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Saturday, August 20, 2016

Paint Along 11: Clear Coat

whoo hoo!  Am I proud of the results?  You betcha!  (last name blurred out of photo for privacy)
Just joining us in the paint-along?  You can catch up here.

I took NO photos during the clear coat process, sorry about that.  But I do have critically important information about the products you might choose.

For the zillionth time I will remind you that I am NOT an expert.  I am an experimenter.  I report the results here so that you can avoid the mistakes that I make.  And I usually analyze the mistakes in detail for that reason.

The exception to the "report all mistakes in detail" policy clicks in here: this machine is a gift to a 6 year old girl (her twin brother will get a machine also).  She has been following the photos on the blog and maybe reading the posts too.  So I don't want to point out every tiny problem that arose and spoil her enjoyment of this beautiful machine.  And the problems WERE tiny and the machine IS beautiful.

However.  You knew there was a "however" coming, didn't you?  I tried something different on these machines.  It worked wonderfully on Nellie's machine.  On Clinton's, not so much.  And I do have to tell you about that.

In the past I have used a spray-on clear coat. specifically Rustoleum Acrylic Lacquer Crystal Clear, gloss (image from .  No problems with this, but I am good with a spray can if I do say so myself.   Technique is everything.  Lots of light coats.

But I really prefer brush-on paint.  I like the control.  So this time I used a brush on acrylic lacquer.   I put one coat on Nellie's machine, which had been freshly painted with hammered paint.  Worked great, looked terrific.

I moved on to putting it on Clinton's machine.  There will be future posts on that one.  I took a decent looking black Spartan (Singer model 192, the budget model of the 99) and applied temporary jewelry decals for some dragon-y bling.  Again, more later on all that.  Then I brushed on the acrylic lacquer.  It had some tiny bubbles and a big wrinkly area.  I sanded it off on the bed, reapplied the dragon, and tried again.  Same wrinkly area plus another one.

bubbled bed

I was now officially too terrified to apply a second coat to Nellie's machine.  I considered taking my other black Spartan and starting over, but it wasn't as nice as the first one.  I'm still thinking it over, but for now I think I will just quit while I am behind.  Emily says it is not that bad.

This is the first time I have applied an acrylic lacquer clear coat over an existing finish.  I am guessing that this is the problem.  On another, much older machine, I applied a wipe-on poly to protect the fragile decals, and that worked well.  However the original clear coat on that (I'm assuming shellac) is a different beast than the original clear coat on a 1960 Spartan.  So (never forget the NO EXPERT part) I have no recommendations for anybody about anything if you are working with an existing finish.  There may be more experiments in the future.

 Chime in if you have any experience with this.

Meanwhile, back to the pictures of Nellie's finished machine.

 Tensioner reassembled, easy peasy if you took photos as you disassembled it.  which I did.

Bobbin winder.  Way more complicated to reassemble and I inexplicably did NOT take photos as I disassembled it.  And the Spartan and 66 bobbin winders that I had on hand for comparison are different.  So this took me an hour to figure out, but here it is.

By the way, when you replace the solid hand wheel with a spoked hand wheel, the bobbin winder may no longer engage with the wheel.  The Singer 99 was made for decades and there are different versions of the bobbin winder and I have not seen all of them, but the ones I have seen all have this problem.  There are several "fixes" for this.  Simplest one is to buy a Sidewinder.  As usual no one pays me to recommend products.

image from
I am now the happy owner of not one but TWO Sidewinders (thank you, Heidi!).  One for upstairs sewing in the antique machine museum, aka the living room, and one for the downstairs studio.  I find winding a bobbin on a hand crank machine very tedious.

Another simple fix is to remove the top screw that holds the bobbin winder in place.  This allows you to slide the bobbin winder down to make contact with the hand wheel.  You have to hold it down with one hand while turning the crank with the other hand.  A tiny bit awkward but it works just fine.  (This is the fix I was just telling you about Lynda).

screw removed


The single thing I did not paint pink is the black plastic piece you can see here, which protects the gear inside.  I was certain that the paint would not stay on the plastic.

This concludes the paint-along folks, but is not the end of the posts on painting machines.  Eleanor has sent me more photos of the Husqvarna she is repainting and you will be seeing that.  And I blinged up Clinton's black Spartan in some interesting ways that I am looking forward to sharing with you!

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Paint Along 10: Decals

Here we are, friends, many months into this journey.  Could be worse.  I just finished up a quilt for Nellie that I began 4 years ago.

(and if Nellie and Clinton take a look at this:  there IS a quilt for Clinton too.  Not a pink one.)

If you have just found us for the first time, you can catch up on all the previous paint-along posts here.

I recommend at least a one week wait after coats 3/3.1 (just a few tiny touch ups after coat 3).  But life happened and it ended up being a 2 week wait.


  • The sewing machine.  D'uh!
  • The waterslide decals. (see the last post for decal sources)
    • Make two photocopies of the decals.  It does not matter if you copy them in black and white or color.  Check to make sure that they are the same size as the originals (put one of the copies on top of the original and hold them up to a window or light source).

  • Scissors
  • A bowl of warm water.  Warm is what the decal manufacturer recommends.  Mine started out very warm but by the time I finished a couple of hours later it was air-conditioned-room-cold.  I thought that might slow down the release-from-the-paper time, but it didn't.
  • MicroSet and MicroSol.  (see this post for sources, or just go to amazon)

  • Two tiny paint brushes (super-cheap ones will do.  like the kind that come in kids water color kits) and another firm small one.  
  • Paper towels
  • Painters tape
  • A stopwatch (the clock feature on my phone has this)

Decal Placement

If you are lucky, the decal manufacturer will have provided pictures of the exact model of your machine with the exact decals that you bought.  I was not lucky and I am providing feedback to the seller privately about this.  Privately in this case means "not eBay feedback" because obviously I am telling all of you about it.  

In addition, the decals I got did NOT exactly fit the machine and hand crank as they were advertised to do.  However a quick check on eBay just now shows that the only other decals available for the Singer 99 are the filigree design.  Although filigree is pretty, I wanted more bling for the buck.  

Whether you buy decals that reproduce the original Singer decals, or fantasy decals that are not exact reproductions, you should practice the decal placement ahead of time.  You will discover what works, and what does not work and will need tweaking.  I have had minor size and placement problems even with the Singer reproductions.

So, take one of your photocopies and cut out the decals.  Stick them on the machine with the painters tape.  Use the other photocopy to make notes about where each one goes (bed front edge, pillar back, etc.)  Use PENCIL to do this and have an eraser handy.  Because the seller did not provide photos I moved things around quite a bit as I worked out where everything needed to go.

The decal shown above was obviously not meant to go here.  But by clipping the bits apart I can MAKE it go here.

On the long arm I wanted to get the placement right, and did not trust myself to be able to eyeball it and slide it into place quickly.  I moved the photocopies down below so that I could line them up properly.


Do you have all of your supplies assembled?  OK, let's go.

start with something small and located on a flat-ish surface.

Cut out the decal as close to the edge of the image as your skills allow.

Drop it into the warm water and start your stopwatch.

Remove the paper placement image and tape just for that small decal.

Brush a tiny bit of Micro Set onto the place where the decal will go, and the immediate area around it.

By now my stopwatch reads somewhere in the low 20 seconds.  I wait until 30 seconds and remove the decal from the water.  The decal instructions said 30-40 seconds but in my case 30 was plenty.  If it does not slide off the backing paper easily, you need to leave it in there longer.  And I am sure that you could have figured that out for yourself, but my goal here is to cyber-hold your hand through the whole process.

Hold it in position near the spot where it will go and START to slide it off.  Have a little bit sticking out past the paper.  Put that in the right spot and hold that edge down with a finger.  Then slide the rest of the paper out from under it.  No way to photograph this while it was happening!

The closer you can get to the proper placement and alignment from the moment the decal touches the machine, the better.  The larger the decal the more critical this is.

I worked from the top down.

And speaking of the larger decals:  You have to turn them into smaller decals!  Trust me on this.  The larger they are, the trickier it is to deal with them.  The long bed edge decals, for example, can be cut into small sections.  Look for tiny gaps between the motifs.  Then start at one edge and apply them one at a time.

Above, arm front.  Below, bed front.

You do have a few seconds in which to slide it into a better position if you didn't get it perfect.  Better yet, forget all about perfect.  You will be much happier with your results if you assume from the beginning that perfection is impossible.  I have done several machines and none have "perfect" decal placement.  All are gorgeous anyhow.

If you do crinkle up the decal, don't panic.  Dip your tiny paint brush back into the MicroSet and straighten it out again.  I crumpled and folded up one small one so badly I thought I was going to have to throw it away, but with some patience I was able to manipulate it flat again.

Once the decal is where you want it, take your slightly damp paper towel and gently blot off any extra MicroSet.  Start from the center of the design and blot outwards.  This will move some of the extra MicroSet out from under the decal and will also push the decal down into the texture of the hammered paint.

Use a bright light to examine the decal.  If you see wrinkles or bubbles you can also take the small firm paintbrush and/or one of your fingers and press the decal down.  If you see an air bubble under a larger decal you can puncture it with a pin and press the air out.

The biggest problem I encounter, and I have encountered it with EVERY machine I have done, is on the convex surface of the pillar top.  The decal has to curve over this surface.  If you just stick it on there, there WILL be wrinkles.  So cut into the decal in the way that you clip curves on a curved seam.  This will allow the decal to spread out a tiny bit and slide over the convex surface.

The clipping shows up better on the back side than on the front.

Another problem can arise with larger decals that go on flat.  Larger decals can trap air bubbles beneath them.  AMHIK.  I took my scalpel and cut tiny slits into the center before putting it in the water bath.  This way the bubbles can escape through the slits.

All finished with your decal application?   Brush on a bit of Micro Sol and then leave it alone.  With small decals, put the MicroSol on immediately after you finish each decal application. If you have cut a large/long decal into sections, wait to put the MicroSol on until after all the sections are applied.

The MicroSol softens the decals and they are much more likely to tear if you mess with them once this is on.  However, I did go over a few places where they looked like they should be pressed down more firmly, using the firm paint brush to tamp them down.  I did this VERY CAREFULLY.

I noticed a particular angle of light in the studio where the textured nature of the hammered Rustoleum showed up beautifully.

It is BOTH textured AND smooth and glassy.  Fabric glides over it beautifully.  Let's remember why I recommend hammered paint for your first sewing machine paint job:  It is very forgiving.  It will cover up small chips in your original paint job.  And you don't have to strip off the original paint.

The decal seller recommended putting the gold decals over dark color or strong jewel tones.  And I believed this.  The contrast between the pink machine and the gold decals is too low for the decals to show up well from across the room.  But when little Nellie is sitting right in front of the machine it will show up very well and look pretty.  Princess pretty.

Let it all dry overnight and then apply clear coat.  That will be the subject of the next blog post.  See you then!

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

PSA: Preshrink!

PSA:  Public Service Announcement

Might not look like much, but a whole inch of shrinkage over the width of fabric is kind of a big deal and would probably affect the finished product you were making with it.

the other reason to preshrink is to get the formaldehyde fumes out of your house.

You are welcome.

(decals are on the pink machine an I am working on the blog post now.)

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Paint Along 9: 3rd Coat of Paint

Have you let the first two coats dry/cure for a full week?  Good for you.

Slapping on the third coat is just the same as the first two coats, but there are some additional things to do before you get to that.

The two coats that are on there now have depth and dimension.  You have painted over painters tape and painted right up to and around the toothpicks and wood skewers that are blocking the holes in the machine.  What you have to do now is carefully disconnect those objects from the paint before adding even more depth and dimension.

The tool to do this is something skinny and sharp.  An exacto knife is good, as is a medical scalpel.  I was lucky enough to find a box of scalpels at a thrift store.  They make dandy seam rippers too.

Run the razor sharp exacto knife or scalpel around the base of the stick, or the perimeter of the tape to be removed.

Then carefully peel it away.

In the photo below you can see that there are some tiny areas where the black paint still shows.  I took my smallest paint brush and filled in these areas.

and in the photo below you can see that this covered things pretty well.  This particular gold logo is sticking out from the machine a bit.  An earlier Singer that I painted had a logo that hugged the machine much better.

Also in the photo above you can see that the area around the stitch length knob didn't get covered with the first two coats of paint.  But I've got it covered now!

I removed all of the bits of tape and toothpicks, etc.

In the photo below you can see that even with careful scalpel-ing a ridge of paint is standing up from the surface.

Even after a week of curing it is still soft enough** for me to press down the projections with the back of my fingernail.  I also did this with a couple of boogers that had escaped my notice last week.  **remember this!  we will talk about it more at the end.

After pressing down the paint it was then obstructing the hole (where the presser foot pressure regulator will go).

Dr. Scalpel cleaned it up nicely.

Nice and clean now.

You are probably wondering why the heck I bothered with the tape at all if I then take it off and have to clean up behind it.  I used the tape to keep paint out of the screw threads in some of these holes, and to keep paint from dripping into the guts of the machine.

and now it is time for my constant reminder to you
The purpose of this blog is not to set myself up as the guru of all things sewing machine-y.  It is for me to share my experiments with you and hopefully show you that I am having fun and if it looks like fun to you, you should try it too.

So please feel free to jump in at all times with your own experiences and if you have another way of doing things, share it in the comments section.

When I removed the tape from the hand wheel I could see that I had not done of very good job of burnishing the tape down to the wheel.  Paint had bled under the painters tape.

Scalpel to the rescue again.

Keep in mind that you do all of this BEFORE putting on the third coat of paint.

Eleanor has written in from Sydney where it is cold, compared to the steaming soggy heat here.  She is repainting a crinkle finish Husqvarna and has decided on hammered copper.  I will show more of her pictures in a future post, but right now I want to share her brilliant method for dealing with the hand wheel.

I did not replace all of the tape and sticks before the third coat.  I used the usual tiny paintbrush to touch up any areas around the openings.  Then I used a small paintbrush to put on the third coat.  See the last post for all the special techniques for using xylene and hammered paint.

I did not see any need to apply a fourth coat, but I DID go over the whole thing very carefully (after it had dried to the touch) looking for any areas where extremely small bits of black paint still showed.  Hit those with the tiny paintbrush.

And that concludes the paint job.  Now we wait at least ANOTHER FULL WEEK before proceeding with the decals.  Remember that it is still somewhat soft and pliable now?  That's why you can smash the boogers flat with your fingernail.  This means that THE PAINT HAS NOT FULLY CURED.  Ms. Rhymes-With-Tequila wrote in on the last post to say
"And after the third coat goes on, wait at least another week for the paint to cure! Ask me how I know... Let's just say there was some repainting involved. This time (my second repaint) I waited a full month after the 3rd coat!"
implying that she ended up needing four coats.  Mine didn't need four.  But the warning is a good one.

Looking good, don't you think?  It has been a lot of fun so far (except for the guilt over all the delays.  but we are on a roll now).

Next step will be the water slide decals and the clear coat.  I did have plans for experimenting with something unusual (which you will still probably see on my next machine).  But in the end I decided to play it safe and ordered some decals on eBay.

I have gotten four sets of decals from Keeler Sales.

  • First set:  I paid for a set of flat gold Tiffany style decals and put them on a Singer 27 that I painted a sparkly blue.  
  • Second set:  I bought a set of 301 decals and replaced just the worn bed decals on an otherwise great machine.
  • Third set:  I assisted Keeler Sales in the development of a decal set for the Singer VSII fiddlebase, and in return for my help they gave me a set of decals.
  • Fourth set:  I bought a set for a Willcox and Gibbs, have not applied them yet.
Absolutely no problems whatsoever with the Keeler Sales decals.

I also made my own black water slide decals that I used on a Domestic high arm fiddlebase that I painted with copper hammered Rustoleum.  No problems with that either.  Follow the link if you want to see the techniques and material sources for this.

When I looked on eBay this time I found another seller who is NOT doing reproduction Singer decals, but IS creating their own designs in the spirit of, and meant to be applied to, antique Singers.  I liked one of the patterns and bought a set.  In the next post we will discover how well they work--or not.  But water slide decals are easy to make and easy to apply, so I am expecting success.

There is at least one more seller of Singer decals on eBay but I have not tried their products yet.

A few final comments on reproduction decals.  They do NOT have the shading that the originals have.  The flat gold is all one color with no shading.  They are pretty but they are not going to look like the originals.  This does not matter to me.  Pretty is good enough.  I have not tried any of the colored decals, but I hope to in the (distant) future.

So get your decals ready and meet me back here next week!