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.



  1. I have this same machine. I can't get the hand crank to turn to disengage the clutch so I can thread the bobbin. Any thoughts on how to fix it? it's not budging.

    1. Hi Jess
      I'll recommend the risky channel locks method.
      The trick is to cover the jaws with leather or 1/32" layer of masking tape. Also there is a kitchen aid lid remover that uses a rubber strap, it could be very helpful to get a grip.
      Ultimately it is not worth scratching up the hand wheel to wind a bobbin. You could do it without disengaging or do it on another machine.
      If necessary bring it to your local repair guy, he may do it while you stand there if you ask him nice.
      Also I find that there are many local Quilters around (a very quiet group) that tend to know an awful lot about machines if you ask.

      Good luck, Tom

  2. Can you tell me what the difference is between the 1040 and the 1030 is? I'm getting a dirty mess 1030 next week. I hope it is packed good...never had luck with people shipping me a machine. But. It's missing the door flap too. I will have to fashion one I suppose. Thanks

    1. Not sure, it is difficult to find anything out there.
      It likely has a couple fewer stitch options.
      Have fun!

    2. ...the 1040 has more built in stitches...just received my 1040 the other day...oh what joy!!

    3. The 1040 (which I used to own) had a separate designated straight-stitch plate with a tiny hole for straight stitching. It could also do stretch stitches that involved forward and backward motions (like the honeycomb stitch). The 1030 (which I just purchased) can't do those. Still, it's a wonderful machine.

  3. I have this machine. I finally was able to find the manual online and printed them out. Sews like a dream. Does anyone know the age of this machine?

    1. You need to find the serial number and go from there.
      I just did a couple of projects with it; fun to use!

    2. I just read an article today that it was built beginning in 1972 and it was designed by a black man named Charles Harrison who was hired by Sears in 1961 to design several other products for them throughout his tenure with Sears. What a brilliant man! I love this machine.

  4. my machine's bobbin winder has stopped working will not spin my husband is handy do you have any suggestions