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Sunday, April 17, 2016

Paint Along 5: Sand Before Painting

hey there, good to be back.  have you all been on the edge of your seats waiting for the next installment?  sure you have.

Here's the Singer 99 I will be painting, with all the easily removable bits removed, and all nice and clean (free of grease and oil).

I've created a post titled Paint Along.  How It Works.  Check it out for details of how the paint along will operate.  It is NOT too late to join in and everyone is welcome.

It has been a LONG time since the last time I gave my usual disclaimer:  I am no expert.  I am a person who likes to mess around with vintage sewing machines.  My current craze is to experiment with painting and decorating machines.  I have painted a couple of machines with hammered Rustoleum and found it to be relatively easy and very forgiving (if you follow the directions on the can EXACTLY).  I am no expert.  Yes, I know I said that already.  I can't say it too many times.  Grab a beat up old machine (hopefully in good operating condition) and join in the fun.

Just don't get uptight if something goes horribly wrong.  Every old machine has a unique life history and every surface of every machine is different.  What works for one machine may not work on another.  End of disclaimer.

This machine is for a little girl named Nellie, and will be painted pink and/or purple and possibly have sparkles.  I won't know for sure until I start experimenting.  And all of that will be reported here of course.

Remove loose or flaking stuff

A good surface for painting is one with NO oil, grease or dirt on it.  And one that has NO loose material getting ready to flake off.  We took care of the oil, grease, and dirt in the last post.  Now we have to get rid of the loose stuff.

What we DO NOT want to do is sand everything off down to the bare metal.  Bare metal is another painting technique for another day.  A day AFTER I feel I have mastered it.  I have tried it and now I know what else I need to learn before I try it again.

Two most likely candidates for loose stuff are a flaking clear coat or loose paint.  The surface may have chipped paint also, but the missing chips by themselves are not a problem.  Scrape over them with a metal tool like a screwdriver--does it feel like more will come off?  Take it off.  No?  Leave it alone.

And here is where our machines will begin to diverge.  There is a big difference between an 1880s machine with a baked on black japanned finish with decals and covered by something like shellac (out of my depth here, feel free to chime in if you know more than I do), and a 1950s machine with a clear coat made of modern (and very tough) materials (and chime in again, ditto).

If you do have a "late" vintage machine with a tough-as-nails clear coat, I have no idea if the hammered Rustoleum will adhere or not.  Let us know if you try it.

The shellac-y clear coat on the old machines disintegrates over time.  When you scrubbed the dirt off of your machine, did you notice tiny golden amber flakes coming off the machine?  That is the clear coat.  So much of that may have come off with the cleaning process.

So how bad is your problem?  If the only problem is flaking clear coat, a good scrub with steel wool followed up by a light sanding might do the job.


I use 220 grit sandpaper to scuff up the surface of this machine in preparation for painting.  The clear coat was not loose or flaking.

As I said above I have already painted a couple of machines with hammered Rustoleum.  BUT those were much older machines where the clear coat was gone, the decals were mostly gone and even some paint was worn away.  This machine is different.  See how sanding resulted in a brown dust?  That is old and discolored "clear" coat, folks.  Not dirt, the machine was thoroughly clean.

The purpose of sanding is only to scuff up the surface so that the paint will have little tiny grooves to flow into and grab onto, therefore adhering better.  I did NOT make the slightest attempt to do anything more than this.  I did not sand off all the clear coat.  I did not sand down the edges of the numerous chips in the original paint job.  (I did make sure that there were no loose flakes around those chips).  The Rustoleum method is the EASY method because the textured surface will hide small irregularities.  So no further surface preparation is needed.

I think.

BUT when I paint this, I will be applying paint to a scuffed up clear coat.  It won't be the same as the earlier paint jobs.  How well will Rustoleum work over clear coat?  How well will it hold up long term?


Every machine is a new adventure.

Time to get rid of that dust.  First I wipe off most of it with a dry microfiber cloth.

then I splash some Rustoleum Wax & Tar Remover on a clean corner of that same cloth and wipe off the remainder of the dust.

As always, I mention brand names only to be helpful.  This one was recommended at my auto parts store, apparently it leaves no residue.  Other products probably work just as well.  Nobody pays me to endorse anything.

Sanding Metal Parts

In the last paint-along post I talked about getting the metal parts clean and shiny.  I found a few more things that needed attention as I sanded the paint job.  The working area at the needle end of the machine gets oiled frequently (or should) and after 50 years or so can get quite gunked up.

The metal parts at the needle end of the machine, sanding in progress.

A very fine grit sandpaper may be what you need to finish cleaning up the metal bits.  Some dried oil "varnish" may have stubbornly resisted your attacks with alcohol and a toothbrush.  Rust is impervious to alcohol, sandpaper is the only way to go with that.

Start with 1000 grit because this will leave the metal the smoothest.  If you have rust that is not coming off with the 1000 grit, you can use 400 grit (or anything in between obviously.  1000 and 400 are just what I have on hand).  the larger particles will scrub off the rust, but they will also leave a fine patina of scratches.  you have been warned.  personally it looks fine to me.

The bar that controls pressure on the presser foot comes out easily for cleaning.

And looks much better after a little sanding, don't you think?

And after I had all the sandpaper put away I remembered that the hand wheel and bobbin winder also needed to be sanded.  I had sanded the hand crank earlier.

The bobbin winder dis-assembled itself while I was cleaning it.  I would have preferred to photograph it as I took it apart.  But all of a sudden there it was in pieces in my hands.  Shouldn't be hard to figure out though.

80% of any paint job is the preparation.  Think we are done with that now?  LOL.  See you next time!

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Paint Along: Walk this way...

As I said in the last post, it will be a couple of months before I will be able to paint my Singer 99.

If you are proceeding without me, check out the following links

Painting the Domestic high arm fiddlebase (Shield Maiden)

Do It Yourself Decals:  Shield Maiden
Purchased decals:  River Song
Purchased decals:  Sadie's VS2

See you in the spring!

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Paint Along 4: Shiny Metal

Yes, I did actually fall off the ends of the earth.  but fortunately Zaphod Beeblebrox happened by at that exact moment in his Infinite Improbability Drive spaceship....

OK, so life has totally derailed this project for the moment.  Never fear, though, because I am so used to life doing this that I had a plan from the outset.  tell you about that at the end of this post.

This blog is about vintage sewing machines and anything that happens in my studio.  So I am not going to tell you now what is going on.  But don't envision anything too terrible happening to the denizens and associates of DragonPoodle Studio, because it is just not like that.  I'll probably clear up all the mystery later when it is all over and it won't sound like bitching and moaning whining and complaining.

and now back to the regularly scheduled broadcast

I've created a post titled Paint Along.  How It Works.  Check it out for details of how the paint along will operate.  It is NOT too late to join in and everyone is welcome.

If I'm going to take the time and trouble to paint a machine, I want it to look as good as possible when finished.  That means paying attention to the smallest details of the machine's exterior.  and of course this is personal preference and your choices may be different ones.

Tools you might need

  • rags
  • paper towels
  • alcohol, rubbing or denatured
  • cotton swabs
  • 400 grit sandpaper
  • emery boards.  I buy them in a box of 100, not because I am a manicurist but because these are "sandpaper on a stick"
  • metal polish.  I use Mother's but there are others that I have not tried, so I can't tell you which one is "best". 
  • wire brush
  • Dremel tool with a wire brush if you have one


Your vintage machine may have

  • dried up sewing machine oil (or whatever oil was used on it).  It looks like a brown varnish and so, not surprisingly, it is referred to as varnish.  But it is not really varnish.
  • light rust
  • heavier rust and corrosion, a pitted surface

Restoring the shine


Here's the latest addition to the herd, a cute blue toy machine.  The paint is chipped but glossy.  The hand wheel turns the mechanism fairly freely (even before oiling).  The metal parts have some rust as you can see.

Sewmaster, before
and a closer look at the rust situation from the back

This machine is waiting for the full spa treatment, but in the meantime I think it is a good candidate to show the advantages and limitations of steel wool.

The major advantage is that it is the abrasive that is least likely to scratch the metal.  Downside is that is only going to take off a light surface rust.  It will also remove dried sewing machine oil.

The top post has been steel-wooled, and the lower one has not.


Steel wool removed the lightest rust on the surface, but there is additional rust.  It looks like the shiny surface is pitted.  The lower left hand corner has been steel-wooled.

More needs to be done, but it is on the road to recovery.

Emery boards look to me to have a larger grit, but I do use them when sandpaper on a stick is needed.


already discussed on the Nov. 17 post on cleaning.  This is a good time to check all the little metal parts though to see if they are nice and shiny.

Wire Brush, Dremel or Otherwise

Serious corrosion calls for a serious attack.  A wire brush will remove the loose material from the corroded area.  a Dremel tool comes in handy if you have one.  it will still look horrible when you finish this, but we will talk about painting it later.

Metal Polish, the final touch

buy some, read the directions, and use it.  rub on and off with rags basically.  


so the reality is that it will be a couple of months before I get back to painting a Singer 99 pink.  

the good news is that all of the processes have already been covered in earlier blog posts.  So the next post will just link you to all of that information. 

not a perfect solution but then this is not a perfect world.  I have only heard from a few people who are actually doing this now, and I sincerely hope that they are not inconvenienced by the long delay.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Blue toy machine, but no paint along post this week

Sorry folks.  Family stuff is happening, and not the fun holiday kind of family stuff.  Although hopefully there will be a bit of that too.

The next post is all planned and half written, so it will happen soon.  ish.

We will be talking about shining up the metal bits and will explore different techniques for dealing with everything from dried up oil to something very badly rusted.

The machine I am working on for the paint along is already in good shape.  But my friend Janet turned up earlier this week with a lovely gift for me.

A classic vintage toy machine, hand crank or electric.  Janet said she wanted me to have something to work on that does not weigh 40 pounds while my knee is healing!  I love it.

The paint job is in good shape and it is turning. There is no pedal or controller, but I don't see any place to plug one in.

There is some very light rust on the hand wheel.

and more serious rust on the needleplate.

I'll be polishing this up as part of the paint along project, so you should be seeing it again soon.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!  And if sauerkraut is a traditional part of your holiday menu, I definitely want to hear about it.  I can't imagine a turkey dinner without it, but I rarely meet anyone down here in the South that shares this passion.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Paint Along. 3. Cleaning the Surface

Just joining us?  Welcome, and you can catch up here.

Let me remind everyone that there is no one correct way to do things.  Let me also advise you to ignore any previous advice you have read here or elsewhere about cleaning the exterior surface of the machine.

It isn't that other advice is wrong.  It's that most advice focuses on how not to ruin the decals.  Almost anything will ruin decals.   A product that you successfully used on one machine will destroy the decals on the next machine.  AMHIK.

Good news here--we don't give a darn about existing decals.  We are going to destroy them anyhow as we prepare the machine for painting.  So use anything you like and destroy away.

I am going to show you the products I use and describe how I use them but feel free to try anything you have sitting at the back of your cleaning products shelf.  Tell us in the comments how it worked.  Or better yet, send photos!

The goal is to remove every trace of dirt and oil from the surface so that later on the paint won't fall off.  This is an important step and you do need to get it right, but is just about as far from rocket science as anything we will do in the whole project.

We will follow up the cleaning in this post with light sanding in the next post.  So why not just sand the dirt off, you ask?  Lots of reasons.   Grease would get stuck in the grit of the sandpaper and just get smeared around.  It's just easier to get the grease and oil off first. And we won't be sanding down to bare metal.

The machine I chose for this project was clean as a whistle when I acquired it from the raffle table at the NC TOGA. Thanks, Maria (who donated it).  So I am going to show you pictures of a dirty machine.

I have written about this before, so with no apologies I am just re-posting that earlier information.

SURFACE CLEANING  with Tuff Stuff or the cleaner of your choice

My favorite product for (relatively) easy deep cleaning is Tuff Stuff, labelled as a multi purpose foam cleaner.  You spray it on, it foams up, the foam turns brown as it dissolves the dirt.  I do this in a large shallow metal pan and the dissolved dirty cleaner runs down into the bottom of the pan.  As the foam starts to dissolve I give it a light scrub with an old toothbrush and then wipe dirt off.  Spray again and repeat.  And again.  And again.  Etc.  

You may also find 0000 steel wool to be useful in removing the layers of dirt.

Remember, it took about a hundred years to accumulate this dirt, so don't be surprised by how long it takes to remove it.  

You will know when you are finished when a) the foam no longer turns brown and b)  the machine no longer feels sticky with grease.  

I also spray this into the workings of the machine as far as it (and the toothbrush) will go. 


In my experience alcohol (either denatured from the hardware store or rubbing from the drug store) does a fabulous job of removing dried up oil.  I use a toothbrush and scrub away with the alcohol on all the unpainted metal moving parts. Remove the access covers and the nose plate and scrub out all the innards you can reach.

Of course this only removes the visible varnish at the surface, but some of it will run down into the joints and melt away the old oil in there too.  For this reason it is VITAL that after EVERY cleaning session you completely re-oil the machine.  Even with this precaution you may find (as I did on one machine) that the next time you work on it, it will not turn.  Not to worry, at least you know what happened.  More oil and the heat from a blow dryer (repeat, repeat).  And when you finally get it clean you will know that it as clean as it can be without totally disassembling it.

So there it is.  Hope you don't feel that I am "cheating" by reporting my previous advice, but I didn't have anything new to add.

We are getting closer every week to applying the actual paint, but there are still a few more things to do first.  The cleaning process described here may turn out to be the most time consuming part of the whole process, so get scrubbing!

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Paint Along. 2. Removing Bits and Pieces

I've created a post titled Paint Along.  How It Works.  Check it out for details of how the paint along will operate.  I plan to update it as I think of things.  It will be useful for anyone joining us as we go along, so I will link back to it in each post.

PLEASE NOTE that the feedburner "follow by email" gadget is back at the top of the page now.  I had deleted it after some people told me it was not working for them, but I can't find a better alternative.  If you were following by email before, please add your email AGAIN.  Sorry for the inconvenience, and even sorrier for the people I have now lost and may not see again.  Web site building is not my thing.  Vintage sewing machines are my thing.

On to the sewing machines

You do know that 80% to 90% of any paint job is the preparation, right?  I know that some of you are eager to dive in (I am too) but I am going to limit each post to one topic because I think that it will make the most useful tutorial that way.

So today we will be removing all the removables from the machine.  This will make the machine and its parts easier to clean, and will create a much more professional looking paint job when you are finished.

You will need basic tools.  I am working on the assumption that if you have the guts to paint a machine, you already know how to do basic maintenance on them and you have a basic set of tools.  If am wrong about this, let me know in the comments section below.

I have invested in some good tools, and believe me good tools ARE an investment.  But two of my favorite items were in the under $10 price range.

The red handle holds screwdriver bits, and it holds the super cheap bits just as well as it holds the very expensive bits.  It gives you leverage and extra torque.  The screwdriver with right angle ends allows you to get into tight spaces.

By the way, below you will hear me blithely say "remove the screw".  If you have not done this before, you might be surprised to discover that this can be the hardest part of the whole project.  Oil and the heat from a blow dryer may help, and you may have to repeat this for a while.  I'm not going to dwell on this here, but feel free to report progress/frustration/murderous rage in the comments section.

Before you begin make sure you have a place to store the bits and pieces that will be coming off.

I prefer a clear plastic box so that I don't forget what is inside.  And I ALWAYS label it--at least I do now, because I have learned this the hard way

I've been working on machines for a long time now, and feel confident that I will be able to figure out what screws go where when I put it back together.  So I throw all the small screws and pieces into a pill bottle.  If you are not this foolish confident you may wish to put each screw into a separate bottle and label it.  Or you can get tiny ziploc bags at a craft store and label those.

Update:  A Facebook poster suggests taping the small screws to a strip of paper, on which you can label where the screw goes.

I'm working on a very simple Singer 99, and your machines may have other features.  I hope you will share photos with all of us so that we can see how to tackle those features.

The first thing to tell you is

What Not To Remove:  Stitch Length Knob and Singer Logo

I have been told that the stitch length lever is a bear to re-assemble, and having peered inside the pillar I find this easy to believe.  And the logo would also be difficult to reinstall and does not need to come off.

Face Plate

Two screws hold this in place

Remove the bottom screw

Loosen the top screw and the plate slides off.  I do remove this screw too because I will be painting the front of this opening.

Presser Foot, Needle and Needle Holder

Take the needle out.  You really did not need to be told that, did you?

If you loosen up this screw enough the needle holder will also come off.  (Other models may have an additional screw.)  It won't really be in the way while you are painting, but I like to get all of the metal bits clean and shiny.  To me that is an important part of the paint job.  We will cover metal-shining in a future post.

Pressure Regulator

I remove the presser foot pressure regulator.  These are often really glued in with old dried up sewing machine oil.  Taking them out and cleaning them (and their screw threads inside the machine) means that your machine will function properly when you put it back together.

You can see that this needs to be cleaned and the machine will be happier for it.

Update:  Eleanor had trouble removing the pressure regulator and ended up using pliers and a piece of rubberized grippy cloth.  If you also need to use pliers follow her method and use something to protect the regulator because you don't want the pliers to damage the screw threads.

photo by Eleanor

photo by Eleanor

Bobbin slide cover(s)

On the Singer 99 you have to slide the bobbin cover towards the needle area to get it off the springs that hold it in place.

Needle plate

The right angle screwdriver is helpful in getting these screws loose.

Once they are loose, a short stubby screwdriver is easier to use to remove them completely.

class 66 bobbin system

All naked now.

Update: Eleanor's Husqvarna uses a class 15 bobbin system

photo by Eleanor

Access port cover(s)

The little Singer 99 does not have access port covers--those metal covers which remove easily so that you can oil the innards of the machine.  If your machine has them, take them off.  And send in photos!

Clutch knob and hand wheel

These are removable on Singers and many other machines.  You can paint the machine and wheel without removing it, but it is a heck of a lot easier if it comes off (and it gives you the chance to clean behind it, which will improve performance.

HOWEVER the first machine I painted was a Domestic fiddlebase and I never did figure out how to get the hand wheel off.  If you have something other than a Singer and the wheel is not coming off PLEASE CHECK with someone who knows about that brand.  I have read that there are brands where it is a very bad idea to even think about taking it off.  Most vintage sewing machine brands have excellent Yahoo groups/bulletin boards.

First, remove the small screw from the clutch knob.  On this machine I was able to leave the screw securely in the clutch knob, meaning that I did not have to drop it into the pill bottle of miscellaneous screws.

There is a washer behind the clutch knob, and that comes off too.  (not shown in photo)

This photo shows the hand wheel completely off and leaning up against the machine.

Bobbin winder

There are many different configurations of bobbin winders.  This is the one for the Singer 99.

I first looked at removing it while it was on the machine but that did not work.  I could not get the screwdriver lined up with the screw.  Photo below.

I revisited the bobbin winder once the clutch knob and hand wheel were off.  Next step will be to remove the hand wheel guard/bobbin winder.

There is a screw on the top of the hand wheel guard.  The next photo will show the screwdriver sitting on top of it.

Wheel guard off.  Flip it over the to back side and you can see the ends of the two screws that are holding the bobbin winder on it (above and to the sides of the "99" that I wrote with silver marker).

Right side up.  Next step is to remove the screws that hold the bobbin winder on.

Voila, bobbin winder and wheel guard separated.

Spool pin (if removable)

Some of them screw in, and therefore can be screwed out.  Some of them get whacked in with a hammer.  Sometimes you can wiggle these out again.  It is easier to paint the top of the machine if the spool pin is not in the way.  You can decide for yourself whether it is worth it or not to attempt to remove it.  Whatever you do, don't break it off.


This machine did not have a light, and although a light can be added to the back of a Singer 99, I do not plan to do so.  Lights on the back of machines are pretty worthless IMHO.  I prefer the flexible IKEA Janso lamp which puts a bright light exactly where you need it.  (Any volunteers to try painting one of these too?  I have been contemplating it.)

If your machine has a light, I recommend removing it for cleaning and painting, but not disassembling the whole thing.  Some of the Singer lights have the reputation of being bears to reassemble.


Many people are terrified of tensioners.  You should overcome this fear because of the terrific sense of empowerment it will give you, and because many machines will perform much better with a little maintenance on the tensioner.

However I am not qualified to act as your therapist, so if you are really, truly, too scared to touch it, you don't have to.  We can paint around it later.

Update:  Eleanor reports that she is relatively experienced with this type of cleaning and was not afraid to remove the tensioner on her Husqvarna which definitely needs to be cleaned.

photo by Eleanor

They really aren't that hard.  Just take photos as you take each piece off and lay them out in a line and then take a photo of that.  Reassemble in the opposite order.

I chose to stop here and not remove the spring.  It will be easy to paint around, and I know it is aligned correctly.

And now I have a stripped down machine all ready for cleaning.

Your machines will be different and we all want to see pictures of them, especially pictures of features not found on the Singer 99 shown here.  Send them in and I will either add them to this post or (if there are LOTS of them, whoo hoo!) create an additional post featuring them.