Thursday, May 24, 2012

Steampunk sewing machine - in search of ideas

I've been wondering how to steampunk (yes, apparently it is a verb now) an old sewing machine.

Although this machine could be made to work, it has too much damage to the outside to be worth anything even if it did work.  It's a Singer 15 built in 1948, and is just about perfect for this project.

These old Singer machines already have the look of cutting edge Victorian technology (oh wait, that's exactly what they are) but I'm wondering if there is something more that could be done to expand on that.

The technology aspect of Steampunk, to me, is about taking disused items (junk) and repurposeing into something creative and useful.

There are basically three things I could do to make this more Steampunk.

  1. I could just glue some gears on it and call it steampunk. (click the link to see why that's not acceptable -  wonder where I can buy the album?) 
  2. I could change what drives the machine.  I've read once about a fictional steam powered home sewing machine.  Or I could make it solar/battery powered (not very retro-futuristic) perhaps a Stirling engine hooked up to an old sewing machine motor turned generator connected to a hidden battery.  Boy that would be heavy.  Foot treadle, hand crank, and electric have already been done.
  3. or I could transform it's use from sewing machine to something else, then decorate it.
But what to do, what to do?

How to transform this machine into something that is creative, beautiful and teaches me something new about mechanical devices?

What would you do if you wanted turn a sewing machine into something Steampunk?  What creative ideas spring to mind?


steelwool said...

would a needle felting machine be a good project? I am trying to transform a treadle machine into a treadle spinning wheel. Good luck on your machine. (Sorry I don't quite get the term steampunk)

Scott Giefer said...

Well depending on your skill level...

Personally I would (carefully) disassemble the thing, removing all the interior pieces part, and setting them aside. I would then measure the thickness of the pieces and, using an etching tool, go over all the designs on the casing, essentially carving them into the said pieces to about a quarter of the thickness. I would then take those pieces (and any visible exterior screws) and have them professionally copper plated, giving them a nice shiny...well...copper finish. I would then either hand paint the designs back onto the exterior of the machine or , if I were feeling extremely ambitious, I would attempt to fashion an inlay for said designs (faux mother of pearl and faux ebony would work wonderfully I believe). At this point you should be able to see just what ails the machine and could quite possible restore it to working condition as you re-assemble it. Or you could re-assemble and then take it to be repaired, as these are quite wonderful machines when operational (I have a working one myself and prefer it over my more modern 1990's model for most projects.) You could also attempt to replace the exterior drive wheel with a valve wheel (a little machining may be necessary) and copper plate that as well.

Anonymous said...

Leave it in the treadle and sew with it. Steampunk for real.

I keep thinking of using a belt drive Singer motor as a generator on a hand crank machine to power the light. I tried it today (random parts and string for a belt) with a voltmeter and produced twelve volts at a mellow sewing speed.

I am not an expert but I picture a hand crank turning the hand wheel, a belt to said motor, some sort of voltage regulator, a 12V battey, and a 12V bayonet base light bulb for the Singer Light.

Charge up the battery while you wind your bobbin and off you go!

I'm sure this could all be transferred to a treadle instead of a hand crank but you might have to glue some gears on it to get it going.