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-   -   Cleaning and repairing the Shellac clear coat on Vintage sewing machine heads (https://www.quiltingboard.com/vintage-antique-machine-enthusiasts-f22/cleaning-repairing-shellac-clear-coat-vintage-sewing-machine-heads-t193635.html)

Toggpine 10-22-2015 08:32 AM

Thanks for not running me out for trying something differently!
Dairy-Du is made by AN-FO manufacturing. It comes in a powder form. You may have to order it in larger quantities than is handy. Depending on your proximity to dairy cow farms, it can be hard to get. I buy it in 15# pails and it takes me a couple of years to go through it, even using in the house for regular dish washing. If you can't find it, let me know and I'll figure out how to mail you some.
Has anyone tried warming these formulas when using them? (Not direct heat, but by placing in hot water bath to warm it.)
Hubby brought home the Naptha last night! Whoo Hoo! One more checked off the ingredient list!

HelenAnn 10-23-2015 06:13 PM

Toggpine thanks , I know a few dairy farmers I might be able to get some from.

FiddleMySticks 11-16-2015 05:32 PM

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Wow, this is an amazing resource for restoration newbies such as myself!

A friend recently picked up what appears to be a Singer 66-16 at a thrift shop for me. It's dirty, but not the worst I've seen after hours of reading about restoration. Needs a new power cable (and probably motor), slide plate and spool pin, but seems intact otherwise. Surprisingly, the mechanisms all move fairly smoothly and there seems to be only minor rust on the access plate.

The thing that concerns me a bit is that it appears that someone has painted over the mechanism on the underside of the machine. The bars are not silver (or even dirty brown) - they are matte black. I can't imagine that would be the original finish on them.

There are also a few pits on the bed where it looks like the japanning cracked and flaked off and was painted over. Otherwise, decals are intact and the head seems to be in decent shape. Any thoughts on the odd finish on the underside? I took photos of the machine, but forgot to snag one of the underside.


FiddleMySticks 11-16-2015 06:04 PM

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It's dark outside, but I snapped a few photos of the underside with my phone. Original finish? Paint? Old oil making the bars look black?


My apologies for posting twice. Just hoping to give good background!

Glenn 12-10-2015 03:30 PM

Looks like the original finish. The mechanics need to be cleaned. Nothing to worry about.

DavidH 01-02-2016 07:30 AM


I have a question about the my chipped paint around the base. I'm thinking about using testor's gloss black enamel to cover the bear metal and then adding a light coat or two of shellac. good as any or is there a better way. I'm not looking for a show machine just a good looking work machine with my 15-90

David Hair

Glenn 01-02-2016 09:21 AM

Yes this will work fine for that David. You can build up the layers of paint level with the original finish just let paint dry before adding more coats.

DavidH 01-02-2016 12:06 PM

Thanks Glenn,
I've just got through reading all 55 pages going back to the first page often. I thought I had read some where in the thread you had used that paint for the edges. I have the 15-90 I'm just wanting to clean well and use. My 31-15 is a different story. Someone has painted it with a brush a nice gloss black with ridges somewhere in it's past. I think I'm just going to strip it then prime and paint with auto enamel. Maybe a coat of shellac on top, but most likely just a coat of wax for protection. Since this is to be used as a heavy sew machine I just want it clean. The problem I think I'm going to have with it is the taking it apart to strip and not getting it back together where it will sew. Do you know where I can get a good service and adjustment manual for the 31-15. Is there a generic manual that tells you the principles of the vintage machine working.

David Hair

Glenn 01-02-2016 12:19 PM

David, I would not recommend taking the machine apart. I would take all the shinny metal bits off the machine including the hand wheel. You can wet sand the machine smooth using wet or dry sand paper. I use mineral oil for the wetting agent on the paper. Use finer paper (800 grit) for the final sanding. Last step would be to rub it down with fine rubbing compound. When it is smooth to your liking you can then repaint and clear coat. If smooth enough and the paint is all there you can just clear coat it with shellac.

ArchaicArcane 01-02-2016 12:28 PM

There are a couple of US military manuals I found that detail some care and feeding. The machine itself has few differences (other than the size) from a 15. Find one adjuster's manual for a 15 and you have the basics for both.

One main difference with the 31-15 is that it's timed by the needlebar only as far as I saw. The Adjuster's manual for the 15 says the timing is factory set but people say they time them. I've never had to. Those suckers take a beating and don't go out of time. I've had them show up with just a 1/4 of a needle left and the needleplates looking like they've been used for target practice.

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