Saturday, January 5, 2008
Singerama - Another Spiraling project
Edit: I just found out that it was made on June 28, 1941!! That makes it 66 years old and I'd call it's condition immaculate. Interestingly, this was during the war, so I guess that means that they were still producing them on a small scale while they were making munitions for the war effort, presumably to either keep money coming in or to provide people with the means to create uniforms and things for soldiers, perhaps both.
The best thing is that Pants' grandmother was definitely working there then. I like to think that she was a part of the creation of this beautiful machine that's made it's way half way across the world to be owned by her only grandson, living in the dining room of her son. It's serendipitous.
The (admitedly rather boring looking) antique cabinet in my earlier post is actually more exciting than you would think, because this is what's hiding in it's guts.
It's a poor photo, taken in the crowded garage (excuse the XR and the MGB) in fading light, but it's a Singer 201k, thought by many to be the greatest sewing machine made by the Singer corp.
We bought this on our road trip, from the same place as the Bandit (what can I say? We got a good deal). A few days earlier, we saw one at a market in Canberra that was four times the price and the veneer on the top was a mess and it had some serious UV fading.
I wanted it, though. We agreed that we would do some research and have a look at some others before we bought one. We saw a few more (even more expensive ones) in Braidwood on our way to the coast, then found this one on our last day, when I jokingly said to Pants, 'if we buy the pokie machine, we need a treddle sewing machine, too' and the antique store owner unearthed it from the back of the shop.
So, we strapped them both in the back of the land rover and brought them back to Sydney.
We showed Pants' da, because we wanted some advice on how to clean it, and he got really excited and pointed out the Manufactured in GB decal, telling me that that meant it was made in Scotland (because if it was made en Angleterre, it would say so specifically), then went on to tell me that they were made in Glasgow (well, he said 'glasgeh', but I'm pretty sure that's what he meant!) and that his mother used to work in the Singer factory in Clydebank.
She was a supervisor there during the war when they were making ammunition and Pants' da says that she has heaps of rad (ok, he didn't say rad, he probably said something unintelligibly Glaswegian) photos from the time, including one of the ladies on a break, wearing their dungarees and head scarves. I can't wait to check them out when I visit in September (YAY!) for a family wedding, I'll try to scan some, because it sounds totally Rosie the Riveter to me.
Anywho, it's a 201k, originally a treddle machine that's had the treddie disconnected and upgraded (though it still works and we're probably going to disconnect it and use it as a treddlie) with an aftermarket bakelite Singer motor and light, which you can kind of see in the photo below.
It has the paperclips design and I *think* it may be a centenial version from 1950, but I'm awaiting confirmation. It would tickle me if it was made when Pants' grandmother was working there, that would be fantastic.
All in all, it's a gorgeous machine and we're really happy with it. It was a bit less of a project than we thought it would be, considering it was all working (including the lightbulb!) and the cabinet was in great condition. It even has the key to the drawer, the manuals, an advertisment for the motor add-on and a bunch of feet, including a ruffler, a quilting foot, pintuck foot, bias binding foot, rolled hem foot and more.
We couldn't find much information on restoring antique Singer sewing machines, so this is what we did.
First of all, it's important (to us, certainly, and to collectors) that we didn't change anything on the machine, it was really all about cleaning for us.
We used a car wash, duluted in water to clean the actual machine. It's painted metal with gold decals, so take care and make sure to wring out the cloth you're using. We gave it a pretty good scrub, actually, because it had quite a bit of hardened machine oil all over the place.
Ours looked like there had been a protective film or lacquer on the machine that was coming off, but it turns out that it was old oil, so we cleaned and buffed it off.
Once we (and by we, I kind of mostly mean Pants' da) had removed all of the oil, we used a car polish to give the machine an once-over and buffed it up to a high shine. All of the chrome parts were cleaned with a car chrome polish, to remove any rough bits and surface rust.
Do not use car cleaner or polish on any bakelite parts, 60 y/o bakelite is really brittle and should only be dusted with a soft cloth. In this instance, it's also where all of the electrical bits of the motor live and you should certainly take care with a 60 y/o motor and it's wiring.
Then, we moved onto the cabinet. All of the hinges are in great condition and the spring-loaded arm that holds the top open works, too, so we just used a bit of teak oil on the wood, rubbing it in along the grain, leaving it for ten minutes and buffing it off, paying particular attention to the bit on top where the two leaves join.
Hope this helps someone get the most out of their anitque Singer.
Ours looks fantastic and is now (temporarily) residing in Pants' mother's dining room, until we move and steal it back from her.