Saturday, 22 June 2013

Might as well face the facts

I'm far more interested in collecting and fixing sewing machines than I am with sewing. This is not to say that I'm not interested in sewing, but the machines make my heart race.
So I was strolling lazily through ebay a few days ago and someone had a really nice looking machine from the 1920s up there. He said "Antique Singer Sewing Machine Head, Machine is seized, Electricals untested". The machine looked really nice (lotus) and the serial said it's a model 66 from 1924. No cabinet of course, and it came with a motor. Starting price was $15.
OK, what are the chances of anyone else bidding? Well, there was a chance even though it sounded pretty bad. I read the description: "Antique Singer Sewing Machine Head. Machine No. Y1657881.  Machine is seized and has some rust, globe, bobbin and bobbin cover plate is missing. Electricals untested pedal attached. The drive belt is missing too". Yes, he's really sexing it up. Even better was that it finished at 10:05pm on a Wednesday night, was in Geelong and postage was listed (cheaply, IMO - it weighs quite a bit) as $26.50. Nobody else placed a bid, surprisingly :-) Picked it up today and it looked like this:
He was right, it really was seized. I tried oil and a little persuasive rocking, no dice. Decided after taking half the mechanicals off that the Internet would be a good resource here. Hmm, yes, a good WD40 soaking followed by a good wipe and a good lot of oil. The WD40 didn't free it up! I disconnected everything the hand crank connected bit by bit until I found the culprit: The needle bar was completely rusted to its mounting. Tapped a screwdriver directly downwards on the top and it moved. Gently placed the pliers on it and moved it round (it was disconnected completely at the top). The bar was covered in orange WD40 now and it seemed no amount of wiping was going to remove it. Eventually, though it did.
Re-connected everything and plugged it in (I had disassembled and reassembled the motor too) and the motor worked. It was so pathetic (probably because I'd removed the brushes) that I decided to treadle it. Into the cabinet it went, and I even had a new belt for just such an occasion :-) She's probably not sewn a stitch in 50 years, but she did several hundred this evening. Yep, she's a beauty, and I'm just going to apply some shellac to protect the decals.
In her new home
That lovely decal

Monday, 10 June 2013

DIY Vintage Machine Japanning 2

About to get hot
I decided that the Japan job I'd done wasn't up to scratch. Put it in the oven for the requisite three hours. The smell in the kitchen (the machine wouldn't fit into the BBQ) and the subsequent attempt to rub it down was unsuccessful.
After the oven, not very smooth

  So I stripped it all again and painted it with enamel. Well, I have to say that the enamel's biggest downfall is that it's so damned thin! The Japan from the methylated 78 was very thick and was indeed quite suitable for the job but it was a bit lumpy. In retrospect, I should have just filtered it through a stocking.
I think I'll probably have to make a mixture out of shellac and asphaltum and re-Japan the machine.

Damn, the "asphaltum" I ordered from Jacksons turned out to be lump rosin. I'll be sending it back of course (I assume they'll want back, since it costs twice as much as asphaltum), but it meant when I decided to redo the Japan, I used the dissolved record mix again. This time I practically poured it over the base of the machine. I'll leave it four or so days to dry (or longer if necessary), sand it back then fire it in the BBQ (after making a bit of room there, or turning it sideways) since I'll probably die if I use the kitchen again (from either fumes or being subsequently murdered). Haven't taken any photos of the new Japanned surface - it looks pretty much the same as the last time, only a bit smoother. This time I also mixed some Shellac into the mixture and filtered before pouring. Brushes must be used only within a few seconds of the pour or else you'll get definite brush strokes appearing and staying on the surface. Yes these can be removed later, but it's not easy, particularly after firing the machine, when the Japan is really quite hard. I'll also attempt to remove more of the mechanical components beforehand - it scared me when after it was last fired the machine was completely siezed. I've bought some tri-flow oil now in anticipation of this happening again.
OK, more later, but I'm convinced that the dissolved record will give the most accurate surface now. Alternative is to proceed with enamel, giving it about three or four cans worth, or about 30 or so coats to build up enough paint to exceed the depth of the casting marks. If the surface remains dull as it did the first time, I will shine it using more shellac, dissolved in metho and applied using a cotton cloth.