Thursday, December 26, 2013


Lots has happened in the past few weeks.

We closed the quilt shop. After 18 months with not a single profitable month, we got tired of continuously pouring our savings into stock, rent, and other expenses and pulled the plug.  It took two weeks to bring all the remaining stock and fixtures home and now we are trying to sort it all out.  Kathie should not need to buy fabric for years to come.

I have been loading the remaining stock into Kathie's Etsy shop at discounted prices.  A link is at the side of the page.

I split off my vintage sewing machine items from Kathie's store and set up my own Etsy shop with just sewing machine-related items. I have lots more to list but it's a start. I have placed a link to my shop at the side of the page, also.

I have eight Singer motors waiting to be re-wired but won't get to them anytime soon.

Sunday, December 08, 2013

The 66 is Finally Finished!

  I spent most of the day putting the finishing touches on this machine.  All I had left was the tension assembly and the bobbin winder and it would be ready for testing.  The bobbin winder went without a hitch. I love those old bobbin winders with the guide finger that precisely positions the thread winding on the bobbin so it comes out perfect. I'm sure that economics was the reason they were replaced with the lower quality contraptions on later machines because there are  many more parts and moving parts on the older winders.

  On to the tension assembly - when I separated the tension discs, there was a piece of thread lodged between them, possibly the cause of some previous tension problems.

  I cleaned and reassembled the tension assembly and installed it. It regulated tension all right, but did not release when the presser foot was raised. Do you see anything wrong with this tension assembly component?

  Neither did I the first time around but I knew there should be some piece with a bar passing between the sides of the split stud. The pin in the tension assembly needs something to push against to release the spring pressure from the outer disc.  The part should look like the one on the right here

  I threaded it and found that the upper thread would not pull up the bobbin thread.  The hook was a bit out of time from being disassembled for cleaning. After re-timing the hook, the machine seemed to be binding. I had adjusted the feed dog centering and tightened the screw back down too tight. with the machine running smoothly and sewing like it shoud, I noticed that one of the motor wires had a gap in its insulation so I had to replace the motor again and find a belt to fit. It seemed like it was one thing after another and took all day. We are in the middle of an ice storm, so I wasn't going anywhere anyway, but I could have found other tings to do with the time.

Here is the finished product. Not the best looking machine I have ever put out the door but considering the condition it arrived in, not too bad.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Singer 66 Update

Progress is happening on the 66 I blogged about earlier.

Step 1 - I stripped it down to bare bones

Step 2 - Cleaned all the old brown scum off and polished any brightwork that couldn't be easily removed.  Notice the many rust spots on top, I'll get back to them later.

Step 2 - Cleaned up all the removed parts and reinstalled.  See the red felt in the hook area? That is there as an oil reservoir to supply lubrication to the hook. Many owners think it is a ball of lint and pull it out. Some day I will work up a tutorial on how to replace that felt.

Step 3 - I don't think I'll reinstall this motor, that wiring looks like an accident waiting to happen.

 I'm sure I have a comparable motor in my motor tub.

Step 4 - I applied rust converter to the rust spots.

This converter is advertised to turn rust into black primer. While flat black spots are not the most desirable, they are better than rust spots. I think the rust converter would have done an even better job except that I had wiped down the head with sewing machine oil before applying the converter. I wiped the paint down with degreasing wipe but that wouldn't get the oil soaked into the rust. If I had thought, I would have done it in the reverse order.

I still have to clean and reinstall the tension assembly, bobbin winder, and faceplate.  Then comes the job of testing and adjusting. I think it will be finished soon, glad I didn't have any other machines show up for servicing while I had this one in pieces.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Industrial Sewing Machines for Home Use

Everyone knows that industrial machines sew better, last longer, and are more reliable than domestic sewing machines but many sewists are reluctant to acquire one due to the size, weight, speed, and noise.  The noise is attributed to the clutch motor that runs all the time and only powers the sewing head when the operator steps on the pedal and energizes the clutch.

This noise problem has been overcome in recent years by the DC servomotor that acts like a domestic foot controlled motor - it does not run (makes no noise) unless the operator steps on the pedal, then the motor spins the sewing machine.  While the servomotor solves the noise problem, it still has to be mounted in a power stand so the issues of size and weight are still present.

Many years ago, I obtained a Singer 95-10 tailoring machine.  It had a clutch motor but I didn't have a belt to fit and my parts bin had several motors, belts, and foot controls, so I decided to try powering it with a motor off a home machine.  To my surprise, the machine worked quite well and sewed everything I put under the presser foot. It was still mounted in a power stand but I had the space so that was not a problem.

When I got my Singer 20U-33, I bought only the head.  I saw that there were motor bracket mounting provisions below the balance wheel that looked like those on a home machine so I bolted a motor from an old Brother in place and sewed away.

My internet friend Rich in Tennessee carried things a bit further, he built a wooden box to hold the sewing head and a motor mount and powered a big, honkin' walking foot upholstery machine with a domestic motor. Rich has solved the issues of size, noise, and speed.  Don't think that his is a portable though, it probably weighs in the 60-70 pound range.

You would think that a little 1/15 horsepower motor would not spin an industrial machine designed for a 1/4 - 3/4 hp motor but the answer is in the sizes of the pulleys. The pulley on the 1/3 hp clutch motor pictured above is 11 inches in circumference.  It drives a balance wheel that is also 11 inches in circumference. The motor pulley on a domestic machine is 3 inches in circumference, so there is almost a 4-1 reduction and the 1/15 hp motor appears to be much more powerful.

This solves another issue of industrial machines - the speed.  Many are intimidated by 3500 stitches per minute but with a 4-1 reduction, the machine will only sew about 900 SPM with a domestic motor - the same speed as the average domestic machine.  That speed is more easily controlled by the foot control and the operator doesn't need to learn the procedure for operating a clutch motor.

Food for thought

Saturday, November 23, 2013

What Have I Done to Deserve THIS? Singer 66

A lady brought her Great-Grandmother's sewing machine into the shop for servicing this afternoon.  She said it had been stored in an unfinished basement for fifty years more or less.

 It had originally been in a treadle cabinet but was converted to electric somewhere along the line.  The Great-Granddaughter has the original treadle cabinet and wants to eventually de-convert the sewing head back to treadle configuration.  For now, she wants to use it as an electric machine until the wood cabinet is restored.

My first thought was that any machine stored in an unfinished basement for half a century would be too rusted to ever put back into sewing condition but Looking at the hook area, the rust appears to be light and I think it will buff off.

The electricals are shot

The stretch rubber belt is cracked in many places, the spring that holds the slide plate is missing

And the bobbin winder looks like a fused mess of corrosion and dirt.

On the bright side, I have parted out a number of 66's and have lots of spare parts in the parts bins. I think I can get this old lady sewing although it will never look new again.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Rocketeer #1 is Finished!

  This machine is one I thought was 100%. However, when using it, the light switch was very touchy - I had to turn the light on & off several times before it would stay illuminated. Since I was going to part out Rocketeer #3, I decided to cannibalize the light assembly for #1.

  Removing the upper lid, I noticed that the bobbin winder return spring and the bobbin winder latch spring were both not working properly. So much for 100%!

  I posted a few days ago how to replace the bobbin winder return spring and I just had to bend the end of the latch spring and reattach it to the latch to remedy those issues.

  I should have made a tutorial on how to replace the light assembly, it turned out to be a bit more complicated than I had envisioned but I didn't take any photos so it would not be too informative.

The easy way is to cut the wires just inside the machine housing and splice the new socket to the existing wiring but I elected to do it the hard way and replaced the socket and wiring as a single unit, threading the wire down to the main connector.

  When I reassembled the 500, I found that it would zig, but not zag.  At full zig zag width, the needle would go full left and come back to center, but not go from center to the right.  Slant-needle Singers only have a paltry 4 mm zig zag to begin with and cutting that in half leaves that function essentially useless.

  I oiled everything I could get at several times, let it sit, ran it at high speed to work in the oil, but nothing helped.  I could manually push the needle to the right, but it would not go there under its own power.

  I spent much of Sunday afternoon and most of Veteran's Day fiddling with that one problem. The service manual was no help, but the diagrams did convince me that the cause was either a binding needle bar vibrating bracket or a binding needle bar driving arm.

  The needle bar vibrating bracket was the most easily accessed, so I tackled it first.  I loosened the collar below the bracket that holds the bracket in place to be sure that the binding was not at this point.  

Of course, being the easiest fix, that was not the problem.

  The needle bar driving arm is an I-beam connected to the needle bar vibrating bracket one end and a forked end connected to the stitch selector. At the end of the lower fork is a thing called a "ball pivot".  From what I can tell, it looks like a metal Tootsie Pop with a round globe on one end and a shaft on the other end that hooks to the bottom fork of the needle bar driving arm.

  The "ball" of the ball pivot sits in a tunnel in the side of the stitch selector and keeps the driving arm aligned.  The ball slides back and forth in the tunnel as the driving arm moves left and right to re-position the needle.
  I had oiled the back side of the ball pivot several times but the oil had apparently not penetrated far enough into the tunnel to lubricate the ball and make it slide freely. To get at the front side of the ball, you need to remove the camstack. Once the camstack is out, the tunnel is visible on the left wall of the stitch selector.

  I tipped the machine on its nose and filled that tunnel with sewing machine oil and let it sit for an hour. When I next tested the machine, the zig zag was still at 2mm.  I put pressure on the needle bar driving arm to encourage it to move the needle to the right and after a minute of running the machine and adding pressure, the zig zag opened up to its full 4mm.

  That was about 7:30 last night and I am glad I didn't have to go to bed with that on my mind.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Singer Stylist 533

A lady dropped this by the shop last Saturday. She had picked it up for her daughter and wanted it checked out before she gifted it.  It's easy to see why she was attracted to it, it looks pristine. The throat plate doesn't have a scratch on it!  Either the previous owner was very careful and never broke a needle or the machine was used very little.

Only two external issues - the spool pins and one deteriorated bed cushion.

The spool pins had been replaced with the wrong size and were loose in their sockets.  Easy fix, just press in the proper pins.  I had a replacement bed cushion in my parts bin and replaced the bad one.

Opening the top, I was surprised that there were no plastic gears up there, a timing belt transfers rotation from the upper section to the lower.

Then, I opened up the lower section. OOPS! Wish I hadn't done that.

  The formerly white feed gears are dark yellow.  They have no cracks or chips at this point, but once they turn color, it's just a matter of time.

The formerly white hook gear was worse.

It has turned brown and one tooth is chipped partially off. With any use, I predict this gear won't last another six months. I can buy replacement gears like the original but suppliers are now stocking gear sets with curved teeth that are supposed to provide smoother, quieter operation. I am anxious to try out a set of those new gears.

The Stylists are good utility machines, although a but stodgy in the styling area. Maybe Singer should have called them something else like Boxy or Clunky.  Their weak point is the internal plastic gears that are disintegrating with age. It would be nice to find metal replacement gears, then those Stylists would last as long as Singer's 66's.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Rocketeer Bobbin Winder Latch Spring

  As I was reassembling the bobbin winders on my three 500's and the 503, I noticed that on only one of the four machines did the bobbin winder latch remain snug against the bobbin winder. It was a little difficult to see why, but investigation revealed that there is a spring under the bobbin winder latch that is supposed to push the bobbin winder latch up against the bobbin winder.

That spring is hard to see because it is so small and hidden under the latch.  I see only two functions for this spring:

 - It keeps the bobbin winder latch from rattling during machine operation

 - It makes the latch snap into place if the operator engages the bobbin winder by pushing the bobbin winder toward the balance wheel but the instruction manual says to engage the bobbin winder by pushing the latch
toward the bobbin and not by pushing the bobbin winder itself.

  Fortunately, I cannot see any adverse effect on machine  performance but if the designers felt it should be there, I want to restore it to original condition.

   The spring is a simple affair having about 1 1/2 coils with an "L" bend at each end. one "L" hooks on a finger beneath and behind  the latch and the other hooks over the back side of the latch.

 The spring  is not as heavy as the bobbin winder return spring and the music wire fishing tackle I bought previously was  close in diameter, so I was going to fashion new springs from it.

  The good news is that none of the springs was broken, they had merely slipped out of place.  Problem as I see it is that the "L" that hooks over the latch is not long enough and eventually loses its grip on the latch.

  A very simple solution - take a pair of needlenose pliers and bend that "L" into a "U".  That should hold in place better than the original design.

Check your Rocketeer bobbin winders to see if there is any spring to the latch when you push it away from the bobbin winder shaft. Since 3 out of 4 of my machines did not offer any resistance, I have to deduce that this must be a common deficiency with this particular design.

NOTE: If you remove the latch, don't lose the washer underneath or the latch will not be able to swivel when reinstalled.

Saturday, November 09, 2013

Singer Rocketeer Bobbin Winder Spring

One of the weak points of the Singer 500a and 503a is the bobbin winder spring.  The spring breaks and the bobbin winder will no longer spring back when the bobbin is filled.  Sometimes, the bobbin winder won't even latch to fill a bobbin.

Fortunately, I had a good spring to use as an example, so I wasn't "flying blind".

Measurements are quite simple and only one is critical - the straight arm of the spring is 3/4" long; the L-shaped arm has a 3/4" long extension, then bends down at a 90-degree angle for another 3/4".  There is only one coil.

For the price of one ready-made spring on the internet, I purchased a 446-foot coil of .029" diameter spring wire. I think I will have enough wire to fashion my own springs for several lifetimes.

I cut off about a foot of wire so that I would have enough to grab onto and wound it around a bolt.  I like to use a bolt because the threads help keep the coils even and straight.

 Then, I cut one arm off at 3/4" and the other at 1 1/2".  I put a 90-degree bend in the long arm and was ready to install.

Unfortunately, I made the coil too small.  This is when I learned that the critical measurement is the coil section - it has to be approximately 1/2" in diameter.

 Larger diameter might work, but I made the first spring with a smaller coil and the bobbin winder mounting screw tightened against the spring and would not allow the bobbin winder to swivel.  It seems counter-intuitive to me, but the coil of the spring must be large enough to remain outside the bobbin winder's swivel arm.

Several more prototypes with unsatisfactory coils.

I finally found a dowel that allowed me to make the correct 1/2" coil and got a good copy of the sample spring.

 If I were going to make many more, I would pick up a larger diameter bolt to wrap the wire around but I only need two right now, so the dowel will suffice.

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Slant Needle Nose Door Hinge Repair

I estimate that half the slant needle Singers I find in the wild have a broken upper hinge on the nose door.  This is especially true of the 500 series (500a & 503a) but I have also seen it on 401's and 600's. Many of these doors are held on with clear packing tape and that's a band-aid fix but I prefer to have my machines LOOK nice, even if they have been repaired.

So, here is the nose door from the 503 I am rebuilding.  It has the common feature of half the upper hinge broken off and missing, so it cannot just be glued back.  With the broken piece went the hinge pin, so we also have to find a replacement pin. I normally use a finish nail, but this is the shaft out of a pop rivet.

I mix up some epoxy and fill what's left of the channel for the pin.

Next, I position the replacement pin so that it is at the correct angle and press it into the epoxy.  It is best to balance the pin in the slot so that it does not slump down before the epoxy hardens. Then, I slather epoxy over the pin to help hold it in place.

24 hours later, I slice off the excess epoxy and excess pin from the top of the hinge.  I use a rotary tool with a cutoff wheel.  If I applied too much epoxy, now is the time to grind or file it down so it doesn't interfere with the opening or closing of the door.

The original pin is about 1/4" long, but you will find it easier to install the door if you leave the replacement pin a bit longer. With both upper an lower pins the same length, you have to align both with their respective holes to install the door.  If you leave the upper pin longer, you can insert the upper pin and the extra length holds the upper hinge in place while you fiddle with the lower hinge pin.

 TA-DA! the 503 now has a functioning nose door.