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Thread: Kenmore Electric Rotary Sewing Machine or 120-49 is here.

  1. #26
    Super Member J Miller's Avatar
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    Deborah,

    Don't let your heart outsmart your brain. That machine is not a good machine to use. I got mine to sew only after many months of on again - off again working on it. The bushings were seized, the tension was way off, there are no proper needles currently available for it only a few here and there if you can find them. The DBx1F needles do work quite well but you have to seat them out just exactly right. A little bit wrong and it won't pick up the bobbin thread.

    Should you buy it?
    Well, if you want it cos it's ugly and would add something to your collection, go ahead.
    Or if the cabinet is what you want, most other White machines of that vintage and some Kenmores will fit ... I think.
    If you want it to sew with ... pass it by. There is much better Kenmores to be had.

    Joe

  2. #27
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    Hi everyone. I've been working on sewing machines for about 30 years, and have had a few of these 120's. They are some of the strangest sewing machines I have ever used. Strange because they implicitly instruct the owner to never oil the machine, yet if it isn't oiled, it will quit running. PLUS, as Joe mentioned, there are actual oil ports on the motor, which means, IT NEEDS TO BE OILED!! That slays me.

    As far as I can tell, these were semi-bottom of the barrel sewing machines. They were fairly inexpensive and made almost as throw-away machines. They have a stitch length adjustment, using a really strange side to side lever system that no one else has ever employed. You can open the case to get beneath the machine and drop the feed dogs by sliding a nylon bushing out of the way. Not a very practical way to do that, but it works. It is just difficult to imagine a machine like this, that has virtually zero maintenance, and then they expect you to lift the entire machine up so you can fumble around with a difficult to move nylon cam to drop the dogs. Weird.

    Taking everything into consideration, Joe is also probably right about Sears wanting this machine to seize up so that you buy a different one. Since it isn't supposed to be oiled, it isn't user friendly, and you either have to take it in to a Sears store, where they will oil it up, or get a new one. Sears wins both ways financially on this machine through service or selling a new machine.

    Every one I had, and I have one sitting next to me as I write this, every one I had ran like a tank. Yes, the stitches were good, but if a metal machine can be said to be cheap, this would be it. But hey, this is a no muss, no fuss sewing machine that will literally work until it doesn't, and then you are stuck with it after that.

  3. #28
    Super Member J Miller's Avatar
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    The Sewing Guy,

    Welcome to the QB.

    I've got mine working. Took a lot of work but it sews. The only thing is, I dislike it immensely. It's a lousy design but worst of all, there is so little room under the needle bar area I have to use a set of needle nose pliers to change the needles. I can't get my hand in there.
    I keep thinking I'll just sell it, then I change my mind and say I'll use the case for a better machine. Then I hem and haw and say, but I put so much work into it and it does sew now, so why not use it.

    So it sits on the shelf.

    Joe

  4. #29
    Super Member Rodney's Avatar
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    Too bad about the design flaws. I don't see it as an ugly machine at all. I like the sleek lines of it. It does sound like the beginnings of "planned obsolescence" at work though. Sears was pretty much at the front of the pack when it came to that sort of thing.
    Rodney

  5. #30
    Super Member J Miller's Avatar
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    Rodney,

    The looks is what attracted me to it as well. But along with looking good a machine has to work good too. This one does but it's got a few features that make it difficult for me to use.

    Joe

  6. #31
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    Joe, I have acquired this machine myself from a 90 year old friend who is downsizing into a senior residence. She said that it worked (40+ years ago)but like your machine is seized up fiercely. The motor works but will only turn the hand wheel when it is loosened. I can move the reverse lever and a bit of tri flo has got that to move a little easier. So, I want to know hot to get the case off so I can start to oil the rest of the machine. Can you help me out here. Thanks,
    Kathy

  7. #32
    Super Member J Miller's Avatar
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    Kathy,

    On the back of the machine is three or four screws. Remove them and the back comes off. Then there are three or four screws coming in from the back side that hold the front on. A couple are kind of hidden, you'll have to look for them.
    Once those screws are removed the clam shell will come off and you can see how it's built.


    Joe

  8. #33
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    Did it! Thanks. Lots of places to oil. Not sure how this will go but will keep in touch.

    Kathy

  9. #34
    Super Member J Miller's Avatar
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    Kathy,

    Do not oil or grease any of the nylon ( plastic ) bits. They can react with the oil and expand. When that happens the bobbin parts will bind up.

    Also for the top shaft bushings stand the machine on it's end and oil them so the oil will soak down between the shaft and bushings. Those were oil impregnated bushings and the original oil is long dried out. This is where the Tri-Flow oil really shines.
    There are also bushings on the presser foot shaft and needle bar.

    Joe

  10. #35
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    Thank you for the pictures and the great details.

    As I am aging, am learning that the older something is the better it can be.

  11. #36
    Super Member J Miller's Avatar
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    BerninaGirl,

    There are exceptions to that and the Kenmore 120- machines are one of them. I consider them vintage junque. The one I have sits in it's case and is never used. I dislike it that much. I take it out once in a while to clean the case of mold and see if it still turns over.

    There are many better machines out there. If you like Kenmores then try the 117 and 158 series. Some of the best in my opinion anyway.

    Joe

  12. #37
    Senior Member sdhaevrsi's Avatar
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    Any comments on the Kenmore 148 series, Joe? There is one at auction that I am watching. It is just a straight stich with reverse.
    ​Sheri

  13. #38
    Super Member J Miller's Avatar
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    SD,

    The only Kenmore 148 series I've seen was a 15 Clone. The 148 series was made by Soryu in Japan. I do believe I'd give them a good look see and then make up my mind on an individual basis.

    When I suggest models like the 117 and 158 series it's because I have hands on experience with them.

    Joe

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