Before cleaning the handwheel shaft:
After cleaning the handwheel shaft:
I doubted that this machine had ever been cleaned or oiled or maintained properly ever since it left Scotland. The amount of gunk and fluff and dust and coagulated oil and other muck that I found was phenomenal! There was even a dead wasp in the lock-mechanism!
In my quest to clean the machine, I discovered this little knob...
Loosened, and the latch that it holds, turned anticlockwise, the machine can be lifted back on its base, to reveal the storage-compartment underneath:
In there, I found this green 'SINGER' needle packet...with a spare needle still inside:
Opening the compartment also gave me access to the underside of the bobbin mechanism...
Step Four - Oiling the Machine
After giving everything a thorough clean, I commenced the oiling of the machine.
This took about an hour's worth of determination, testing and worry. Through all my examinations of the machine, I was 90% sure that it was not in any way, mechanically damaged. Just old. I was relieved when my belief was correct.
Generous squirts of high-grade machine-oil on all the moving parts, as well as down the generously-supplied oiling-holes, and careful moving of the pistons and rods, finally got the machine running in the ways that it was used to. I ran the machine for several minutes, without thread, to get it moving again and to distribute the oil throughout the moving parts.
Step Five - Cleaning the Outside of the Machine
The machine's interior and mechanisms were clean, the machine was oiled and running. The next step was to clean the exterior. This was pretty easy, except for one issue.
The slide-plate on this machine (which covers the bobbin) has long since disappeared. You may have noticed in the photographs, that the less-than-elegant solution to it's absence was sticky-tape and a piece of balsa-wood.
In removing the tape, I realised that it had left ugly, yucky glue residue all over the shiny base and beautiful gold paintwork. It took a lot of scrubbing and scraping and firm persuasion, but the glue has finally been removed, with no damage to the base (apart from what was already there, from 50 years of nonstop use!)
Step Six - Testing the Machine
With the machine running, I tested its various components. The light still turns on and off, the bobbin-winding mechanism still works and the sewing-mechanism is punching away like a jackhammer on steroids. Everything is hunky dory. Dad suggested that once the machine is fully restored, I should learn how to operate it and start repairing and making clothes like gran used to do.
Step Seven - Finding Parts
Running the machine with a missing slide-plate is like driving your car without the hood. You can do it, but you wouldn't want to do it for very long.
So began the long hunt for replacement parts. Of about a half-dozen people that I consulted (two in the UK, two in the US, and two here in Australia), I was told by all six that replacement parts are extremely hard to come by. The only way to get them is to cannibalize old machines.
Fortunately for me, and unfortunately for them, perhaps, they haven't heard of reproductions.
I was lucky to discover that there are companies that do make reproduction parts for these old machines. So I went hunting.
My first stop was the local sewing-machine shop where I purchased some extra, and original, vintage Singer bobbins for the machine.
The next step was sourcing the original machine-manual. I found it online and printed it out. If anyone else wants it, it may be found here.
After that, I bought another bottle of machine oil (I already had some at home, but that was a big, industrial-sized aerosol can. I bought a smaller, domestic-use bottle, which I can keep with the machine).
Next, I purchased some extra needles, and tossed them into the storage-compartment along with a pair of scissors, a needle-threader, the spare bobbins and the three business-cards that belonged to my grandfather, which my grandmother had kept hidden away for the past sixty years:
Although they only have my grandfather's name on them, they list both his place of employment (the Capitol Studio, which was a photography studio), and my grandmother's clothing-shop (the Kam Seng Beauty Parlour...she shared it with another business). Kam Seng is Cantonese and means "Golden Star". A very poetic and beautiful name.
The next step was possibly the hardest. Finding the replacement slide-plate. I got lucky that I could purchase a reproduction online. Not having a credit or debit-card, this was out of my grasp. Sadly, dad doesn't seem to understand the significance of my project, and was rather slow on the uptake of helping.
After a discussion with a cousin of mine, who lives in Singapore with a branch of my father's side of the family, I told him about my mission to restore our grandmother's machine. He willingly volunteered the $15 required for the new plate. He purchased it online as a gift for me and it's currently on its way. He said he'd keep me informed as to the delivery-progress. My odyssey to restore my grandmother's vintage Singer sewing machine to working condition is almost complete!
Step Eight - A Family History
A restored family heirloom is useless if there's no family to relate it to. So I made it my mission to write a small account of the machine, and its owner, and to place this in the storage-compartment under the machine, for the sake of posterity. Maybe one of my family's descendants will read it one day in the future.
I wasn't sure where to start with this. But in some ways, my grandmother's death was a bit of a blessing in disguise. Because all her necessary life-details (date of birth, place of birth, family etc), were required by the Department of Births, Deaths and Marriages, my dad dredged up as many old family documents as he could find. They're now in a file amongst our important family papers.
I pulled these all out to read through them. They were letters, immigration documents, passports and countless other things. I sifted through them to find the ones that were most interesting and most relevant and started gleaming information from them.
I learnt things from these documents that I never knew before. I'd never seen them in my life. It was the first time I'd ever really bothered to look at them. I learnt things such as...
- The names of my great-grandparents.
- My grandfather's birth-year (I NEVER knew that).
- The precise date of my grandfather's death (I also never knew that!).
- The birth-dates and names of my aunts and uncles.
- The birth-dates and names of my grandmother's three sisters.
- A brief history of my grandmother's education (VERY brief. It was just one line long. Gran didn't have much of an education!)
- The reason why I couldn't find my grandmother's birth-certificate.
- The reason why I couldn't find my grandmother's marriage-certificate (it never existed!)
- My grandmother's two different names, and the reasons behind their difference.
If anyone's interested in reading the account that I wrote, the 'time capsule', as it were, which I intend to put into the storage-compartment under the machine, you're welcome to ask.