Friday, January 23, 2015

A Singer 500A Joins the Herd, and Brings Some Much Needed Therapy

It's 2:00 a.m, and I'm wide awake. I should have known this would happen - I went to bed just after 9pm, and I don't usually sleep for more than a few hours at a time. I can't remember the last time I slept a solid 7-8 hours. But the nice thing is, the house is quiet - Michel and the birds are sleeping - so it's a good time to write about another machine I recently refurbished.

Back during the Spring, a customer asked me to be on the look-out for a Singer 500 (aka, Rocketeer) for her daughter as a Christmas present. She had purchased the Singer 403 from me, and was now hooked on the Slant series machines. I found one at a locally advertised estate sale, where they also had five other machines - two of which were gorgeous treadles. But alas, since I acquired my Eldredge Two Spool, I've run out of room for more treadles. I bought the Rocketeer, complete with the original cabinet, accessory box and manual for a great price, especially given the "cult" status that these machines seems to be gaining. There was also a non-matching sewing chair with storage in another part of the house. I still kick myself in the behind for not getting it; it was priced just a few dollars more than the machine and cabinet; and I can always use an extra sewing bench.

I removed the machine head from the cabinet; disassembled the cabinet and loaded her into the trunk of my sedan. (I really need a truck for this things.) From first appearances, she didn't look too bad, though it was evident she had spent several years relegated to the non-climate controlled basement apartment, while the "newer" Singer Stylist took her place as the previous owner's primary machine.

But under closer inspection, the vast majority of the machine's surface looked like this:
I know I've said it before, but I'll say it again - I love the GoJo non-pumice hand cleaner. It is gentle, yet effective.

I didn't test the 500's motor before I made the purchase. I rarely test electric machines out in the wild; God knows when the last time they were used, and in what condition the wiring may be in. I always assume the power and foot cords will need replacing, and I am pleasantly surprised when that isn't the case. I tested the machine when I returned home. OUCH! The motor sounded horrible. But I recognized the sound...the upper bearing grease was dried out. It helps when you've had the same issue before.  I also tried running through the built-in stitch patterns, but the selector knobs where stuck and gummed up from old oil. After going through and assessing what needed to be repaired, replaced and serviced, I called the customer and we agreed upon a price and a time-frame.

Since I had a copy of the Service Manual for this machine, I decided that I would completely remove the entire top-end stitch selector mechanism. It was intimidating at first, but with the manual by my side, and my grandmother's 401 as backup, it went rather well. It was much easier to clean out the old, dried, gummed oil with each part removed and soaked in an industrial cleaner. I'm now planning on doing this to my grandmother's machine in the near future.

With the manual in hand, I also decided to completely remove the hook and bobbin assembly. I'm always leery about doing that, especially on geared machines where the mesh is set at the factory. But again, following the manual's guidelines, it went smoothly. I wish I had taken a before picture of the bobbin area; it was horrendous.

It took about a good week and a half to completely finish the overhaul. I serviced the motor, as well as replaced the power cord, cleaned and adjusted the foot controller and I even waxed and polished the cabinet.

Once I test stitched the machine in, I decided to finally make the quilt top out of my dad's old shirts. I had been putting this project off, because in my mind, it really drove home the fact that Dad was gone.  But something said it was time, and this machine was the one to do it.

The machine performed flawlessly, and making that quilt top was more therapeutic than I could have ever imagined. It was just a simple rail fence pattern, but every block sparked a memory - some good, some not so good. The quilt made me realize just how much I miss my dad every day. And it made me grateful for the things I learned from my dad. He taught me how to rebuild old car motors, which in a way, sparked my love for all things old and mechanical - especially sewing machines.  And working on this machine was therapeutic as well. It had been a while since I had done a complete tear down and rebuild; and this machine kept my mind busy through November and the anniversary of Dad's passing. Here's the quilt top:

Once completely satisfied the machine was ready for its new home, I called the customer. The final price was less than we had agreed upon in my estimate. About two days later, she called and said she no longer wanted the machine. To say I was irritated is an understatement. So, the Singer 500 has now joined the herd until I decide to list it for sale. It may just stay permanently - every time I walk by it, I now think of Dad and how much better I feel now with the help of that machine. Maybe the customer backing out of the deal was a sign. I'll take it as such.

I'm making Michel a nice button-down shirt with it now. It's McCall's 6044. I've made it before, but this time I'm trying version B, without the pocket; Michel said "no pocket".

Until next time, smile randomly at someone you meet and make their day.

1 comment:

Michelle said...

You did a beautiful job. Crappy the customer changed their mind, but those machines are some of the BEST!!!! Enjoy it til you decided to let it go.