Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Motor work

This is the motor that came with a Singer 66 that I bought at a yard sale for 10 bucks.  The machine is a beauty and I love sewing on it.  I had put the motor and light from the 206K debacle on this particular 66.  Now, though, I have decided to try to fix the 206K.  I have the part courtesy of eBay and some cash.  Hence, I will need a motor for the 66.  The black wire (goes to number two on the block) is in pretty good shape.  The red wire is in good shape but the insulation was gone.  I decided to put on a new connector and slip some shrink wrap over the wire and call it done.  Sounded simple.

The shrink wrap would not shrink well enough and stay put near the body of the motor.  I took the motor apart.  Carefully.  I did not take the brushes out first, you should.  I pulled the motor out of the housing and gently pulled the wires through the hole in the motor housing.  That freed up the motor and allowed me to inspect the commutator .

Kind of dirty.  I cleaned it with a soft cloth, first, then used  the common rubber eraser.  

 Nice and shiny.

The next step was repairing the wiring.   First I unwound the paper wrapper and cleaned the old wire gently with some 70% isopropyl rubbing alcohol. Then I made my mechanical connection and soldered it

Next I put some shrink wrap over this connection.

Then I put some larger diameter shrink wrap over the whole thing on down to the body of the motor.
It's not gorgeous, I know.  It is, however, safe.  No bare wires.

Next I tried to crimp on a connector.  I am just not strong enough to crimp the plastic coated connectors.  I tried, but it didn't stay.  So I eased the red plastic insulator back from the connector and soldered it to the wire.
Then I eased the red plastic insulator over the connector.  It did not go back all the way, but it went far enough.  So now I have a red plastic connector to identify that this lead goes to the red connection on the block.

I was able to slip these wires back through the hole in the motor housing but I was unable to get the motor housing back together.  I was lacking about an eighth of an inch.  I wondered if it was the "underwriter" knot so I took that apart and tried again.  No go.  I fiddled and fiddled, then I understood that there was something in the way where the shaft of the motor entered its housing.  I looked in there and saw the oil wick.  For the life of me, I could not get it out.  I tried tweezers, a dental pick, tweezers again. I looked at the motor housing itself and saw a cap.  I wondered if that should come off.

But since it did not have any slot, as did the brush covers, I figured it was not designed to pop off. I confess that I did try, none the less.

I finally was able to get the housing screws started and decided to just try to tighten them in hopes it would compress that oil wick.  As I was tightening the screws, the cap popped off in my hand and spit out the felt oil wick. 

I thought some of just leaving it right there under the cap.  But I checked and there is still some felt left behind so I did not.  I believe it will be ok.  The motor is back together and mounted on the machine now.   I seem to have misplaced some of the electrical connectors, but, as Ingrid always says, "They will surface"

Monday, August 29, 2011

Why bother with Zig Zag?

I gave this one away.  I had to do it.  I had to unload some machines.    Now I have learned that these cabinets for the 99k are less common than those for full sized machines.   Do I regret giving it away?  A little bit.  I love these old straight stitch machines.  I believe it is being used.   She went to a quilt guild at the Fly Creek Methodist Church.  My bet is that she gets plenty of use. Quilters like straight stitch machines.  Why bother with zz?  

Sunday, August 28, 2011

What is that SMELL?

I spent too much money on this particular Singer 66 and it is in sorry shape.  I am willing to spend a buck on a check spring for it, but I am not willing to buy it a new motor.  So, what the heck, I took the plunge and opened up the motor.

Can you imagine what this must have smelled like when it melted?  This motor is trash.  But I haven't thrown it away yet.  I am studying it.   (Gee whiz, I must get a little tripod, or new glasses)

Re-wiring a light

These lights are fairly easy to re-wire. Since the body of the light is pressure fitted, it is as simple as getting it apart and turning four screws; two in the light itself and two in the plug.  Now that I have the 66 cleaned I thought I had better figure out the light.   Using a small straight slot screw driver I pried the housing apart at the spot indicated by the black line in the photo.  There is a corresponding spot on the opposite side I pried there, too.

This is how it came apart.  

The switch was broken but functional.  I decided that I had to figure out something to slip over that metal prong.  See the little nut?  I used tweezers to remove that. The ceramic body came apart quite easily.
I needed something to slip over that flat, metal piece.  I found some plastic tubing from an old soap dispenser pump, cut off a small piece and glued it in place.
Pretty nice tidy wiring, eh?  Since the original wiring had that little knot I decided to tie one as well.

I found a washer in the ice cube tray where I keep my parts( an attempt at staying organized).  I had no idea where it belonged.  Fortunately I had another light and figured it out.   I took this photo so that I would understand how the pieces fit back together.  I still managed to mount the light backwards (see previous post).   I had forgotten to crimp the light back together before I mounted the light.  I think that is where I got confused.
It is just a matter of pressing the two sides back together.  Easier said than done.  I found that pressing them together and twisting helped and then, snap, it was together.
 I apologize for this unfocused photo.   I had to undo this wiring because I mounted the light backwards.  Easy Peasy, and the re-wire job was neater.  Sorry, no photo.  You will just have to trust me on that.

Each time I wire something and the fuse doesn't blow and the thing actually works, JOY.

Don't blame the Bordeaux

 Hurricane Irene came ashore on Coney Island (160 miles south east of here) this morning around 6 AM, I am told.  We have yet to lose power.   I have Steve's "fire monitor" pager on and there are flooded roads and basements and downed trees, power and phone lines all around.  As of now, (6 PM Sunday) the wind has subsided and the rain has slowed to a drizzle.  Maybe I dodged this bullet.

I spent much of the day in the shop.   Lucky me.  In the time it took the Westford fire monitors to respond to the report of a flooded road on County Rte 36 and close that portion of the road, I re-wired this light.   Clever girl.  I was so pleased when I had it all done.  I had taken pictures as I dismantled it to be sure it went back together the way it came apart.   I guess next time I will look at the pictures.  Luckily I hadn't soldered anything. 

It makes me laugh.  But that's the point of this hobby; JOY.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

That'll be Fifty Bucks, Ma'am.

I refinished this cabinet and as long as I had the machine out, I decided to clean it and oil it.  Then I tried stitching with it; skipped stitches.  I could not get it to sew without skipping stitches.   I tried a new needle, a new bobbin and even a new bobbin case and a new hook.  It just would not stitch on the zig.  And it skipped stitches on the ss as well.  Betsy told me it was a timing problem.  But I could not figure out how to loosen the hook.  So today we had a date to work on timing this machine.  When I got to her house and got set to demonstrate the lousy stitches, Betsy reached over and pushed down on the presser foot pressure regulator.  Bingo.  That will be fifty bucks, ma'am.

So I was planning to sell this machine.  Now I love it.  See?  It's a sickness, it really is.

Friday, August 26, 2011


We could have some high winds on Sunday which means that the power will likely go out.  I plan to move this treadle out of the bathroom and into a room that has better light so that I can sew during the storm.  I have a lot of squares that were given to me, pre-cut, so I think I will just stitch them together randomly. It will be good treadle practice.

I named this machine Rose last January when I bought her.  I must change her name, though, since I  brought home Rosie last week.  I guess it will be Irene.  Irene Rose.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Before and After


This cleaned up so nicely.   I soaked this in some rust remover that I bought at the hardware store. Some sort of pink gel rust remover.  It did a great job. Though I am not convinced this was rust.  It might be tobacco smoke residue. These machines also have a piece that covers a hole on the back of the machine.  Unfortunately, this one is missing.  Too Bad.

Too many machines

It has come time for me to unload some machines.  My family is celebrating this announcement.  I spent today cleaning up a 1924 Singer 66 that I found in Syracuse this winter.  I truly plan to sell it.  I truly do.
I had intended to sell a different 66 that is already to go. (The Singer next to the Kenmore 117, second from the left on the shelf)    I only paid ten bucks for it and it cleaned up so nicely. I love that machine.  Therein lies the problem.  Love.

This photo shows 16 machines.  (All of the cabinets you see are are empty. ) I love each one of them.  Well, maybe not the Kenmore 117 in the fore front on the shelf  and maybe not the Elna and Viking (in the cases in the forefront).  Oh and not that fiddle bed in the way back.  But that is four of the 16 that I don't love.  When I get to fixing and cleaning them, then I fall in love.  Well maybe not with that fiddle bed in the way back; it is missing its vital organs.
 Yet, I can say that I am not falling in love with today's 66.    It has a smaller hand wheel than the newer ones, just one half inch bigger than the handwheel on a 101. I think that looks odd.   The machine turns  nicely, but is in rough shape cosmetically.  The decals are worn; the shellac is dirty and flaking and she is rusty in some spots.  I can tell she was used well and often.  When I found her she was in a storage "locker" in the grandson's  Syracuse apartment building.  That was early on in my acquisition disorder.  Now I would pass this one by.  But since I have her, I am cleaning her up, fixing her up and putting her up for sale. 

I won't make any money on this machine.  I paid too much and I have spent hours already and have hours to go, and more investment (she needs a check spring) before she is functional.  What I will gain is experience and pleasure from cleaning and fixing her.  To me that is priceless.   The face plate  has scroll work and it cleaned up beautifully. 

Here it is before:

 Tune in another day for the after photo.

(Ok in the interest of full disclosure, there actually are 17 machines in the photo above. a Kenmore 117, a Singer 66, the White VS,  a Singer 15-91, two Singer 101s, a Singer 301 and the Fiddle bed VS, an Elna, a viking , a Singer 15-91, a Singer 15-90, a Singer 306K (ready to go if I can let it go), a Singer 185k,  a Singer 99-13,  A Singer 66 red head and a Kenmore 1752).

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Singer 319W

One day last December I was "trolling" on Craigslist.  I usually do not check out ads that don't have a photo.  For some reason I read the ad for this machine.  I had to drive to Western Mass to fetch her but since it wasn't THAT far past Albany,  I went.  I must admit that I paid much more than my usual 40 bucks, but I love this look.   I have done nothing to her since she was very nicely cleaned up and running very well.  However, now that I have all that soldering experience, I think I will solder a couple of connectors to the wires that attach to the three stud connection.  It's just more tidy.

Singer 185K

I had wanted a 185K for a while.  I found one on Craigslist in Asheville, NC.  Why would I look there?  Well, Mom lives near by and Alice was going for a visit.  I had schemed a plan to have Mom and Alice go get it last Christmas when Alice was down for a visit. Alice would take it home with her and  I would then pick it up when I went to Chicago last March.  When I spoke to the nice gentleman in North Carolina, he advised that he would not hold it for me "These things happen they way they are supposed to happen."

It so happened that I did not get that machine.
Instead I found this little darling in Syracuse this summer.  Syracuse is a whole lot closer.  Betsy and I were going up anyway to see if we could get some help with her Elna (I think it was an Elna) so I figured what the heck.
 I have a fair amount of experience with this type of machine.  It is similar to the 99 and 66.  I cleaned and oiled her up in no time.  The case is deteriorating a bit.  The plastic is not holding up well.  Still she sews very nicely. 

Not bad for a fifteen dollar machine, eh?

Sunday, August 21, 2011

grease on gears

I was trying to figure out how to time a Kenmore 158 today.  I took the cover off of the shuttle gear and found all of this grease.  Now to me, this is A LOT of grease.  But the machine runs smoothly and, as a friend reminded me, I AM NOT A PROFESSIONAL, so what the hell do I know?

This is what is underneath all of that goop.  I tried to adjust the timing on this machine,  It skips stitches and will not pick up the thread on the zig and sometimes on the zag.  It does afairly nice straight stitch, but skips stitches.    This is a problem since I was hoping to sell it.  I will figure it out, or else it will be another machine to go with me to Ray White's class.

Let's see, I have the Elna
The Generic Japanese Class fifteen
One of the 201s
 to take along.   Ambitious/  We shall see.

Saturday, August 20, 2011


Today I went over to an auction with my good friend.   We were chasing a 221"Featherlight" at an estate auction.   In truth,  it was a later model, white , Feather weight and it went for way too much money.  I never even had a chance to bid.  A "wheeler dealer" was fighting it out with a local woman who really, really, wanted it.  She got it.   And Betsy and I got a van load of stuff, but no sewing machines.   This could be the start of something new and dangerous.  Auction mania.

Thursday, August 18, 2011


I cruise eBay daily.  I have purchased four machines on eBay that I had shipped to me.  Two I had to send back.  The packing was pretty bad and the machines broke in transit.  I lost some money, but learned a lesson.  It is best to avoid buying heavy, fragile (yes they are) machines on eBay unless you can pick them up, or  you know that the sender is a really really good packer.   So I search within 100 miles of my zip code.
Broken stitch selector on Kenmore 158.1030.
I do, however, buy parts on eBay and today I "won" an auction for a "lot" of 206 parts.  The Tale of the 206K is coming up. In it you will learn about compulsion, blind obsession,  denial and charity.  Check back later.  I will have photos and the story.  

I let this one go

This is a Singer 15-91  not far from me.  The auction is up tomorrow and I feel pretty satisfied with myself for exercising some RESTRAINT.   Until you have been obsessed with sewing machine acquisition, this is hard to grasp.  I feel as if I have to save every machine and that if I don't step in, then the machine will end up in the land fill.  Now clearly this is not the case here.  This machine has bidders and someone will be very happy to "win" this eBay auction.  I, on the other hand, will be happy that I won't be chasing off to fetch another machine.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The obsession continues

I truly had wanted to stop chasing sewing machines.  I am incurable.  Today I drove 200 miles round trip (it isn't THAT far) to look at two machines; a Singer 15-91 and a Singer 66 Red Head.  The danger with driving so far to "l@@k" at machines, is that I tend to buy them just because I went so far.  Today was the exception.  Oh I bought both machines, but they were in very good condition and well worth the time and fuel to fetch them.  So it did not matter than I had stars in my eyes the minute I saw these machines. 

These were family machines and I bought them from a very lovely family.   Nancy and her three daughters are the kind of women I would love to have as friends.  Lucky me that I have these machines.  Ellie was Nancy's aunt and Rosie was her mom.  She suggested that I name the machines and I have. 

The White VS is going back on the shelf so that I can clean and oil these two and get sewing.

What a lovely day I had.

Can this sewing machine be saved? continued

 This is a photo of the feed dog lifter mechanism on my White VS.  The purpose of this photo is to show how dirty it was.  By the time I took this photo I had already cleaned  the shuttle mechanism and the feed dogs themselves.  I had not intended to take this apart but it was just so dirty.  I had to.

In this photo you can see the  spring wire mechanism extending from a screw on the machine to the feed dog lifter.  This was the piece that I thought I had broken, but Steven figured out it was simply unhooked.  WHEW.  Just try to find that obscure one hundred year old part out there.

This is the other end.  When I first looked at this part I thought that there was a whole lot of lint stuck in there.  This is a common error.  That "lint" is a wick.  It keeps the moving parts lubricated.  I think that could be why this machine still turned so smoothly.
Nice a clean and shiny now.  
There is still some adjusting to do.  I found that the feed dogs did not lift after I had re-assembled this.  After studying the "before" photo, I succeeded in making some adjustments.  It isn't perfect, but that is for another day.
In this photo you can really see the "wick" (if that is what it is).  It looks like a square nut but it really is soft, almost like leather.  I will clean up the metal parts sme more but I am leaving that alone.  Perhaps a gentle swab with a q-tip drenched in sewing machine oil is in order, but no vigorous scrubbing with kero.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Kenmore 158.84

Just before the year turned into 2011, I went to Western Mass to look at a Singer 319K.  I came home with it and this Kenmore.  The machine had not seen much use; it was pretty clean and shiny.   No foot came along, so I found one for it and tried her out.  I was pretty pleased with the stitch.  BUT  there is a broken cam inside. It will stitch a ss and a zz but the cams won't work in it.  Still it makes a pretty good stitch so I felt ok about the machine (I gave very little for it).  There was a "lot" of parts for this very machine on eBay and I was the lucky "winner."  When the package came, lo and behold, there was the part that I need.  So, this machine is going with me to the Ray White class in Ithaca in November.  Won't that be fun? 

Off topic...Wrigley

Wrigley is a "labradoodle" that came to us three years ago from New Rochelle.  He needed a new home because, at 9 months old, he was too rambunctious for the brand new baby.  So he joined Frannie and Wilson here in the country.     He does not shed, fortunately, but that is about where his kinship to the poodle ends.  He walks like a lab, "talks" like a lab,  plays like a lab, is solid like a lab and he smells like a lab; especially when wet.   I prefer to think of him as a mixed breed, but he truly is a designer dog.  His mother was a first generation labradoodle; his father a standard poodle.  That makes Wrigs an F1B labradoodle.  Whatever he is, he is a great dog and I adore him.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Japanese Zig Zag

I found this sweet machine in Syracuse this past winter.  Steven and I went up one Saturday to pick up a Kenmore 158.1760 complete with cams and a pretty nice cabinet.  While there I checked out other CL postings and found this darling.  I was still working in the living room when we brought this home and I spent HOURS cleaning and oiling and cleaning.  I love this machine.  It has a class 15 bobbin and vertical hook.  It is an end loader.  The motor that came with it was a 1 amp motor.  I was told that meant that it was a powerful machine so I felt pretty good about my 40 buck investment.

I had a notion that I should check the brushes on this motor.  My naivete got the better of me and I broke one of the very delicate wire strands attached to the armature.  That was my first lesson in motor repair.  Don't mess with it if it isn't broken.  So now you know why I did not take the coils out of the housing on the 15-91.  Experience.

I was very upset over my stupidity.  I had spent HOURS cleaning this machine and  when I broke that motor (I was trying to get it back together) I cried.  I really sobbed.  Poor Steven.   I searched for used motors on eBay but I did not feel sure that I would get a good one.  Finally, after months, I caved and bought a nice new motor from SewClassic.  This machine sews FAST.  It is faster than any of the machines I have ever used.  It makes quite a lovely straight stitch and zig zag.  Interestingly, when in ss mode the needle sits totally to the left.   I really don't know if this is by design or not.  I did not take out the needle bar when I cleaned it so I can't imagine that I made any alteration to the needle position.  I don't have a manual for it so I have no way of knowing.  

I finally did locate a photo of this very same machine on the yahoo group vintage japanese sewing machines.  That one is named Empire.  It looks just like this machine.  That doesn't do me much good, really.  I still can't find a manual for it.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Singer 15-91 stitches!!!

Last October I found a centennial 15-91on Albany Craigslist.   I had learned, early on, that this particular Singer is a desirable model.  I wasn't sure it was a 15-91 from the crappy Craigslist photo.  (For more about this go to The Vintage Singer Sewing Machine Blog).   I was absolutely thrilled when it turned out to be one.

Something happens to me when I see a sewing machine.  All reason disappears and I just fall in love.  Really.  At 25 bucks this isn't a huge problem.  Since I had to make the trip anyway it wasn't as if I was wasting gas.  So all in all I was pretty pleased with myself for chasing this machine and nabbing it.

The 15-91 is a gear driven straight stitch machine.  According to the user manual it will take up to a size 21 needle.  The potted motor on the back houses a spiral gear that meshes with a texolite gear in the handwheel.  This direct drive gives added strength and power to the machine.  It has a class 15 bobbin and vertical hook.  It uses common 15X1 needles that you can get at Wal mart.  It runs very smoothly.

I knew that the foot pedal needed re-wiring.  I was up to that task for sure. However, I had disassembled this mechanism almost 10 months ago and had no clue which wire was hot and which wire was not.  Fortunately I had another foot pedal as a prototype, further supporting my argument that multiple similar sewing machines is an asset.

This is the prototype.  I did not do this wiring.  I prefer more tidy ( AGAIN!) connections.  I followed the wires back to the connection on the three prong stud and labeled the wire that hooked up to the number 1 on the stud (yellow connection) with white tape.  Then I lined up my other foot pedal and arbitrarily decided that the wire with writing on it would be the "white" wire and hook up to the number 1 on the stud.  IT WORKED.

If you look  just above the connection on the right you will see a piece of white tape.  That helped me keep it all straight.  Please note the tidy connectors.  I successfully crimped these.  I was not so successful at the other end.

This is AWG 16 wire with SPT-2 jacket.  Even though the original wire looked heavier than 18 G on the lamp, it wasn't.  I did not have enough 18 G wire to re-wire the foot pedal so I used 16 Gauge.   I figured it was safe to use heavier wire than the original.  It fit pretty well underneath the housing.  The adjuster's manual recommends tying an underwriter's knot.  I didn't.

At the other end I could not crimp the connectors.  I had run out of the nifty little open ended ones (Actually, Steven had run out) and all I had were some heavier ones that were rated for 16 and 14 G wire.  I took off the little blue plastic insulators and simply soldered the connectors to the wire.

 What a nice neat job.  Then I started fretting.  The insulators are named such because they insulate.  I figured those pretty silver connectors are just like bare wires.  I considered snipping and starting over.  I only had one connector and to drive to get more requires a fifty mile round trip.  The solution;  heat shrink stuff.  Steven had  bought a variety pack for me yesterday and the 1/4 inch fit over the connectors beautifully.  I hit it with the hair dryer and take a look.  Pretty nice?  Note the nice neat white tape.

So that was before lunch.  After lunch I set to re-assembling the machine and by 3 PM she was back together.  When I had worked on the wiring on the 306K I had made notes about how the wires connect to the three prong stud.  I am always amazed when I plug in to the juice and no fuses blow. The light worked and the motor ran.  It was a bit sluggish at first, but then it just hummed.  No smell, no hesitation,  just whirring.  What a feeling.  WOOO HOOO.

There is more work to do.  If you look at the stitch length indicator, the numbers are hard to read.  One day I will "paint" these with some acrylic paint. The stitch length lever moves stiffly and despite oiling and applying Tri Flow,  I can't get it to move more smoothly.  The light needs a total overhaul but since I don't have the glass cover, I may just end up buying a new one.  I have an old 66 that has a broken light, so I could use this one on  that machine.

I tried this machine out and, you know,  it sailed right through 8 layers of heavy canvas, no problem.  I made a small envelope bag for it from some scrap canvas I had in the shop.  I am not impressed with the way the stitches look.  Something is off.  That is another day.  As is restoring the cabinet.  I think I will try the Elixir of Life on it.  That is another post.