September 2, 2012

Singer 29 - 4 (1914)

Well I finally found a model 29 in Norther Michigan, needs work but seems in pretty good order after the first oiling - up.

Here she is looking south over the great Crystal Lake.

Only part that is missing completely is the thread tension assembly, I am sure I can make one from spare parts that will look original (enough.) Lot's of grime and goo all over it but that's just cleaning. I was expecting to find some very loosey goosey parts and operations but she is very tight. Mind you I have never worked on one of these things before; I seem to always need a new challenge. I keep thinking it is a long ways from sewing and I hear they are not easy to run so I am not sure if it will be two weeks or two years before I can say its a reliable runner.

Knowing what every little feature and detail of a sewing machine helps understand the genius of this design.Obviously the goal of the design was two fold:
  1. Achieve the smallest bobbin / hook footprint ever
  2. Make an omnidirectional feed mechanism
I suspect somebody told some old-timer that it couldn't be done and that was enough to get it done.

Well I thought I would just wipe it down and try to sew with it but I've gone into a total disassemble of it, so far so good. The exposed areas were heavily pitted but over night in CLR and its straight to the wire wheel with it. Once it's all back together I still have to make the missing thread tension mechanism.

And here she is all finished and running.

I had the cast iron frame sand blasted and painted at Georges Collision on 9 mi. George is a great guy and appreciates restoration. But I could not have got it running without t he help of Brad The Sewing-machine man in Wyandotte; he saw what was wrong with the timing using his Eagle eye.  

I have never used a treadle machine before and it will of course take a lot of practice. The bobbin thread tension is not easy to adjust or get at but this is the compromise made for such a specialized machine. It is not a production machine it is referred to as a "patcher" made for shoes, boots and getting down into sleeves. 
It is a true addition to my shoe making arsenal. 

The two fixes I made to the 29-4 are here in one picture. 

It had none of the thread tension components so I scavenged some discs and adjuster nut, threaded a piece of brass rod (1/4-28,) turned the tension release cup on the lathe, and cut a piece of spring to fit. 

The real challenge was taking out the free play in the end of the needle bar rocker casting. The horizontal rod at the top of the needle bar had worn out the casting to what I thought was an unacceptable degree (.016 TIR.) I drilled out the whole in the casting and turned and reamed a piece of bronze bearing material, the result is a more precise needle position (.005 TIR.) The later models had many improvements (the Ks) including this area where the steel rod is running in a steel liner instead of directly on the casting.

As for my automotive reference I have chosen the 1914 Dodge. Having worked at Chrysler since 1985, (following my father who also worked there) I have worked on all of the different models at one time or another.

It appears as though black was it, oh yeah "any color as long as it's black." Geeky forms hearkening back to the previous century, horse & buggy Victorian styling. At this time the styling department had yet to be invented in the automotive industry; it would be another 15 years before Harley Earl would become the 1st head of styling at GM and begin the process of legitimizing or shall I say establishing DESIGN as an integral part of the product world.

 Usage update: requiring patience and attention to detail the 29-4 is an excellent sewer!
I cannot believe the stitch forms at such a low speed; very reliable once you get the bobbin tension and all the details tweaked. It is more of an adventure to run than a sit down and slam the pedal to floor type of machine so you need to be in the right mood or just don't sit down at all. I made $100 on the 1st repair I did with it and just used it on a one of my art pieces, I love it.


  1. Hey there, I just got the same model in a pretty good shape, no parts missing and basically working. Needs an optical brushup though.
    Could you please tell me how you managed to get the original logos as accurate as you did? Is there a stencil for that?

    Would be very grateful for your advice - thank you!

    1. Hi, there are no stencils just decals
      I have never used them, but there seems to be a cult of restoration out there
      I like Pine-Sol and / or rubbing compound to get that oil scum off of the surfaces, be very careful not to bub too hard