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Thread: When is a machine "just not worth it"?

  1. #1
    Super Member J Miller's Avatar
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    When is a machine "just not worth it"?

    Not because of parts replacement or adjustments, but because of the horrid amount of cleaning required to just get the machine useable.

    A month or so ago I got a Singer 127 with a Chinese hand crank along with a 500 and a 185K from a forum member. The 185 took very little work to get it up and running. I actually had to do more repairs on the plastic case bottom than I did the machine. My wife stole it from me.

    The 500 took about $35.00 or so worth of parts and a lot of cleaning, but it sews sooooooooo nice now.

    The 127 .... I'm still cleaning it. I put the hand crank on Rusty and was contemplating on putting the 127 in a treadle.
    But, I have never seen a sewing machine as grungy and filthy with built up, varnished, and solidified oil. Inside the machine is black. It honestly looks like an old car engine after 100,000 miles and only a few oil changes. That burnt on crud that looks like what you find in an oven that's not cleaned enough.
    I'm almost betting it was oiled with the old cheap bulk car oil you used to buy in the glass bottles with the metal funnel built on the lid.

    Kerosene wouldn't touch it. I had to buy a new jug of Hoppe's #9 to get started and that stunk the house up really bad. (Small house, too cold outside.) Once done with that I used denatured alcohol on cotton balls and q-tips to try to finish up with. But I'm still not done. Black icky cruddy oil residue is still leaching out of every nook and cranny. Yesterday I put it back together. I've cleaned everything and every place I can reach. But the Tri-Flow is dissolving some of the cruddy stuff so I've had to wipe it down a couple times now.
    I've also been using cotton balls and oil on the outside and although I've gotten it cleaner, every time I run an oiled cotton ball over it, it's dirty.

    I've had to replace one faceplate screw and the front slide plate. The slide plate that was on it wasn't correct and I had a correct one. Then I had to adjust the height of the feed dogs. That is all I've done to this machine other than cleaning.
    Now I find that the top tension spring is so over strong I cannot get it to sew with the nob and spring on the tension. It simply will not allow the thread to pass through the discs. I borrowed the spring off my 66-1 and it sews perfect, so one more part to replace.

    Then what? Is it worth using? Should I hunt up a treadle base for it? Put a motor on it and put it in a case? Boat anchor, door stop ............... I don't know. I'm just venting I guess. Sometimes I put way to much time in these things. If it wasn't for the decals, or what's left of them, I would have taken it to a machine shop and had them hot tank it like an engine block.

    So, when is a machine just not worth the time and effort it takes to clean it? A rhetorical question really, as I don't know when to quit.

    Joe

  2. #2
    Super Member Candace's Avatar
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    Have you tried liquid wrench on the insides? That dissolves grease really well. Of course, it can damage paint so one has to be careful. But, it sure helped me today on my Pfaff 130. I worked on it with triflow and a hair dryer for about 6 hours before I doused it with liquid wrench and the gunk came off in seconds.

    I'm with you on the when to give up thing.

  3. #3
    Super Member J Miller's Avatar
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    No I didn't use the Liquid Wrench on this one. Don't know why either, I have two cans of it sitting on the shelf. Well, it's still not clean inside, so I just might use the Liquid Wrench.

    Joe

  4. #4
    Super Member Mitch's mom's Avatar
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    Too bad you have such a small area. PB Blaster is my weapon of choice for the really bad ones. It does stink to high heaven though.
    I have a 31-15 head that kept dripping black gunk. I had finally had enough and took it to a do it yourself car wash. I washed it out with soap and water under light pressure then rinsed it really well - 3.00 worth of quarters - but it worked! I let it drip dry then gave it a light oiling. No more black gunk dripping from it, in fact it is sitting on the floor with nothing under it to catch drips. If the decals are shot on the 127 the car wash might be something to consider.

  5. #5
    Power Poster miriam's Avatar
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    Car wash? ARGH... I have used some harsh chemicals on machines - but I have to really watch that I do it only out doors - I have some serious health problems from prior chemical exposure. I have to work very fast, get out of the area and then I drink a LOT of water. I have a gummy 401 I need to clean up some more - seems like the more places dried oil can go the more dried up gunk you get...
    NEVER let a sewing machine know you are in a hurry.
    good mothers let you lick the beaters - great mothers turn it off first

  6. #6
    Super Member Mitch's mom's Avatar
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    I wouldn't take an electric machine to a car wash and the 31-15 was an extreme case. It had been stored in a barn and smelled up the whole house. It was pretty nasty, partly from being in a factory setting for years then in a damp barn until it came to live on my floor.

  7. #7
    Super Member J Miller's Avatar
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    I'm pretty sure this 127 would classify as an extreme case. YUCK. I'm about 80 % finished cleaning it. I'm going to borrow the top tension spring off of my 66-1 and test sew with it today. Depending on how that works will decide it's fate.

    The idea of running it through a car wash using the high pressure wand intrigues me. ( Do we have a devil icon here?)

    Joe

  8. #8
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    If you look on Dave McCallum's site he has a post where he opened the spool pin cover on a featherweight. Then he sat it in the sink and ran hot water and dawn detergent through it and cleaned it with a bottle brush and a toothbrush.

  9. #9
    Junior Member makitmama's Avatar
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    The only time I have gotten extreme in my year of doing this was a completely frozen rusty gunky machine that had mud daubers nests in it from it's stay in the barn. I put the whole head in a 5 gallon jug of kerosene. The guy wanted me to take the treadle base too- and every drawer was packed full of wasp nests, just like the machine.
    it did free up, and I made it a parts machine.
    Cil



    I'm a Queen.... at least my pantyhose say I am!


    (proud caretaker of a magenta 221, purple 222, assorted 66's, a 301, a pink Atlas and Monarch, and Granny's 201-2.

  10. #10
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    I did some cleaning on my 1914 treadle and I used Super Clean which is an engine degreaser. It did a good job and did not seem to hurt the machine.. Just be sure to wear rubber gloves..It is hard on the hands otherwise..

  11. #11
    Super Member Candace's Avatar
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    Dishwasher anyone? LOL.

  12. #12
    Super Member J Miller's Avatar
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    Engine degreaser just might have done the trick. Some brands has a squirt nozzle too. That is an idea to try.

    Joe

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    "Worth it", Joe, did you really say that? After reading so many of these discussions with all the help you have provided, I decided "Worth" is an accumulation of lots of things, like:
    1. Patience -- at least a ton is required before it's not worth it.
    2. Elbow grease -- need more than that 5 gallons needed of kerosene.
    3. Money -- no limit helps.
    4. Parts -- this requires a number of similar machines because you can't disable any working ones you have.
    5. Sincere appreciation of OSMs.

    I'd say if you have at least two of the above, your machine is worth saving.

    Keep up the good work, Joe!

  14. #14
    Senior Member haylillan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Candace View Post
    Dishwasher anyone? LOL.
    have you used a disher? sounds likegood idea
    esther

  15. #15
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    And when you are done you will have an old black machine that only does a straight stitch and practically no one will want it anyway. Personally I would spend my time and money on something more worthwhile. To each their own! I don't think every old machine needs to be "saved". Scrap metal has many uses.

  16. #16
    Super Member J Miller's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Wintersewer View Post
    And when you are done you will have an old black machine that only does a straight stitch and practically no one will want it anyway. Personally I would spend my time and money on something more worthwhile. To each their own! I don't think every old machine needs to be "saved". Scrap metal has many uses.
    Yep, just like the other old black machines that only does straight stitches and I refurbed. I use them more than any of the ZZ machines I have, so at least one somebody wants them.

    Joe

  17. #17
    Power Poster miriam's Avatar
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    HA - I bet more than enough people use straight stitch 95% of the time anyway. Go figure.
    NEVER let a sewing machine know you are in a hurry.
    good mothers let you lick the beaters - great mothers turn it off first

  18. #18
    Super Member JudyTheSewer's Avatar
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    Yes Miriam. I've always wanted a good straight stitch machine. I grew up using a Singer 66 crinkle machine and the only thing it wasn't good at was sewing knits due to no stretch stitches. My cousin always thinks the more stitches on the machine the better. Not me. Different strokes for different folks. I probably use the non-straight stitches on my computer machines 1% of the time. I find a zigzag useful and the hem stitch but other than that I don't use the fancy stitches much. I prefer hand embroidery to the machine embroidery any day. I don't own an embroidery machine and assume I never will. I also do not own a serger. I DO own many straight-stitch-only machines and enjoy each of their personalities!

  19. #19
    Power Poster miriam's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JudyTheSewer View Post
    Yes Miriam. I've always wanted a good straight stitch machine. I grew up using a Singer 66 crinkle machine and the only thing it wasn't good at was sewing knits due to no stretch stitches. My cousin always thinks the more stitches on the machine the better. Not me. Different strokes for different folks. I probably use the non-straight stitches on my computer machines 1% of the time. I find a zigzag useful and the hem stitch but other than that I don't use the fancy stitches much. I prefer hand embroidery to the machine embroidery any day. I don't own an embroidery machine and assume I never will. I also do not own a serger. I DO own many straight-stitch-only machines and enjoy each of their personalities!
    If I ever need any embroidery work done by machine I'll hire someone to do it - should save me thousands of dollars and a lot of frustration unless I NEED a lot of machine embroidery for some reason.
    NEVER let a sewing machine know you are in a hurry.
    good mothers let you lick the beaters - great mothers turn it off first

  20. #20
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    Please, please, be careful breathing fumes from any solvents. Several of my friends who have had exposure to solvents have developed bladder cancer, pancreatic cancer and liver cancer. Physicians said it was from exposure to those solvents. A printer from Illinois had cancer from cleaning his printing presses. Don't know how much it takes, but please take precautions, gloves and respirators. Live is too short anyway.

  21. #21
    Super Member Candace's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DonnaMiller View Post
    Please, please, be careful breathing fumes from any solvents. Several of my friends who have had exposure to solvents have developed bladder cancer, pancreatic cancer and liver cancer. Physicians said it was from exposure to those solvents. A printer from Illinois had cancer from cleaning his printing presses. Don't know how much it takes, but please take precautions, gloves and respirators. Live is too short anyway.
    Wow. I've never thought about this. I don't even wear gloves:< I wonder if Triflow is toxic? I guess I'd better start wearing protection. I'd never thought about it!! Thank you.

  22. #22
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    Re: Oiling and Cleaning a machine

    Quote Originally Posted by J Miller View Post
    I'm pretty sure this 127 would classify as an extreme case. YUCK. I'm about 80 % finished cleaning it. I'm going to borrow the top tension spring off of my 66-1 and test sew with it today. Depending on how that works will decide it's fate.

    The idea of running it through a car wash using the high pressure wand intrigues me. ( Do we have a devil icon here?)

    Joe
    Hi Joe,

    I am not as experienced as so many of the seamstress here on this website; irregardless, that is not saying I would not love to be as talented as they are. However, after listening to you on numerous occassions now, I can't help but wonder, if I am cleaning my machine enough.

    I found the machine I am most fond of a older Turquoise blue "White" in a cabinet in a Christian Thrift Store for $20.00. It only had one cam. I brought it home, cleaned the bobbin area taking the bobbin out as far as I could, rubbing with an old bath cloth all the parts underneath, then oiled it down very well, with towel on the floor, with store bought sewing machine oil. Truly I felt it was in pretty good shape. However, I let it sit for a couple of days, then tried her out. She sewed beautiful. I guess I have had her right at a year now, and must say that is the best $20.00 I have ever spent.

    I don't want the oil to gunk up this machine. I have a great workhorse machine, and want to keep it that way. What should I be doing to keep the oil from accumulating as you speak of often here on this website?

    Thank you for your help with this!
    Barbara

  23. #23
    Power Poster miriam's Avatar
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    The only oil you need to really worry about is the bit dried up inside the moving parts - in other words - worry about the dried up gunk you CAN'T see. Tri-flow is supposed to be safe - I try to keep it off my hands though. The regular machine oil has paraffin in it and it does set up. 3-in-1 oil sets up like concrete. When you do use the chemicals mask up etc then drink a LOT of water and flush your system. I would much rather see too much oil than rust of any kind. I would suppose you could get too much solvent in those moving areas and encapsulate solvent. I would only do that much cleaning on a really bad machine - most machines will just take a gentle cleaning. We are not talking about the average machine - we are talking about some really nasty messes. I give up on a machine that is rusted out. I know Joe and others here fix them up anyway. I have to be pretty careful with the chemicals with the chemical exposure I've already had. To keep from building up oil, just clean often and wipe up excess as you go.
    NEVER let a sewing machine know you are in a hurry.
    good mothers let you lick the beaters - great mothers turn it off first

  24. #24
    Super Member J Miller's Avatar
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    The machine I was talking about was so bad internally and underneath that all the parts were black with the built up solidified oil.
    Caked with it to the point you could not see the joints or seams or screw heads of the parts. How the machine worked is beyond me.
    I've had others similar to this, the Minnesota A and B, but no where near as hard to clean.
    The few pics I have of this machine do not show just how horribly grungy the outside of this machine was.
    I would equate sewing with it to cooking new food on a filthy frying pan.

    When I say to clean a machine I'm not saying to strip it down every time, just wipe the excess oil of the bottom and keep the outside and small parts clean.

    Joe

  25. #25
    Power Poster miriam's Avatar
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    Extreme oil is better than extreme rust, Joe...
    NEVER let a sewing machine know you are in a hurry.
    good mothers let you lick the beaters - great mothers turn it off first

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