Wednesday, June 29, 2016

101 Reasons

With so many brands and models of sewing machines that span over one hundred years, I  recognize that I cannot know them all. How could I be surprised to find a totally unfamiliar model? But I was when I found this gem locally:

What is it? Nice decals on the bed (see button dial for stitch length)

It looks like a Singer 66. There is a potted motor on the back, meaning it's gear driven with no belt from the handwheel to the motor. Is it a Singer 201? There is no light in the front, there is no tell-tale white light switch by the electrical cord on the right side of the bed. Wait a minute: where are the electrical connections? No plugs, light switch is at the back like a Singer 66/99 (and take a look at the weird shape of the black pole for the light!) so how does this run? The ad said "Needs power cord" but I'm thinking it needs more than a power cord but a foot or knee control, too.

The research begins but how do I even start? I go to Sandman Collectables and go through his wonderful identification template but that doesn't help, mainly because there is a piece of cloth of the bed and I can't see the details I need for proper identification. I look for potted motors and their models and Singer 201 keeps coming up but it is not a Singer 201. Then I find a photo of a Singer 101 and I start to perk up. What do I recall about the Singer 101? Something about their being only a few years they were made and they don't run all that well. I go ahead and respond to the ad and set up an appointment but continue to delve into who the Singer 101 is all about. There are warnings about the oiling system using multiple wicks (this sounds similar to older sergers) that might have gotten old and crumbling and the controller that is usually built into the cabinet and is a knee model. In one photo I find the plug for a three prong cord and it looks like a typical Singer cord so I bring one along with me.

I not only find Denise and Tom's house easily enough, the sewing machine is right in front of the garage. We get it plugged in but cannot figure out how to get the knee control to work but Tom comes to the rescue and makes sense of it and gets it to respond. Oh so slowly, it makes a very slow turn and stitch so I agree that it's going home with me. The poor cabinet has almost all of the veneer coming off of the top and the inside of the cover looks pretty rough but I have hopes for this pretty typical cabinet:
Singer 101 with cabinet that needs to be refinished

Right side leaf that is made to fold down, not stay up for extra working surface

Once I download the manual, it shows how to take the motor assembly apart and how to re-grease the gears. There are little tubes that come off pretty easily and are full of darkened grease but it isn't hard yet so I get it all cleaned out and replaced:
Grease cup with wick
Wick pulled out: pretty cruddy
Wick with old grease squeezed out, ready to be refilled with new Triflow lubricant
Placement of grease cups, only one in place
Grease cups are underneath this gear with new lubricant in place

Placement of motor with cleaned out grease
Gears where the motor sits
There are more gears to clean out and grease, even gears on the bottom but everything gets cleaned out, gears greased with Triflow lubricant, oil on other metal parts as per the manual, body of the machine wiped down and cleaned with sewing machine oil, metal parts shined up, and she's ready for the test.
Beautiful faceplate all shiny now
 With some tension adjustment, she sews! This Singer 101 sounds just like a Singer 201 with the same drop-in class 66 bobbin and smooth operation with all of those gears. Top speed is enough but it doesn't seem to be as fast as others. I remember this happening to a 201 last winter so will check the knee controller to see if there is an adjustment that needs to be made. I text my new friends, Denise and Tom, to let them know how nice their sewing machine sounds and that it is working quite nicely. Denise asks me to keep them abreast of any updates and to send photos. I think they are in for a surprise.
Back of Singer 101 with potted motor and unique light assembly
Once the machine is running I take a look at the table. That veneer is not going to be saved with many pieces missing and big sections that have delaminated. I've never removed veneer before but there's a first time for everything so I look up some methods and land upon using a wet towel overnight. Sure enough, most of it comes off in the morning and what doesn't come off gets the wet towel and hot iron treatment. Here's the top with the veneer removed:
Singer 101 cabinet top with veneer removed

The wood underneath is not too bad, at least passable with some black marks from a hot saw that I manage to sand out:
Much improved!
This is starting to look good! I try denatured alcohol on one of the legs that is missing most of the finish on the front and it comes clean, too. Although I had a nearly empty can of the denatured alcohol (so I must have used it for something) I have not used it as a shellac thinner before and hope a new can will give the desired results. I even have a new vapor mask! This is something I should have been using long ago and recommend to prevent the harmful effects of breathing in all of the junk when chemicals are being used. Sorry, no photos because it looks so dreadful but does work well.

Now I've added a Singer 101 to my cadre of sewing machines and I'm pretty happy with it. The dire warnings about crumbling oil wicks doesn't hold true and it does run quite well even if I don't get it working at a lightening pace. Checking the serial number dates this Singer 101 to 1930: that's 86 years old! It's okay if it works without being super speedy. The cabinet will get refinished over time and this will be a handsome and functional piece of furniture. When I talked about how refinish sewing machine tables and get the machines to sew again, Tom said it would be a nice piece if he had an historic home. I told him about how I sell sewing machines to quite a few men and by the time it was loaded into my vehicle Denise said maybe they would have to buy it back from me when it was done. Just maybe so we will be in touch!

Stay tuned to see the finished product before the end of July (this will give me motivation).


Unknown said...

Karen,I just found that beauty you restored.My question is:Is a good Singer to work with leather?

Karen said...

I would not recommend any domestic sewing machine for working with leather. They were not intended for that purpose and it would probably wear one out pretty quickly. The Singer 101 is like the 201, one of their strongest but leather

SteelSewing said...

Just wanted to say that the 101 is my favorite Singer. I currently own 2, and I think a third is on it's way. Smooth, quiet, quick and dare I say simple. What's not to like? (and yes I have a 201 as well, but I prefer the 101).

Karen said...

I'm so glad to hear this is a favorite of yours; I just didn't bond with mine so she had to find a new home. Maybe I should try again? I'm still a Singer 201 kind of gal!