Last weekend ended with a huge win. Of the two ads that responded to me, the machine we looked at last came home with us. The picture below is what I saw in the ad. If you squint really hard, you can make out that it’s a model 15, but the picture isn’t giving a lot more than that away. The bentwood case though caught my attention.
I sent the seller the following volley of questions:
Hello! Do you have any clearer pictures of this machine? It looks like a Model 15, but I can’t tell which one. Does the machine have an external belt, or a motor mounted up by the hand wheel, and no belt that you can see? Does the case have a key? Does the machine run? Do the wires from the motor to the plug look worn, cracked or gooey? What is the serial number? ( I can look up information if I’m wrong about it being a 15, and date it as well) .
The following two pictures are what he sent me along with this reply:
Serial #JC547134 external belt (missing) but motor works good. Everything else is in fairly good shape.
I looked up the serial number, and determined it to be a 1948 model. The belt makes it a 15-90. If I’d looked really closely at the seller’s first image from his email, I may have seen the surprise that was waiting for me. I’d noticed that both the original picture and the one he’d sent by email had the machine in its case, but on the same table, which looked like it was the same color and wood type as the case. I didn’t ask, but wondered if the table was part of the sale.
Can’t tell a lot about the wiring from this picture, but I figured it was worth a look anyway. I’ve wired up motors before, this one should be easier to replace if the worst happens and I can’t repair it too.
I made an appointment with the seller to go see it. When I walked in, and saw what’s in the image below, I was more than a little surprised.
A Centennial model? But the serial number is for a 1948. On the way home, Ryan reminded me of some reading that he’d done somewhere on the Internet that explained this phenomenon. Singer allocated a batch of numbers all at once. This is why they can’t pinpoint a machine’s date of birth, only the date that the serial number batch was allocated. They did not have a factory produce a million machines in a day, then let them take the next year or more off. The factories spent the next year, or in this case, the St. Jean sur Richelieu factory took more than 3 years to go through that batch of serial numbers.
Now the centennial badges were another story. The badges only went on the machines just before they went out the door. Machines leaving the factory in 1951 received the centennial badge. Not the machines from the same serial number batch that left in 1950, and not the ones from 1952. The reading that Ryan did suggested that Singer was concerned that people buying a 1952 machine wouldn’t want the centennial badge, because it would indicate that the machine was last year’s model. (Though I had no idea that home seamstresses of the day were as fickle as modern day motocross riders and their “gear”. Ok,.. if you were a rider, or someone who lives with one, you’d get that, and likely be cleaning up the coffee you’d just spit on the screen.)
We obviously brought the machine home, table and all, and I cleaned it up. First the wood, which was extremely dry. More of the Howard’s Feed’n'Wax treatment. What a difference. The table will still require a refinishing, the shellac was damaged by someone putting a glass or bowl on it which left a couple of rings. The Howard’s is to protect it until I can get to it. In all honesty, after the cleaning and Feed’n'Wax, it really doesn’t look that bad unless you get really close to it. The bentwood top needed to be repaired on the front right corner. I took care of that the first night. The trim you see on the bottom had come unglued. The dowel that was supposed to hold it was still there, but it was sliding freely. Additionally, in the same area, a little bit of the plywood was separating. Copious amounts of glue and an overnight hug from a bar clamp, and today, you’d never know it was repaired.
The seller had indicated to me that there were no attachments, and no key for the machine. When we arrived though, I looked in the drawer, and found the buttonholer and the manual. The “Drawer” to the right of the machine in the case revealed the other attachments: Ruffler (donated to the style box that was missing one), Tucker (Blackside), Foot Hemmer, Binder, adjustable hemmer (blackside) and a seam guide, with thumbscrew. As I made the find, the seller’s wife came out, and said she’d known about the items in the drawers, and of course they were included. She said she’d picked the machine up at a garage sale a few years ago.
The table was of real interest to me, because it’s quite different than the ones I’ve seen to date. This one is always full size, no leaf to move about. Of course, that causes some issues with space. at the moment, the machine lives in front of the closet. Good thing I don’t need in there very often.
The table can be used in 2 different configurations: as a flat table (though in practice, the leaf is a little unstable)Or by dropping the leaf, and setting the machine, in its case, inside the hole. This gives an almost flat surface from the bed of the machine to the flat of the table.
It’s an interesting system they’ve used. It’s basically just a wedge. In this position, the leaf stays up at the top.
In this position, the leaf drops down to rest inside a couple of brackets at both of the long ends.
Now the machine wasn’t without it’s blemishes. Wiring mostly. I had to rewire the light all the way to the connector. And I had to rewire the connector.
Luckily, I had a spare wire-set laying around, so other than the belt (which we picked up on the way home), the machine has only required time of me so far. (Though this may change if I buy a key on ebay, and order the new grease wick that I feel the motor should have. More on that shortly.)
The biggest challenge by far with the female connector (goes to the wall and also to the foot pedal) is the strain relief knot. The space is pretty tight in there, so it has to be done exactly. It took me 2 hours. More on the strain relief knot, or underwriter’s knot here.
Once that was finished, I oiled up the machine, and took it for a test spin. The machine didn’t run as fast as the 15-91 by quite a bit. Thinking that the belt might be a little tight, I futzed with it for a bit. Nope, not too tight. Maybe it’s in need of some grease. I added grease to the grease tubes, and ran it for a few minutes. The smell wasn’t what I’m used to for a neglected machine.
With a sigh, I resigned myself to some motor work. I took the grease tubes out, and found that they really hadn’t been doing their job. On the one side, the grease wick looked black and fairly dry. On the other side, the wick was dry, and there was a crust of grease above it, blocking the addition of new grease. Well. That explains the smell I guess.
I greased the motor with the tubes out, and turned the pulley by hand for a bit. I washed the grease wicks with a little dawn and water, then left them to dry. (I would have replaced them, but I didn’t have any on hand, and the discussion in this blog post seems to say that washing them will do in a pinch.) I will be ordering some shortly, once I figure out what wick I need. I believe it to be 1/8″, which -may- be the same as for the featherweight. The kicker so far is that I’ve found 3 different singer numbers for the featherweight wick, and two for the 15-90. Once I’ve sorted that, I’ll order the wick.
The next evening, I put the wicks back in, and added more grease. I put some fabric under the presser foot and “let ‘er rip”. I operated the pedal while Ryan monitored for unnatural heat in the motor. At first, the motor was a little slow, but after a few minutes, we both noticed that this little machine was speeding up to rival the 15-91. Yay! Success! A happy machine once again. Better still, the coolest running motor of all of the electric machines in the room.
Now, I just have to find a name for this one.