Polyurethane Belts…

Polyurethane is a very versatile material that is used in so many products it would be nearly impossible to list, from surface finishes to insulation to furniture making it is all around us.

We make up polyurethane belts in our workshop for machines that may have hard to find or odd size belts, and in other cases will use them due to their excellent performance. They can be run at lower tensions while still delivering excellent traction, which helps machines and motors run more efficiently.

This type of belt is designed to be cut and fused together at a temperature of 275C to 295C at which point it softens, and the cut ends can be pressed / welded together. One should never heat this material beyond that, as just like burning other plastics it has the potential to release potentially dangerous fumes. PU belting is formulated to be heat resistant, and the type of polyurethane used is also safer that that which is used in things like spray foams. Since it is also extremely dense and the working area is so small, it has a much higher ignition temperature… it does not burn very easily.

Belt welding kits are widely available with the most basic being an electrically controlled heated plate, while others have clamps, pressers, and guides much like pliers but those are quite expensive and are generally used in commercial applications.

One should observe the same cautions as they do when they are spraying with products that contain polyurethane, as aerosols have the most potential to cause issues. Proper ventilation and a mask are advised and as the material gets quite hot at the contact points, one should take care not to burn themselves.

On it’s own PU belt is chemically inert, extremely tough, slightly flexible, and resists oil and solvents, I run the same orange belting you see on my Bernina 125 on industrial machines, and on my 1/2 hp lathe which has been there for years.

Most people who run smaller lathes like mine use polyurethane belts as they are superior to the original V belts and last longer.

The belt on my wee Bernina may last forever… happy sewing.

And now for something completely different…

While everyone who still wears a watch seems to prefer smart watches, I have always been a fan of vintage wind up watches, and automatics like this Mardon Fleet I recently picked up.

Like sewing machines I am intrigued by the design and workmanship that goes into making the smallest and most precise mechanisms. when sewing machines were being developed people from the watch making trade were also involved, as they had the skills to build smaller and very precise mechanisms.

Like sewing machines, there is so much history behind watches, and wristwatches only came into popular use in the 1920’s as fashions changed, and men stopped carrying pocket watches.

This watch dates to the late 40’s and has an automatic self winding mechanism which was one of the first of it’s kind, besides being an auto winder it was also designed to be shock proof as many a watch was broken if it was dropped.

My watchmaker is a old guy with many decades of experience and we have had a few good chats about what I do and that we are both relics of an earlier time… and the prices he charges for adjusting and repairing watches is ridiculously low.

The girl really loves old watches and for her birthday I picked up a Gruen from 1955, I am amazed at how small the second hand is and how tiny the parts in the mechanism are.

Industrial vs Commercial Machines

Bernina 217 – Commercial

Within the sewing community there is often a great deal of confusion on what makes a machine an industrial model and many shifty sellers will try an pass off domestic models as being an industrial, sometimes hopping them up with a more powerful motor.

An industrial machine is typically designed to handle a single function in a factory setting, such as bar tacking, and will be fitted to a table with a clutch motor, or overhead belt drives and were designed to run all day, sometimes over three shifts.

This is a Union Special 56400 industrial machine, note the multiple tensions and the oil gauge below the tensions, it is not bigger then a domestic machine but weighs a ton and was designed to run at 3000 stitches a minute all day. These were commonly used in factories where denim jeans were made.

An industrial machine does not have to be heavy duty and be able to sew leather, many are light to medium duty designed to sew lighter fabrics and materials.

The wee Singer 24 was a model that was sold as a domestic and industrial model and was commonly used in the hat making trades as it was capable of sewing at 3000 stitches a minute, and many were configured for special tasks like binding.

A commercial machine is one like the Bernina 217 (shown at the top) or the Pfaff 130, which were offered in commercial / industrial tables with clutch, or direct drive motors, and were cap[able of zig zag and other stitch patterns via use of external cams or in the case of the 130, an automatic stitch attachment, often called a “bread box”.

Pfaff supplied a commercial table with a 3 amp direct drive motor which functions much like a modern servo, and does not run continuously like a clutch motor. These were marketed to tailors and seamstresses who needed a robust high speed machine that could sew all day with few breaks.

Sail makers and riggers favoured the Bernina 217 because it could do the speciality stitches they needed to produce sails.

My Singer 108w20 is an industrial machine, originally designed to sew binding at 4000 stitches a minute, and was rated for medium weight materials like canvas. I have converted it to work as a cylinder arm by modifying the needle plate, and have fitted a 1.3 amp domestic motor. It has a needle feed where the needle also moves the fabric through along with the walking foot and lower feed dogs.

My 1911 Singer 31k20 spent most of it’s life in a local tailor’s shop, making custom suits, tuxedos, dresses, and uniforms… these were also used as industrial straight stitch machines in bigger factories. After 112 years it still sews just as well as it did when it was new and who knows how many millions of stitches this machine has sewn.

Sometimes the lines get a little blurry when you are looking at machines and some companies even add to the confusion, Bernina sold the x50 series machines as “industrie” but they better described as a commercial machine.

My Singer 29k58 is a cobbler’s machine / patcher so would be defined as a commercial machine, but people often call them industrials.

Happy sewing.

Restoration – Pfaff 130-6

The Pfaff 130 is regarded as one of the very best vintage machines due to it’s precise construction, smoothness, sewing speed (2500 stitches a minute), and ability to sew pretty much anything that you can fit under the foot. The motors were 1.3 amps to provide high speed and torque as the ceramic flywheel does not add much punching power.

This newly arrived 130 was and is still covered in a lot of old oil residue, that may also be nicotine, gas stove residue, and maybe even some 3 in 1 oil, which turns into shellac over time. This is why you should not use it for lubricating a machine as over time it will freeze them up solid.

After an initial wipe down with oil the machine looked a lot shinier and the plated parts that can be removed easily came off to go into the kerosene tank to soak. During the wipe down with oil a lot of brown crud was coming off the machine and in many cases this could be degraded clear coat, but due to the coating of crud on this machine we are pretty sure it is the same as the bright work.

Pfaff 130-6 with the tension unit and faceplate removed for cleaning, and looking very shiny after a wipe down with kerosene, which makes it look really shiny but once that dries you see how much crud is left on the head of the machine. 3 in 1 oil leaves a residue like this and one of the best ways to remove old 3 in 1 oil, is to use 3in1 oil as a cleaner as the matching solvent breaks down to old gummy residue.

It is a painstaking process to clean a machine like this, as you want to proceed carefully and remove small layers at a time to make sure the clearcoat is not compromised or starting to break down. We expect this machine to sparkle like a new penny and it will then be made available for sale, it has a lovely cabinet with a stool that stores inside.

This is a Pfaff 130-6 we currently have available that has been restored cosmetically, electrically, and mechanically, and it has a very nice table, accessories, and all it’s original manuals. It also have the very desirable “coffee grinder” which is an attachment that adds extra decorative stitching.

Our price for this lovely example is $450.00 cad

The Singer 301/301A…

The Singer 301/301A debuted in 1951 during Singer’s 100th anniversary and has gone on to become one of the most loved and appreciated machines ever made.

It uses the same vertical rotary hook as the earlier 221, is gear driven and is powered by an internal motor that is mounted vertically, and gives the 301 a sewing speed that tops out at around 1600 stitches a minute.

Being made of cast aluminium is it a rather light, full size machine so is ideal for travelling, and came in a long bed model as seen here as well as short bed models.

It came in beige (as shown here), black, and a two tone beige and white with the beige and black models being available as both long and short bed models.

It also introduced Singer’s slant needle system.

Some examples we have had in the shop over the years, the black short bed model belongs to our permanent collection.

The stitch quality of the 301 is perfect and as such is highly favoured by quilters and sewists of all kinds.

We have a number of 301A machines available for sale, models with no A suffix are a little rarer as these were only made in 1951 during the first run, and black long bed machines are probably the most desirable.

Happy sewing.

Sunday Musings…

I picked up this Bernina 707 Minimatic some time back before I had to deal with some extended illness and finally got around to changing a cracked cam gear, which was not yet causing any issues but upon removal could see the crack extending all the way through the centre.

The machine (not for sale) is in otherwise mint condition and came complete with all it’s accessories, manual, and case and according to some folks in the business, these are probably one of the finest portable machines ever made and it would be hard to disagree. It is 3/4 sized and the counterpart to the full size Bernina 731, and retains full size power in a more compact package.

At the time of sale these wee machines still sold for the equivalent of $3000.00 (2023 dollars)) and were a large investment.

Being a vintage kind of guy in most respects I have been on the hunt for a simple watch that has nothing but two hands and some numbers, and one that is not grossly oversized as most modern watches are.

This Timex Indiglo “Easy Reader” fit the bill quite nicely and while a new one costs $65.00 CAD I snagged this one at an antique sale for $20.00 and it included a Speidel band which sells for more than what I paid.

My friend also loves old watches and her Caravelle winder (1977) needed a band adjustment so I brought that over where I could look at it under the magnifier and loupe to remove the extra links. It was a much easier band to adjust than the Speidel.

After being laid low for over a month with a nasty staph infection and post infection fatigue it has been nice to get back to work… this beautiful 221 was brought to us by an antique store we work with and we dropped it off this week.

We were totally charmed by this music box, that was made in the late 1800’s, it has been fully restored and plays eight melodies in sequence and it is also for sale, but I don’t have an extra $3000.00 and I have even checked the couch.

After a slow start due to a very dry spring, the garden is coming along nicely and it looks like it isn’t going to stop raining for quite a few days, we really need the rain here as the province has been on fire and our farmers are not going to have a good year.

With that I’ll wish everyone a happy Father’s Day and go and enjoy my day off.

Happy Sewing.

Vintage Shop… vintage tools.

Between 1965 and 1977 Emco of Austria produced the venerable SL mini lathe/mill and they have quite the following among collectors and hobbyists who want or need a lathe that excels at making small precise parts.

It is only 16 inches wide and the maximum capacity for parts is three inches in diameter, with a bed that will handle nothing over 5 inches… my small Atlas will handle 6 inch parts with 18 inches on the bed. It has a motor that is the same size as a sewing machine (1 amp) while my main lathe has a 1/2 hp motor.

It can also be set up to be used as a small mill, and there were also other attachments like a table saw that could have been ordered.

The first thing I made was a locknut for a pair of Gingher scissors I found at an antique mall, modifying an 8/32 locknut and turning it down to better match the profile of the original.

It does a beautiful job turning brass and aluminium as it was designed for softer metals, but handles the steel locknut just fine, as I did upgrade the tooling to carbide.

With my vintage Atlas (1977) and my drill / mill set up I made a carriage stop for the wee lathe.

In The Workshop…

Starting another run of “Ultimate” thread stands and after giving the lathe a through cleaning and oiling we start by prepping the brass rod by turning it down to size before it gets cut into sections.

Once upon a time I cut all these little slugs by hand but the addition of a metal band saw makes the work easier and faster.

After cutting, the brass gets centre drilled for further machining and turned down and squared off as the dimension of the base has to be pretty exact. I made the dial indicator holder on my little mill to measure these cuts accurately.

The holes for the thread arm and lower set screw get drilled on the press, the drilling of the longitudinal holes will get done on the lathe since they are just that more accurate.

Stay tuned…

The Singer 191J

The Singer 191 was made in a number of countries with a few variations in colour and drive options, the J model was made in Canada and just like the 15-91 (on which it was based) it uses a direct drive potted motor.

Mechanically it is a Singer 15 under the bed, while the upper casting is almost the same as the later aluminium 201 Mk2 and 15-75, with a front mounted tension control and a feed dog control under the bed mounted spool pin.

Just like a Singer 15, these machines are built like tanks, are nearly indestructible, weigh a ton (they are cast iron), and will sew pretty much anything you can get under the foot.

The stitch quality is also exemplary whether you are sewing quilting cotton, or heavier materials like denim or canvas.

This machine is for sale…

The Germans Are Coming

Pfaff 230 Automatic – 1955

Whenever I hear people say working on vintage sewing machines is easy, I ask them if they have ever worked on any of the Pfaff Automatics. 🙂

Removing the cam module on the 230/332 is fairly straightforward (unlike a Pfaff 1222) and this should be done for cleaning and lubrication as you cannot access the lower assemblies with this in place.

It is not difficult to remove the cam module as all you need to do is to remove the spring assembly (2 screws) and then remove the 4 big screws that hold the cam module in place. With that done you can clean the cam module with kerosene and then re-lubricate it with sewing oil.

Before removal make sure that you set the cam module to position 1, and do not engage the cam driver while it is out of the machine as you could throw out the cam positioning.

The rest of the moving assemblies should then be cleaned with kerosene and then re-lubricated with sewing oil, while adjustment to the needle position and zig zag are much more complicated and should be referred to a professional, unless you have very good mechanical skills and a service manual.

All in all, it is a superbly designed machine, the modular cam drive is genius, and I think I prefer working on cranky Pfaffs more than I like working on cranky Berninas.

If the machine is running well and just needs cleaning and lubrication it is a user friendly kind of job, this 230 runs like a top but the zig zag and needle position settings were all bit off.

My “mint” 332 recently had a similar over haul as the zig zag control was completely frozen and it required a lot of disassembly, cleaning, and reassembly before it would run and operate properly.

Pfaff 230/332 cam module with springs removed

This is the heart of a 230/332 automatic and where all the magic happens, the cam module is driven by an eccentric roller on the main shaft whereas other companies like Singer, Bernina, Elna, and Husqvarna used gear driven cams.

Those Germans were always thinking out of the box and this system was used well into the seventies with the Pfaff 1222, although that cam module is much more complex and difficult to remove.

Pfaff 332 Automatic – 1955

My recently acquired Pfaff 332 Automatic is almost “mint” but had been put away for 30 years, and the zig zag control was completely frozen, this should never be forced as you could break or dislodge the dial.

A full disassembly and service was done on this machine and now it is running perfectly, these are such a fast and smooth running machine and they make absolutely perfect stitches.

Pfaff 1222e Cam module

The Pfaff 1222e is a far more complex machine and also utilizes more electronics, this is a machine that is not for the faint of heart when it comes to servicing but again… it is a brilliantly designed machine.

Happy sewing.