passes the needle, the point of the hook is just above the top of the needle's eye at all stitch widths.

This model has a good selection of decorative and utility stitches but up to now, I have been unable to use them.

At first, I thought it might be operator error and visited the Sears website to download an operator manual.  When I enter the model number of this 1400, the site returns a manual for a model 14 - a completely different machine.  I did find a manual for a 1430, which is close, but not identical. Turned out that it wasn't operator error after all, there is one lever inside the vertical pillar that locks the cam follower in place when a stitch is selected. The cam follower position nearest the operator (where it is in the photo) is zig zag.

 That lever is sticking so that when a decorative stitch is selected, the sticking lever allows the cam follower to move away from the operator, but does not allow the cam follower to return in the opposite direction.  To move the cam follower back to zig zag, I have to remove the lid and push the lever into position with a screwdriver.  I have used sewing machine oil and Liquid Wrench so far but neither had much effect.  I am contemplating installing a spring on the lever to "help" it into its proper position.  Until I figure out a remedy, the machne is permanently in zig zag.  Stitch width '0' gives me a straight stitch and that and zig zag is all I really need for the sewing I do.

Ed's Vintage Sewing Machine Store

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Singer Rocketeer Auxiliary Spool Pin

Singer Rocketeer Auxiliary Spool Pin

I haven't blogged lately, I have been busy turning this

into this

I delivered it yesterday afternoon and today, Kathie is at the Hershey Quilt Show, so I have some free time to utilize any way I want.

The 500 and 503 model Singers have two spring-up spool pins under the hinged top lid and a third tucked away in a recessed compartment beside the spool pins.  These auxiliary spool pins often get misplaced so that the second, third, or fourth owner (us) does not get one with the machine. Pam K asked if replacements were  available, another online store owner told her that the replacements would not allow the lid to close. I looked through all my attachment sets and under all my Rocketeer lids and found only one - at least I have a model.  The replacement spool pins are a good bit larger than the 500/503 spool pin

and will not fit into the recess in the lid

and do not allow the lid to close.

Being the king of work-arounds and make-do, I accepted this challenge and set out to right-size the larger spool pin.

It seemed easy enough, just shave down the diameter until it fit into the recess.  I mounted the spool pin in my drill

and ran it against sandpaper until it was the same diameter as the 500 pin.

Even though the overall diameter was now the same size as the 500 pin, it would not seat all the way down into the recess.  Turns out that the pin itself is tapered and too thick at the base to fit into the hole in the pin storage area.  I had to file down the lower 1/2" of the pin to a slightly smaller diameter to make the pin slide all the way down into the hole.

Even then, the lid would not close all the way.

The part of the pin that fits into the hole in the lid was too long and I had to cut off about 1/8".

That created a new problem, the section of the pin that goes into the top of the lid was now too short to provide adequate support for the spool of thread.  I had to cut off the flange under the spool platform to expose enough pin to seat firmly into the hole.

After only 1 1/2 hours of trial and error, the auxiliary spool pin fits perfectly into the top of the lid,

 it nestles perfectly into the storage area inside the lid

and the lid closes.

I don't think I would do it over again, I would just use a separate thread stand but if you feel you "need" that aux spool pin to make your Rocketeer complete, here's how.

Ed's Vintage Sewing Machine Shop

Friday, July 11, 2014

New Home Light Running

The other day, I was digging through my parts bins for something to list on Etsy and came across a New Home buttonholer.

 I have never owned a New Home and probably never will so that buttonholer is excess.  The problem was with the configuration of the attaching point. Presser feet and other attachments are not attached to the side of the presser bar, they are attached to the bottom.

I have no machines with that particular configuration and had no way to test the buttonholer before sending it to a buyer.  Karma kicked in and what should walk through my door but a New Home Light Running machine!

A lady bought it at a flea market and left it with me to check it out for her.

I had to use the instruction manual to figure out how to thread it.

The machine is in very good condition, all I had to do was clean and oil EXCEPT the New Home Light Running uses the rubber-pulley-against-the-balance-wheel type of drive, not a belt drive.  The rubber motor pulley was hardened with age and had pieces chipped out of it and flat spots.  The machine sounded like the neighbor's Harley.  Miraculously, replacement pulleys are still available and cheap!

 I was able to put the machine into smooth-running, quiet operation in no time after receiving the new pulley.

The best part was that now, I have a way to test that buttonholer!

The problem is going to be needles, this machine uses a CC1221 needle considerably shorter than the standard 15x1 and that needle is no longer available.  Internet research told me that 206x13 needles can be substituted but the eye is in a different position.  I installed a 206x13 and had no problem with the sewing.  Further internet research tells me that a better substitute can be obtained by grinding down the shank of a 15x1 needle to make it the same length as the CC1221 needles specified for the New Home.  If the owner experiences any problems with the 206x13, I will grind down a few 15x1's for her.

Back to the buttonholer.  Before returning the NHLR to its owner, I attached the buttonholer and attempted a buttonhole. Even without the feed dog cover or interfacing, I got an acceptable buttonhole.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Singer Rocketeer Spool Pins

Anyone who has a Singer 500 or 503, aka "Rocketeer" knows of the unique spool pin arrangement.  There are no spool pins on the outside of the machine, you lift the top lid and two spool pins pop up ready for thread.

I hate this arrangement, I don't like sewing with the lid up and the pins are often slanted so the thread doesn't unwind properly.  The alternative is to plug a plastic spool pin into the hole in the lid.

When sewing on a Rocketeer, I leave the lid closed and use a thread stand. Actually, I use a thread stand most of the time because I use the large cones of thread instead of the little spools you buy at the fabric store.

We went to Lancaster, Pennsylvania a year ago and one of the fabric shops up there had a large bin of cones for $4 each.  I bought a half dozen and, when we returned this year, and I bought seven more.  I really like not running out of thread in the middle of a project. I just wish they had more neutral and light colors in the bin.

I digress - back to the spool pins. The Rocketeer spool pins are thin plastic with a couple of little pieces sticking out acting as pivot points. Needless to say, they break off often, so I picked up some to stock in the Etsy Old Sewing Machines Shop.

Replacing the pins is not difficult, you remove the upper lid and turn it over; release the spring from the broken pin,

back on the top, remove the one screw from the hold-down plate and lift out the spool pin.  Insert the new pin in the hole, reinstall the hold-down plate, and reattach the spring.

Now, if the spring is missing, stretched out, or broken, you have another problem.  While the spool pins retail for 80 cents apiece, the springs retail for $4.80 each!  This got my creative genes stirring to find a cheaper option. I got out the piano wire left over from my bobbin winder spring episode and wound a spring around a nail.

Unfortunately, the piano wire is considerably thicker than the original spring wire and the spring didn't have enough "spring".  Then, I thought that the spring looks similar to the one in a retractable ballpoint pen.  I disassembled a cheap pen, bent the ends of the spring and installed it.

Works well for now but I'm not sure if it will get stretched out or how long it will last. I will continue to look for a substitute or order some lighter spring wire.

The next problem is the spool felts that help keep the thread unwinding smoothly and prevent the spool from rattling as you sew.  The standard spool pin felts don't work because you need a slot for the pin to fold down into.

 Cutting a slot in a standard spool pin isn't the best option because the spool felt can rotate and the slot won't be where it needs to be when you lower the lid.  My parts supplier doesn't carry the 500 spool pin felts, what I do is buy a sheet of adhesive felt from the craft store, cut out a circle, punch a hole in the center,

cut a slot for the pin to fold into

and adhere the homemade felt to the lid.  Not original looking, but it does the job.

Ed's Vintage Sewing Machine Shop