Thursday, September 1, 2011

Hot Fun In The Summertime. Fools Rush In.

Hot Fun In The Summertime
(This took place last month. I guess the heat cooked my brain and I forgot to publish this post!) 
It was 104 in the shade.  Who knows how hot a black cast iron sewing machine gets when it sits in the full sun?  Perfect for freeing up a sluggish machine.

I've worked on this little 99 a couple of times before, the first time when I got it.  Cleaned the lint out, oiled it, tried it with the motor, didn't like it.  Put a hand crank on it, and I liked it.  Months later I tried it with the hand crank and it was hard to turn.  Oil improved it only slightly.  So when the first round of 100 plus temps hit I put it out in the sun and sprayed it several times a day with PB Blaster.  It took a while, but eventually it was turning freely.  Brought it back in, a week later it was sluggish again.

Did you spot the error in procedure above?  I'll wait while you go back and figure it out.

I should have followed up the PB Blaster with sewing machine oil.  By not doing this, the remaining crud and PB Blaster hardened and gummed it up again.  Lesson learned.

In the meantime, I discovered the sewing machine repair manual at Tools For Self Reliance.  The machines they find useful in Africa are the cast iron Singers, specifically the 66, 99, 15 and 201.  The manual illustrates how to refurbish these machines.  With its help I removed the bobbin case on this and another 99.  Pretty yucky in there.  I should have taken the hook out also but I chickened out.  End result:  machine was still sluggish.

This time I stuck with sewing machine oil only, oiling all the movement points every time I took the poodles out.  After the first day it was turning freely, and after a night in the AC it was only hanging slightly.  After two days it was still turning well in the morning after a night in the air conditioning.  Day three and when I spun the hand wheel it kept on spinning.  

Fools Rush In
I confess, what I am really seeking is a magic wand.  I want the crud on the exterior of beautifully decalled sewing machines to simply disappear.  Without spending 20 hours to make it disappear.  Without destroying the decals.

I've tried a bunch of stuff, most of it worked, all of it took a lot of effort, and in every case you have to be super careful of the decals.  I want the magic crud-melter.  I recently read that someone uses a kerosene soak for this.  I consulted the treadle on board, and nobody really recommended it.  Did that stop me?  ha!

First problem:  I didn't have kerosene.  what I did have was a couple of bottles of lamp oil.  same thing, right?  well, apparently not.  did that stop me?  ha!

Second problem:  a couple of bottles of lamp oil is not enough to cover a sewing machine.  I thought that if I had the whole thing bagged up, I could squeeze the air our and it would be covered.  well, no.  dtsm? ha!

assembling the tools:  tall trash can, heavy duty plastic bag, and scrubbies

a layer of bubble wrap pads the bottom of the trash can

The plan:  heavy duty trash bag hopefully will not puncture and leak out all the lamp oil.  Did it actually work that way? hah!

The plan: scrubbies are spacers so the bag does not stick to the machine in critical areas.  Did it actually work that way?  Guess...
air bags and more bubble wrap are stuffed down inside the trash can to push the sides of the bag in so that it won't take as much lamp oil.

The end result:  the lamp oil came about halfway up on the side of the machine.  I couldn't squeeze the bag together enough to get it to cover the machine.  I decided to let it sit for a couple of days out in the heat to see what happened.  Maybe it would explode and burn all the crud off.

Why do this against all advice and basic common sense?  It was 104 and the heat wave had been here off and on for weeks.  Going out was no fun.  Staying in was no fun.  Maybe exploding a sewing machine in the front yard would provide some diversion.

End result?  The sewing machine survived.  The gunk coating it survived.  The decals survived.  It was perhaps a teensy bit easier to clean the gunk off the half of the machine that had been soaking in kerosene for three days during a North Carolina heatwave.

Would I ever do this again?  You must be joking.  Do I regret it?  Not for a single minute.  This is a hobby.  It is supposed to be fun and if I'm not having fun I just don't do it.  I don't mind making a complete fool of myself.  I did it just for you, you know, so that you would be spared from making the same long chain of foolish decisions.  Seriously.

No sewing machines, front yards, or tall trash cans were harmed during the production of this blog. Even the scrubbies survived unscathed.


  1. lol! I always wanted to soak one in kerosene and I even thought about lamp oil too, glad to hear it didn't hurt the decals. Good Job!
    Gwen, the vintage seamstress
    (I have to sign that way because otherwise it won't let me post.)

  2. I would never have been brave enough to do that. Is the picture in the wagon a before, or after picture? My heart is still pounding.

  3. @Michelle: the picture in the wagon is of the little 99 that got the sauna treatment. The kerosene treatment was done on a Singer 127 with Sphinx decals. this is my 2nd Sphinx, the other one is in beautiful condition. this one was not only filthy, but there is some corrosion to the shuttle arm. so I had nothing to lose!

  4. Hi Cheryl, if only there was a magic wand,lol. I've just used something that is the next best thing, but I haven't used it on a black machine yet, so I don't know what it would do to the decals. I just cleaned up an old Brother machine that was so coated with thick, black, greasy dirt along with a layer of nicotine under that. I thought the machine was a yellowish gray, turns out it's blue! What I used is called L.A.'s Totally Awesome cleaner, it's been available in Dollar stores for years but I recently saw it at Walmart.I don't think I'd use it on the insides of a sewing machine, but it worked great on the outside.

  5. After silvering the decals on my first treadle head, I was scared of doing anything to my machines. After the Loosen & Lube TOGA, my fear has been reduced greatly. Glad you got this one turning again.

  6. Tools for Self Reliance is a wonderful resource!
    Have fun with your new vintage lady.

  7. I wish I had seen your post before giving Ms. Rusty another bath. Your idea on using bubble wrap and air bags is great!!


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