October 23, 2013

McKay Champion 77 Stitcher (19??)

I wrestled with this purchase for a while; it's always hard to balance need, want, and access.

1st I needed an insole stitcher so I can take my men's sandals to the next level. What I really wanted was a lock-stitch machine but  they are just too expensive. But then I was lucky that the "Lucky 7" shoe repair shop was selling out machines near by.

Petar was gracious to give me a demo on it. She's a big old piece of cast iron, may be 70 to 100 years old, I'm still looking for more in depth info on when they were manufactured. Probably weighs in around 300 lbs but the guys at Grosse Pointe Moving and Storage handled it well.

So far I'm very happy with it having the fun of cleaning, polishing, adjusting, and figuring out what does what and why. 

It's a chain-stitch machine but depending on the project and how you design your works it is just as sound of a stitch as the lock-stitch, its just not what you would use on a Goodyear welt.

I have learned a lot about these machines and am looking forward to doing more than just practice stitches with it. 
It's certainly not a "point and shoot" machine you are really just stitching one stitch at a time, you watch very closely as each stitch is completed and go to the next; that's OK because there is no hurry to screw things up.

Used it officially for the 1st time on a pair of experimental men's sandals. It performed very well, I still need lots of practice, but it did exactly what I intended; reinforce the glued straps.

October 6, 2013

Elna Special (1969)

I see these things occasionally and because they are not that attractive I never thought to look into them.
But because the Swiss made Elna has such a reputation, devoted following, and the price was right I decided to see what the Special had to offer.

It has a few miles on but not abused, it took a several hours to to bring up to respectable condition; every little corner and part needed cleaning including the foot pedal and ditty box.

It came with no manual so in my "free manuals" search I found the one that Tammy posted up! Thanks very much to her.

It has that crazy box that turns it into a flatbed; beautifully made complex sheet metal stampings, nice interior finish with several attachment straps to hold everything in place. However, the exterior is a military grey crinkle finish of all things, it really doesn't go with the modern looking machine at all. Without the case it is an exceptionally lightweight machine.

Now for the problems; I tried way too long to get the button hole wheel to free up, it is almost unmovable with two thumbs on it. Secondly the electronic slow speed on the foot pedal won't work.

Now for the good part; man can this thing sew beautifully! I tested it on some medium thick upholstery leather and the result was perfect.

Not a "style leader" like the Lotus it was however definitely headed in the right direction. Functionally the big dials are easy to turn because they allow for a "three finger" grip.

It is a fine Swiss made Elna machine.
I'm going to give it a try as a replacement for my 360 which currently I cannot get the reverse to be anywhere near the same length as the forward length.

As for Swiss cars... there are none from this period, or almost any!
We'll have to go to Italy, just across the Alps and look at Design in general.

However, apropos to nothing but color, fashion, and beauty:

Typewriters were a favorite for innovation and design until their demise.

'Valentine' typewriter designed by Ettore Sottsass with Penny King, made by Olivetti & Co, Italy, about 1969

Here is an interesting progression that follows sewing machine design too!
The next few steps continue the decline of the curve until the 70's when none were left.

Fashion History

October 2, 2013

Necchi BU Supernova (1956)

Well I have heard about them and of course I have the greatest respect for the Nora and the Nova so when one came along I went for it.
It came with all of the parts and pieces, manual and the unusual stitch selector ditty box.

I could see thru the grime that it would clean up OK, and the paint job that the Italians did is 1st rate.

I never cared much for the fat head and that lazy curve leading back to the hand wheel but the clean and compact styling kinda grows on you.

The front and rear 3/4 views are quite elegant.

It has the whacky rotating throat plate which is of course a great idea just maybe not worth the trip, on second thought however, one might be inclined to use the correct throat plate because it is so easy to switch back and forth?

I did a side by side test with the Nora to see if there was a discernible difference and I think the jury will admit that the two sound and feel identical.

It has a very nice two speed switch on the right; I'm allways interested in slow speed for leather work.

A delightful machine includes the bobbin winder that is completely covered "aircraft" style. The aluminum parts shined up like new.

Motorsport racing was passing through what are now considered there "Golden Years" the pace of innovation, the truly beautiful forms are soon to eclipsed by computers and the wind tunnel. Through the 50's the forms were emotional, often erotic and very inventive. 

So there is that reverse curve inspiration!

I simply can't resist a good cutaway.

And again the form vocabulary is all there on the race track.


September 10, 2013

Singer 353 Genie (1973) # 2

So a second 353 came along and because of my fascination with designerly portables (and its near perfect condition) I decided to go for it. I usally loose interest in same models once I have one but when they are in my special interest area I can't resist.

First off it is a real nice condition machine seems to have had minimal use, I used my automotive lens cleaner on all the plastic; buffed up very well.

Back to styling, yes the Genie is cute especially with the cover up however placed in the company of her contemporaries like the Lotus and the 1040 I think it falls woefully short. Classic 70,s styling; hard edges with flowers... what's up with that?

What makes the Genie so unique is the screen printed front cover, beautifully executed with a subtle 3D effect; the Singer logo floats over the floral pattern. The problem I have with the Genie is the "sliced thru the forms" execution of the front piece that creates some sharp edges and breaks the form dialog that is mostly quite friendly.

I do not want to be harsh, its a good machine, easy to operate, and apealing to look at.

As for cars the 73 Lincoln and all of its "straight curves"

Interior too:


August 8, 2013

Kenmore 158.1040 (1972)

Well I looked and waited and looked and waited then I snagged a reasonably priced 1040 on EBay. Let's face it, for whatever reason these little gems command a good price, I'm going to find out why!

What a tasty little machine; reminds me of the Lotus in its inventive inspiration and clean no-nonsense approach to life. Creative little surprises everywhere, a nice pleasing design; real Industrial Design, not art work or Engineers just releasing stuff so they can get to lunch.The flip out front extension is so nicely done that I bet some people forget that its there. And of course the flip out storage bin / extension, although I will admit its a little light weight.

When a machine has such a large ID presence as does the 1040 look about and you can bet there was someone of note that designed it, and this is no exception. A little research uncovered a very interesting story; Charles Harrison a now notable designer who's story is only heightened by the fact that he was a Black man in a white man's world. Harrison hired into Sears in 1961 and designed 1000's of products for them... all the big and small stuff that us baby boomers grew up with. Reviewing just a few of his other designs (I'm going to buy the book) I think the stars aligned for Charles as he created the 1040.

Although in NBU condition it was of course grimy and needed lots of oil. One note of caution is that the engineers were not the least bit interested in maintenance oiling; the typical mysterious little holes in the bed are missing for one and the oil hole for the rear main bearing is completely covered by the bobbin winder mechanism.
Something I did as an upgrade; I don't care for light leak and the 1040 has a lot. The light is placed so that it illuminates the whole interior of the front of the machine. I placed some strategic pieces of black masking tape as far from the bulb as possible and in the right places to limit as much of the light bleed  as possible.

I did a full clean up on it, took everything apart and polished it with TR3, the case needed a scrubbing with some purple spray, and of course it had never been oiled sisnce it left the factory.

Check out the crazy two belt gear reduction system!

More info from another obsessed person: mysewingmachineobsession

As for cars... the early 70's were just beginning to loose the ultra sharp edge look with a little softer edges. Compact cars for a compact sewing machine.

My younger brother had one of these pieces of crap and nursed it along for years.

Compact cars were for the entry level "aspirational" buyer and in my opinion American car makers only knew how to make big so when forced to make small they had a hard time adjusting to tight precision details. That's why the Honda's just looked right; small tight details for small tight cars.

The Gremlin (aptly named) was just being phased out when I hired into AMC. I joined the boys from Renault just after the iconic Cherokee was released, and soon there after we took over Chrysler.


July 12, 2013

Singer 403A (1956)

Yes another 403, as I have said it's the perfect machine. I needed something to work on while on vaca up North.

This one really looks like a "never been used" machine, it came with all the discs and accessories but no manual.

I made some repairs to an old shirt and fixed up my rowing gloves too.

The fixes required freeing up the ZZ mechanism; it was frozen everywhere so that the left - right button wouldn't even move.

My historical record comes from just a few years later... 1961 specifically.

The Plymouth fury, the tail end styling was soo unique especially in the coupe version; stunning roof line, huge deck lid, long long lines. The front end came from the previous year and loosing the over sized tail-fins was over due.



June 17, 2013

Cowboy 8810 - Custom Hand Crank

A failing of the 8810 is the small and hard to turn hand wheel, making it very difficult in tight turns. It takes at least two "grip and turns" to get just one revolution. With my crank handle installed it makes "one stitch at a time" simple and unconscious; one full revolution leaving the handle in the down position leaves the needle in the down position, leave the handle in the up position and the needle is up.

I fabricated the longest handle and knob that would clear the table and here it is.
The other bizarre aspect of the 8810 is the stitch length adjustment method; I won't explain it here but the extended handle makes adjustment much easier.
I did an experiment with the stitch length to see just what range I might want to work in. What I discovered is that the smallest usable stitch is at the 2.75 marking, and that by the time you get to the 4 indication the stitch length is large. I'll get dimensions soon.

I have since shortened the handle 1" and that is a nice working length.

May 12, 2013

Singer 328K (1964)

A good estate sale find, this 328K is very clean, no use since the last service and is virtually scratch and chip free.

It still needed a good oiling and careful cleaning. The solid brass front plate really shines up nicely.

It came with manual and, cams and an unopened oil bottle!

The styling is just a little quirky, geeky, trainwrecky for me, I can't seem to warm up to it.

 I noticed that the timing was a little off so I went after that, fortunately I had the service manual from the 327 and followed the steps. In doing so the spring for the ZZ unwound so the ZZ no longer worked! When I finally figured out how to tighten the ZZ spring I tightened it too much causing the machine to bind and not be able to get "over the hump." So I got the tension correct; a surprisingly small adjustment.
Then I noticed that the needle was too far from the hook so I moved that in real close, and lastly I adjusted the gap around the bobbin case, it was about twice the spec. dimension.

All in all it now runs very well.

For my automotive reference I have chosen the 64 Mustang. Essentially birthing the muscle car era the 64 Mustang itself was initially under powered but the trend it fostered, within a few years became known for its overwhelming horsepower. Pony cars!

The Oil embargo of 73 put an abrupt halt to muscle cars... for a while.

Checkout this thesis on the era.


March 13, 2013

Juki DSC - 246-6

Actually this is one of the 1st machines I bought after many years of making shoes and paying someone else to sew the uppers.

I got it used from a CCS schoolmate in 2009 without stand or motor. 1st I turned it over to Brad for an overhaul and then I made my own stand that fit exactly into a slot between work tables in my shop.

The original DSC was a top of the line machine with auto thread cut-off and power reverse switch. I took off the auto thread cut-off but evetually reinstaled the power reverse, the switch is just a couple inches away from your hand.
The motor and foot control came from my 30 year old Soldner potter's wheel; an outstanding low speed motor and controller.

Tthe DSC is a cylinder arm walking foot machine I have a foot for working on either side of the needle foot. I use this machine for heavy work, not knowing what I was doing when I bought it I thought one needed a walking foot for all types of leather... not so.

I also made this very cool spool holder out of a piece of stainless, I never use the industrial spool hook-ups because they are too large and I would never buy a large cone of thread.

See my other post

March 12, 2013

Sewing machine needle details

I thought I would give a little insight on the Needle! It's so small but has the potential to effect the outcome of your work both positive and negative.

The whole story on needles can be found out there on the net, I am just going to focus on two very important aspects:
  1. The features that make the needle work
  2. The size issue

Thanks to this great section drawing I am able to describe these two inter-related topics.

The bobbin hook is always on the opposite side of the groove in the needle (3) or the groove in the needle faces away from the hook that is spinning or oscillating around the bobbin.

The notch in the needle (4) is the area where the hook passes by the needle to pick up the thread loop. The hook passes by incredibly close to the needle (approximately .002" - .001")

Sequence of events:
When the needle is driven thorough the material the thread is of course held close to the needle, as the needle begins to retract however there is a difference in the amount of drag from front to back. The difference is a result of the front groove. When the needle retracts, the thread on the hook side (4) drags on the material thus forming the loop. The loop is suspended in space and is large enough for the hook to fly by and pick it up, awsome!

So a couple of hard learned lessons regarding this very short time-span event...
  • If the fabric lifts with the needle no loop will be formed and therefore no stitch can be made. I learned this on my wheel feed machine when the leather picked up very slightly and caused no stitch to be formed.
  • Too big of a needle will not allow for the required amount of drag on the hook side and also result in no stitch being formed.
  • If the outer part of the thread is being striped from the thread core you have too small a needle.
Ultimately the correct size needle and thread are required. Needles should be treated as disposable items, don't try to conserve them, just buy more.

Cut - away drawings are so cool:

And now you know how a VW bug works :-)

February 5, 2013

Pfaff 360 (1960)

Well I really am in to my Pfaffs. Although I had professed my OMG for the 332 when I saw her younger sister I new that was for me. I searched for several months to find a 360 and realized they were hard to come by, so I researched Ebay and got this one for a fair price. I'm not into buying these expensive machines, having them shipped, and hoping they are what I wanted, I prefer to wait for a CL listing but they must not have sold many in Michigan.

I found the SN date on Ismacs.

It has the same mechanics as the 332 but all of the human factors issues have been corrected; it is really the one to have. Forget all of the exotic stitches, all I need are the three levers and three dials. The dials are big, (you can get two fingers and a thumb on each) easy to read, and smooth rotating. The left and right of center is good, not like the 332 that takes two hands and three tries to get it into position.

FYI, I figured out how to fix the yellowed numbers on the 0 - 5 front dial. The dial comes apart fairly easily, take out the numbered disk, scan it at a hi resolution and Photo Shop the UV yellowing out of the scan. After you print it take some clear hard packing tape and cover both sides, then cut it out with an X-ACTO knife. I found it so annoying to have the whole machine cleaned up except for the yellowed numbers.

Since I use a flatbed machine when I need a flatbed I took the Rube Goldberg flatbed conversion parts off and stored them safely away.

It came with the crazy "Circletrol" too or maybe Circle-troll .

I'm afraid I didn't like the low speed fidelity of the Circletrol so I swapped it out for the gas pedal from the 332.

What a great machine, I'm really happy I did my homework and now understand why people pay full price for 360s with all the bells & whistles, they are worth it.

BMW Isetta, 1960: just look at the family resemblance; German is as German does!


January 21, 2013

Singer 403A (1958)

Well I'm going to make my vote here for the best choice within the 400 series; the 403 is the model to have, better than the 401. The 403 has all of the capability and none of the ridiculous complexity of the 401, it looks better and is more inviting. I love the little hood ornament on the top cover.
I am especially partial to 1956 and have been trying to find a machine that is exactly my age for some time.

Got this one from CL at a good price, did a complete tear-down for cleaning and have a beautiful running machine. I think it has all of the stitch variants of the 401 with the cams but who uses them any how?

It came with all of the goodies and manual too!

I used it for my latest shoe project, I needed some custom laces and so I sewed several 6 foot long pieces of organza, turned them inside out and then pulled a different color piece of organza thru the middle. After many tries I got what I wanted.

In honor of the 2013 Detroit Auto show I am featuring a shot from a 1956 auto show. Back when the future was something we dreamed about in a much different way that we do today.

GM was setting the trends for the future; sweeping lines, two tones, who could ask for more Modern?