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Thread: Singer 500A "Rocketeer" complete restoration

  1. #1
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    Singer 500A "Rocketeer" complete restoration

    Hi everyone,
    I thought you might like to see photos from my complete restoration of a Singer 500A. It's just such a gorgeous machine. I'm pretty sure it was sitting in a portable case for many decades, out of the light and safe from moisture, before it came to me.
    I knew it would at least need heavy lubrication and cleaning, but when I discovered the YouTube channel AndyTube, with its encyclopedic library of Singer restoration and maintenance videos, I was inspired to do a complete teardown and overhaul.
    (AndyTube link: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCUS...tRoz1VA2U1xJ4w)

    Here is "Bernadette" in the Singer Spinet "trapezoid" case that I previously posted about, having modified it to be able to accept a 500A (it was designed for a 301).
    Name:  101.JPG
Views: 304
Size:  316.7 KB

    The four motors I had to choose from. One came out of my machine, another from another machine (the backup!), and the remaining two from separate purchases.
    Name:  110.JPG
Views: 302
Size:  418.2 KB

    Total teardown of the PA 10-8 motor, including removing (driving out violently!) the commutator shaft from the bearing housed in the aluminum casing at right.
    Name:  111.JPG
Views: 303
Size:  698.1 KB

    Pressure-fitting the new bearing onto the commutator shaft, with thanks to Neighbor Dave for the use of the pipe clamps, without which I would have had to locate a hydraulic press somewhere!
    Name:  112.JPG
Views: 302
Size:  425.2 KB

    The vibrating bracket assembly completely disassembled -- this is what swings the needle for zig-zags and patterns.
    Name:  120.JPG
Views: 304
Size:  529.6 KB

    The needle bar driving arm rubber-banded in place along with the rest of the pattern selector assembly, missing the cam stack
    Name:  121.JPG
Views: 304
Size:  416.8 KB

    The pattern selector assembly parts removed -- this was the part that made me the most nervous.
    Name:  122.JPG
Views: 303
Size:  368.3 KB

    Washing day! Literally in the sink with grease remover and water, followed by chasing rust, drying, grease, then oil.
    Name:  130.JPG
Views: 305
Size:  447.1 KB

    All 186 removed parts arranged roughly geographically; they were otherwise stored by groups in plastic zipper bags to keep them organized.
    Name:  140.JPG
Views: 303
Size:  500.5 KB

    It was quite an adventure, and now (I promise) all the parts are back where they should be, lubricated properly, and singing beautifully! I couldn't have done it without Andy!

    Cheers,
    Matt
    Last edited by Rocketeer; 11-09-2019 at 06:18 AM.

  2. #2
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    If you run out of something to do, I have a 401 that I would love to have that treatment. I would never finish the job, however.

    All I can say is, I'm impressed.

    bkay

  3. #3
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    Thanks! I would love to do this to a 401 -- it's just about the same machine, after all. Too bad these are too heavy and precious to sling through shipping on a whim. I am in the Philadelphia area if you're nearby...

    Quote Originally Posted by bkay View Post
    If you run out of something to do, I have a 401 that I would love to have that treatment. I would never finish the job, however.

    All I can say is, I'm impressed.

    bkay

  4. #4
    Super Member cashs_mom's Avatar
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    I love my Rocketeer! They are so great looking! I have the same trapezoid table. I haven't adapted mine but the Rocketeer sits in it just a bit high. Some day . . .
    Patrice S

    Bernina Artista 180, Singer 301a, Featherweight Centennial, Rocketeer, Juki 2200 QVP Mini, White 1964 Featherweight

  5. #5
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    That's awesome Patrice! If you wanted, you could remove that trapezoid-shaped piece inside the cabinet and send it to me, and I could make you a replacement part in about 5 minutes : )

    Quote Originally Posted by cashs_mom View Post
    I love my Rocketeer! They are so great looking! I have the same trapezoid table. I haven't adapted mine but the Rocketeer sits in it just a bit high. Some day . . .

  6. #6
    Super Member juliasb's Avatar
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    First of all congratulations on stepping up to this incredible challenging job! How proud you must be of yourself. Now if you are out for hire I might have one here that could use your touch . Great Job!

  7. #7
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    Wow! What an amazing job, such a beautiful machine. I have a 401A, but I have a longing for a Rocketeer. The Rocketeer is so distinctive and has such cool lines. Thanks for the link to Andy's channel, I know it will come in handy.

    Tammy

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by juliasb View Post
    First of all congratulations on stepping up to this incredible challenging job! How proud you must be of yourself. Now if you are out for hire I might have one here that could use your touch . Great Job!
    Thank you juliasb!!! I have to admit I'm in the "let down" phase when I come home from work and I no longer have a partially-disassembled Rocketeer taunting me on the dining room table! I would love another project, and my understanding is that it's at least just a little easier now that I've disassembled and reassembled the extra-complicated 500A. I'd be up for doing this for hire perhaps in the future : ) I think Andy of AndyTube does it too!

    Quote Originally Posted by ttatummm View Post
    Wow! What an amazing job, such a beautiful machine. I have a 401A, but I have a longing for a Rocketeer. The Rocketeer is so distinctive and has such cool lines. Thanks for the link to Andy's channel, I know it will come in handy.

    Tammy
    Andy's channel is really awesome -- sometimes I watch and listen just to relax after a stressful day! I really credit him with turning me into a Singer Repairman. : )

  9. #9
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    PS-- the official "Installation Ceremony" when I put this machine into the trappy cabinet is tomorrow. The Four Tops "Bernadette" will be playing, and I'll plug her in and rev her up! The first project will be very "meta" -- making a slip cover for the Spinet cabinet to keep the wood from fading. After that, when the materials arrive, I'll be sewing through ballistic nylon and seat belt material to make a winter coat for Harry the doberman!

  10. #10
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    That's impressive! That machine looks like it's brand new.

  11. #11
    Super Member luvstoquilt's Avatar
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    Impressive! That is a beautiful machine. Fun to watch and see if the “bug bites”. I am guessing you will have several machines before very long. It is definitely addictive.��

  12. #12
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    Matt, your work is awesome! Did it run when you first got it? In your opinion, would a "normal" cleaning and lube have gotten it running acceptably? Did your tear down make it "run like new?"

  13. #13
    Super Member liking quilting's Avatar
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    Gasped when I saw all those pieces and could finally breathe again when I read you got it all back together! Whew! I have a Rocketeer 500A too! Want to get it running better...mine is unusually slow. Found a crack in the bottom of the foot pedal, so I replaced the foot pedal and wires. Still running slow. I think if I just just it more and keep it oiled it will loosen up. (fingers crossed).
    Mavis

  14. #14
    Super Member OurWorkbench's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by liking quilting View Post
    Gasped when I saw all those pieces and could finally breathe again when I read you got it all back together! Whew! I have a Rocketeer 500A too! Want to get it running better...mine is unusually slow. Found a crack in the bottom of the foot pedal, so I replaced the foot pedal and wires. Still running slow. I think if I just just it more and keep it oiled it will loosen up. (fingers crossed).
    Have you tried 30W oil at the base of the fiber gear by the hand wheel? This thread is for a 401, but is similar to the 500 https://www.quiltingboard.com/vintag...a-t271809.html

    Janey - Neat people never make the exciting discoveries I do.
    Janey & John

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rocketeer View Post
    Hi everyone,
    I thought you might like to see photos from my complete restoration of a Singer 500A. It's just such a gorgeous machine. I'm pretty sure it was sitting in a portable case for many decades, out of the light and safe from moisture, before it came to me.
    I knew it would at least need heavy lubrication and cleaning, but when I discovered the YouTube channel AndyTube, with its encyclopedic library of Singer restoration and maintenance videos, I was inspired to do a complete teardown and overhaul.
    (AndyTube link: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCUS...tRoz1VA2U1xJ4w)

    Here is "Bernadette" in the Singer Spinet "trapezoid" case that I previously posted about, having modified it to be able to accept a 500A (it was designed for a 301).
    Name:  101.JPG
Views: 304
Size:  316.7 KB

    The four motors I had to choose from. One came out of my machine, another from another machine (the backup!), and the remaining two from separate purchases.
    Name:  110.JPG
Views: 302
Size:  418.2 KB

    Total teardown of the PA 10-8 motor, including removing (driving out violently!) the commutator shaft from the bearing housed in the aluminum casing at right.
    Name:  111.JPG
Views: 303
Size:  698.1 KB

    Pressure-fitting the new bearing onto the commutator shaft, with thanks to Neighbor Dave for the use of the pipe clamps, without which I would have had to locate a hydraulic press somewhere!
    Name:  112.JPG
Views: 302
Size:  425.2 KB

    The vibrating bracket assembly completely disassembled -- this is what swings the needle for zig-zags and patterns.
    Name:  120.JPG
Views: 304
Size:  529.6 KB

    The needle bar driving arm rubber-banded in place along with the rest of the pattern selector assembly, missing the cam stack
    Name:  121.JPG
Views: 304
Size:  416.8 KB

    The pattern selector assembly parts removed -- this was the part that made me the most nervous.
    Name:  122.JPG
Views: 303
Size:  368.3 KB

    Washing day! Literally in the sink with grease remover and water, followed by chasing rust, drying, grease, then oil.
    Name:  130.JPG
Views: 305
Size:  447.1 KB

    All 186 removed parts arranged roughly geographically; they were otherwise stored by groups in plastic zipper bags to keep them organized.
    Name:  140.JPG
Views: 303
Size:  500.5 KB

    It was quite an adventure, and now (I promise) all the parts are back where they should be, lubricated properly, and singing beautifully! I couldn't have done it without Andy!

    Cheers,
    Matt
    That is beautiful. I have a 301 slant. I think that is the model. I love it. Have you seen the group for this machine. I just joined and found them and was thrilled. Check it out.
    [email protected] Group Moderators <[email protected]>

  16. #16
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    I have 2 401s and 2 503s. All were purchased used. They vary greatly in their speed and quietness. I bought my first 503 from a gentleman who had donated it to his church for a sewing class. When the class folded, it was returned to him. I bought it out of his backyard shed. I finally got tired of messing with it as my primary sewer and replaced it with a 401. I bought my second 503 at an estate sale on the final day. It hums perfectly.

    The performance of these machines depend a lot on how they've been treated. My second 401 runs better than the first one. The first one was really stuck together from what appeared to be a once well oiled machine that was left in storage for years. Even thought I cleaned on it for a couple of weeks, it's never been as good as the second one.

    That's just my experience with these machines.

    bkay
    Last edited by bkay; 11-10-2019 at 08:31 AM. Reason: grammar, once again

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by QuiltMom2 View Post
    That's impressive! That machine looks like it's brand new.
    Thanks QuiltMom2! For the looks I can't take full credit -- it really seems to have been in a case and kept out of light and dust for most of its life. The colors are really quite vibrant!

    Quote Originally Posted by luvstoquilt View Post
    Impressive! That is a beautiful machine. Fun to watch and see if the “bug bites”. I am guessing you will have several machines before very long. It is definitely addictive.��
    Womp, womp, too late, luvstoquilt. My first was a 15- from 1954, years ago. It took until I met the Rocketeer to bite, but I also have a ... few others. Mostly really really old : )

    Quote Originally Posted by J3General View Post
    Matt, your work is awesome! Did it run when you first got it? In your opinion, would a "normal" cleaning and lube have gotten it running acceptably? Did your tear down make it "run like new?"
    Thank you J3General!! It did run, but sounded gunky. I suspect a normal cleaning and lube would have been sufficient, but I saw AndyTube's videos, and the challenge of understanding the function of every part got the better of me. I think it runs pretty well now and sews beautifully, though I'm struggling with some adjustments, mostly around tension.

    Quote Originally Posted by liking quilting View Post
    Gasped when I saw all those pieces and could finally breathe again when I read you got it all back together! Whew! I have a Rocketeer 500A too! Want to get it running better...mine is unusually slow. Found a crack in the bottom of the foot pedal, so I replaced the foot pedal and wires. Still running slow. I think if I just just it more and keep it oiled it will loosen up. (fingers crossed).
    Remember, Mavis, grease for gears and oil for everything else! The foot pedal is often a culprit. I find the machine labors a bit on the pattern stitches... the motor really isn't supposed to be lubricated but I agree with Janey that those old bearings can get gummy, and short of replacing them (not an option for most) anything you can do is probably better than nothing.
    But yes, I held my breath for weeks! There were some nights (particularly with the pattern assembly) when I stared at the machine and said "I can't!" until I just jumped in. I took a lot of photos and notes along the way, and that along with the service manual and the AndyTube videos made sure I could get back to "home base."

    Quote Originally Posted by bkay View Post
    I have 2 401s and 2 503s. All were purchased used. They vary greatly in their speed and quietness. I bought my first 503 from a gentleman who had donated it to his church for a sewing class. When the class folded, it was returned to him. I bought it out of his backyard shed. I finally got tired of messing with it as my primary sewer and replaced it with a 401. I bought my second 503 at an estate sale on the final day. It hums perfectly.

    The performance of these machines depend a lot on how they've been treated. My second 401 runs better than the first one. The first one was really stuck together from what appeared to be a once well oiled machine that was left in storage for years. Even thought I cleaned on it for a couple of weeks, it's never been as good as the second one.

    That's just my experience with these machines.

    bkay

    So interesting bkay, and I'm finding that I'm worried this machine may just be a bit of a slow runner. The bit I haven't mentioned yet is like a quote out of the movie Contact where John Hurt's SR Hadden tells Jodie Foster's Eleanor Arroway about the existence of a *second machine* -- "Why buy one when you can have two at twice the price?" I have a second 500 and the colors are a bit more faded, but I'm going to run it a bit and see if I need to repeat my teardown. In the end I'm really after the best performance.

  18. #18
    Super Member leonf's Avatar
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    So impressed with what you have done here. And I have rebuilt 4 barrel carbs. I love the picture with all the parts you took off laid out. I haven't made out underbed pieces here. Am I just jaded by my older models, or are they still on the head.? Bearing or busing on the commutator shaft? Fascinating.
    My greatest fear is all of my family standing around my coffin and talking about "how sensible" he was.

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by leonf View Post
    So impressed with what you have done here. And I have rebuilt 4 barrel carbs. I love the picture with all the parts you took off laid out. I haven't made out underbed pieces here. Am I just jaded by my older models, or are they still on the head.? Bearing or busing on the commutator shaft? Fascinating.
    Hey leonf, thanks! You're right -- I left the rock shaft et al. in place. After I had done everything else, I just got a little too nervous about putting all those shafts back in place and recalibrating them, though I did manage to adjust the feed dog height. There's a lot of eccentric things down there.
    As for the bearing, I used MRC 37FF (https://www.motionindustries.com/pro...p?sku=00039888) that I bought from my "bearing guy" Jon -- one of the many folks I've made lovely connections with surrounding the need for parts or tools for this project. Replacing it was harrowing. I had to pound the shaft down through the old bearing until it popped out, remove the bearing from the silver aluminum half of the motor housing, press the new bearing back into that housing with the aid of washers that matched the size of the outer race, and then -- this is the craziest part -- locate sections of metal cuffing that were wide enough to fit snugly around the shaft but small enough only to contact the *inner* race, so I wouldn't stress the bearing by applying opposing pressure to the two races. I found the stuff at Bolt Depot, one of my favorite suppliers. You can see two of the metal collars taped together in the pipe clamps photo. I had to have them in sections so I could press the bearing onto the shaft in increments.
    Actually I didn't *have* to do any of this -- the old bearing was spinning nicely and I suspect that even though they're not supposed to be re-lubricated, the fact that it's only piloting the shaft rather than actually bearing any weight means a little re-lubrication would have worked fine. But I'm sometimes a perfectionist and wanted to feel that my 500A was the best it could be. I also love a mechanical challenge!

  20. #20
    Super Member leonf's Avatar
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    My hat is off to you, sir. I once torched a bearing off a rear axle on a 66 Chevy. then I still had to take the axle to a press to get the new one on. isn't it fun to learn?

    I have an ol d VS White where I suspect some heavy handed person put a puller on the rim of the balance wheel to try to get it off. Of coure, it broke. Glad you are so patient.
    My greatest fear is all of my family standing around my coffin and talking about "how sensible" he was.

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by leonf View Post
    My hat is off to you, sir. I once torched a bearing off a rear axle on a 66 Chevy. then I still had to take the axle to a press to get the new one on. isn't it fun to learn?

    I have an ol d VS White where I suspect some heavy handed person put a puller on the rim of the balance wheel to try to get it off. Of coure, it broke. Glad you are so patient.

    Thanks! Patience is definitely learned - a while back I blew the needle bar clamp cam off an 1899 Singer 27 by using it and the needle bar to stop the horizontal arm shaft while I twisted off the sticky handwheel. That one hurt, inside. I hadn't yet heard of penetrating oil. Thankfully 27 parts are easy to come by!
    None of these things are barrel carbs tho...whew! I wouldn't even know where to start with a car.

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