Friday, March 29, 2013

It's a start

I decided to get some shelves for the shop.  I had been shopping on line and found some at Home Depot; wire shelves which reportedly hold 600 pounds per shelf.

I showed them to Steven.

"What's wrong with some two by fours and a sheet of plywood?"

"You will have to build it."

"Yes, so..."



He went out to the shop to work on the car.  I answered a CL ad about a Singer 404.  It had a case and I want that case for Genn's machine.  I left a message.  The seller called back rather quickly and  we made arrangements to meet at about one PM.

We met the guy at the designated public place and I bought the machine.  That is another story.  Since we were right around the corner from Home Depot, we went to look at shelves and I bought some. Not the ones I had been looking at on line.  No, these are HEAVY DUTY INDUSTRIAL STRENGTH.    To my surprise, as soon as we got home Steven decided we should set them up.

"You clear out where you want to put them and I will start putting them together."

"OK, but Honey, I need you to help me figure out where to put them if you don't want me to put them too close to the stove pipe."

He came into the shop looked around, looked around some more and abruptly left

"I can't take it.  You have to decide.  It is too gross for me.  When you start piling stuff floor to's just too much."

He did put the shelves together.
I loaded them up.

I do wish I had photos of his shop.  He has shelves that extend from floor to ceiling for his tools and his nuts and bolts and fasteners.  What he doesn't have is sewing machine cabinets piled upside down on top of each other with boxes pf packing materials piled on top of the cabinets. 

I admit that this is a very messy corner.  Selling the Singer #42 cabinet will help.  I will list it on eBay as a local pick up tomorrow.  Oh, maybe not.  I will have to take the treadle stand off of it so that I can take photos.  I think I would rather sew. Or fix the Pfaff.

Up a tree

The dogs were carrying on.  And on. And on.  Steven is home now and he HATES it when the dogs carry on and on and on.  So I felt a bit obligated to drop everything and go call them in. 

There was a car in the drive.  Our neighbor Jim pulled in.

"There is a HUGE raccoon up in the tree over there."

We had to go look.  

Way up at the top of a very tall tree, clinging to a skinny little branch was a very large raccoon.

He'll come down after dark. 

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

For Henry

I had an email from a reader who requested photos of the underside of my Singer 31-15 treadle table.   I love to lie on my back and take photos so this was a fantastic opportunity to do one of my favorite things.

Honestly, I had forgotten that the table has a leaf in the back.  When I use this machine I don't really put that back leaf up.  I have plenty of room for my projects.  I am so grateful to Henry for reminding me about this feature.  Next big quilt I make I will use this machine.  What a big workspace!
 This table has been refinished and there is a bit of a bind in the mechanism.  I did not want to force it so I opened it as far as I could.  Truthfully, it needs work.  Cleaning and oiling.  I oiled it some tonight.  It needs more.

The end leaf simply lifts up and is stablilized with a brace.  To drop the leaf the brace lifts up a bit and slides under the table.

The back leaf lifts up and slides on metal rods until the bracket is in position.

OK so you can see that the leaf could move a bit more.  But I am not about to force anything this old. 

Monday, March 25, 2013

Mexican Thread

I was sorting through some notions that came with one of the machines the other day.  I came across some thread, of course.  When I looked at the label and saw
that it was made in Mexico.

"Ah, Mexican thread."

And that prompted a thirty year old memory.  OK  Not quite thirty years.  Only twenty nine.

I was newly single and fiercely independent.  I gained custody of the Bureau of Land Management 1971 Jeep Cherokee.  It started leaking and I discovered that it needed a new water pump.  It had a  6 cylinder engine, a radiator and a water pump.  It was very basic.  I took a look under the hood and said "I can replace that."

So I ordered the part and got under the car and did the job.  But there was one bolt missing.  I showed it to my friend L. who said that I could get one at the parts store.

"But be sure that you go in and ask for the one with the Mexican thread.  That is very important.  It has to be Mexican thread."

I did as I was told.  The guy at the parts store gave me a weird look, but I just thought it was because I was a she, not a he, fixing a car and buying parts.

Later, when L. asked if I got it, I told him I did.

"Did you get the one with the Mexican thread?"

"Well, I don't know,  I told the guy and this is what he gave me."

L. couldn't stand it any longer.  He burst out laughing.

"I was just foolin with ya.  There is no such thing."

I slapped him.  HARD.

So when I saw this spool of thread I thought of my friends and laughed.

Then thinking about that Jeep reminded be of an earlier Jeep.  A  CJ 7.  We lived out west on top of a mountain.  We needed 4WD to get home. And who wrote the book on Four Wheel Drive?

  I was in the habit then, of nursing my son while I drove up the mountain.  It was efficient and dangerous.  Did I mention that the CJ7 was a stick shift?   I am a bit horrified that I did that.  But I did.  (I do NOT text and drive now, probably the modern equivalent)  A few years ago I was at our local lumbar yard.  I saw a tear off calendar.   "You know you're a red neck if...."  The one for that day was:
"You know you are a redneck if you can breast feed and drive your stick shift at the same time."

Whooo Heee.  I reckon I classify as a Red Neck...

Sunday, March 24, 2013

I've Just Seen a Face.

I had cleaned theses gears on the 401A I bought ten days ago and was struggling to grease them from the underside of the machine when I noticed the huge hole in the side of the bed.  DUH.  I call that an I D ten T error (I D 10 T).  I ceased struggling and took a bunch of photos of the gears from this angle.  As I was editing them for the blog, I saw the face.

Or else I am just so tired that I am hallucinating.  

I bought this machine for a granddaughter.   It wasn't so terribly dirty..  Well OK the gears were terrible as you can see. The camstack and its followers were pretty gunked up too.    But the bobbin case, the race and the hook were all quite clean.  The presser bar and needle bar were pretty good too.  The motor wasn't too bad   but it was hard to get it out.  I really had to WHACK.  It refused to go back in, too.  I had to sand the long part of the motor so that it would slide in easily.

I had bought some new brushes and wanted to just put new ones in.  But the old springs did not fit the new brushes....too big.  So, instead, I held the brush by the spring (gently) with my hemostat and held a flame on the brush for about a minute.  Boy, did the oil bubble out.  Then I let it cool and wiped it with denatured alcohol.  No ozone smell to that motor, now.    I have never done that before.  I usually just wipe the brushes with alcohol and call it good.

The machine stitches very nicely despite my efforts!   It isn't a quiet as the 201.  It isn't as smooth as the 201.  It does, however, zig zag and make decorative stitches.  I made a little zippered pouch with the machine and tested each stitch.  Some of them are more pleasing than others.  Most I would never use.

Friday, March 22, 2013

One Thin Dime

When I was sewing on Wednesday I noticed that the stitch length would change if I put even the slightest drag on the fabric.  Adjusting the amount of pressure on the foot did nothing to change it.  I did change from the marked needle plate back to the standard one.  That helped some.  The marked needle plate is a bit thicker than the standard one so the feed dog height was compromised when using that plate.  It certainly did FEEL as if the feed dogs weren't high enough.  So I found my feed dog height gauge in the change jar.  Sure enough, they were too low.

Adjusting the feed dog height on the 201 is pretty straight forward.

 Turn the machine over so you can see its underside.  Identify the feed dog drop thumb screw.  Just above that is a screw.  Loosen it.  That will allow the whole feed dog mechanism to move up and down.   Using your feed dog height gauge, set the feed dogs to the proper height and then tighten the screw.  Easy Peasy.

 You say you don't have the feed dog height gauge?  Yes you do. In your change jar.  It 's a dime

Be careful not to move the whole mechanism left to right.  It looks as if these feed dogs might not be centered in the openings.  I will check on that tomorrow.  The fabric fed very nicely as I sewed tonight so it may not be a problem.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Wonder Under

It is winter here, AGAIN.  I did walk the dogs this morning but that was the extent of my venturing outside.  Instead, I sewed all day.  What a joy.

I used a 1940 Singer 201-2.
 Singer 1940 201-2 FOR SALE

I would have used the 201 treadle but I wanted to be warm.  The heat is downstairs. The treadle is upstairs.   ( I wonder if I can move that treadle stand downstairs before Steven gets home?  Hmmmm  I might have to enlist some outside help)

I made three tote bags.  You can tell I am hungry for spring.  That fabric is so bright.  The draw string bag in the middle of the photo was the inspiration for the pattern.

 Last night I was almost asleep on the couch.  I felt like a slug.  I had to do something productive so I went upstairs (it was warm up there, the furnace had been on.) rummaged through some scraps and made that draw string bag.  I like the little bit of color that shows through on the edge.

I had the tote bag fabric from our trip to Osgood's last August.  It was on sale at the already discounted warehouse.   I also found a BOLT of Wonder Under that we had nabbed at an estate sale last spring.  Betsy and I had both forgotten about it.  She loves the stuff and now I know why.  You can make anything fusible without adding weight to the fabric.   I fused old polyester sheet/blankets to the lining fabric to give the tote some heft.  It worked great.  It was CHEAP since we got the whole bolt for 5 bucks and the sheet/blankets were 50 cents each at another estate sale.  

Now all I have to do is remember how I made them and I will be all set....

The 201 sewed beautifully.  It is for sale.  I have two others, not including the 201 treadle.  I only need one 201-2.  I feel very good about this machine.  The motor is strong and quiet.  I re-wired the motor leads in January and serviced the motor completely. I even named it.

And after today I became a bit more attached to it.  Still, I cannot keep four 201s.  Gotta move some machines along.  It sure was a pleasure to use. 

Monday, March 18, 2013

Sunday, March 17, 2013


I thought we had a Rockateer.  The Singer 500 looks rather like a rocket and earned the name Rockateer, because of that.  We actually have a 503 which looks very similar but it isn't the same.  It is a zig zag machine that take top hat cams.  It's hand wheel has a fiber gear but the cushion spring is different.

I misidentified (or misremembered, don't know which.  Love this 7th decade) the machine we have as a Rockateer in the previous post.  Not so.

Since it is a parts machine, I don't have a photo of it whole.  Here is one I found from the internet

Here is a photo of the 500

So they look very similar and I called the 503 the Rockateer.  I guess the 500 is the true Rockateer.

When discussing sewing machine repair, or any topic for that matter, nomenclature means a lot.  I make an effort to identify parts by name.  Not thingie or gizmo or whatitsname.  So I wanted to clarify my mistake.  This blog is meant to help folks figure out this wonderful world of vintage  sewing machine repair and use.  So I want it to be right.

Noisy Treadle

I had only two goals, yesterday.  OK, three.  Put the coil spring belt on the 201K, finish the data entry for the sewing machine inventory and clean up the dog pen.  I was very disciplined.  I finished the data entry as I had coffee in front of a nice cozy fire

 Then I walked the dogs.  As long as I was all bundled up (it is still cold sap is running this week) I cleaned up after the dogs.

OK NOW I can get to my tinkering. 

I discovered that I bought a 1/4 inch coil spring belt.  Leather belts for domestic treadles are 3/16.  I knew that. I forgot (oh how I love this seventh decade !!!). Anyway, it fit the 237 but I could not see how it would fit under the belt guard on the 201.  But first I had to determine whether the tools I had would cut the stuff.

I traipsed out to the shop and found my nippers and my wire cutters that I use for fencing.  The nippers worked fine.  I cut one little section off and tried out the connector.  Perfect.  Then I set to my task at hand, measuring and cutting to the actual length.

I decided that I would use the coil spring belt on the 237 since it clearly fit that machine.  I so wanted to get the 201 up and running today, but also wanted to play with this coil spring belt.  I had seen a you tube video about it a couple years ago.  Of course I wanted to try it, too.

I threaded the belt through the treadle and around the handwheel and estimated my length.  SNIP.  I put the connector in, (it just twists in, easy peasy) and TOO LONG.  OK, well better that than too short.  This stuff wasn't cheap and I still don't know how much McMaster Carr charged me for shipping.

Once I had it fitted and attached, I tried it out.  A bit noisy but I fiddled with the machine support and adjusted it enough to quiet everything down.

I was pretty thrilled.  The machine pops in and out easily.  I thought, what the heck, try the 201.  I slipped the handwheel off to get the belt around the bobbin winder.  It worked but it was very noisy.  I wondered if a spoke wheel would fit better.  It didn't.  I have some adjusting to do.  I think I can shim it over enough to get the wee little bit of clearance I need.

I have put leather belts on the other treadles. In fact yesterday I spent some time poking a  hole through a leather belt and fitting it to the 201K in another cabinet.  It was tricky getting the hole in the right spot and then getting the staple through.  Setting up the coil spring was easier.

I think I can get it less noisy.  If worse comes to worse, I will get another belt and mount it in the other treadle stand out in the shop.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

1951 Singer 401A

1951 Singer 401A
I had to do it.  How could I not?  This machine was 55 miles away.  It came with an adorable blond desk cabinet.  Steven's granddaughter learned how to sew on a 401A and every time she visits from California she mentions that.  I get the hint.   She wants one.  This one is for her.  It is quite clean for a 62 year old machine.  The cabinet is in nice shape as well.  That will not get shipped.  I will sneak that up into the guest apartment this weekend while Steven is away in the Virgin Islands.  (He deserves a nice vacation.  He has been tending the canines while I work....)

True to 401A reputation, the stitch selector knobs were stuck.  The A-J knob freed up with a little Tri-Flow applied to the camstack follower.  Look at the brown fluid on top of the follower to the left in the photo.  ICK..The K-Special knob took a bit more persuading.  They both move freely now as does the plunger for the needle bar left to right swing.  I cannot wait for Friday when I will have time to get this machine all cleaned up.  (I apologize for leaving the top hat cam in place for the photo).

Singer 201-3 Transformation some more

I cleaned up the needle bar and the presser bar without removing those specific parts.  I tried to remove the presser bar spring but could not raise it up through the top hole.  I did my best to clean the presser bar with denatured alcohol and a rag.  I scrubbed around in there as best I could.  I actually do not have an after photo.  This one is rather in between
The screw that adjusts the amount of pressure on the presser bar houses an oil wick.  It may look like lint or dust.  I have been able to get these out of other machines,  I left this one in there.  It did not want to come out.  I could get it to move.  It sounded like sandpaper inside the screw.  I drenched it with SM oil.  I understand that Tri Flow has some teflon in it and experts advise against using TriFlow in this application.  OK with me. 
I had to take the tension apart and clean it as well.  The numbered dial on this machine is pretty beat up.  Perhaps I will find a tension assembly somewhere that will fit.

In order to release the tension assembly, you have to find the set screw.  Looking at the machine straight on, the set screw is just behind the tension assembly thread guide in the side of the machine head.

Loosen that.  Don't bugger it up.  I don't know how easy they are to replace.  If it is tight, drop some Tri Flow on it and let it sit.  Then, try later.

The tension assembly should pull out.  It may take some twisting if the machine is dirty and old.
Disassemble the assembly. Clean all the parts in denatured alcohol.  Then reassemble. Don't forget to take the thread guide off of the machine.  You want that clean and shiny too. 

To release the knurled knob, push in on the numbered dial until the little pin in the knob is released.  Then you can turn the knob free and all the way off of the tension stud. (For more detail of this process go here :   Remove each part.

The tension discs on this assembly were scarred.  I buffed the rough spots out with my honing stick.  They aren't cosmetically perfect but they are nice and smooth. 
Add caption
  I did not take pictures each step of the way, this time.  I have done these assemblies a number of times.  I thought I knew how they went back together.  But I put it together wrong.

Much better:
Note the position of the stop washer.  You want the indentation in the stop washer to fit in the space above the spring.

Put the numbered dial back on and push in as you screw the knob back on.  When you have the knob where you want it, let the numbered dial pop back out.  It was hard on this tension, the numbered dial is rather chewed up.

In this photo, the pieces are all assembled in the correct order.  The numbered dial has not been compressed against the screw.  I couldn't do that AND take the photo.
 Now you can place the re-assembled tension back in the machine.  I do clean out the opening where the tension belongs.  Makes for easier removal later.  Tighten the set screw and you are good to go.

Think how nice this machine will look with a nicer looking tension assembly.  However, this machine is pretty beat up over all so, as long as it works, and it does, I may consider it finished.

Monday, March 11, 2013

201-3 Transformation continued

When working on these old sewing machines, I find that patience really pays off.  Some screws are tight and will not budge.  My favorite penetrant is acetone mixed with ATF fluid.  It is very stinky and I am forbidden to use it in the winter.  Something about my liver,  my brain, my lungs.  Betsy has admonished me to never use it inside.  I love her so I will obey. (No, that is not a wedding vow.)

With the 201-3 I simply used some Tri-Flow Superior lubricant and applied heat and then waited. 

When I thought it was "ripe" I used my Chapman screw driver bit being very careful to hold the driver as vertically as I could.  Then applying downward pressure I turned left.  (Not hard to do since I am practically a socialist, believing in universal Health Care and all)

I felt just the slightest give and then it freed up. 

Singer 201-3 transformed to a treadle

We had a beautiful warm March day today.  The snow that fell mid week has melted, almost completely.  The sap was running and  I half expected to see a robin or two.  Spring was in the air.

After I cleaned up the dog yard (you know what shows up after snow melts, and there was a whole lot of it) I set to work on the Singer 201-3 Centennial that I found when I was in NC in February.

You all know that I love 201s.  Though I am rather sick of them.  The bobbin case is a PITA to remove because the retaining ring is tricky to get out and back in.  For more information on that process go here   The potted motor on the 201-2s (common around here) almost always needs re-wiring.   A rewarding, though tedious task, IMHO.

This one is a 201-3; external motor.  No need for a motor when treadling.  I ditched it.  But I still had to service the thing. 
This treadle stand is the one that I rescued last summer.  It was in terrible shape.  I see that I must shim up the front piece so that it sits flush with the machine.  More to do.  Later, much later.

The belt is way too tight on this machine.  I ordered the coil spring belt tonight from McMaster Carr.  Once it comes I can set up one treadle stand for many machines.  I tried this machine in each of the four treadle stands that I have.  Each belt was too tight.  Even this one, that usually houses the 237.

Even thought the belts were all too tight, I did manage to stitch with this machine on the treadle out in the shop.   It makes a lovely stitch.  I was hoping to make something tonight but the belt is just too tight.  I could go out to the cold, lonely shop and treadle on the stand out there.  Instead I will sip wine, cuddle with poodles and tell you all about my day.

I took the hand wheel and the face plate off.  Then I took the slide plate off to expose the bobbin and race.

OOOOH LA LA .  CRUD and DUST every where.
I took the bobbin out to discover a piece of thread caught up in the bobbin case and around the hook

I was sure that I would have to take the hook out to get at this, but turns out, my dental pick lifted it right out.  I admit, I was disappointed.  I was up for the challenge.

I took the needle plate off and removed the feed dogs  next. 
Then I removed the retaining clip and the bobbin case. 
Which exposed a boat load of dirt and grime and lint and FUN !!! 
I knew I would need to get the hook out to do a proper job of cleaning. I removed the position bracket to get at the hook.  But the screw would not budge.  So I dropped some Tri Flow onto the screw and applied some heat with the hair dryer.  I put some more oil on and then left it.  I believe in the tincture of time.

While time was doing its thing with the hook screw, I next serviced the gears. The shuttle gears are harder to get to.  I cleaned them all up with a toothbrush and Kerosene the applied the Triflow grease by reaching up and around with the curved syringe.   It isn't exactly precise, but it worked.  That thread was just sitting there.  I still wonder how it got in there behind the gear cups (which are not shown in this photo)
The back gears are easier to access.  I gave them the same cleaning treatment.  After brushing with Kerosene, I applied some vaseline as well which I then wiped off.  Finally I applied a thin strip of Tri Flow grease and turned the handwheel to distribute it. 
See how it gobs up?  I just took that gob and put it on the gears and turned the hand wheel again.

Then I put the gear cups back on and cleaned up the bottom.
By now the hook screw was ready.

Next post, I promise.