October 15, 2017

Bernina 1230 (late 1980's)

After a year of looking and thinking about it I pulled the trigger on an Eba y 1230
This is part of my "looking for the perfect machine" project, and as mentioned before the 80's is where it has come together for me.

Of course it needed service when I got it and it may be that I felt more comfortable with it because I have the best service Tech about a 1/2 hour away at the Fabric Affair 
Rich is great; a collector restorer and refixit guy that loves sewing machines.

He asked me why the 1230?
As I have mentioned in other posts I have a huge background in what we at Chrysler called Human Factors, I was tutored by the great Howard Estes and many years of product development.
Human Factors now may also include HMI, Human Machine Interface. With the omnipresent "touch screen" HMI includes this difficult task.
We all have a touch screen or two that we are not fond of, they are fine for running electronics BUT when it comes to running a machine with it they are behind several systems. How would you like to ride a bike with a touch screen?
So simply; the 1230 has a computer that is controlled by physical buttons, buttons that have dimension, move a noticeable distance when depressed, have a feeling when depressed, and a light when they are activated. So in direct opposition is the Viking Designer 1 which I love but it has none of this "feedback" from the screen. "Haptics"attempts to mitigate this problem by creating a actual "thump" and a noise (thud) when activated and is in place in my Cadillac touch screen (although poorly) to mitigate the effects the problem; the problem is not knowing that you actually hit the button WITHOUT LOOKING AT IT.
The buttons are great but the dials are the real mark of excellence.
The dials combined with the LED "temperature" style bars are the "home run" part of the machine.
SOO easy to understand and use. The trick is to have the dial on the right side of the bar so I can see the bar, AND to have the side of the dial closest to the bar move in the same direction as the bar, hard to describe, easy to understand. This is what Human Factors is all about. The stitch width works in the same friendly way.

So Kudos to the experts at Bernina back in the day, they really knew there stuff and set out to do it right.

Got everything but the manual with it.

August 26, 2017

Necchi BU Mira (1954)

I think I have had all of the 1950' series Necchi's at this point?
Logica 592 80s

This one cam out of a cabinet and needed both the full "all metal bits off" cleaning as well as new wiring from plug to pedal. Fortunately I had this handy BU wiring diagram to work to.

 Super saturated in 63 year old oil/grime it was a tough nut to crack.
Nice to have the original motor with the date and the hefty 1.1amp stamped on it.
Unfortunately this green paint job did not survive nearly as well as my grey Nora

She was frozen to the point of about a half turn only but the most fun is getting them unstuck. I made a custom crank handle out of a spare lock knob so that I can have better leverage while doing the loosening / break-in phase

No case on this one but it came with this unusual accessories box

The "Press Here" box

August 22, 2017

Bernina Virtuosa 150 QE

Found this little gem at an Estate sale up north while staying at Crystal lake
Again I have become very interested in the early and 2nd generation computerized machines, with my background in CNC machining I have an affinity towards motor controllers and believe that the over concern regarding a computer board failure is just that.

I think the Virtuosa is a lesser and more rare version of the Artista, but it is still a Bernina

A handsome machine, classic late 90's
During clean up I found  thread wrapped around the counter weight crank and all the joints involved with the take-up lever, that was a new one!
Got the knee lift working with a DIY steel rod it makes such a difference in operation, did a small upholstery leather project very well

Another endearing feature, if they even intended it is the thread cut-off on the left side of the machine. About 90% of the time the cut-off  holds both ends of the threads up in place, this is really nice because you know where both threads are and starting the next stitch line is like having someone holding the threads up for you

Made in Switzerland, that's all we care about!
It has a Stainless Steel free arm top cover; it will NEVER show signs of wear with that!
Reverse switch at the head

Very heavy... stop complaining about heavy; heavy is good!
The wall plug is extra long, the foot pedal has a winder feature on the bottom, nice
The foot pedal also has the needle up-down feature, just press with your heel and the needle goes down, press again and it goes back up.
Without any effort the basic controls are extremely easy, I used it for a little repair project and just love the sound, it is an oscillating hook but Bernina does it different than everyone else, seems hard to beat.

The small LCD screen may look a little lost on the front face but it's all you need

Look at this...
  • Needle left - right with two buttons close by
  • Needle up - down one button for that
  • Stitch width with two buttons for that
  • Stitch length two buttons for that
From a Human Factors standpoint it could hardly be easier; I spent a large part of my Advanced Vehicle Engineering career doing what's called Human Factors, the practice of how people interface with machines, sometimes refereed to as HMI or Human Machine Interface.

All in all there are a large number of nice options
Has a separate motor for the bobbin winder

Needle position left - right and ZZ are controlled by a separate servo for super accurate positioning

It came with nothing but the No.3 foot, manual, and a flat bed conversion

August 4, 2017

DIY Vintage Sewing Machine Base

Here is my tried and true method for vintage machine bases.

If you are not experienced with woodworking this will be hard to follow.

I'm and old Draftsman and this is how we work.

The result is not up to woodworking standards but is acceptable and easy.
It is a one hour project not including the three cotes of finish

Every machine is slightly different under the edge of the casting and this design method will likely require some chiseling or knifing of the edge where the casting interferes with the new base.

The handle holes are nice and should be put in before you assemble the parts.

At the lumber yard you'll need a 1 x 3 x 6 foot piece of Poplar (don't use better if you are inexperienced) and don't use Pine.

A 1 x 3 has actual dimensions of 3/4" x 2-1/2 or 0.75" x 2.5"... perfect for our job

The 2-1/2" should get every machine out there just high enough so that the casting feet are nicely clear of the table, (except for the Singers 101 and the 201, they need a full 3")

Draw this out on a piece of graph paper as shown
Assume you are going to triple check every dimension and go ahead and make a cardboard cut-out of the plan view to check the fit.

No amount of extra drafting, drawing, measuring, and thinking, will go to waste for this project, but you know this if you make patterns for sewing.

To Start:

  • Measure the length and width of your flat-bed

  • The inside of your wooden base is between 1/2" and 3/8" LESS THAN these two dimensions

  • On your drawing mark these two dimensions everything is based on these two dimensions

  • For the Front Piece you add 3/4 + 3/4 +  Inside Length

  • For the Back Piece the length IS the Inside Length

  • For the Sides you add 3/4 + Inside Width

  • The result is a minimum of end grain showing without getting into complex joinery

  • Glue and nail, screws are so big they will require wood plugs.
  • Check for squareness (measure across corners) if its not square tap, squeeze, or push till it is. If you don't it'll dry out of square and you will be very sorry. 

  • Bevel and sand all the edges and finish; I use three coats of Minwax water based Polycrylic, one to lift the grain and two to finish it. Sand 120 then 220, and 220 between coats. 


To mount the machine I use 4 dollops of clear silicone sealer so you can lift the machine either the by the head or by the base.

FYI the design changes if you have to lift the machine to change the bobbin like the Vigorelli

The only difference is to add a second Back Piece, lengthen the Sides 3/4" and (this is the hard part) locate and countersink the hinges from a cabinet. 

August 3, 2017

Capital Window-Matic (Brother 1950s)

The team at Brother way back then must have been quite something. Like any product manufacturing company on the rise they had a mission and by the 60s had become a premier maker of machines.

Finally we get some styling and the beginnings of some more considered HMI added to the machine. HMI is Human Machine Interface and in this case the super vague 15-91 style froward - reverse lever in replaced with the classic Brother window gauge.

Another outstanding 15-91 machine could sum it up because that is all it is. Manufacturing guys really like making what they made yesterday and so the incremental changes we see in the Japanese imports are minuscule and usually very well executed.

Another "all metal parts off" restore that went pretty smooth but the stamped, masked, and painted logo did not go into the SuperClean, the paint that is used in these masking operations is vary thin and comes off with a single dip into a high level cleaner. I use Pine-Sol and a tooth brush.

A close up of the window system, not easy at all to reassemble, don't do it if you are not competent in repairs. The dial does what you think; it moves the needle and changes the stitch length BUT it only pushes the 15-9 style lever up and cannot push it down (you'll see when you try it) again, its a very early attempt at improving the system.

I'll say here that "all metal parts off" restore is NOT for the newbie, you will end up with a pile of parts that a machine you can't use. If you have no experience with machine repair then I suggest you start out very slow and do not willy-nilly disassemble anything.

The reason that I do "all metal parts off" is because I really get annoyed at the little edge of oil grime between the metal parts and the painted casting; this is so difficult to get at that the only way is to remove parts, though you don't have to. Removal also makes the cleanup of those parts easy, the trade-off is the reassembly know-how and lots of time.

Universal Sewing Machine (1950s) Clone

Another 15-91 clone and a damn good one.

As you may have discovered some of us really like the "Clones Age" machines from Japan.

Its that free wheeling, noiseless, hand cranking that gets to you. And too the outstanding leather ability of these machines.

This one is in pretty happy shape, I traded it for a machine I was so tired of, and now I have an inexpensive machine to pass along to a newbie.
It was a complete "all metal parts off" restore, and again I take them off and drop them into a tall covered jar of SuperClean over night, remember any paint on these parts will come off so don't do this with your 1970s Singers. Most of the parts come out so clean that you just rinse them off dry them, (you need an air compressor) oil and reinstall.

The real time consumer is the tension disc, spring reset, and test sewing, plan on an hour.

So the whole process is usually about 4 hours.

July 5, 2017

Kenmore 385 "30 Stitch"

The Kenmore 385.1884180 is a Janome made machine with their outstanding rotary hook system, I am very impressed with this machine; wish I had stumbled across them earlier.

It is a: durable, reliable, clean, quiet, and very smooth running with utility and decorative stitches

My stitch test was easy - easy a fun machine.

You know those Kenmore's when they got it right they really got it right, I think this is one of them.

Pfaff 1471 Creative (1983)

Finally got a 1471, after being so impressed with the 1069 I wanted to add the IDT to see what all the hype was about. I am really in love with needle position and so I'm researching all the 80's machines where this function.

Its a super cool machine with the electronics arranged for easy use.

Its got:
Needle position.
More stitches
Complete electronic controls
Electronic reverse
And that vintage Hewlet Packard LED red read out!

These early electronic machines have a  tendency to switch back to a default numbers when you go from one stitch to another instead of remembering what your last setting was, like the SensorSew.
If you were straight stitch at 3.5 length (default 2.5,) go to  ZZ at 4 width and 1 length (default 3.5 - 1.5,) then back to SS you have to reset you length, if you go back to ZZ you have to reset those again too.
Weird thing about the reverse; it makes one more stitch in the original direction before executing the other direction

Anyhow, these are nice machines, they seam to have a punching power that is very refined; the motor noise doesn't change regardless of what its going thru.

The IDT is a good addition, I need more experience with it to give a real opinion.

I do a lot of medium weight leather and this guy walks right thru it; rotary hook can't be beat.

The reverse and slow stitch are at the stitch are at head and now that I've got used to the transverse presser foot lift lever I like it better than the rear mount version; although you can't use it with your left hand that is worth the trade.
The electronic bobbin empty sensor is really nice, with the blinking red light you may have a foot or so left in the bobbin so you can begin to plan your exit strategy

During my early stitching work out with this guy (it is German) small bits of plastic were falling around the machine, it kept happening for a while so I opened up the top cover and determined that the IDT cam follower rubber wheel was designating.
It is a bearing with a rubber tire on it, I need to find this part!

Started using the 1471 for sewing thin leather (2mm-ish)
The IDT is absolute for this work, often with a standard flatbed the leather is very difficult to move with just the feed dogs, the IDT is very reliable.

June 23, 2017

Husqvarna Viking Designer I (1998)

OK not so vintage but I got this with a half dozen other machines from Darrin.

So on my continuing quest for the perfect machine I am drifting towards the 80s.
To me the perfect machine would combine the cast iron "goodness" from the 60s and the super cool functions from the 90s, maybe some one could make such a thing.

The Husqvarna Viking Designer I is one of the earliest touch screen machines made and has some amazing features which I like. I have to admit that at one point I began to think that this thing was a privilege to use!

I have become partial to needle position (up / down), I like left - right - center, and a few good utility stitches.

I just took it off of Craig's List again after doing another alteration; this thing is really amazing I discovered how best to use the fix. It auto-starts with the fix button lit up if you want to end with a fix you have to hit the button before you stop that way it makes the fix an stops with your foot on the pedal. To top it off you can then hit the auto cut-off  which drags the top thread underneath and cuts it off at about 3/4" (don't know why it doesn't tie the knot for you?)

The thing is very strong and has a lot of features that are with us today.
It does not seem to be phased by leather, I have gone off of Viking machines and won't buy one for any reason because they are kind of light duty and always seem to be touchy on leather.
This one is different so I'm going to give it a chance.

It does ask that you sew a little differently than you did with old Betsy but you don't have to.

Presser foot down with the foot pedal is pretty cool, thread cut-off is excellent, the "Fix" or mini back-tack is nice. All of these functions are at your service on the stitch head.

FYI the thread cut-off actually pulls the top thread down and leaves you with about 15mm of each thread to tie off Amazing!

I don't care for the bobbin winder so I use my off-machine bobbin winder for them too. The bobbins wound on the Designer I always look lumpy and uneven, not that they won't work but this is one of those "things" that I can't get past.

Had it serviced by Husqvarna Viking Technician at the Ultimate Sewing Place in Livonia. That was a great experience because he let me sit and watch and learn while he worked.
As I suspected this machine has a run time meter inside the software and so we discovered that it has a grand total of 2 hrs sewing time and 16 hrs of embroidery time on it.

The reverse switch was bad so the control board on the far left was replaced, he did a general service and software update too. It was great to see the machine internal structure considering the covers are hard to get off and I won't be going in there anytime soon; it's a giant die-cast aluminum truss.

Did some pillow making with it while up north, I like it, need the zipper foot.

June 19, 2017

Kenmore 385.1884180 (1980's)

The Kenmore 385.1884180 is a Janome made machine with their outstanding rotary hook system

It is a: durable, reliable, clean, quiet, smooth running low mileage machine with utility and decorative stitches

Comes with case and accessories

Cheap Sewing Machine Rant: what beginner sewers should consider

So it has become clearer to me that the unfortunate new-comer to sewing may get their 1st experience clouded by the "let's get cheap NEW machine" syndrome.

By cheap I mean anything under a $1000, it is shocking how bad some of these new machines are when compared to the Vintage choices.

Your basic $250 machine is so cheap it can hardly sew a shirt, and if it does youv'e worn it out.

My point is that for $50 $100 $150 $250 you can get a Vintage machine that will take you into the journey of sewing in a manner that allows you to focus on the work and not the machine.

Here is a documented reference: My Singer 99-24 came with the original sales receipt for $90, That machine cost Daddy the equivalent of $1010 in 2017 dollars. (I bought it for $12.50, $1.10 in 1947 dollars)

Now don't run out and buy a Craigslist  $20 machine, instead, look for someone who knows someone that has a machine cleaned and tuned and ready for use. It takes me 2 - 6 hours to get one ready to sell and I know a little bit about them.
I guess that means your local repair guy or many of the EBay honest brokers. And again don't go for the cheapest but go for what you think will best suit you and your needs.
Plan a month of searching minimum and catalog the options and style that interest you.

Beginning is better at your Grandmother's level of machine, all those bells and whistles are really appreciated when you have a couple of years and many projects under your belt.

I just love to sell someone their 1st machine, when I get em' cheap I sell em cheap.

Good luck and keep sewing!


June 5, 2017

Regency 8141 (1964)

Am refining my range of machines that I like to have on hand to sell to the newbies at a good price.

The Regency fits well; it is from that perfect period in the 60's before the MBAs took over and during a time when precision manufacturing was king.

Trying out my new background drape for photog.

Styling is an odd mix of straight edge and bulbous forms; a combination of 50's and 60's design vocabulary's.

A nice stitching machine, quiet, and easy to use.
Tried the button hole function; seems OK but you might need a lot of practice to make flawless.
She's in basically unused condition so was mostly locked up but hums along now!

Tan and beige, a familiar combo, shows up everywhere
She comes with a manual
And the original paperwork

$168 in 1964 equals $1,312.64 in 2017, hmmm always had to spend real money to a get a good machine.
Bought at our beloved Hudson's downtown. Complete with lesson coupons!