Saturday, December 2, 2017

FIMO for Flat Cams? Nah...

Here at the DragonPoodle Research and Development Department (aka the dining room) we are always striving to find new and unusual ways to fail at machine restoration--so that you don't have to.  You're welcome.

Research investigators for this project were me and FIF* Barbara, shown in the photos.  And I'm not giving up on my favorite joke (FIF) but I'm going to start posting the explanation at the bottom of the post.

Seemed to me that with some FIMO clay, a pasta machine, and a sharp knife, we ought to be able to reproduce Singer flat cams.  I dreamed this up a couple of years ago, but ideas need to marinate to maturity.  Or whatever.

FIMO clay is a modeling clay that hardens when baked at a low temperature in the oven.  I have a bunch of it left over from a binge of making tiny people for a Christmas village when my girls were in middle school.  They are in middle age now.  Been quite a few years.  And, just in case you have some 15 year old FIMO sitting around:  if it is still in the package it is unchanged.  If it was in a baggie it is pretty hard and crumbly, but work it with your fingers and it will be just fine.  Eventually.

The pasta machine is dedicated to FIMO or other crafts (never pasta).  This is also left over from those long ago days of yesteryear.  I'm in the middle of a MAJOR studio clean out right now and discovering that I had saved this is one of the things that makes me question my sanity.  On the other hand, when I needed it, there it was, right where I could find it.  I'm putting it right back there too.

The clay is rigid and stiff when you take it out of the package.  Break off a small piece and work it around in your hands and fingers until it is flexible.  Do more small pieces until you have a hunk of it.  But really, don't bother, because (SPOILER ALERT) this is going to make a really lousy cam.

The pasta machine has settings for thickness.  #1, the thickest, turns out to be just the same as a Singer flat cam.  Run the clay through the pasta machine to get a strip of uniform thickness. Lay the strip on a cutting board.  We used parchment paper underneath to make it easier to remove and move around. 

Put a flat cam on top of it.  Used a knife to cut it out.  And the secret here is that you have to be good at doing this.  I got better with each try.  At first I couldn't find my exacto knife and we used small box cutters (shown in photo).  Found the exacto later and it helped.

I reproduced a zigzag cam, and Barbara reproduced #24.  We transferred them to parchment on a baking sheet and popped them in the toaster over for the required time.  Please notice that I am following my usual cagey practice of NOT giving out specific directions for specific products.  You really do need to read the directions on the packaging.  Which may have changed in the last 15 years.

I wasn't going for perfection, or even much accuracy on the first trial.  I just wanted to see if this was going to be possible at all.

It was immediately obvious that this was not going to be a sturdy cam.  It was a really cute cam, purple with sparkles.  And it had hardened, but it was still a bit flexible.  Seemed too fragile to hold up to sustained high speed sewing.  Like you would do if you were doing long lines of decorative stitching.  One of my favorite things.

The center hole had to be sanded out a bit to make it just large enough to fit snugly on the machine.

The first attempt was successful only in that it did function as a cam to move the needle back and forth. I wasn't unhappy with it as a first draft.

Attempt No. 2 was even better, and I have even saved that one.  In a pinch it would produce a perfectly acceptable utility zigzag stitch.

To store my flat cams I use a thingy originally designed to hang on the wall to showcase your commemorative golf balls.  Commemorative golf balls strikes me as pretty hilarious.  Golf itself seems pretty funny to me.  However this is a good size for cams and I can see at a glance if I have enough extras to share.

Attempt No. 3 looked even better than No. 2, but it cracked as I slid it into place.  I hadn't sanded the hole large enough.  Tried it anyway and it flew apart as the sewing began.

Thus ends the experiment with FIMO for flat cams.  It was fun.  Never bothering to do it again though.  Unless...just had a thought...

Is plain FIMO sturdier than sparkly FIMO?  I've already put all that stuff away or I would just try another one.  Do you know?

Have you ever tried FIMO for making flat cams?  How did it go?

Have you ever tried another way of making flat cams?  How did you do it?  How did it turn out?  Tell us in the comments below!

* * * * * * * * * *

*FIF, Formerly Imaginary Friend.  I refer to people I know online as my imaginary friends.  When I meet them in person they become Formerly Imaginary Friends.


  1. None of my machines take flat cams, great idea to try to make some though!

  2. I have to laugh as I just threw out old FIMO. There is stuff now, not FIMO, that is a lot stronger. I never like the kneading part of it to get it right. My grandson actually got me to try and build a stars wars character out of it. I was a failure. Got to get rid of that pasta maker. Try being a retired art teacher, talk about saved junk. I keep weeding out unless my grandkids could use it. They love drawing, but not painting. Go figure.

  3. Knowing what does not work is nearly as important as knowing what does work.
    Fun experiment!

  4. Echoing the 'fail more, fail better' sentiment (I believe that was Samuel Beckett's phrase). You took one for the team?
    I have a workshop full of stuff I might need for a project, but the pasta maker left the shop years ago. Still have the FIMO.

    As for replacement material, a 3D printer would probably do the job (if I were inclined to get one, program it, and make cams). The plastic is harder. I can also hear my pal with the metal laser cutter getting a big stupid grin on his face about this.

  5. I could imagine that some reinforcement (like fiberglass fibers, or even just string) incorporated in the mix might help the clay hold its shape and do its job in the machine. I love the idea, though! Thanks!

  6. This imaginary friend enjoys watching your escapades, instead of trying them herself.

  7. Trace it onto paper and find a Lazar cutter guy, the results will be very durable!

  8. Just got a 'modern replica' eyelet cam for the 1950s Singer buttonholer. It's 3D printed - black plastic.


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