Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Singer 401A

Louie and I went junkin’ Saturday afternoon after he got done working. Louie spotted another Singer 401A. My heart has a special place for these machines. They are quiet and powerful, and one of the few machines that were built to last. This one was born in 1951. I worked on the 401 on Sunday. This is of course the ‘after’ photo. The ‘before’ photos will follow.

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The cover was very dirty and needed some glue and staples.

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The outside of the machine wasn’t ‘horrible’, but needed some cleaning.

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Before we even bought it, we could not turn the hand wheel. It would turn just a tiny bit, then stop. That did not scare us off, no it did not! When I started working on it, the first thing I did was remove the vertical gear driven motor. Ahhhh, now the hand wheel turns! The motor was ‘stuck’, and Louie said there was a broken pin in it. Now how did THAT happen? That will remain a mystery. The motor did need a good going over though, and that he did. Next, I tried removing the hand wheel. It would not let loose! I heated it with the hair dryer, and pulled, and twisted, and it would not budge. Finally, (close your eyes and ears if you can’t handle this), I grabbed the pliers, and gripped onto the needle bar so it could not go up and down, and I twisted and pulled the hand wheel with my other hand until I finally got it to come out of the machine. No wonder! See all that old hard gummy grease in there? It was practically glued in there!

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I got out my ‘George Foreman’ grill scraper and scraped inside to get the old grease removed (as shown on my napkin), then I used isopropyl alcohol and Qtips to get into the other places my scraper could not. YUCK! I replaced the grease with oil and put it back together.

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Both of the mechanisms to change the stitch patterns were ‘stuck’ also, so with more heat and oil, and finally Louie coming to save the day apply brute strength, we got all the other parts moving.

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Of course, the two bobbins that came with the machine had several different colors of thread on them. This just kills me. I know times were tough and ladies wanted to save every inch of thread, but use it for hand sewing, for heaven’s sake! Don’t wrap it around a bobbin and expect the machine to behave. You just get sewing, and you have to stop and look for the end of the next color! See the short yellow thread on the bottom left? Now really. REALLY?

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The power cord was showing some bare wires near the machine plug in end, but were tight into the cord, so Louie put some special glue on the exposed wires and made the cord good as new again. The foot control was not functioning as it should. 

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We switched it to an electronic foot control. Much better! I don’t mind that it’s not original. Function is more important.

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So a recap. Before….

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After, cleaned with dish soap and water and a plastic scrub brush, glued and stapled.

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After…. (oops! I still need to replace that broken spool pin on top!) Surprised smile 

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It did take quite a bit of playing with the tension before I was happy, and not all the stitches shown here are those I am happy with, but the machine is mechanically sound and everything is as it should be again. This restoration did take up most of my Sunday, but in the end, having it working again is so rewarding.

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The bottom cover/drip pan of the machine was missing, so I found one on eBay, and bought it. When it comes, I will attach it, and then it will be complete.


I am keeping this machine for my collection, even though I have one (or two) more. Someone might come and want to sew, you know! Winking smile

Here are a few other things I found junkin’. A lace valance, an old (new) ironing board cover, a metal Christmas sign, some cd jewel cases, an egg ‘picker upper’, a pink sheet, blue fabric and brown fabric, and an angel something or other.

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Louie and I went to Harbor Freight with some coupons my friend Kay gave us, and look what we got. The top row was all FREE stuff. The bottom row was purchased with 25% off coupons, and 20% off coupons.

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We also bought this, because Louie thought I needed a headband flashlight when I work on sewing machines.

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It does help, but I think I look like ‘Stuart’ when I wear it! (Sorry, no photos. You will just have to take my word for it!)


I also found an old ironing board for my friend Renea. Can  you see where the legs are adjustable? Very cool! I hope she likes it!


It was a fun afternoon junkin’, but then, it always is. I’m ready to go again! Maybe Saturday after quilting! Winking smile


Cheryl's Teapots2Quilting said...

Someone might come and want to sew, you know! Winking smile, Yea, like me!!!! I haven't come across one that model (yet) in my 'huntings'. I stopped by several thrift stores yesterday, but, only 2 machines, one junk, the other, a VERY PRICY 66 treadle.

UrbanRecyclist Micki S said...

You (and Louie) are amazing. What a team! Makes me want a 401 myself. I once had a chance to get a perfectly functioning one at a very reasonable price - but missed out on it because I procrastinated. I have its brother, 500. It surprised me. I love it a lot more than I'd expected.

Linda Swanekamp said...

Wow, i just cleaned a 401 last weekend! It belongs to the receptionist at my PT. She was asking me, since i mention old sewing machines all the time, if she should fix hers or buy a new one. When she told me what she had, I almost yelled, bring it in and I will clean it. It was a lovely machine, full of old gunk. I also used qtips and alcohol. It also is missing its drip pan. Same spool pin broken. The only thing i did different is polish it with TR3, which is a great polish, does not damage decals, and makes it like new. I have the before photos on my blog, but did not get the after ones posted yet-

Connie said...

You really made that 401 look beautiful! I have one that I used to use a lot but not anymore and I know it really needs a good cleaning. I haven't been able to loosen the wheel for a long time. Have fun with this one!

kath001 said...

Funny minion! :) My son-in-law wears one when he grills outside after dark, and I tease him. Luckily, he still feeds me.

Jules said...

I think there is a 401 in my stash. As quickly I'd like winter to leave, my husband has not finished the honey-do list yet... which would have included cleaning up sewing machines for me. I need to learn from you, the master! :)

...raising my hand and voting for a photo of you with the headband flashlight on.


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