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Thursday, April 12, 2012

TR-3 Resin Glaze

I bought some of this stuff online a while ago after having seen it used to clean up two vintage sewing machines on another website. One machine was covered in intricate decals. There were no before pictures, but the decals on the machine did not appear to have been silvered by the use of this product. The other machine was all black with only a small amount of gold lettering. Both machines cleaned up very well, looking practically new. The woman posting about this product had used the TR-3 on cotton balls with better than good results, but did warn to "test, test, test."

I have a Singer 15-91 that I am eager to get all cleaned up, but I decided to test it on my Singer 99-13 first. The decals on the 99-13 were not in the greatest shape to start with--most were already silvered, or missing completely.

The best looking decals on this machine (that are still mostly intact, and still all golden) reside on the back of the pillar, and are hidden behind the motor. I decided, therefore, to start my testing there. Below are the before and after pictures.

Before the decals were dark, dusty, dingy, and covered in a slightly sticky residue.
After applying the TR-3 with a cotton ball, and rubbing in small, circular motions, the decals looked brighter, and still golden. They appear a bit lighter in this photo than they actually are. I don't know how dark the gold would have appeared new, but the results looked pretty good to me. And the pillar shined up really well. So I moved on to the back of the machine bed . . .

Here's a before shot of the back, left corner of the machine bed (and mostly silvered decals). I never did clean this machine when I first brought it home.You can probably see the waxy film that was there. I had no idea if this was just the top of the finish wearing away, or old polish, or what. Having no idea what it was, or how to clean it, I just used the machine as is.

And here is the after photo. I rubbed these decals a lot, using at least three applications of TR-3 on cotton balls. The good news is, the still golden parts of the decals didn't get any lighter. The bad news, however, is that the parts of the decals that were already silver rubbed away with the grime. The black paint polished up to a mirror like shine.

The film near the faceplate was a little different. I could easily scrape it away with my fingernail. Again, I don't know what this stuff was. This machine spent time in the junkyard, and then in a smoker's home. When I brought it home, the cabinet and machine were both saturated with smoking odors--so much so, that I got a headache every time I used the machine. I suspect, then, that the gunk covering the machine might be tar from the cigarette smoke. Who knows?

Since I wanted to be more careful this time with the decals, I used a plastic kitchen scraper to scrape off what I could of the tar, and then cleaned and shined it up with the TR-3.

In some places the residue was a little more stubborn and took a lot more passes to remove. When the TR-3 dried on it, it became the brownish discoloration you see in the photo on the left. However, with enough cotton balls, the TR-3 did remove it, with no ill effects on the black paint.

So here's the moral of this tail. I will repeat what I read on that other website. Test, test, test!

Be very careful on the decals. One or two passes doesn't seem to do any harm. I suspect on a machine not this dirty, or with less stubborn grime, the decals would be just fine. Even so, in the future I will use this stuff on the decals last, after I've polished up the rest of the machine.

Also, assess the mess on your particular machine. You may not be able to get the decals completely clean using the TR-3, at least not without rubbing them completely off, so you'll want to make sure any dirt and grime doesn't discolor too badly. Find an inconspicuous spot on the machine to apply the TR-3, and see what any remaining grime looks like after the polish has had time to dry.
 If  the grime changes colors, (as shown in the photo above) you may want to consider cleaning most of it off using another method before polishing the machine with TR-3. The TR-3 will remove some very tough grime (even if the previous application has dried overnight), but, once applied, it also makes it more difficult to clean the grime off by other means. The discolorations you see above were completely removed with more applications of TR-3. However, I couldn't do as many passes over the decals, so a bit of brown remains around the lettering.

Here's what my Singer 99-13 looks like now . . .

I hardly went over the decals on the front of the machine bed at all, so they look about the same as when I started--silvered and worn away. You can probably see that I've got a bit more cleaning to do on the front, but it will all clean up and polish up nicely tomorrow. I needed a break. :~)

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Industrial Singer Sewing Machine

Like many other vintage sewing machine enthusiasts, I've seen my fair share of machines on eBay listed as "Industrial Strength," "Heavy Duty," "Industrial Grade," "Light Industrial," etc. I never paid much attention to such claims, or what they actually meant, because I was searching with a purpose, already having a particular machine in mind before browsing listings. And, being a quilter, I'm more apt to sew quilting cotton (though I do occasionally hem jeans)--not exactly an industrial machine type of job.

Cut to a few days ago when I was trying to identify my new-to-me Singer 15-91.
 One of the places I searched for information was YouTube. Try searching "Singer 15-91" on YouTube and will find video, after video labeled "leather sewing test" or something similar. I watched a few of them, and in most was someone claiming that the above machine is industrial strength, grade, whatever. It was actually difficult to find real information about this machine for all those online advertising it as industrial strength. Apparently the Singer 15-91 is one of the machines most likely to be advertised this way. More ludicrous still was that I also came across a few mentions of the Singer 99-13 as an industrial strength machine.

The 99-13 is one of the few Singers that I also happen to own. At 3/4 size, it's not even a full size domestic, let alone industrial.

Long story short, this experience has opened my eyes. I can now see why so many vintage sewing machine collectors get frustrated with sellers who advertise domestic sewing machines as industrial grade. At the very least, it makes it more difficult to find accurate information, and at the very most, such sellers are taking advantage of inexperienced buyers and inflating prices.

There are several guides online discussing domestic vs. industrial machines, including one on eBay Guides, and on the Ultimate Sew & Vac site. The most informative I've seen by far, though, is on  "The Vintage Singer Sewing Machine Blog". There you will see side-by-side photo comparisons of actual industrial machines and domestics, including their motors, and other parts. Thank you Rain! Your excellent photo comparisons really put things into perspective.

Singer 15-91

I've been looking for a Singer sewing machine with a potted motor for a little while now. I passed one up on a few weeks back because the bidding got too hot. Someone wanted it badly, and I didn't feel like fighting over it (or paying more for it). So when I lifted the lid on a sewing cabinet at a local Goodwill this past weekend and saw this (for only $30), I felt I'd lucked out.
I wasn't exactly sure of the model (I have a lot more vintage Kenmores than Singers) but I suspected it was a model 15-91. And I was right. Just in case you can't see through all that dust, the serial number reads AG787409. According to the two letter prefix list of serial numbers on the Singer site, this one was made in 1946.

It's not the cleanest machine in the world, but I've been partial to extra dirty machines lately. I want to get some restoration experience. And nothing gets you quite as familiar with sewing machine parts as having to give a machine a good, detailed cleaning.
Just look at all those cobwebs on the underside of the machine. The case was full of them too, as well as a heavy blanket of dust, and some long dead spider egg sacks. I took the whole thing outside on a mild, sunny Monday morning, and brushed it all out. A light wind was blowing in just the right direction to keep all that stuff from getting in my eyes or up my nose.

Here are some more before pictures.
Is this one heck of a thread tangle, or what? That must have been the last straw, but it wasn't difficult to remove.
The paint job does have some pin pricks in it, but for the most part the decals appear to be in good shape, though dim. There is a bit of rust also. I guess we'll just have to wait and see how she cleans up.
And remember that large box that sat inside the case, next to the machine? This is what was in it.

It's a buttonholer with the manual included. This type doesn't use templates. There are a few adjustments on the side that dictate the buttonhole size--I'll figure that all out later.  

Cleanup has already begun. I'm cleaning the parts that I can while I wait on some Kroil and a proper screwdriver set. I've got some stubborn screws that need loosening before I can look at the motor, and clean up the outside of the machine. In the meantime, I have plenty to keep me busy. 

The Invisible Zipper Fiasco

I'm an intermediate to advanced quilter, but a novice seamstress. So when I committed to making dresses for my best friend's nieces to wear in her wedding in May, I knew I was going to need plenty of practice. I had already made a practice dress months ago, using this Simplicity pattern.
 It turned out way too tight, in part because I had no understanding of ease: wearing ease. Rookie mistake.

With the wedding quickly approaching (and the fabric purchased) I decided to give it another go. This time the practice dress was for my daughter, using cotton fabric I already had on hand. The purpose of this trial run was to make sure that I could get a good fit with my new understanding of ease. Having already measured the applicable part of the pattern to ensure there would be enough wearing ease around the bust (the only fitted part of the pattern) I chose the appropriate size, and the dress came together rather quickly.

It turned out very cute, if I do say so myself. Here it is finished.
However, before this came the invisible zipper. Who knew that of all the many steps in the process, this would be the most frustrating. Usually YouTube is my savior when it comes to my "how to" queries, but this time the results were less than stellar. Don't get me wrong--there were plenty of good, basic tutorials on installing an invisible zipper between two pieces of sample fabric, which is great if you don't have the first idea how to begin. Sewing the zipper into an actual garment (in my case a dress) is another story. With the zipper in, the back of seam of the dress looked puckered and lumpy.
 It doesn't actually look very bad in this photo, but you can see where the seams on the back of the bodice are not lined up, which made the dress pucker badly in the back when worn. 
I ripped it all out, and tried again.
I also dismantled the bodice and bodice lining because I had taken it in a little too much at the side seams.
On the second pass the zipper looked better, but still not great. I decided to call it a night and pack it in, and as I was cleaning up my sewing mess, I noticed that the invisible zipper came with instructions. Hmm . . . So, hoping the third time would be the charm, I ripped again. Between trying to fit the dress to my daughter, and getting the zipper installed correctly so the back seam was smooth when zipped up, it actually took five or six tries.

Here's what I learned in the process:

1. Read the directions that came with the zipper. This sounds basic, and it is. I'm more of a visual learner, so sometimes I gloss over this step. However, as it turns out, the directions that came with the zipper were more specific and easier to follow than any videos I watched.

2. You may have to alter the pattern directions to suit the zipper you are using. The dress pattern I used called for a regular zipper, which in turn called for a different method of sewing the zipper into the back seam. With an invisible zipper, you finish sewing the rest of the seam AFTER you've sewn in the zipper. When I make this dress again, I'm going to baste the back seam for the fitting, and open it up again when I install the invisible zipper for a nice, smooth finish.

3. Use the invisible (or concealed) zipper foot made for your machine. Another one may work, if it is adjustable, but the proper one will work better and make the job easier.

4. Baste the zipper (and the rest of the seam) in place first, try the garment on to make sure it fits, and that it looks smooth when zipped.  That way, if any corrections need to be made, the task of ripping will be much quicker, and a lot less frustrating! Ask me how I know. ;~) When you're satisfied with the fit and appearance, stitch the zipper in place and finish the seam.

I'll be making this dress again soon, so stay tuned for an invisible zipper tutorial.