Monday, December 30, 2013

Merry Christmas! German Hand Crank

We sewing machine nuts are usually easy to buy for at Christmas time. Anything sewing machine related is fair game for the giver. This Christmas my wife gave me a cute hand crank sewing machine from the late 1800s/early 1900s. I can't pin down a more precise date because the sewing machine has no maker's name on it. It looks to be German but I'll need to do more digging in order to find out who made it.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

What says 1950s more than a PINK sewing machine?

I have no clue as to the distributor of this sewing machine, only that it was made in Japan. It appears either someone took the badge off the front or it never had one. I would guess someone just removed it, or it fell off. It could have been a Brother, Remington or Morse, or any number of other branded machines from the era.

In any event, here it is in all its glory.

BelAir Bantam Model 33

I broke out of my comfort zone when buying this next little guy. It was more than I usually pay at a thrift store but I just couldn't pass it up (and how many previous times have I heard that statement in my brain?).

Friday, December 20, 2013

Green without envy - 1958 Singer 185K

I presume sewing machines don't have feelings, like being envious of other machines around them that might be getting more hands-on time. So it is with this little green guy. He's (I'll just make the assumption that it is a he) content being green without having an envious piece of cast iron in his extremely heavy little body.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

More Sewing Machine Window Dressing

First, to make things perfectly clear, I'm not the window dressing. I realized after publishing this that it was a strange title for having me in the first photo. Focus here, it's the machines, not me.

This is quite something. Two stores with sewing machines in the windows in two weeks (see previous blog entry). We happened to be in San Francisco a few days ago and found this:

Monday, December 2, 2013

Nice birthday outing

A few days ago I had a birthday. My loving wife planned that we go to Seattle and visit a certain address downtown. I was driving but had no idea where we were going (I could insert a lame joke right about now, but will refrain). We got off the ferry in Edmonds and hit the local Goodwill since it happened to be on the way. Then onto I-5 south, bound for the big metropolis. We exited I-5 and wound around in the bowels of downtown Seattle. Oh look, there's the Sheraton, where we spent our honeymoon night. Nope, that wasn't the surprise. A few more blocks and we were stopped at a stop light. I wasn't very observant because my wife finally had to point out a building across the intersection...

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Reunited at long last... Dressmaker 7000

A couple days ago I mentioned I'd picked up a Dressmaker 7000 at Goodwill.

It took cams but didn't come with any. It was unfortunate too, because on the front of the machine was a depiction of each of the 30 cam's designs.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Dressmaker 650 - built Ford tough

These old sewing machines are nearly indestructible. Take this cast iron Dressmaker 650. I could probably run over this thing with my 6,600 pound Ford F250 4x4 and it would still work. Little bits might snap off or bend and it wouldn't look pretty but it is so beefy that it would probably still work.

Another banner day at Goodwill - although 'banner' may be a little strong

Thinking in a normal person's terms, snagging three sewing machines in one day would be a banner day. Or a worst nightmare maybe for the spouse of someone bringing home three sewing machines in one day. I guess it depends on your perspective. For me it was a pretty normal haul.

Today being Black Friday, the Goodwill stores in our area had a 50% off sale on any item that had a colored tag. I'm weak, I just couldn't resist. The first Goodwill had a Singer 6212C. I'm not sure if it works yet but it is fairly new so it shouldn't be a problem. Strange thing is, on most of my sewing machine purchases, the lamp on nearly every one of them still works. No extra charge for that tidbit of information. Here's the Singer.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Kenmore's Finest... back in 1949 - Kenmore 117.959

I have a JPG file of an old Kenmore ad that states the model 95 was Kenmore's Finest. Well, what was once the finest machine Sears sold some 64 years ago is now an outcast Goodwill relic.

I was browsing the aisles at the immense Seattle Goodwill by I-90 and came across a small chair that had a couple drawers that slid out to the side. I thought to myself that it looked a lot like a sewing cabinet chair. I slid out one of the drawers and, lo and behold, there were some old Kenmore attachments and an owners manual. I thought it strange that someone would donate just a sewing cabinet chair to Goodwill and not the whole machine.

Just about then my wife asked, "Did you see the sewing machine over here?" She was just on the other side of the shelf unit I was at, so the sewing machine and chair had gotten separated by about 8 feet. I went over to the machine, looked at the cabinet, looked at the chair, looked at the cabinet again. Yep, they go together.

I just couldn't pass up this little treasure trove of history, all in one neat little package, and one neat little price of $12.99 plus tax.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Universal Admiral Class 15 Clone

I have two old black Universal class 15 clones, one a DeLuxe and the other an Admiral. There are some subtle differences, like a feed dog drop feature and the Singer-style stitch length lever on the DeLuxe. I wonder which one is older. I'd guess the DeLuxe is, but I'm not sure. The two machines have very similar decals.

Here's the DeLuxe.

And the Admiral.

Spring Cleaning - in November

I don't know if it was because of the nice young lady that runs "My Sewing Machine Obsession" blog (Elizabeth), or if I'd just had enough of my basement, and more specifically, my "work bench" that got me to do some straightening up. Elizabeth had just blogged how she cleaned up her work area. That may have been just the nudge that made me do something about my sewing machine dungeon.

My "work bench" has been a 3-foot square folding card table (from the 50s I'm sure, with the little tubular steel legs that fold up). When I'd put the pedal to the metal on a machine and it got going full-tilt, the table would also be doing its own little jig. Things would rattle off the table and onto the floor. It was getting annoying.

Back before my sewing machines started reproducing on their own (it seems), most of them fit onto a super-heavy-duty-industrial-strength steel table (phone company surplus from 30 years ago, back when sturdy really meant something). Well, now that table could be put to better use as my work bench, and I'd put the sewing machines on a newly-freed-up storage rack. Brilliant. On a rare occasion I actually have a good idea.

Here's a before shot of the steel table and general area. I guess you can't even see the table buried under the clutter...

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Even the best machines have their drawbacks - Pfaff 130

We sewing machine nut-types hear a lot about sewing machines having all metal construction, steel gears, et cetera. I for one like those types of features, so when I was poking around in my latest project, a Pfaff 130, I was more than a little startled to see not one, but two gears that were not steel.

I didn't get photographs of the two offending parts but I can tell you where they are. A white colored nylon gear runs off the upper main shaft and provides the movement for the needle zig zag swing. The gear can be seen if you pull off the back cover of the machine. The second non-steel gear is on the rotary hook shaft. I don't know the technical term for the gear material but I'd call it a fiber gear. It is a brownish color. I did an online search and came up with "Linen Phenolic", which might be what it is.

The two non-steel gears are to me a drawback (albeit a small one) of the Pfaff 130. Then of course there is also the fiber timing belt that drives the lower shaft of the sewing machine. I can fully understand and appreciate that Pfaff chose those materials for the gears and timing belt because of the unique qualities of the materials but it wouldn't be my first choice in a machine that will last several lifetimes only if those parts can withstand the aging process.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Singer 920, you growl too...

I shouldn't have expected any different from the 920 once I started working on it. Especially right after getting the 900 going. I really think it is just the electronic controls for the motors that causes the growl. It isn't unbearable by any means but it certainly is louder than a silky smooth vintage cast iron Singer 15-91.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Singer 900, why do you growl at me?

I'm not sure how popular Singer 900 sewing machines are. Looking at this one, it seems to be very well built, with typical Singer quality in many places (but then there are other places that are lacking a bit). When I first plugged this one in and fired it up, it growled. Wow. What a noise. I'm thinking it is because it has an electronic motor control and running at slow speed seems to make the various parts vibrate loudly. However, once I oiled it up, the growling subsided substantially. It is now a fine running machine.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Elna Transforma - the little sibling to the Supermatic

This here photo below shows the native form of the elusive friction drive tire on an Elna Transforma sewing machine. The highly technical term for this phenomenon is "flat spot". Ah, the dreaded flat spot.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Montgomery Wards Simplicity - Happy Times

You're thinking, "Huh? What's he so happy about?" Most people wouldn't be too happy about a sewing machine that took the better part of a day to get to stitch properly. My Happy-ness is in this next photo:

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Singer 403A Completes The Set

I can finally stop my seemingly endless search for Yet Another Sewing Machine (YASM). Ok, I suppose I can't go so far as to say I'm cured of YASM, but having a complete set of a particular model run of sewing machines is something we 'nuts' strive for.

For those that, when they hear the numbers 401 - 403 - 404 and don't have a clue to what those numbers mean, I'll clue you in. What I'm referring to is when Singer was producing what many think are the quintessential sewing machine family, the Singer slant-needle 400-series.

The model 401 was the top of the line Singer in the late 50s. It could do it all, and it could do it without having to pull one cam and insert another. Scads of stitch options (not sure how many but somewhere between 10 and 100) were available merely by turning a couple knobs on the front of the machine. And it could take cams as well. The 403 was the lower-priced variant that only took cams, no built-in stitches were to be had. The 404 was the straight-stitch variant that was for those looking for no frills, or possibly for use in school home-ec classes.

I have no clue how Singer managed to come up with the numbering scheme they used for sewing machines back then. When I'd mentioned 401, 403 & 404 to my wife and daughter, they immediately asked, "What, no 402?" All I could say was, I have no clue why. And Singer made things more convoluted when they introduced the 500-series. There's a 500 (successor to the 401) and a 503 (successor to the 403). Ok, so the 403 and 503 make sense, but where's the 501, 502 and 504? I just don't know.

Well, now that the (very lengthy) preamble is out of the way, here's the subject of today's blog:

The machine pictured above is the illustrious Singer 403A, the "cam-only" version of the 400-family. I had picked up a 401 some years back and not too long ago I found a 404, so this 403 rounds out the 400-series collection.

It came in a portable Singer case that has seen better days, but I think is salvageable with a fair bit of elbow grease, some warm soap and water, and maybe a little glue.

And it even came with a bunch of attachments and 9 cams.

Not a bad haul, I'd say. The only down side is that the stitch length knob is missing, but there may be one waiting for me on that popular auction site...

Friday, September 13, 2013

Ciphering for dummies

I was doing some ciphering (Jethro Bodine of Beverly Hillbillies fame is one of my childhood heros, and he was a ciphering fool) on my latest eBay sale, and it's not pretty. I got one bid on my sewing machine, so it sold for the starting price of $34.95. Could have been better but not bad, I thought. So then I started to break down my costs versus my percieved $34.95 profit.

Shipping to Maine was $47.72 for the 41-pound box containing the sewing machine and goodies (no fancy "express" or "priority", just plain-jane shipping). I charged a flat $13 handling fee to cover the box (I purchase heavy duty double wall boxes, especially appropriate for this cast iron beauty), packing peanuts, bubble wrap, plus the package of needles and thread I provide the buyer. Those actual costs are about $12.20 but I figure I can legitimately charge 80 cents for my labor packing the machine up and driving it to the post office. I suppose I actually lose money on my 80 cents too, with gas prices the way they are, but I digress.

The final shipping/handling fee was $60.72 ($47.72 + $13.00). The eBay/PayPal fees were $12.64, based on the $95.67 total price ($60.72 + $34.95). So, what did I make on this sewing machine?

* $95.67 came into my PayPal account from the buyer.

* $47.72 went out to pay USPS shipping from the West coast to the East coast.

* $12.64 went out to eBay/PayPal for their fees.

* $12.20 went out for the box/packing peanuts/needles/thread.

* $14.11 I paid for the machine at Goodwill.

I netted $9.00 in my pocket for a nearly-$100 transaction, not counting the hours I spent cleaning and oiling the sewing machine, and the labor and gas money expended to procure and ship the thing. I should have left well enough alone and not delved into this. I never did figure this sewing machine hobby to be a money-maker but it would be nice to break even.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

More Fantasia

I got the Fantasia all back together and was testing the different stitches. I got to the buttonhole settings and noticed the stitch length forward and reverse were different lengths so tried adjusting with the small screw on the back of the machine........ One of the few plastic pieces in the machine happens to be the eccentric cam to balance forward and reverse stitch length for the buttonhole. I'll give you one guess as to what happened.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Fantasia model F7500E

I picked this up a couple months back and wanted to get it cleaned and oiled so I could start using it as my everyday machine, the few times I really do use or need a sewing machine.

New Home 6000 - the final chapter... maybe

Things aren't looking too promising for this old girl. The feed dog stepper motor drive circuit seems to be flaky. Getting to this point though was a bit of a chore. First I was thinking the stepper motor itself was cutting out, so out comes the stepper motor:

Monday, August 19, 2013

New Home 6000 - Cleaning, oiling, adjusting

Part two of the continuing saga of the Binford 6000, a.k.a. New Home Memory Craft 6000. This first photo is of the handwheel side of the machine with the cover removed. A cogged belt goes from the motor to the handwheel and a second cogged belt goes from the handwheel to the bottom shaft.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

New Home (Janome) Memory Craft 6000

The title sounds like one of the old Home Improvement shows where Tim the Toolman Taylor would advertise some new Binford tool.

Tim: "Hey Al, what do you suppose we could use for that new awning we need to make?"

Al: "Not sure, Tim. What did you have in mind?"

Tim: "Let's see if this New Nome Memory Craft Binford 6000 sewing machine will do the trick."

Ok, so it's a little lame. I guess that's why I'm not in Hollywood writing for these guys...

So, here we are, my lovely bride and I taking a nice drive out of the area a few days back. I'm telling her that because of the horrendous pile of sewing machines needing attention in the basement, I'm thinking I shouldn't frequent any Goodwills or thrift stores until I whittle down the inventory. She says "let's just go to this one store we haven't been to before". Ok, hon. So we stop in at the Goodwill store in South Tacoma and what do I see but a New Home Memory Craft 6000 sewing machine. I didn't know what it was at the time. I just saw another newer machine. I did notice though that it had a pink 1/2-off price tag, lowering the price to a manageable $10.

Since I could tell it was electronic to some degree, I plugged it in and tried a few rudimentary functions just to make sure I wasn't buying an ugly door stop. It did seem to work. Fast forward a few days to today. The machine looks pretty decent, so I thought I'd try some stitches. Straight stitch works. Zig zag works. On to some fancy stitches that require the feed dogs to go both forward and reverse. Nope - didn't work. I decided to pop a few covers off and see what there was to see...... The innards of this puppy haven't seen the light of day for a while, and this next photo is it's good side. I didn't get shots of the wads of lint removed from the back side.

I again tried some fancy stitches but to no avail, so I poked around inside the machine, trying to reseat every connector that I could find. And let me tell you, there were plenty.

I again tried some fancy stitches and lo, it seemed to be working, at least for now. Ok, now to try my hand at programming something. Here's what I came up with (yes, it does letters - 135 or so different stitches in all):

Hey, look, it works. And even better, I can program it to some degree. I don't have a manual for this thing but I can get by for now. Below are some more shots of interesting features of this machine. The first couple show some LEDs on the bottom that indicate something. LED 1 appears to be lit whenever the machine has been plugged in. It still glows after unplugging the machine, so it must be connected to some big capacitor inside. LED 2 comes on when the machine is on. LED 4 blinks momentarily when the power switch is flipped off. I haven't seen LED 3 come on.

Here is a shot of LEDs 1 & 2 on:

DANGER WILL ROBINSON!!!! (see below) - I'd better not even think of taking this cover off... But a label like that will only make me want to take the cover off even more.

I'm sure I'll report more on this sewing machine at some point but that's all for now.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Yet Another Garage Sale (YAGS) - 5 machines (3 Singers, a New Home and a Universal)

At work I live in the world of acronyms (civil service - Navy), so it's no surprise I attempt to do the same when at home. Thus the title of today's post. YAGS.

Some garage sales are good, and some are really good, while others are in the category of why-did-I-waste-precious-brake-material-stopping-for-this. Well, today's garage sale had five vintage machines. The lady had a lawn full of stuff but my eye immediately spotted the row of sewing machines on the grass even before I got the car parked. Apparently the garage sale had been going on for two weekends and this was the second day of the second weekend, so I'm presuming they were wanting to unload stuff. And I was right. While the sewing machines were not a screaming deal (which would have been on the order of a buck apiece), I did walk away with five machines for $25. Not bad for 100+ pounds of cast iron, steel and a bit of plastic. I didn't take a very good look at the machines prior to settling on a price but figured I couldn't go wrong. Now on to the down and dirty, emphasis on dirty.

If I had to choose the best machine of the five, it would probably have to be the Singer 66-4. Once I got it home, I noticed the very nice decals on it. I believe they're called Red Eye. The one downside to this machine is it is only forward stitching - no reverse. See the small knob beneath the bobbin winder? Thread that puppy all the way in and you have a long forward stitch. Thread it out all the way and the stitch length is 0, or nearly so. Sounds so convenient, doesn't it, but I guess back in the good ol' days, you didn't mess with stitch length much (as in the old commercial - just set it and forget it), especially when you didn't need to be bothered with such things as reverse. The machine does have the cool spoked handwheel and vintage layer of dust though.

The next best machine in the group is the Domestic Admiral, a Class 15 clone with the upper thread tension knob poking out the left side of the end cover. I never could understand the logic behind Singer putting the take-up lever and tension knob on the end cover of their Class 15 machines. Sewing machines are easier to thread with those items on the front of the machine.

Third in line would be the New Home model NLB. The friction drive disk has a massive divot in it from being pressed on the handwheel for the last who knows how many decades, but it can probably be saved.

The final two machines are Singers, an early 60s model 417 missing the needle plate and spool post, and an early 70s model 603E missing parts of the stitch length lever mechanism. The 603E did come with a cam under the hood, I guess to make up for the missing parts...

So there you have it. A good find at a local garage sale.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Pfaff 130 Automatic 50010 attachment installation instructions

If you are ever in need of instructions for installing one of Pfaff's Automatic 50010 attachments (the cool whizbang gizmo hanging off the back of the Pfaff 130 in the first photo below), the following link will take you to a folder with photos of all pages in the manual:

Pfaff 50010 Automatic installation manual

Monday, August 5, 2013

Excitement for the week - tire blowout

Not sewing machine related, but we were on a camping trip with our pickup truck and camper the last several days. Coming home on the final 100 miles of our 1200 mile trip we had a blowout on the left rear. A loud motorcycle was just passing us on the left and we heard a very loud *bang*. We figured it was the m/c but all of a sudden our truck started swaying. My son was driving and he got the truck pulled to the side without incident. Here's the damage:

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Five... no, six sewing machines followed me home...

Five sewing machines today and one yesterday. Ok, so maybe I coaxed them along a little. They didn't actually end up at my house of their own free wills, ringing the door bell and wanting a warm place to stay. And three of them were free (parts machines). It is difficult to turn down a free sewing machine, no matter what it looks like. So without further ado, here they are. The photos show them in as-received condition.

Pfaff 130-6 (in gen-u-ine Pfaff carrying case with busted handle)

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Work and play

I've been on travel for work quite a bit lately so I haven't had much opportunity to do things sewing-machine-related. Three weeks in Japan, three weeks at home, two weeks in Japan, two weeks home, then two weeks in Guam (the Guam trip I was able to take my wife along). Soooo, I'm really itching to get back to sewing machine related fun. To get things kicked off, my dear wife and I hit two Goodwill stores today, which happens to be the day we returned from Guam (24 hour travel time from start to finish). Our heads are kind of spinning from the three flights but I can always (usually) make time to hit the thrift stores. I purchased a Singer 328K in really nice cosmetic condition (photos will come at a later date) and an older Singer buttonholer, plus two boxes of Kenmore cams.

The reason for today's blog entry though is to show the machine I passed up at Goodwill, although I may have to finagle my wife into picking it up on the $1.29 Monday event in a couple weeks.

The machine pictured below is a Singer 15-91. Sorry for the lousy photo. You can't really tell if you didn't know, but the machine is mounted to a board with six screws. Someone drilled six holes through the machine bed (!) around the perimeter and put wood screws through the bed and into the wood (you can kind of make out a brass screw head in the lower right of the bed). A couple other minor issues I saw are that the spool post is a piece of threaded rod and the stitch length knob is a regular off -the-shelf screw. Oh, and there was no motor controller. All these things add up to a not-so-ideal purchase.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Domestic Model 69 Hi-Speed

Now there's a term you don't normally associate with an almost 100-year-old sewing machine - "Hi-Speed". But alas, there it is, in bold letters on the front of the sewing machine. I'm getting ahead of myself though. First, let me show the nifty case this brown beauty came in.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013


Collecting sewing machines is a satisfying hobby in that machines (almost mysteriously) show up in my basement that I hadn't previously run across. There seems to be a never-ending supply of unique sewing machines. Granted, they all pretty much look the same, but they are all different also. Kind of like the saying, "I'm unique, just like everyone else." Ok, so sewing machines aren't as unique as humans, but I still like them. Sewing machines, that is.

Now that we have the preamble out of the way, on to the photos. Here is one of my latest acquisitions, a Fantasia. I don't know much about it other than when I plugged it in at the store it ran, although somewhat slow.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Garage sales - feast or famine

I've stopped trying to figure out why on some days every garage sale we hit has nothing but on other days each one we stop at has something interesting. A week ago we hit a couple sales and I came home with three new additions. They're really nothing to write home about but they are cheap entertainment.

The first garage sale had a Kenmore 158.17520 in a cabinet but missing the cord plug (?), and a Singer 920 Futura II with some attachments and cams but no motor controller. The second sale had a bare Singer 500A (missing the motor controller, spool pins, cam spring, side door, and who knows what else).

Old Kenmore machines are a pretty safe investment, especially when they are five bucks. They are well-built and will last a millennium. Not much in the looks department though. I'm not sure why someone cut off the cord plug off, so I don't know if it runs, but it would take a lot to put a Kenmore out of commission.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Singer Stylist 543

Does this poor neglected sewing machine look lonely? I thought it did.

I picked this machine up on Sunday afternoon, which means the poor thing had been sitting on the shelf for almost 4 entire days during the 50% off green-tag sale at Goodwill. I just couldn't resist. And it came with the manual. I couldn't ask for more. Well, ok, it would have been nice to have a box of accessories hidden away somewhere.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Read's Sailmaker

Here's one I haven't heard of. That's not saying a whole lot, because I haven't been dinking around with sewing machines for a very long period of time.

So I'm at the local Goodwill and spot the lone sewing machine case on the shelf. Looks like any other generic case I've seen hundreds of times before.

Hefting the case off the shelf (upwards of 40 pounds) tells me there is a generic cast iron sewing machine housed within. Upon popping the lid off, I see a generic Japanese zig zag machine. Hmm, "Read's" it says on the label. Not one I've heard before and kind of a strange name for a sewing machine.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Strange disc. What Is It?

I saw this disk (pictured below) in the local Goodwill. I knew I wanted it but I had no idea what it was, other than it had stitch patterns depicted around the outer edges. Now if anyone has been to Goodwill, they know that when they find that cool little item, they should know to look around the general area for any other parts that may go with said "cool item". Well, after a fairly thorough search of the area, I didn't find anything that remotely looked like it went with this disk.

Problem number 1, what kind of machine did this go to? Not really a problem I guess, I still wanted it.

Problem number 2, the silly thing didn't have a price tag. I just threw caution to the wind and went to the cashier. She punched something in to her machine. She could see that I was wondering what I was being charged so she said, "Are you happy with 69 cents?" Yup.

YAGM - Yet Another Green Machine - Singer 185K

I just love these cool little Singer 3/4 machines. Too bad Singer didn't make one that also had the cam stack of a 401.... Now THAT would be something. But the little 185K is still neat. And this one came in a case.