Learn to fix a featherweight? Well ….
I freely confess that I am not the mechanically inclined sister. Matter of fact I’m not sure either of us would be classified as a master mechanic. But we both do have a very robust “Can Do!” gene that sits alongside a hearty “Why Not Try It!” gene. So, when I heard that Nancy Troyer of Long Arm Machine Quilting was coming to Pensacola to teach a class on maintaining your Singer featherweight machine, I thought that even if I didn’t master the process I would at least be better off than if I didn’t even go. (low expectations for myself)
Nancy is a wonderful teacher – she goes step by step and gives clear instructions so that everyone in the class feels like conquering the challenge is possible. Even her class supply list is eye opening:
- A towel – spreading it under the machine while you work means that if you drop a screw or other small piece it won’t go bouncing along the floor.
- A magnetic pin holder – a great place to stash screws or bolts or other small pieces so they don’t get misplaced.
- Paper towels – these are a must have since the gunk that accumulates inside a machine is surprising.
- Old toothbrush – for cleaning gears with kerosene
- Tweezers – for reaching small pieces of lint and grime
- Screwdriver – for removing various plates and covers
We started the cleaning and rejuvenating process by removing the bottom panel, cleaning the inside and replacing the pad. Then we opened every nook and cranny, cleaning and lubricating as we went. Nancy stressed the difference between oils and lubricants – lubricate gears and put oil in the oil ports.
Next we took off the throat plate to clean by the hook assembly. Special care has to be given to the hook assembly which houses the bobbin case. It’s better to use a wooden cuticle stick instead of a screwdriver if you need to remove it. Even the smallest scratch can cause the thread to snag and break when the machine begins to stitch. The vital piece of information about cleaning this part of the machine is that the positioning finger must be in place before you replace and tighten the throat plate. The timing of the machine will be fine as long as the hook assembly and positioning finger is placed correctly.
And here’s a hot tip about vintage bobbin cases: they are stamped with SIMANCO. New replacement bobbin cases often do not fit well so guard your vintage case as if it were gold.
When we got to the place that the motor needed to be cared for, we learned that carbon brushes are what makes the motor run. There needs to be at least ¼” of carbon on the brush or the machine motor will not work.
In fact running it without adequate carbon can ruin the motor. Checking the carbon brushes should be done with great caution and care. Success depends on the pressure you use to remove the screw as the carbon brush is on a spring. And the screw is brittle, aged plastic which can break easily.
We did not open the housing around the motor but we did lubricate it using the techniques she taught us.
A belt in good condition makes a difference in the efficiency of the machine. We learned some great tricks including the use of vinyl tubing over screwdrivers when changing the belt to allow for leverage without scratching the machine. The motor can be raised a bit if the belt needs to be loosened.
Last but not least, the front panel needs to be removed so that the parts there can be cleaned and oiled.
The five hour class was filled with valuable information and expertise. So, this is just a summary to let you know that it can be done. Remember Singer originally advertised that the machine was constructed so that “the average housewife” would be capable of caring for it and maintaining it.
If a class is offered close to where you are, I recommend that you take advantage of it. Or contact Nancy and see if she is available to travel to your area to give the class. It is worth every penny!
PS – Just a couple of weeks after the class Dietz and I were on a vacation/business trip in Tennessee and we stopped at Pickers Paradise where I saw a small black case stashed under a table behind some other things. I knew without looking inside that it was going home with me when I saw the price tag. When I opened the lid the first thing I saw was a tray holding a box of attachments! And the 1934 featherweight will give me a great chance to practice all I’ve learned.
Come on, Sister, we can do this!
(NOTE: This is not a comprehensive guide to maintaining your machine, but rather a summary. Contact Nancy for expert advice or research the process via YouTube videos.)