Summer has almost arrived here so I have been spending my mornings and evenings working in the garden and greenhouse, this tends to be a slower time of year as I assume that many of our customers turn to doing the same things.
I should be able to harvest the Haksap berries soon, when the birds descend on them I know they are ripe and it is time to pick them and freeze them for later.
I know that with Covid a lot of people are re-discovering the simple joys of gardening and growing more of their own food which can only be a good thing, just like many people have rediscovered the joy of sewing during these difficult times.
A garden is wonderful place where all the stresses of the day and times can fade away as you focus on growing things.
Even on warm and rainy days like today I can go out and enjoy the deck, and have set up a little library table in case I decide I want to bring out a 128 or a 99 and sew outside. 😀
I went out on a service call several weeks ago and as I worked on machines had a lovely conversation with the owners of Roc Tan industries, a company that fabricates wind socks for airports, industrial sites, and anywhere one may need to know what the prevailing winds are for safety.
We started talking about machining and specifically lathes, and that I had been hunting for one, and Brian said he had an old Atlas in his shed that I could have… for free. To say I was gob smacked would have been an understatement.
I needed to buy a motor and order some parts to get it up and running and tooled up for production work in our shop and for the last week and a half the little lathe has been humming along nicely.
I turned out this custom aluminium thread stand for a long arm quilting machine yesterday, a special order for a friend who was not pleased with the company’s offering of some overpriced and ugly looking plastic. even if I had billed her the full rate for a custom part it would have cost less than the plastique.
We are presently making a lot of our new thread stands and the lathe is the ideal tool for doing most of the work which helps me as I cannot spend that much time on my feet.
This will allow us to make more custom parts, especially when you have to deal with proprietary threading or need to make something that is rare or simply unavailable.
Most people think of lathes as being huge industrial machines but this vintage Atlas 618 fit in the back of the RAV easily for it’s ride home as it is less than 40 inches wide and weighs less than many industrial sewing machines.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.