Tuesday, December 04, 2012

How to clean a Vintage Singer Sewing Machine, Singer 127

December is a month of holiday celebration   It is also the month I like to give myself a treat and clean, clean, clean.  The goal is to have a tidy living space in time for the beginning of the new year.  I'm not all that fond of the process of cleaning, but I do like a tidy house, even if it never seems to last long.

I'm starting this month off by cleaning my main sewing machine, my Singer 127 treadle.  If I have a chance I might take apart the treadle base later, but for now I'm just giving the machine a check up and tidy.

Please keep in mind, the process to clean an active vintage sewing machine is a little bit different (and a lot easier) than cleaning one that has been in an attic for most of the century.

I'll walk you through my process for cleaning.  Different people do things differently and there is slight variation between machines, but generally any pre 1948 machine follows the same basic process.  Actually, it will work with most pre 1990 machines, but it's always good to check the manual before tampering with the newer machines.

Things you need to clean your vintage sewing machine

  • cotton swabs
  • good sewing machine oil
  • flat head screwdriver
  • a used sewing machine needle
  • paper towel
  • sewing machine
Start at the top and gently wipe any dust off the outside of the machine with a paper towel or tissue and a tiny bit of oil.

From here on in, at each step, check for any signs of wear or metal scraping on metal.  This will appear shinier than the surrounding metal.  Stop!  I said STOP!  A this point and find out why.  Fix it!  then keep going.  If you don't fix it, your machine will break, and then you can't sew on it until you undergo major repair.  

Also, please see the manual specific for your machine for the oil points.

Next, take off the face plate at the front end of the machine.  Remove any lint or excess oil that has gathered inside during the year (or longer).  Generously oil the needle post (the thing that goes up and down with the needle on the end) and any moving parts you can see.

Also oil at the top of the needle post thingy.

At the front of the machine there is a trapezoid plate.  Some machines have an opening at the back instead.  Some have both.

Open it up, remove any lint or visible puddles of oil.  Lubricate any moving parts and inside the grove (it's kind of hard to see, but if you turn the crank wheel slowly the same direction you would normally sew in, you can see it.

While we are at the front of the machine, clean any lint and oil your bobbin winder.

At the back of the machine is a circular plate, like everything else, clean any visible puddles of oil (there really shouldn't be any here as they only tend to form in the first two.  Oil where it says to oil in your manual (or anywhere things move).

Place a drop of oil in each of the holes at the top of the machine.

Now it's time to clean the bobbin area and the feed dogs.  This place tends to get linty fast.  I find that the used sewing machine needle tends to be excellent for fishing lint out of those hard to reach places.  Check your manual if your machine differs from mine.

Remove the plates, bobbin and if applicable bobbin casing  clean out any visible lint.  Make sure the feed dogs are happy and don't have any obvious damage.  Check to see if there are any needle marks in teh feed dog plate - this is a sign that you are doing something wrong (either using bent needles or tugging at the fabric) or that your machine is royally F-ed up.  Preferably the former.  

Do not oil or put this part back together yet.  Instead, disengage the treadle band and turn your machine on it's back so you can see underneath.

Clean all the lint you can find. Oil according to the manual (or one drop on each moving spot).

Put machine right way up and check again for lint (there is bound to be more that didn't show up the first time).

Oil the racier track and anywhere else that it tells you to in the manual.

Remove the bobbin from the shuttle and take the shuttle apart   Check for burs or anywhere that might snag the thread.  Clean and wipe down with a paper towel that has sewing machine oil on it.  Use a cotton swab to clean the inside of the shuttle, especially the bottom.  Place one very, very small drop of oil in the bottom of the shuttle and reassemble.  

Check for signs of wear on the outside of the shuttle - for example where the needle might be hitting it or it might be rubbing on the racer track too much.  This is a sign that things need adjusting.

Get some scrap fabric and thread.  Sew a whole bunch of stitches.  It will get the fabric oily, so make sure you use scrap.  Adjust the tension as necessary.

This takes me about 20 min if I don't keep stopping to snap photos for my blog ;) however, on a machine that isn't used very often or properly maintained, this task can take hours or even weeks to acomplish.


Anonymous said...

I oiled my Singer 128 and shuttle. First time I opened all doors to oil parts.


mangozz said...

Your machine looks very similar to my recently acquired Singer Sphinx treadle but how do you tell the difference between a 27 and a 127? Thanks for any help.

TrampledbyGeese said...

The 127 is smaller than the 27. The 127 is often in a carry case and was considered a portable machine. Other than that, they are almost identicle.

Anonymous said...

To make a correction, the 27 and 127 were full size versions at 7" by 14 5/8" as were the earlier versions VS-1 and VS-2. The others such as the 28, 128 an VS-3 were smaller at 6 9/16" by 12 5/32". As for the 27 and 127, the location of the bobbin winder was high on the 127 and low on the 27. Also, the 127 had a Shuttle Ejector Button as the 27 did not. Just trying to clarify here. Hope it helps.