As you could guess from the title, this post is part 3 of my restoration of a vintage Singer sewing machine. Part 1 can be read here, and part 2 here. Quick recap, I researched this machine ad nauseam, to discover it was in fact a 15-90, made in 1948, and had a removable external electrical system which incidentally needed work. Then in part 2 I removed and took apart the electrical components and was left with a non-powered machine in desperate need of cleaning.
Several good sources for cleaning vintage Singers that I found, the cleaning section of the Vintage Singer Group Handbook which as I have previously mentioned can be downloaded by joining the Vintage Singer Yahoo Group. Also this tutorial on the Quilting Board by Lostn51, here is Part 1. I abhor forums and for the life of me can’t get their search feature to produce the other parts… so good luck on that.
Basically the best and most often giving advice I found for cleaning any vintage black body all metal machine is to use kerosene for the internal and either Go-Jo (non-pumice), Murphy’s Oil or Tuff Stuff for the external. Kerosene is great because it will eat away any dried oil and rust that is gumming up the works without leaving any residue. WD-40 and Liquid Wrench both contain a fair amount of kerosene but have other ingredients that do leave traces and will re-gunk the gears. For cleaning the outside of the machine you need something strong enough to remove caked on filth but something that won’t hurt the finish or the delicate decals. Whatever products you use be sure to test on an inconspicuous spot first! I used a kerosene bath coupled with Murphy’s Oil and the results were fantastic, below is the procedure I used.
First step is take apart the machine. You will need small flat head screwdrivers to do this. I used one like this, that came with my Singer 2263. It might seem daunting to remove all those little part but if you take enough pictures it’s really no problem. Here is an example, this is the bobbin winder thread tensioner assembly on the machine and taken apart:
In this way you will be able to id all the parts without notes, I think I ended up with around 100 pictures once I had the machine apart. Here is a list of the things that can/should come off the 15-90 machine:
- Remove machine from cabinet
- All electrical components, plus the drive belt and bobbin winder tire
- Needle clam, thread guide, bed slide plate and throat plate
- Face plate:
- Pressure regulating thumbscrew, the large screw that is visible in the upper left hand corner of the first picture of the face plate above
- Hand wheel, and bobbin winder, the right hand picture below shows the hand wheel off and the bobbin winder screws exposed
- Bobbin winder thread tension assembly
- Rear inspection plate:
The only problem I encountered in removing things from the machine were the little screws on the stitch indicator plate:
They would not come off, I dribbled some kerosene on them and still they would not come off so I let them be.
Here is my machine torn down and ready for the kerosene bath:
For the kerosene bath I used a bucket with about a gallon of kerosene and soaked one end of the machine then the other. I also threw all the items I removed from the machine into the bath except the sliver metal parts like the rear inspection plate. Here are some shots of me going to town on the machine with an old toothbrush:
Here is the 15-90 totally scrubbed and drying on a towel, you need to leave it for a couple hours to insure all of the kerosene has evaporated:
As you can see the kerosene does a fantastic job removing all the rust and loosening all the ground-in grime. Here are all the components I soaked in kerosene drying:
Before starting the reassembly I used Murphy’s Oil on the body of the machine, the kerosene just unsticks the grime it still needs to be removed. Here is an example, this is the piece that bolts the motor onto the machine, left is after kerosene and right is after the oil:
The only spot on my machine that I couldn’t get as clean as I wanted was under where the motor sits and where wire insulation had melted onto the body of the machine:
I suppose I could have chipped away at it but it didn’t seem worth the risk that I would damage an even larger area and besides it will be covered with the motor once it’s back on.
Below are my large or plated components getting polished and my machine reattached to the cabinet.
Once everything is satisfactorily polished it’s reassemble time! From my experience this is the time to go slowly and work backwards from the pictures you took to get everything back together. I found that it was easiest to divide all the screws and plates and pieces into piles based on where they go which made it easy to find the correct part quickly. The only problem I had was the tensioner, which I removed by removing the screws instead of unscrewing the thumbscrew and which I can’t get back on the machine. However I have been working on a solution and will post on that soon.
I am very pleased with the results, below is the before and after of the backside of the pillar… it doesn’t look like the same machine!
Here are the beautiful after shots of the completely polished machine:
These three pictures show from left to right the right corner of the machine before cleaning, after kerosene and after polishing:
The next step in refurbishing this machine will be fixing the tensioner, oiling and threading to see if it sews without power.
Anyone attempting to clean/refurbish/take-apart a class 15 machine like mine, I am no expert but I am more than willing to puzzle out whatever problem you are having with you just let me know!