Archive for January, 2014

17 January, 2014

Model 66 – treadle

by gorthx

Part 1.
Part 2.


The treadle
Again, disassemble this into its component parts so it’s easier to work on. This was the perfect excuse I needed to replace the Honkin Huge Screwdriver that disappeared with my ex-husband. A lot of these bolts were stuck pretty firmly; PB Blaster wasn’t helping, so I used the old trick of using a crescent wrench to turn the screwdriver. Voila.

My original plan was to scrub the rust and paint off of “the irons” (as they are called) and then spraypaint it black. I spent a couple of hours just on the screws, and when I discovered how much rust there was under the paint that was covering the pedal, well… when my sweetie suggested (again) “You know, you could just take this to the powder coaters that is right around the corner“, I agreed. Best $100 I spent this year.

It’s a simple machine, but again, take lots of photos when you’re taking this thing apart. There is a pretty good text guide here.

Order of reassembly:
– attach belt control to dress guard, to minimize the number of pieces you need to keep track of.
– attach the belt guide to the center brace
– attach center brace to legs. It’s easier to do this if it’s upside down. Put the bottom bolts in first (they’re at the top if you’re doing it upside down), then the top bolts. The side pieces are interchangeable so there are two sets of holes for the top. You want the center brace angled toward the back. (This is where photos of the disassembly come in handy, especially if it’s been 3 weeks since you’ve had it apart & have just gotten the big pieces back from being powder coated.)
– like any other project involving multiple fasteners, get each bolt threaded just a bit before you start tightening them.
– connect the pitman to the drive arm.
– attach drive arm to center brace
– attach dress guard. I don’t have the belt thrower reattached correctly yet; the spring has lost a lot of its spring over the past century.
– attach pedal to center brace & adjust the cone bearings (put those bike maintenance skills to use!)
– connect pitman to pedal

Connecting the pitman to the drive arm was the hardest part; the bearing housing + bearings had to be reassembled in place around the drive arm. This requires very sticky grease and/or an extra set of hands to help chase bearings around the workbench.
bearings in pitman housing

So! This machine is up & running new, and I sewed actual fabric (a quilt block) with it this week. I spent a good amount of time learning to work the treadle without thread in the machine, and then stitching on paper, before I tried to work on a project. It is a lot like learning how to drive :).



10 January, 2014

Model 66 – head

by gorthx

Part 1.


As you can probably guess, I got this baby home and hooked up a belt and discovered it wouldn’t sew. The treadle wouldn’t power the head, indicating it was gummed up somehow. The handwheel wasn’t completely stuck, so I figured “how hard could it be?”

Tools and tips:
The best advice I read, besides the obvious “take pictures from every angle, and take more than you think you could possibly need”, is to keep screws in their taps as much as possible. Some of these babies are tiny, and doing this helped me keep track of them.

This project mat from ifixit was invaluable. It helped me keep track of parts while I was working, and because I took pictures, I have a labeled record of all the parts.

There are a lot of good manuals and instructions online, so I won’t give a blow-by-blow here other than specific trouble spots I encountered. (If you use the manuals from Tools for Self Reliance, please consider making a donation.)

Tension mechanism: this just didn’t look right to me1, and once I found a manual online with images I could actually pick up details from2, I realized it *wasn’t* my imagination, the spring really wasn’t in the right spot. And thus began the extraction of the tension housing: Every few hours I’d drip a little more PB Blaster in the set screw hole, and tap it gently with a mallet and block of wood. Finally, on day 3 of this, I got it to move. A few more cycles of PB Blaster-tapping-waiting, and I smacked it right on out. To get it completely loose, I pushed it almost completely inside the machine by hitting it with the mallet & wood block. Then used the handle of a plastic toothbrush to pop it out from the inside.

Bobbin winder: this was coated with enough grease and dirt that none of the parts would spin and the spring-loaded stop latch wouldn’t even move. This required a complete teardown, cleaning, and relubing. A camera is the most essential tool here. The rubber bobbin wheel is much easier to remove/replace when the bobbin winder is not attached to the machine. It’s so much easier that it’s worth taking off the entire bobbin winder just to replace that little wheel, even though it is a major pain in the kiester to reattach the winder.

Bobbin and hook area: I tried for quite a while to remove the bobbin latch, because I’d read “absolutely do not remove this screw”, then found out that there are two different styles of bobbin latch – one needs to be unscrewed, the other doesn’t. They don’t actually look all that different. Use the manual from Tools for Self Reliance to figure out which one you have; you could break the bobbin latch if you do this wrong.

Underneath: I took this as far apart as I dared; I didn’t want to mess with the timing, because the machine would stitch when cranked by hand. PB Blaster and sewing machine oil were the key here. This was probably the easiest part of the whole refurb. When this was back together, I could give the handwheel a little flick and it spun freely for at a few full rotations.

Next: the treadle!

1 – it helps that I know my way around a sewing machine.
2 – a lot of the manuals available now are scans of photocopies of originals. The TFSR are the best I’ve found, as they are not reproductions.

3 January, 2014

Singer model 66 treadle

by gorthx

And now for something completely different…several months back I picked up a 1912 Singer model 66 “Redeye” off of Craigslist. I was looking for a completely different machine, but I’ve wanted a treadle for a long time, and from the photos it looked in ok shape. One thing led to another and I found myself driving a ways east of town on a reasonably nice day that I otherwise would have spent biking, to check out this machine.


The good:
– the treadle pedal & drive wheel moved freely
– it has a metal pitman; the wood ones are prone to drying out, cracking, and often end up missing
– the (oak) cabinet’s ornamentation is intact; sometimes the wood carvings come off, or drawers are missing, etc
– the handwheel on the machine head1 moved
– the decals on the head were in pretty good shape overall; they tend to get rubbed off with use. This machine is over 100 years old, after all.

The bad:
– layer of grime on everything
– paint splatters all over the cabinet; it was going to need stripping completely.
– no belt so I couldn’t actually test it

I’ve since decided that one should examine these things in daylight and not in a warehouse. As an alternative, flash photos will highlight problem areas better than you can see them with your eyeballs. And next time, I’ll bring a belt with me so I can determine whether the machine runs or not. That said, I’m glad I bought it because fixing it up was a good experience and I now have a machine that sews better than my formerly TOTL European machine :koff:Bernina2:koff: for much less money.

And yes, these things are “heavier than a dead preacher”3 so come prepared with additional muscle or tools to tear it down so you can take it home easily. Or both.

There are 4 projects here:
– cabinet refurb
– treadle refurb
– head external refurb
– head internal refurb

All of these took significantly more time than I expected; I really didn’t know what I was getting into. To keep posts to a reasonable length, I’ll talk about the cabinet & head outside first, and the treadle and head internals separately.

A full photo set is on flickr.

The head – outside
As I mentioned, this machine’s decals were in pretty nice shape. I was interested in keeping them that way, so cleaning the outside of the head basically just involved rubbing them very very gently with oil in order to remove the grime. My BF actually volunteered to do this, but then, he used to detail cars, and has the patience for this kind of thing. This is probably anathema to some people, but I didn’t want to look at the “patina” (read: yucky old brown finish), so off it came with some rubbing alcohol. A coat of carnauba wax made it shine again. Metal polish took most of the rust off of the chrome pieces, and that was that.

The cabinet
In addition to the layer of grime, this machine appeared to have been left uncovered while someone nearby spraypainted. The treadle pedal was almost solid white and the cabinet was speckled all over; there was even a handprint on the back.

I broke the cabinet down into its component pieces and used Citristrip to remove the old finish. Citristrip does a much better job indoors at temps over 60*F than in a 40*F garage. This was my first time stripping carved wood, and I don’t intend to repeat the experience.

My method:
– glop on the citristrip & wait until it’s ready. If it’s starting to get clear & a little dry, like it’s “setting up”, it’s getting close.
– with a plastic scraper, remove as much of the stripper & old finish as you possibly can. Old credit cards work great for this, if you are too cheap to go buy something you are just going to throw away anyway.
– around the carved wood, I used a brass brush to get rid of the stripper. This is not recommended for soft woods, and probably wasn’t advisable for oak – IOW, don’t do this. A stiff nylon brush would have been easier on the wood, but didn’t do jack about removing the crud.
– remove remaining stripper with 00 steel wool soaked in mineral spirits (odorless will work fine for this.)
– remove more remaining stripper with a rag soaked in mineral spirits
– remove still more remaining stripper with another rag soaked in mineral spirits (this stuff was hard to get rid of)

The PNW is a very humid environment, and the veneer had buckled and pulled away from the core over the years. Just few small chips were missing, so I opted to re-glue the loose veneer. I only own a couple of clamps, so this step took several days.

Once the wood was dry, I filled the screw holes, sanded that down, and then all that was left was a quick buff with 0000 steel wool (which I’m told is too fine for oak, but it made a palpable difference), a swipe with tack cloth, and it was ready for finish. I use Tried & True Danish oil on almost all of my wood furniture; it’s not as protective as polyurethane, but it’s a lot easier to apply and I love the way it looks. And smells. I put two coats on for now, and then reassembled the cabinet.

Next up: head internals.

1 – The head is the part that actually does the sewing.
2 – Alternate title: “Nothing sews like a Bernina… except this Singer I have from 1912.”
3 –