Sunday, April 29, 2012

Some Vintage Japanese Made ZigZag machines



Kenmore 148 Nice Blue but no light (?really?)
Montgomery Ward...Nice Stitch but re-painted

Friday, April 27, 2012

Featherweight motor; Singer 221 motor

 This post is how I serviced a Featherweight motor.  I am not an expert.  This is the first time I have serviced this type of motor.  I offer, here, my experience in the hope that it will help.  I have the adjuster's manual for this machine but the photos are dreadful and dark.  

First thing: I got the  motor off the machine.  When I checked out this project last weekend I resisted.  Looking under the machine at the wiring deterred me.
That big white wire is the lamp wire.  It is encased in lead and the white stuff is oxidized lead flaking off and it flakes off everywhere.  I resisted following Rain's suggestion to remove the lamp wire and scrub all that stuff off.  I wish that I had just done it.  I am going to do that next.  YECH.

So anyway, I just did not want to delve into this motor work because of these wires.  But I had to.  So, here follows how I did it.  I did not start here, but as long as the photo is handy, I will explain that I loosened those two clamps freeing up the nasty lamp wire and the two motor leads. That allowed me some slack to work on removing the motor wires from the three pin terminal.  I left the little motor lead clamp in place right there.  I did remove it later but that is later.

To get the belt off of the pulley on the motor you have to loosen the screw that secures the motor to the machine.

See what I mean about all that nasty white stuff?

Once this screw is loosened, lift the motor up and get the belt off.  I took the screw all the way out to release the motor form the machine base.  I put that screw back into its home on the motor to keep it safe.
I then loosened the screw holding   Mr. Three Pin Terminal in place.

I gently pulled Mr. Three Pin Terminal away from the machine base to reveal the wires held in place with wire knobs.  The motor wires go to 2 and 3; color coded.  Lucky me.

The knurled knob for #3 loosened easily.  But number 2 needed persuading.  I do not recommend what I did, but it worked.  I ever so gently used my needle nose pliers to grasp the knob.  I tried at first with some cloth covering the knob for protection. Then I just went for it straight on .  It worked.  But I think it is a bad idea.  You could break those knobs.  Younger folk might have stronger fingers and not need the pliers.  Perhaps a piece of leather over the pliers would have worked as well.
Once both wires were free of  Mr. Three Pin Terminal  I fastened Mr. TPT back onto the machine.  This is when I loosened the clamps holding the nasty lamp wire and the motor wires.
I also, because I am somewhat anal, put some red tape on the #3 motor lead.  Hey, I need all the visual clues I can get.  This helped me stay organized.  I realize that the wire itself is red, but I wanted to be really really sure.  And I like marking wire with electrical tape.  It feeds my inner child.

Then I pulled the wires through the opening on the machine base and freed the motor.  I was very careful as I threaded the wires through that opening.  It is quite roomy, but I just wanted to be gentle to these 64 year old fixtures.

I then removed the brushes.  The brushes are worn down with the friction of rubbing on the commutator and they like to return home the way they were.  Otherwise the motor just has to wear them down anew.  So I marked how they came out with notes to myself on paper and taped the brush to the paper.

Here you can see the contour of the motor brush
And here you can see that I have a good half inch left on this brush.  Now I thought that I should replace these brushes as a matter of course. I had occasion to talk to Mr. Glenn Williams ( and he advised that I leave the brushes.  He told me that of the 2800 221s that he has had pass through his hands, only three machines needed new brushes.
 I did scrub them with denatured alcohol, however.  Someone told me firing them with a blow torch works to clean them too.  I like the alcohol approach.

Next I removed the screws holding the motor housing in place

And then I shimmied the fiber insulation as far down the motor leads as I could toward the wire rings

I admit I did try to pry the motor housing apart at this point. When it  did not separate, I remembered reading about removing the pulley.  There is a set screw on the pulley  that needs loosening:

The pulley can then be removed and the housing gently pulled apart to reveal the armature and a very nifty underwriter's knot (circled)

I had to loosen that knot to gently remove the armature from the field coils.  I was VERY careful.  These motors are not cheap to replace.  They aren't making any more of them .

What a dirty armature it is.  I was very careful to secure the washers.  There is a fiber washer that belongs on the shaft near the commutator.

And two others, one a fiber washer, on the shaft at the other end of the armature. These came off when I pulled the armature.  I was lucky that I did not lose them.  Especially the fiber washer.  I have a feeling they might be hard to replace.

I cleaned the commutator with a pencil eraser and this nifty honing stick I bought from Ray White (

I love a clean armature!!!!

Once it was all cleaned I reversed the steps to put it back together.

This is a shot of the inside of the field coil.  I did clean this out gently being very careful not to disturb the soldered connections to the ends of the brush tubes

Then making sure that the fiber washer was in place I eased the armature back into the field coil.  I realize that the copper windings on this armature do not look clean.  I promise that they are.  I think that these windings, like the windings on the 201-2 motor , were varnished at the factory

Once the armature was back in place I gently tightened the underwriter's knot and eased the motor housing back into place. 

Then I replaced the screws.  I did have some trouble getting the screw near the underwriter's knot to slide in easily.  I had to adjust the wires some.  If I had tried to tighten the screw down on top of that wire I could have created one huge disaster.

Once the motor was securely reassembled, I replaced the pulley.  The pulley is held on with a set screw and the screw must sit in the flat on the shaft.  The flat is easily identified by the flat on the end of the shaft
 I replaced the brushes next being very careful to place them in the brush tubes (which I had cleaned out with a q-tip) exactly as I had taken them out.  It helped that I had taped them to a piece of paper.  I only had to pop them back in. ( I had already cleaned them with denatured alcohol)

Then I shimmied the insulation back up toward the motor and eased the wires back into the opening on the machine base.  I did fasten the motor to the machine base after I did this, just to hold things stable. 
I reattached the motor leads to Mr. TPT.  Then  I removed the wire clamp.  I tried to put the motor leads back in the clamp without removing it but it was too difficult.  There was a fiber "lining" that wrapped around the wires underneath the clamp. I really could not position it correctly without removing it and making some adjustments. 

Once I had the clamp back in place and secure, I then tightened the clamp holding the nasty lamp wire.  

It is not exactly as it was at the beginning, but it is good enough for an amateur.  I can make some adjustments and perhaps get the other "red" wire tucked up more neatly.  I have to remove the lamp to clean the lead casing so I bet that will get tighter once I have done that. 

20,000 plus page views !!!!!

Thanks to all of you for checking in.  In less than a year I have had 20,000 page views.  When I started this blog I was doing it mostly to help me chronicle my hobby.  Thanks for sharing with me.  I love these old machines and I love sewing on them.  Most of all, I love being able to figure out how to get them stitching again.  With the help of all of the folks on WEFIXIT and VINTAGESINGERS yahoo groups.  WOOO HOOOO

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

featherweight again and the looper

We are due to renew our defensive driving course and Steven found one on line.  Thinking that would be better than sitting through 6 hours of torture, I signed up.  I had an awful time with the typing authentication.  I finally got locked out for failing the typing test.  I gave up and went out to the shop.  This Featherweight was calling me back

 I fiddled with the bobbin case base and was able to get the click click out of it.  I also honed the looper.  It had some pretty nasty needle gouges in it.
 Ray said that you only have to worry about high spots.  So I just sanded the looper and cleaned it off and put it back on the hook.  This time I paid attention to how the hook goes on the shaft and got it right, the second time.  Gee Whiz.....some things I just don't learn.

Since the hook was back on I decided to see how she ran......The motor was NOISY.   Too noisy.  So I decided to service it.  I had taken the brushes out over the weekend and peered at the commutator through the brush tubes.  I couldn't see much.  I was dreading this task.  But with that noise coming from the motor and the poor performance I knew I had to get the motor off the machine and get the armature out to clean it and the commutator.

Somehow a 221 adjuster's manual found itself on my work bench.  The other night I reviewed the section on how to service the motor.  It is not unlike the innards of a 201 motor so I figured I could do it.

First things first though.  Get the motor off the machine.  That is the next installment

Sunday, April 22, 2012

1948 Singer 221-1

This is my 1948 Featherweight; it is the fourth FW I bought.  I chased it down in Albany area last month.   It was a steal.  (

My plan today was to line up all four featherweights and test them side by side.  The other three are stitch ready.  This one wasn't.

But my what nice shape it is in.  Cosmetically this one might be the nicest.  I am not sure.  Once I have it all ready, I will compare it to the one I found in Delhi. (

I had to quit at lunch time, though.  I really wanted to sew today.  But after supper (and two glasses of wine) I went back out to the shop.  My intent was to find the 221 Adjuster's manual and look up how to remove the light.  Instead I stayed out there for an hour working on the hook.  I managed to get the thread lock out and clean the hook all up.

 It took me three tries to get the hook back on the shaft correctly.  But I did not drop the gib screw.  And I put the looper back on the right way the first time.  So there.

Singer 301 LBOW

I bought this machine last year on May 2.  I remember the date because it was Steve's birthday.  He was very understanding.   I had to go to Barryville, NY on the PA/NY state line to fetch it.  I was already one third of the way there anyway because of work.  But it was a long trip. 

This machine is on display in the "museum."  For some reason I turned the hand wheel on it last Wednesday.  Oh my it was "gritty."  I was sure I had serviced it last year.  I could not stand that gritty feeling so this morning I took it out to the shop.

Turns out I had not serviced the motor.  I thought that I had.  I think I pulled the motor and cleaned the worm.  The motor was not in terrible shape.  But I think the bearings might be dry.  I did drop some motor oil strategically as indicated by Bill Holman ( my hero on Vintage Singers).  It is a bit better.  I did clean the motor and commutator.  This baby hauls ass; figuratively, of course.

I could not believe that the stitch is so even without any adjusting.  I did have to take the tension assembly out but not apart.  The release pin was stuck a bit.  It did free up with Tri flow.  When I put the assembly back in I did not put it in quite right.  The +/- indicator is at 9 oclock, not 12 oclock. I will fix it tomorrow.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

To Market, to Market

The Singer 201 is reportedly the best sewing machine Singer ever made.  I do love it.  I have finished this 1936 201-2 and it is for sale. I re-wired the machine including re-soldering the motor leads.  The foot controller has also been re-wired.  It runs so well.  I hate to part with it.  WAIT  What am I thinking?  I have three others.  One is a centennial.  A similar machine sold on eBay today for 204 bucks.   
 These machines weigh a ton.  I think that I may list it as a local pick up.  Hey, you never know.

Monday, April 16, 2012

There is a sucker.......

born every minute.

I traveled to North Carolina to see Mom.  I flew to Charlotte, rather than trying to get here from there.  It cannot be done easily.  I reserved an economy care with Budget.  When I arrived to get my car the attendant suggested that I upgrade.  Initially I resisted.  Then I relented.  I thought it would be a Ford Taurus.  It was a Crown Vic.

What the heck.  I drove it at 55 to preserve on gas.  It certainly is a big car.  I can't wait to turn it back in.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

INDUSTRIAL STRENGTH !!!! Sews through 12 layers

But not very well.  Actually the problem was that when I went over the "hump" the machine couldn't stitch because the presser foot was hung up on the hump.  I need to get one of those "hump jumpers"  folks use on jeans.

Still it did sew through this canvas.  I would not want to do it all day long every day.  The machine is designed for domestic use.  So don't be fooled by the eBay claims.  

I did enjoy sewing with this 158.96.  It sings a little song as it stitches :........minimminimminimm  Maybe I will have to try to video it.

I made the bag to hold the machine.    It doesn't quite fit.

I guess I need to work on my design.  I can always make another..  I was using some upholstery samples  that I found at an auction.  Clearly those samples aren't big enough.  Next time I will piece some samples together.  But I think these were the only two canvas ones.......

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Kenmore 158.96

I really like this machine.  It is a class 15 (meaning it takes standard "15" bobbins, such as the Singer 15-91 takes.)  It is a front loading, vertical oscillating shuttle machine.  It does not have the tendancy to make thread nests the way the Singer 221 or 301 does.  You can sew anything, almost, on this machine and the tension holds true.  This one is a low shank machine, which is an advantage in that there are many many attachments commonly (and cheaply) available.  It does not have stretch stitches, though.  But it does take cams which will provide many different decorative or utility stitches.  Just not the stitches that require reverse motion, such as the stretch stitches.  It does not have a built in button holer.  It requires an attachment.

There are no plastic parts on this machine.  The gears for the shuttle are metal. this zz assembly is also all metal.  It weighs a ton so it is best in a table but you can see that it can sit on a table without a base.   It tends to crawl if you run it too fast, though.  I plan to build a little base for it.  I hope.

This machine is quieter than the 158.1813 (1803) but not nearly as quiet as Lila.  Lila is the smoothes, quietest Kenmore I have ever sewn with.

"Lila"  Kenmore 158.511
I haven't named recent acquisitions.  But I named Lila when I got her last year.  She's a keeper.  I guess that's why.

Kenmore 158.1813 continued

I am quite pleased with this machine.  I tested all of the built in stitches and a few of the cams.  I did discover that the special stitches will not work with a cam in the machine.

I don't have a button hole attachment for this machine.  I am on the hunt for one, though.

I think these Vintage Kenmores are very nice machines I do like the built in stretch stitches.  The cams are nice for decorative stitches.  Some of the decorative stitches I would not use, but some folks might like little ducks on their creations.  I am not a fan.

So the 1813 is serviced and ready for its new home.