Saturday, June 1, 2013

Frankencranky and the Spring TOBE

Sounds like the title of a children's story, doesn't it?

Frankencranky's story is below

One of my friends from the quilting guild has expressed interest in getting a 3/4 size hand crank for her granddaughter.  So I've been digging out all the possibilities and fitting them up with hand cranks.  Sometimes I like to have a theme for my sewing machine tinkering and this fit my mood nicely.
Singer 185.  Handcrank and spoked wheel painted with Krylon Celery.  A good match for the nose plate, not really visible here.


Simultaneously, it was time for the Spring TOBE:  Treadle On Block Exchange, in which we exchange quilt blocks signed with our names and towns and machines.  Very cool.  So the test run for each machine was a set of TOBE blocks (6 blocks in a set, which is what you get from the WOF, width of fabric).  Of course I have to make life more difficult by making one extra block to keep for myself.  Since I buy and sell machines the blocks make nice mementos of my machines that have moved on.

1954 Singer 99


The usual suspects for hand-cranks-for-children are Singers:  the models 99, 192, and 185.  The sewing machine gurus tell us that these are all pretty much the same mechanically.  The 192, labelled "Spartan" was a budget version.  The 185 was the latest one, a two-tone green.  They are all very simple and easy to operated straight-stitch-only machines.  They use the simpler class 66 drop-in bobbin.



Next up on the workbench was one of the luscious jewels of my collection:  a 3/4 size pearlescent aqua 15-clone.  OK, OK, technically it can't be a clone if it is different, in this case smaller.  But in every detail it looks exactly like a Singer 15.  Word on the boards is that these are very rare.

in real life the paint job on the hand crank is an almost perfect match


The handcrank conversion was a piece of cake.  The spoked wheel fit and the bobbin winder still worked with no need for adjustment.  It turns smoothly and easily. 

I lightly sanded and used an auto primer on the black parts of the spoked wheel and the hand crank.  I have an awesome collection of Kia auto touch up paints in little bottles, complements of my local Goodwill store.  I mixed an aqua with some white, and it looks much closer in color to the paint job on the machine than it does in the photo. 






Long time blog readers have seen this National before.  No way to attach a reproduction hand crank, hence the little knob on the handwheel.   That means that you get one revolution per turn, rather than the 3 you get with a geared hand crank.  Tedious does not begin to describe the sewing experience at this pace.  And if that is bad, winding the bobbin is excruciatingly boring.





But the exciting news is that I did get it to sew!  With a little help from the online community, who post photos of threading paths, and send emails with technical details about those obsolete needles.  In this case scooting a regular needle down 3/16" worked a treat.

First time I ever used a leaf tensioner.  Super easy.  The screw regulates the tension.  It works well, too.  Much better than the tensioner on my $800 plastic embroidery machine.





Getting this fully rehabilitated from its original rusted and frozen state was deeply satisfying.  The last piece of the puzzle was figuring out how to wind the bobbins.  I believe that originally the winder would have ridden on the treadle belt.

One of those stretchy rubber motor belts was the perfect solution.  And the gurus tell us not to use them on motors, so I have some that had been removed from their machines.  Never throwing things away often comes in handy.











Pull forward on the winder with your left hand while turning the hand wheel with that knob with your right hand.  Several hours later your bobbin will be wound.  (no, really it wasn't that bad.)




Who might enjoy using this sewing machine?  A small girl who is making doll clothes.  With very tiny seams.  And whose grannie loves antiques and is not intimidated by a vibrating shuttle machine.  Probably nobody else, though.








Once upon a time back in the late 1960's (according to bulletin-board-lore),
Sears advertised a sewing machine for $99 (which was inexpensive for the time).  All metal construction.  The ads were in newspapers, printed in black and white.

Then when the customers got into the store, this is what they saw.

Kenmore 159.11


Garish pink.  Vibrating shuttle (those bullet shuttles that hold the spindle bobbins).  A bobbin technology that had been obsolete for decades (and just like the system on the antique National above).  Sears distributed them to their stores in small quantities.  The point was NOT to sell these machines--the point was to sell the customer something much more expensive. The $99 ad just got the customers into the stores.




I cleaned, oiled and tested this one a couple of years ago.  Except for the Pepto-Bismol pink color (which I actually like) there is nothing wonderful about it.  Fairly crappy machine.  Rattly and noisy.  Mediocre stitch quality.


these appear to be the same size as Singer bobbins, but the hole in the top of the bobbin fits over a post on the bobbin winder
Flashing forward to 2013:  because not many of them were made, they are now rare.  One of these sold on eBay for $211 (plus shipping of course).  Mine is missing a decorative button, which probably cuts the value in half.

Krylon Watermelon on the wheel and crank


The hand crank conversion on this one was a delightful surprise.  I didn't want to notch out the handwheel.  Because it is "collectible", I don't want to do anything that can't be reversed.  I have a stack of handwheels that Augustin notched out for me a while ago, and one of the small non-Singer wheels fit perfectly with the bobbin winder.  The reproduction handcrank fit nicely and it all turns smoothly and freely.  The conversion took less than five minutes.  It is as easy to use as the 185 or the Spartan.

There is still the vibrating shuttle problem though.  It's not really difficult, it is just different.  Most people want a system that they already understand.   And who can blame them? 



Singer 285. 

And I saved the worst for last:  the notorious Singer 285.  Known as the worst all-metal vintage Singer model.

Hammered aqua blue paint finish and cute as a button but with a completely whacky drive train.  Jerky as a result.  With a motor you get all-or-nothing as your speed options (at least on mine).

I wondered if removing the motor and operating it at hand crank speed would result in a good sewing experience.





In a word:  No.  And the six people who receive a Singer 285 TOBE block from me this year should treasure them as rare and wonderful objects because there will NEVER EVER be any more of them.    And nobody other than me would be stupid enough to convert a 285 to a hand crank. 


The problem is that drive train.



It gets to one end and it requires extra force to get it to change direction and get it going back in the other direction.  That's my hypothesis anyhow.




It makes for a bumpy hand cranking experience.  It was hand to hand combat all the way.



The hand crank conversion did not go well.  First, the spoked wheel would not fit, and neither would any of the other notched wheels I had on hand.  Using my rudimentary Dremel skills I managed to cut a notch in the handwheel, only to discover that the finger of the hand crank would not reach it.

I got a big kick out of figuring out how to make it all work.  And hopefully by telling you all about it here, I will save you from wasting your time.  



 

 

How to convert a Singer 285 to hand crank

So here's what you do:  First, reconsider the whole project.  Go sit down and think it over.  Have a stiff drink, or a hot bath, or both. Still committed to this path of folly?  OK

Cut a notch in the hand wheel (notch the size of the hand crank finger, natch!).

I used a Dremel tool to cut the notch, and lots of trial and error.  I'm not planning to reveal what attachment(s) I actually used because it was undoubtedly all wrong.

If I ever master the esoteric mysteries of Dremeling, I WILL reveal them here.


Put the hand wheel and clutch knob back on the machine.


Remove the silver colored piece from the back of the finger of the hand crank. It unscrews.  This will allow it to fold down far enough to meet the hand wheel.

 Don't lose that little screw because when this sorry mess is over and you are regretting ever doing this you will want to take the whole thing back apart and reuse the hand crank on a more deserving machine.














Slide a 4-inch hose clamp over the hand wheel and tighten it most of the way down.




Attach the hand crank and slide the finger into the notch on the hand wheel.
Tighten the hose clamp until all is secure.



Sew away!  Feel that thunk at one point in each cycle?  That's the end of the line, literally.



I call him Frankencranky. 

FRANKENCRANKY!




Here are the blocks I made for the TreadleOnBlockExchange.  The photos of them are not really that interesting, but it helps me remember which fabrics I used, so that I don't use them again.

I received lovely blocks in return, from all over the US, and it was fun to get blocks from people I know from the board.  But since each block has personal information on it, I don't think I should show them here.  Thanks to all who participated, and especially the hardworking hostess of the exchange, Marie.









9 comments:

  1. I love the 285 and the Fleetwood. One day I want a hand crank that is not black! LOL

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    Replies
    1. Missy
      I would be HAPPY to sell you a 285. Mwahahahaha....
      Cheryl

      Delete
  2. That Pink Kenmore is exactly what I've been looking for. Hmmm - too bad it's a clunker. but still will continue looking for one anyway. Di in TN

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  3. What a fun post! I enjoyed seeing all the machines and hearing about the conversions. Was not familiar with the Singer 185 and loved the Fleetwood! I had also never heard about the Barbie pink Kenmore - talk about bait and switch! Too bad it isn't a better functioning machine.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I didn't do this TOBE. I have a collection of machines just waiting for me to get around to converting them. I want to paint the hand cranks to match some of the machines, but, I haven't figured out how to paint them. Do you use spray paint? Just the touch up stuff? What? I really don't want black hand cranks on my pretty, blue machines. I don't much care if the bobbin winders work or not, since they all use round bobbins, and I wind those on a sidewinder (cheating, but, much quicker than hand cranking them). Fun post. I love to see all the machines.

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  5. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I just cut off the piece covering the bobbin winder. If you look closely at an intact 185 and compare it with the picture above, hopefully you will see what I mean. I used my Dremel tool to do it, and think I used a diamond cutting wheel but since I can't even remember what I did yesterday, please don't trust my memory on this! The bobbin winder works perfectly with that piece removed. It can now swing up far enough to engage with the spoked hand wheel.

      It did take me several trials-and-errors before I figured out that I had to cut off the whole darned thing. Other people had mentioned "grinding it down" which I took to mean that you just needed to shave a bit off. No. The whole thing had to come off. If I ever do it again I will try to remember to document it better on the blog.

      SO glad you are bringing the next generation along into the sewing sorority! Have fun.
      Cheryl

      Delete
    2. Thanks so much for the details. I'll let you know how my conversion goes!

      Delete
  6. I love this post. My 7 and 9yo daughters are nervous about motor-run sewing machines, and want hand crank machines. I've just about finished working on a 99K for one of them, and soon I'll start working on a 185K for the other. In your April 2012 post on converting to hand cranks, you mention that the 185 bobbin winder doesn't play nicely with a spoked hand wheel. However, in this post it looks like maybe you've figured it out, with that adorable celery-painted wheel and crank. Are there any tricks to making it work? Or is the bobbin winder just decorative on that machine?

    ReplyDelete

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