a long term collector I
have always been of the view that less is more. Some wear and tear and
patina does not detract from the aesthetic value of a machine. The aim
to clean and preserve as much of the original as possible. Be satisfied
with a little improvement and do not expect to get it into original
a Machine in good condition.
This means a machine with no
rust or areas of thick oil and dirt; one that does not need to be
taken apart. The painted parts will have been sprayed with a
transparent shiny lacquer that will have changed over time. It will
be fragile and very likely absorb moisture to go foggy. Success
relies on what you do NOT do.
emery paper or wire wool.
This is used only on bare steel parts that have been removed away
from the painted areas.
No water based cleaners.
No detergent - it will
dissolve out the old oil leaving the dirt as a hard crust.
No hard rubbing.
Keep chanting "Less
cotton buds, a dry
toothbrush or an unused dry paintbrush to get at awkward corners.
little white spots
(nobody knows where they come from) can be dissolved off with a damp
cloth but do each one individually keeping the surface as dry as
possible and do not rub the decals.
can be used to dissolve
dirty patches but do not leave it on the surface because it will
effect the lacquer.
can remove any panels such
as the plates at the front, over the shuttle and at the back to brush
out any fluff and dust. Put the
screws back in place to stop them escaping to a parallel universe. If
you have to remove the flywheel assembly to get at the spaces around
the handle there is some advice further on about this. (In short, the
big screw head at the back does not unscrew the flywheel so don’t
a light application
of thin sewing machine oil is the best advice I have found.
This Singer 66 from 1922 just needed a light brush and some
sewing machine oil..
to restore a very badly neglected machine
this Challenge by the Royal Sewing Machine Company, Birmingham.
Newspaper and rags
A large tray to stop liquids from harming your floor.
In very extreme cases, paint remover.
An old paintbrush and a fine wire brush.
Selection of screwdrivers.
Fine wire wool
Fine filler paste
Masking Tape and Plasticine.
Sewing machine oil and WD 40
A rechargeable hand drill
Washing soda, plastic bucket and a car battery charger.
A digital camera to record where all the parts go is useful.
there has been
long term neglect or old oil has hardened you need to get the machine
moving. Apply WD40 or machine oil to all moving parts, including the
plates covering the shuttle track and leave it for a few hours to
penetrate the cracks. Wipe any WD40 of the painted bits you intend to
keep. Most of the machines I have renovated have become
free at this point but do not apply any force. In time you
will need to remove all the
visible unpainted iron parts so that they can be
Remove the needle first as this is
There is usually a plate held by two screws at the front of the arm.
Without scratching the paintwork remove the screws and pull off the
cover plate to reveal the needle bar, presser foot bar and cam. Put the
screws back where they came from and note the positions of the bars or
take a photograph.
For a Singer 12 design the bars are rectangular and come out easily.
Round bars need to be cleaned enough first to slide out of their holes
vertically. Remove as many parts as you can . These bits can be cleaned
in situ but it is much easier if you can get them away from the casting
but do not risk damage because spare bolts and screws are hard to find.
Remove the presser foot and the lever for raising it and replace the
screws. If there is thick
deposit on the bars a screwdriver is good enough to scrape it off then
use the fine wire wool to polish them. If the bars are round they can
be rotated in the chuck of the drill with the wire wool pressed around
them. The same method is used to polish the screws. There may be a
plate with a groove in it. This is a cam to operate the needle-bar. It
is often difficult to remove these but they are easy to clean in situ
without damaging the paintwork. For any round bars that can be removed
the easiest method of removing rust and adding a shine is to spin them
in the chuck of an electric drill whilst squeezing them in a
of fine wire wool.
At the other end of the machine is a handle and flywheel which needs to
be removed. If there is a large screw head in the centre of the
generally, this cannot be unscrewed. The axle is retained by a screw
behind the cover-plate on the back of the machine. Remove the plate,
loosen this screw and the axle should slide out, perhaps with the
application of some WD40 and a few small clockwise and anticlockwise
twists on the screw head. The large screw head is there to rotate a cam
to adjust the the gap between the teeth on the gears. There are marks
on the gears indicating their position. Make a note of this if you want
the machine to work properly afterwards. However, usually the marks on
gear are meant to go adjacent to the marks on the two smaller gears
when they are at the top and bottom of the large gear - simples.
the back is off you can give the mechanism inside the machine a brush
and oil. There is usually little else that needs doing here. If there
are cogs on axles these are nearly always fixed on with a small grub
screw. If this can be undone and the axle slid out cleaning and
polishing is much easier accomplishes with the electric drill.
cogs will withstand some rough treatment once away from the casting so
it is easy to clamp them in a vice and use a stiff wire brush to get in
between the teeth.
This should be enough advice to allow you to remove all the other
unpainted metal parts for cleaning.
Under the bed.
this is out of sight then just brush and oil it. The dirt is probably
protecting the ironwork. If you can remove the shuttle plates just
shine with wire wool but be sparing if these parts re plated. The area
behind the back cover plate needs only to be brushed and
some parts that cannot be removed such as the bobbin posts at the top
of the head and the toothed cloth feed make a
of card with a hole in it or cover the surrounding area with masking
tape so as not to scratch other areas.
With Heavy Rust
Sometimes a part is very badly rusted with pitting which cannot be
removed with wire wool. This is where you need the sodium carbonate and
plastic bucket to electrolytically remove the rust. The circuit is
shown on the diagram below. This method should not be used with plated
metal as the plating is likely to be removed.
carbonate solution (ordinary washing soda)
in a plastic container is used to electrolyse the rust. An old piece of
iron goes on the positive with your rusty item on the negative attached
with croc clips.
a DC 12v car battery charger or an old car battery or both together to
provide the current.
A large item can be left connected for a few hours, removed, dried and
the black deposit rubbed off with the wire brush or wire wool. Heavy
rusting may need
this process repeating several times. I often have a second part ready
to treat while I am cleaning the first. Dry your item immediately and
remove the residue or rust will quickly re-form. I would
that you experiment with the process first using a rusty item of no
machine in a dry place, preferably in the
main part of the house with the central heating. Put it with all the
other machines you are going to collect. Take no notice of what people
say. You are not sick or obsessed. It is perfectly reasonable to
display bits of over engineered Victorian junk in your house.
|Painting - this is still to be done.......