The Sewing Place

Choosing a Vintage Machine (for new to hobby folks)

Roger

Re: Choosing a Vintage Machine (for new to hobby folks)
« Reply #15 on: May 22, 2017, 19:40:27 PM »
My immediate thought on reading your piece was if the electrics on the pre-WW2 machines may be dodgy, how easy is it to convert one these days? Are there kits available and reliable tutorials? With something like this I'd want the confidence of a recommended tutorial rather than just finding someone who knew more than I do (that's far too easy to achieve).

Hi Jackie,
I have to say I'm squeamish about doing electrics, because the motors are generally external on earlier machines they tend to be fairly straightforward relatively, but I like a nice PAT test to go with and the reassurance that comes with having someone practiced doing it. when I got my 201k2 rewired it was £40 inc PAT test, and £25 for a service.

A bit of a vintage sewing machine nut! Singers: 500a, 401g, 48k Elnas: lotus SP & grasshopper, Bernina 530-2 F+R 504, Pfaff 30, Cresta T-132

Roger

Re: Choosing a Vintage Machine (for new to hobby folks)
« Reply #16 on: May 22, 2017, 19:57:00 PM »
Im a massive fan of the templated buttonholers. They are ingenious and so easy, a friend gave me some hot air about how easier button holes are on modern machines, these you just stick in the template and its good to go, pretty much. the ones I like best are Griest's, but his were rebranded for everyone. They have a maximum of 10 templates, including an eyelet one, and another quirky one.

Helen Howes is great, very knowledgeable and amazing at finding parts, she also serviced and rewired my 201k
A bit of a vintage sewing machine nut! Singers: 500a, 401g, 48k Elnas: lotus SP & grasshopper, Bernina 530-2 F+R 504, Pfaff 30, Cresta T-132

Surest1tch

Re: Choosing a Vintage Machine (for new to hobby folks)
« Reply #17 on: May 31, 2017, 17:39:26 PM »
I keep reading about the 201 and it's making me so nostalgic I want another one.  My grandmother gave me an old treadle 201 when I was about 10 years old, I loved that machine so much.
 After just leaving school I came home from work one night to find my mum had put it in part exchange for a new electric machine which I wasn't allowed to use. I wouldn't have minded but she can't sew and never had any interest in sewing until I started my tailoring apprenticeship and to my knowledge she never used the machine.
I have got a Singer industrial machine now which is very similar to the 201 but it doesn't like fine fabrics.
 What do I do? 😢

Maximum

Re: Choosing a Vintage Machine (for new to hobby folks)
« Reply #18 on: June 02, 2017, 12:13:07 PM »
What do I do? 😢
There are plenty of nice 201s looking for a good home! They are cheap to keep and lovely to have but brace yourself before you lift and don't expect the handle on the case to take the weight😃. Always a good idea to have spare machines and the vintage ones don't bear a grudge if you ignore them for months. Please send pics when you find her.

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Re: Choosing a Vintage Machine (for new to hobby folks)
« Reply #19 on: July 05, 2017, 21:31:08 PM »
Regarding rust, I don't bother too much about a bit of rust on the steel parts; it will come off. Thoroughly rusted up isn't nice, and I have avoided machines with damaged chrome plating due to rust. I have seen many cases of machines in very bad condition brought back to life, with mostly cleaning, oiling patience and DIY touch ups. It all depends upon how much time and energy we are willing to put into a particular machine, and whether or not you can live with traces of age and wear.

Barcoded

Re: Choosing a Vintage Machine (for new to hobby folks)
« Reply #20 on: July 06, 2017, 10:35:57 AM »
Thanks Roger.

You don't have a photograph of what exposed electrics looks like at all do you?
I think I have joined the 201 club

Roger

Re: Choosing a Vintage Machine (for new to hobby folks)
« Reply #21 on: July 06, 2017, 13:01:35 PM »
I might have a motor with the issue about.

Basically it's fairly obvious, because you have exposed wire core wrapped around exposed brass terminals. It's like looking at the inside of a plug but on either end of the wire between the motor and the male plug... and they're very close to the all metal body.

Hope that helps as it might take a while to get a pic... although I do have to sort the garage soon
A bit of a vintage sewing machine nut! Singers: 500a, 401g, 48k Elnas: lotus SP & grasshopper, Bernina 530-2 F+R 504, Pfaff 30, Cresta T-132

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Re: Choosing a Vintage Machine (for new to hobby folks)
« Reply #22 on: July 06, 2017, 13:42:12 PM »
... when I got my 201k2 rewired it was £40 inc PAT test, and £25 for a service.

That's a very good price, and I'm not sure I could get anyone to do it in my town, at least as inexpensive.  I would not hesitate much rewiring pedal and mains wire, it's pretty much like rewiring a wall lamp. The belt driven motors usually only have two wires in there, three if they are earthed. The only possible tricky part is the three pin plug and getting wire for the light in correct place. There are schematics on the web, and it's with in reach for anyone who takes the time to read it and observe the original wiring closely. That said, I agree, it's always good to have it done by an experienced electrician with the licence to approve it. It took quite a lot of time and effort the first time I opened and cleaned and lubricated a belt driven motor, but it wasn't really difficult.

Roger

Re: Choosing a Vintage Machine (for new to hobby folks)
« Reply #23 on: July 10, 2017, 17:48:35 PM »
You don't have a photograph of what exposed electrics looks like at all do you?

I do now... :)
These beautiful examples of photography (cough cough) might slightly help:
I have ringed and numbered the parts, these are from a rather aged 201, beautiful motion, shocking electrics... I bought it for a decent amount from a local appreciator of VSMs and didn't anticipate that it might be unsafe, part of my history with poor 201s...

The motor isn't attached to the 201for these pics.

1) these are thread wrapped cables, very rarely used in modern electrics... probably a warning bell in older electrics of older style insulation.

2) a square electrical part between the plug and power supply, I think its a capacitor for suppressing interference between early electrics and audio devices, but I might be wrong electrics are very definitely not my forte. Again probably a warning of potential issues.
Capacitors of an age are prone to failing and are often responsible for 'haunted machine' symptoms... ie its plugged in and turned on, and it randomly starts and then races... this got me my pfaff 30 affordably.

3) the exposed electrics themselves: its quite hard to see but the wires come from the motor to the 3 pin plug and instead of going inside the housing they are stripped and then wrapped around 3 fluted thumb screws. So the whole piece is basically not safe...

Exciting with a cast iron machine :)
« Last Edit: July 10, 2017, 17:52:13 PM by Roger »
A bit of a vintage sewing machine nut! Singers: 500a, 401g, 48k Elnas: lotus SP & grasshopper, Bernina 530-2 F+R 504, Pfaff 30, Cresta T-132

Sewingsue

Re: Choosing a Vintage Machine (for new to hobby folks)
« Reply #24 on: July 10, 2017, 19:06:43 PM »
Gosh, I haven't seen thread wrapped cables like that for years!
Er, when should you use 'cable' or 'flex'?
Bernina Aurora 440QE, Brother BC-2500, Singer 99K (1938), Silver Viscount 620D overlocker.

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Re: Choosing a Vintage Machine (for new to hobby folks)
« Reply #25 on: July 10, 2017, 20:00:05 PM »
I have seen some machines have those screws. Were the ends of the twisted wire soldered or finished off with a flat metal ring or something? The two pin socket on my 99 dating from 1934 doesn't have the screws behind there, neither does the three pin socket on my 201 (1950), nor my 201K23 (1955). At one point these were considered safe enough. By 1950 the general standard for electrical safety weren't bad at all. I wonder if there were additional insulation originally?

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Re: Choosing a Vintage Machine (for new to hobby folks)
« Reply #26 on: July 12, 2017, 00:50:52 AM »
I think it's possible to rewire it properly and safe with out it beeing too difficult. The VSSMB blog has a picture of the same plug sorted out. It looks like there's a groove for the wire in plug and the bakelite screw-on nuts will cover the metal once on. This guy uses shrink tubing at the ends, and it looks ideal for the purpose. I have seen old machines with twisted wire ends, but they have been soldered neatly, but usually where it has an advantage even wire ends on 1940s machines (maybe earlier too) have the more neater metal fittings/washers clipped on. It's very good of you to give attention to cases like this Roger, this is exactly what we need to check and sort out before we start using 70 years old electrics.

From the VSSMB
« Last Edit: July 12, 2017, 00:56:23 AM by arrow »

Roger

Re: Choosing a Vintage Machine (for new to hobby folks)
« Reply #27 on: July 14, 2017, 22:04:05 PM »
Thanks Arrow,
I haven't seen them dealt with like that, Nicolas Rain does do a brilliant job on the old electrics and is very inventive at making them safe. Although I wouldnt hazard speculation if that would pass PAT testing tho.
A bit of a vintage sewing machine nut! Singers: 500a, 401g, 48k Elnas: lotus SP & grasshopper, Bernina 530-2 F+R 504, Pfaff 30, Cresta T-132

Radiofan

Re: Choosing a Vintage Machine (for new to hobby folks)
« Reply #28 on: December 12, 2018, 13:16:18 PM »
I would like to share my experiences with the mid-70s Singer 500 series, that is the 507, 522, 513, 514, 518/538 etc.

In summary all of these machines have three common ageing faults:

1) Plastic gears broken (various reasons)
2) Burning capacitors (socket and pedal)
3) Worn foot controllers

Let's take them in turn...
  • 507 My first machine purchased on ebay as working. It was packaged well, but the case broke in transit. Gears were broken, now fixed, sold due to upgrade.
  • 513 Also sold as working, but I knew better. I purchased it mainly for the table. It had been over-oiled and the oil had solidified to the point where the feed mechanism had seized and once more stripped the plastic gears. The top-end was also stiff. The machine was cleaned plastic gears replaced. At some point during the repair the capacitor in the socket went fizzle with a puff of acrid smoke, now replaced. The foot controller had failed due to eroded contacts, now repaired. Spare machine, will probably sell soon.
  • 514 Bargain price, has a few more stitch types than the 513, new tensioner arrangement and bobbin winding engagement. The gears in this machine had already been replaced once but it was swimming in (now) dirty grease. The foot controller was not the original and even this replacement was faulty. Now cleaned and foot-controller is repaired and works very well. Some time after cleaning this machine, the capacitor in the socket fizzled with a puff of acrid smoke, now replaced. Spare machine in table, a keeper for now.
  • 522 Sold as working, which was almost true! It was purchased for the free-arm table. This machine had been serviced by someone who knew what they were doing, all the plastic gears, belts and even the lateral thrust washers had been replaced. Adjusted perfectly. Unfortunately, one of the feed mechanism grub screws had come loose, causing problems. Within half an hour of plugging this machine in, the capacitor in the foot pedal fizzled with a puff of acrid smoke. Having fixed the pedal, within half an hour of that, the capacitor in the socket fizzled with a puff of acrid smoke, now replaced. Now sold (without the table).
  • 538 Sold for parts, purchased for the combination of stitches and free-arm capability. This had the biggest problem, which was the crumbling lateral thrust washers, requiring disassembly of the head to pull the shaft out. The work of course, is in re-adjusting everything after re-assembly -all adjustments center around the needle position. The foot controller also was not working (blown capacitor again), now fixed. Someone had previously replaced the 4 plastic gears, phew. In table, this is my go-to machine, works really well.

So if you see a machine in this series for sale as working, beware, check it's service history!

That said, they can be found for peanuts, all the parts are available and cheap and once working, these models are solid workhorses with the bare minimum of a zig-zag stitch capability.

One last thing, when not in use, do not leave these models connected to the mains. The capacitor in the socket remains energized, consuming electricity. This is probably why they are now starting to burn out.
« Last Edit: December 12, 2018, 14:15:14 PM by Radiofan »

Esme866

Re: Choosing a Vintage Machine (for new to hobby folks)
« Reply #29 on: December 12, 2018, 14:03:37 PM »
Roger - excellent tutorial - learned more than a few things!

One exception though - I only buy my machines at thrift stores. Maybe the market is a bit different here in the states.

Thrift store pricing can be dirt cheap. There are electrical outlets so the machine can be tested on site. There is no anxious owner breathing down my neck trying to close a "deal". No chance of taking home a lemon.

There are some thrift stores whose pricing is crazy. I just leave crazy alone - those machines are usually boat anchors anyway.

But I once passed on a pristine, newly serviced featherweight at a shop that tends to be pricey on most things.  They only wanted $49.  My herd was big enough at the time.

Never hurts to look at whats in the thrift shops. Looking is free.