Monday, June 4, 2012

The Exterior Rehabilitation of a Singer 319

319 shown in the handy enameled metal pan that catches all the drippy oil
A nice young couple in Durham were moving and listed this on CraigsList.  She had learned to sew on a 319, now gone, and had been surprised and horrified at the quality of a short lived modern plastic wonder that replaced it.  So she bought this 319 used, meaning to "fix it up" but never found the time.

I did ask her, twice, if she was sure she wanted to get rid of it.  She was sure.  This time I did not try to talk her out of it, as I have done with other people before.

It was very grubby. 

The cabinet, not shown, had also seen better days.

I've been craving a 319 to play with.  Those "typewriter keys" are fascinating.

So here's what I did.  I'm not going to go into the exhaustive detail of a full tutorial, I just want to convey to newbies that this is an easy job to tackle.  Not quick, but easy.

The 319 is a good choice for the blog because on a pale green machine the dirt is easy to see and photograph.  Just try photographing dirt on black cast iron!

First, I take off everything that will come off and clean each piece as it comes off.

Not shown:  remove the bobbin case, bobbin slide cover, feed dog cover, and needle.  I also take off the upper thread guide and the bobbin winder guide on the bed.  None of these things will get "messed up" by removing them, although you will have to get the bobbin winder guide lined up with the bobbin winder (by winding a bobbin slowly and moving the guide it back and forth until it is lined up).  I don't mess with tensioners (yet, anyhow) and if you take one of those apart it has lots of pieces.  and springs.  The list of things that I recommend you remove all come off one way and go back on the same one way.  You won't mess up your machine.  Trust me on this. 

For anything that sticks, and the feed dog cover screws often do, use sewing machine oil and a hair dryer.  Make sure you have a screwdriver that fits the slot in the screw.  Repeat the oil and heat until it loosens and comes out.

For the non-painted metal bit (and those alone!)  you can drop them into a small container of rubbing alcohol to dissolve away the dried up old sewing machine oil, sometimes called "varnish" because that's what it looks like.  But that's not what it is.  You can let them soak.  Attack stubborn gunk on them with a soft toothbrush.

Non-pumice orange GoJo is a hand cleaner available at some auto supply shops and on Amazon.  Designed for auto mechanics, it is made specifically to melt greasy dirt away, in a skin-safe non-toxic way. 

Put the GoJo on with a soft toothbrush.  If you are my age or close to it, you are probably visiting your dentist and your periodontist at regular intervals.  They shower you with toothbrushes.  That's the only good thing about all those visits.  That, and not losing all your teeth, which is the fate they foretell for those that stop making those expensive visits.

At first the GoJo just sits there, but scrub it around gently and it will dissolve and dissolve much of the gunky greasy dirt along with it.

Once you are just moving dissolved gunk around, stop and just wipe it off with a rag.  It works amazingly well.

Take off the access covers and other large removable bits and clean them with the GoJo.  No need to rinse, there will be one more step that will remove any GoJo residue.

spool pin holder and back access port cover


Motor and light assembly--leave them connected to one another

 They come off as shown below

The motor bolt is immediately below the handwheel

Remove the spool pin holder and you will have access to the screw that holds the light fixture


bobbin winder screws
After you remove the handwheel, you have access to the screws that hold on the bobbin winder.
There's more about removing motors and handwheels and bobbin winders here.

Bobbin winder

In the cracks and crevices where a toothbrush is too large, a q-tip will do the job.  When the q-tip is too large, try a toothpick.

bobbin winder guide
My own personal goal is to seek and destroy every bit of visible gunk and to get the machine as clean as I possibly can, top to bottom.  I also always believe that each new machine is the love of my life, and that I will be sewing on it regularly--so I am really preparing each machine for my own personal use.  Then I sew on the same two machines that I always sew on. 

It's the little touches that make all the difference.  Getting the dirt out from under the upper thread guide and the bobbin winder guide is really only possible if you take the darn things off.

After the removable parts are clean I tackle the stripped down machine (shown clean below).  I clean both the interior and the exterior, but the interior on this one was very clean.  And this post will be quite long enough!

Stripped down
How does your finish look?  If it is chalky, chipped and/or flaking, then wipe it all down with a barely damp cloth and you are finished with the cleaning phase.  The TR-3 coming up next will be a complete waste of time.  I've got a chalky 306 that I worked over thoroughly and repeatedly with TR-3 to no effect.

If, however you have a nice glossy, or even just a decent finish, do everything except the bottom or underneath part of the machine again with TR-3.  I did tell you that this is not a quick job.

TR-3 is also available at the auto parts store.  It's original purpose is to safely clean and polish a car's paint job.  Apply it with a soft cloth, let it dry thoroughly (takes a while, as in: go do something else). Polish it off with a clean soft dry cloth.  This will both give you a nice gloss, or at the very least a nice glow, and it also leaves a protective finish. 

While the top is off, use a toothpick to remove old dried lubricant from the gears, followed by a good scrub with sewing machine oil and yet another soft toothbrush.  Oil the points that need oil, top and bottom, and lube the gears.

Put it all back together and bask in the glory.  This machine turned out to be a real peach. 

just like Alfred Hitchcock, I often make a cameo appearance.  In my case this is never planned however.

Can't wait to play with it. But the recently acquired Wheeler & Wilson No. 8 treadle, circa 1878, is calling my name even louder than this one is.  So many sewing machines, and, even with the leisure that comes with retirement, so little time.


  1. AWesome post. It turned out beautiful. I read somewhere where you can grind down the tops of needles to get them the right length, so you don't have to mess with special needles. What do you think about modifying them? I love the typewriter keys on this one too. Enjoy retirement!

  2. I have one just like this waiting for a little attention from me. I too have too many machines and not enough time. I keep thinking I will have that time when I retire in about 10 years. Maybe not.
    I am interested in the response about the needles. I thought the needles were still available. Someone gave me some of the correct size needles and I hope I put them with the machine.

  3. My next post will be about the machines in my herd that are in this class of Singers--I have two 306's and a 316 in addition to this one. I will discuss the whole needle thing there, but in the meantime you can easily (not inexpensively, but easily) get the 206 class needles. Check with Jenny at She has packages of size 12 and size 14 needles.

    But if you are not the original owner, you should check first to see whether your machine has been re-timed to take the more common needles. Again, I will be talking about that soon. ish.

  4. You did an excellent job cleaning the machine up, it shines! I love your Hitchcock moment. There are some folks that love to treadle their Singer 319. Enjoy!

    1. I do plan to treadle it at least occasionally.
      And when I set up my treadle I used a coil spring belt so that I can use the 306 and now the 319 in it. With the spring belt you can tip the machine back to change the bobbin without taking the belt out of the track.

  5. What a pretty little green machine. Have fun with both of your new toys.

  6. Nice Job. I have a green 319 that came all cleaned up. AWWWWW you had all the fun!!! Ah But I have a 301 that rivaled this 319, at least on the inside.

  7. Wonderful, it is hard to believe it is the same machine! Just found your great blog and subscribed as I love my vintage machines too!

  8. Love this machine and would love to hear about how it works someday.

  9. Beautiful job Cheryl. It looks fantastic. Bet it sews equally well.

  10. Great Blog, Great Machine. I have a 319K and a 320K free arm model. The 319 still uses short point needles whereas the 320 accepts standard ones. The only difference between them is that over the years the use of long points by the previous owner in the 320 has worn away a bit of the bobbin case. Both machines work wonderfully well in every pattern, you cannot fault the sewing capabilities of either of them. By experimenting and swapping over needles and bobbin cases both machines work just the same. Obviously the bobbin case modification can be done safely to enable the use of standard 15x1 needles in all sizes rather than just the size 12's & 14's short points that are available.


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