In The Shop – Elna Friction Wheel Tools

In my past life I worked as a Rehabilitation Practitioner, Machinist, and bicycle frame builder / technician and now I rehabilitate sewing machines and fabricate small parts, and am looking to expand my workshop capabilities to offer even more shop services.

The Elna Supermatic came out in 1951 and is among my favourite machines of all time, and rather than using a belt drive, Elna used a friction wheel. These wheels were available for many years, and were produced to a fairly high standard.

Over time Elna stopped offering OEM friction wheels and we have been less than pleased with the aftermarket ones, as they have a high failure rate and often run poorly, so with the advent of 3D printing we now have some high quality replacements.

The replacement wheels use replaceable friction elements and are dimensionally different than the originals so setting the sprung pin required a different tool.

The tool on the left is a prototype for extracting the old friction wheels while the tool on the right was made in out shop to set the pin for the new friction wheel.

Although it looks simple there were a lot of machining steps required to cut, mill, drill, and thread the inside to fit and retain the new pin, and I had to make a custom screw by turning down an existing 4mm stainless bolt.

I will be making a few more extractors now…

The New Girls…

Bernina 1230

This Bernina isn’t a new machine as it is pushing 25 years old, perhaps dated a little because it does not have a big computer screen but as far as modern machines go, the electric- mechanical Berninas are pretty wonderful, and less glitchy than their computerized counterparts.

Bernina owners can be a little fanatical and it is not hard to see why, these machines are very user friendly and as an example, when you select a stitch the machine sets the length and width, and tells you what foot to use for the specific work. The needle up / down is a wonderful feature and is controlled by the pedal, requiring a heel tap

My Husqvarna 1090 is a little newer and would have to say I prefer the cleaner lines and like the Bernina, all the buttons might seem intimidating but the machine is very good at pre-setting and also lets you know what foot to use.

The 1090 is a little smoother than the Bernina, (being a rotary machine) and it’s stitching is also superb, it is also very easy to use if you have ever used a sewing machine.

Husqvarna 1090

The Greatest Portable Machines Ever ?

Maruzen Jaguarmate F3 – Kenmore 1060

I have long been a fan of Kenmore machines, particularly the Maruzen made machines of the early to mid seventies as their build quality and performance really were on par with, and often exceeded that of their European competition. When Singer’s quality started to decline in the late 60’s and 70’s Sears really upped their game and came to produce some of the best machines on the market.

One of the gems in their series were the portable 158.10xx machines which ranged from the simplest 158.1020 to the 158.1060 which had the most features, stitch range, and a free arm.

Kenmore 158.1030
Kenmore 158.1045

The thing that made these machines great was the fact that they were compact, just as powerful as their full sized stable mates, extremely well made, and once packed in their lovely little cases, the carry weight is about the same as a Singer Featherweight.

Kenmore 158 case for 1020 – 1045 machines.

After acquiring the European Jaguarmate model (pictured) we decided to sell our 158.1030 and 158.1045 and upon offering them up they only lasted minutes as they are an extremely desirable and sought after machine, with the 158.1045 probably being the rarest in the series as it was only made in 1976.

The Maruzen Jaguarmate F3 is a dual voltage model and aside from this and aesthetic changes, it is the same as the Kenmore 158.1060. My belief is that Sears designed these machines and then Maruzen got licensing to sell and distribute these machines in Europe under a number of different badges / brands.

They were also sold as a Frister and Rossman Cub in the UK, as “Privileg” in Germany, while the Jaguar was made for the European Asian market.. Jaguar is the market name for Maruzen made machines.

There might be other contenders for the greatest portable machine ever (Elna Lotus ?) but to me the features, build quality, and performance of these little Japanese machines is nearly impossible to beat.

Here is a great blog article on the series that I found to be very well written and informative.

https://www.ashleyandthenoisemakers.com/blog/2014/12/27/kenmore-1581060-review

Singer Featherweight vs the Model 99

People often get confused when they see a Singer 99, and will mistake it for a 221…

The Singer 99 was released in 1911 as the 3/4 version of the Singer Model 66, sharing the same oscillating hook, drop in class 66 bobbin, and exemplary stitch quality of it’s big sister. It was a fairly compact (3/4 sized) machine for it’s day and even came in an Aluminium version (which is quite rare).

The Singer 221 “Featherweight” debuted in 1933 and has become an extremely popular collectible and sewing machine, especially among quilters… some models can fetch many thousands of dollars if they are early, or have special badges. Like the 99 it is a straight stitch machine but uses a vertical rotary hook, it too lays down a perfect stitch and uses the same feet and attachments.

So which one is better ?

The stitch quality of each machine is exemplary, both run smoothly and quietly so there is no “better” to be found there. You would not be able to tell the difference in a stitch sample.

The 99 has an edge in the power department (especially in later models), has more harp space, and I would also say the class 66 hook is less prone to fouling.

The 221k’s greatest edge is that it is lightweight, being cast Aluminium instead of cast iron and if you have to carry your machine around in a case the difference is about ten pounds. The rotary hook might also give it a little edge in the free motion department, but the harp space is small and you probably won’t be finishing quilts on one.

My advice to folks who come in the shop is that, if you do not have a need for a lightweight portable (like a 221) then it is well worth looking at a Singer 99 as they are an amazing machine, and one of Singers most popular models of all time. While they cost $10.00 less than a Featherweight back in the day, it was still a very expensive machine.

The later versions of the 99 also had back tack and reverse.

The Workshop

Sometimes you just have to take a day and get things all tidied up, with lot of orders for thread stands and some repairs that warrant fabrication and a little work with the torch it is good to start with a clean pallet, so to speak.

Am looking to add a micro lathe in the new year which will be wonderful for turning out small parts and speeding up the production of others.

There are a lot of jobs I can’t do in the inside shop due to the fumes and how they would affect Pearl, I know how much she’d like to be able to fly around in such a big space but it’s a no fly zone.

Something Old, Something New

Singer 31-20, made in 1911

I have been getting the shop re-organized of late, with the PCS (post concussion syndrome) I suffer from some terrible short term memory issues, and organizing things helps me map out where things are.

Anyways…

Marie Louise is my 1911 Singer 31-20 tailor’s machine, named after the French lady who owned her and used her as she spent a lifetime working as a seamstress for a major tailoring company here. Now she resides in my shop and is one of my all time favourite machines to use as she never fails in any task i set her to.

She was born in an age when the automobile was still a new thing, when a great number of people did not have electricity, phones, or modern appliances.

Now she is surrounded by modern technology like my tablet and wireless printer, and lit by an led instead of a kerosene lamp… I figure she will outlast all this modern technology too.

Case Straps

Those beautiful old bentwood cases are wonderful to look at, but I am always reminding people to lift them from the bottom rather than trust a handle that might we well over 100 years old.

To that end I make up carrying straps from nylon webbing, you could do this on a heavier duty domestic machine but I like to use the industrials… the 29k and 108w make short work of this.

The case strap slips on and is made to size, this eliminates the use of a clip that might eventually fail, or scratch the case.

It sure makes carrying these heavier machines a lot easier.

Singer 29k58 – made in 1938
Singer 29k, sews in any direction.
Singer 108w20
Case straps for a 1912 Singer 99, this case has a dodgy latch.
Case straps for a Singer 15-91, she’s a heavy beast.
Case straps for my 431G, these are the worst cases and should not be trusted.

On The Bench, Singer 128 La Vencadora

The Singer 128 had an extremely long production run that started in the 1880’s and continued into the 1950’s, the La Vencadora are unique to this model and I think they are one of the prettiest decal sets Singer ever offered.

This machine got a general service and some ouch ups to the bed where she had lost some paint, they are such a solidly made machine I can’t recall ever seeing one that didn’t work beautifully with a little love.

We have several earlier models in the queue that we are preparing for sale as well as several more 128 models with La Vencadora decals.