Thursday, August 11, 2011
On vacation last week, I was crawling through thrift stores in Fredericksburg, Virginia looking for treasures. On the back wall of a Goodwill store, I spotted a plain gray sewing machine carrying case with no name on it. The metal on the clasps and carrying handle was rusty, an indication that the machine was stored in an area of high humidity. Thinking it was probably a rusty Japanese clone, I reluctantly lifted the lid and found a Necchi Lydia 3 – one of the last of the Italian-made Necchis.
It was dirty and missing the foot control but there was no rust on the inside, it had the extension table (not shown in the above photo), a full complement of accessories, the paint was in good condition and the balance wheel turned smoothly so I gave the cashier the $9.95 on the price tag and tossed it in the back of the van. I had to go all week knowing that machine was in there and I couldn’t play with it because we were staying in hotels and I had no tools or foot control with me. Today, I pulled it out and cleaned it up and oiled it. I had a spare Necchi foot control that could easily be modified to work on the Lydia and didn’t need to replace any other parts.
I did have a few problems, when I took off the pieces covering the needlebar and presser bar, a plastic piece fell out and it took a while to figure out that it controlled the presser foot pressure and how to get that piece reinstalled properly. After I finally got the machine all back together, I couldn’t figure out how to thread it and had to get on the internet and look up a threading diagram; then there were tension issues. Cleaning the tension disks seems to have solved that one.
The reason I have no Lydias in my Necchi collection is because that model has a fatal flaw – a plastic camshaft. The camshaft controls all the decorative and utility stitches and the camshafts made of plastic crack after a period of years and have to be replaced for a King’s ransom. In the store, I set the stitch selector on a decorative stitch and carefully felt for bumps as I slowly turned the balance wheel. If the camshaft is severely cracked, you can feel the imperfection as the cam follower rides over the crack. The decorative stitches will all have a visible flaw because the crack acts as a low spot on the cam and allows the needle to move in a direction that was not intended.
Opening the end cover, my fears were realized when I saw several small cracks in both ends of the camshaft. The good news is that none of the cracks run the full length of the camshaft, this is the worst one. Also, none of the cracks are wide enough to visibly affect the decorative stitches. It sews well on a test, patch, now to find a small project to more fully check it out.