Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Cleaning Your Featherweight




Date: Mon, 11 Sep 1995 09:30:43 -1000 (HST)
From: CC and D Weisbrod ccw@spartacus.hula.net
Subject: Luv these FWs
my machine seems to run more noisily than others i have sewn with or
tried. any suggestions for fixing this?
ellen b.


Ellen, it sounds like your FW needs to be lubed or the maybe the brushes
need changing/cleaning. Try lubing first. If you don't have the original
manual, do you have Nancy Johnson-Srebro's manual on FWs? Do you know a
shop that services FWs? Don't prolong the need to get it checked, and
heed Nancy's advice on lubing.
From: LyndaQults@aol.com
Subject: Re: FW "grease"

As far as cleaning the machine, Mimi basically had us gently scrape off the
old crud and replace it with new. Some of the things we had to bring to
class were newspapers to open the machine on, a Hat Pin so that we could
clean some of the really hard to reach areas and clean lint free cotton
fabric to gently rub off the old grease. And Yes she did show us how to
change the belts. The motor is held on with a screw that is directly under
the belt on the base of the machine, kind of straight back from where the
light switch is. That screw is lossened, not taken out, and the motor will
then slide and loosen up the tension on the belt. the old belt is taken off
and a new belt put back on. the motor is then adjusted so that there is
about 1/2 to 3/4 inch of play in the belt. Kind of not too tight and not too
loose. this part takes a few trys to get right. if the belt is too tight
the motor has to work too hard and if it is too loose, you dont get the full
power from the motor. Mimi also has all of us carrying around a 3/16
screwdriver that has a 9" blade, I got mine from Sears. this makes it simple
to remove the throat plate so that you can clean the lint. because the
screwdriver is soooo long, the handle doesn't get hung up in the machine.
From: (Gail Pickens-Barger)
Subject: Cleaning a featherweight.

Cleaning a featherweight. My Dad says, take the needle plate off...and
that is about the only place that needs to be cleaned. Look around the
shaft, too see if any thread is wrapped around the shaft. Once a year, you
should do this. Use a tooth brush, or any kind of a brush...brush the lint
from under the needle plate. On the whole machine, you can run Baby oil.
It makes the featherweight shine, then take a dry rag to wipe most of the
Baby oil. This will not hurt your fabrics.
From: spudley@ix.netcom.com (Mona Gollan)
Subject: Needle Movement while winding bobbin

I have had this needle movement problem with a couple of the old
machines. Oil has a tendancy to shellac when it is old and unused. So,
it becomes sticky and the mechanism drags. In order to dissolve the
hardened oil, put a few drops of kerosene on the mechanism and work it.
Kerosene is nothing more than very thin oil. After working the kerosene
in, give it a good lube with regular sewing machine oil. This has
worked on all my machines having this problem.
From: cc and David Weisbrod ccw@spartacus.hula.net
Subject: Bobbin Winding

The advice from Mr. Pickens in using an itsy bit of baby oil to shiny up
our babies is the same advice my Singer man gave me. He said the finish
is not enamel paint; it's a varnish finish, and a little oil will
preserve it.
From: MillieMack@aol.com
Subject: fw - misc

I read in a sewing machine book to use an artist oil called Grumbacher on the
machines. Does not remove the gold paint.
Subject: Responses - clean featherweight now!
From: Terry ragdoll@initco.net

Sharon: I oil and clean my machine frequently, at least after each large
project. The first time you really clean and oil your machine you'll hear
how nicely it runs. After awhile it almost tells you, "Get that oil can and
brush out NOW". The more you use it the easier you will be able to hear
"It's time". After awhile when you hear FWs in a class (for example) that
obviously aren't oiled and cleaned, it will drive you nuts that you can't
grab the owner and give her/him a lecture on the value of her/his FW.
That's when you know it's time to get a new hobby! (By the way, several
people have said NOT to lube the motor; Singer repairmen say that's a no-no.
That might explain why the white FWs do not have lube holes in their motors

Anyone out there having noise or grinding sounds in their FWs might check
to see if all the screws are tight. I tried a FW out in an antique mall and
purchased it. When I oiled/cleaned it suddenly it made the most horrible
grinding noise. Three people had three different opinions about the noise.
I just stuck it away for a year and finally was in the mood to try again and
discovered the screw next to the gears under the spool pin had loosened just
enough so that it rubbed underneath as the handwheel turned. That machine
is a dream now. Had it made that noise in the shop I never would have
bought it.
From: Silkeeee@aol.com
Subject: Remember the squeek?

Remember I complained about that squeeky sneaker noise in my featherweight?
Now, this one I purchased from a dealer who claimed to have cleaned it
up...... And, I know I have oiled and lubed it up..... Well, I decided to
find out what that blasted noise was. It sounds to be coming from under the
throat plate. So I ripped it to shreds. No I didn't find the squeek, but I
did find that this guy had never (and neither had I) cleaned inside the cover
under the thread spindle. Inside was some horrible brown axle grease type
gunk which had hardened to little pellets! UGH!!!! Well, I cleaned it out
nicely and figured while I'm at it, I'll just de-grease the entire machine.

After it was all cleaned, re-oiled, re-lubed up, it ran so nicely, but it
still squeeks. By this time I'm about to pull out my own hair!

Jill, regarding, cleaning the outside, I've looked at lots of different metal
polishes, most of which say not for use on laquer. I did find one, and used
it on a lovely treadle, without the kind of result I was looking for. I've
also tried Armor all Bug and Tar remover (for use with any finish), again
without the result I wanted. Some gunk did come off--but not enough. I also
sprayed the machine with WD-40 (a degreaser). I've also tried plain
degreasing Dawn dish soap and water with a soft bristle brush and have gotten
some gunk off, but again, not enough. I did find that scraping with my
fingernail (a nice soft thing) did help somewhat. I wonder if scraping with
orange sticks would be a good idea. I finally just said "the heck with it"
and turtle waxed it (noticing that some dirt came off when I rubbed off the
turtle wax). One of these days, I'll try some Kerosene (just hope I don't
get mad enough to put a match to it!). Can we get a little help here from
someone in the know? How do you cut through that resinous crusty crap that
creeps out of nooks and crannies and across this lovely gilt?
From: fran.mcgee@mail.prostar.com
Subject: machine restoration

FF>Should I use dishwashing detergent in warm water, and a toothbrush to
FF>remove grime, when it appears it may be removing the decals? What would you

I did use a toothbrush on the one I gave a WD-40 bath to. I didn't use
it on the decals though. On the decals I used a toothpick covered with
a piece of cloth, so I could sneak around the letters.

FF>No-one commented on the method I used, but here were some suggested
FF>alternatives. I haven't had time to test any of these yet. When I do, I'll
FF>let you know.

Let me know what works well for shining her up. I used some car wax on
Robbie (my son named him yesterday...he is sure it's a boy) but the
finish still isn't quite as shiny as my featherweight. I am thinking
some metal polish may help rub it out a bit more. I just finished
putting him back together last night, threaded him up, and he sews a

FF>Question 2

FF>Would you remove the motor, light fitting and maybe bobbin winder be
FF>the washing procedure?

I didn't remove the bobbin winder, but I removed everything else you
mentioned, including the face plate, presser foot, bobbin cover,
flywheel and anything else I could unscrew. I just made sure I kept
everything together, and put pieces on the table in such a way as to
remember how they went back on.

FF>No-one commented.

FF>Question 3

FF>How would you get these screws out? WD-40 didn't loosen them.
FF>The only suggestion was more WD-40

I used even more WD-40 on some screw which were rusted onto another
machine I have, and they eventually loosened up.

FF>Question 4

FF>Instinct says to clean the surfaces before oiling and lubricating. Is there
FF>anything else I should do before oiling her?

The only other thing I would do is make sure you have gotten the dirt
out from the inside of the machine, which is why I removed the faceplate
and flywheel. I also gave the inside of the machine a WD-40 bath. My
husband, the mechanic, said it is wonderful stuff. It will clean
lubricate and protect metal, though he still recommends oiling with
sewing machine oil when you are done, since it is heavier. He and my
local sewing machine guru both say NOT to lubricate the motor, just to get
it as clean as possible. The both agreed they had seen more motors
ruined from over lubrication then from lack of it. A motor needs very
little lubrication.

FF>I was surprised there was so little input to my questions. Usually people
FF>are tremendous with suggestions on a list like this - I think the digest
FF>format may lead people to feel that someone else will answer, as it seems a
FF>less personal way to communicate.

I waited a while before my 1st reply, because I wanted to have more
personal experience with the methods I was going to use before
recommending them to anyone else. I added more in this post, because I
have done more to the machine since the last post. I hope some of my
suggestions help you, and please share anything else you learn with me
too. I have 3 more machines waiting for similar treatment. One is
pretty clean and the other 2 are REALLY REALLY dirty. I mean REALLY!
Date: Tue, 12 Dec 95 04:05:00 PDT
Subject: WD-40

After reading the note saying NEVER to use WD-40 on your sewing machine
I nearly had a stroke, since I have gone through a whole can of it
between the 4 machines I have restored this week.

I dashed to the phone and called my local sewing machine guru and asked him
if I had done something horrible.

What he said is similar to what my husband said; WD-40 is a light oil
with some solvent properties to it. Keeping that in mind, he said to be
careful of the gold decals and belts, and be sure to clean it all off
when you are done. He said it is fine to clean the inside of the
machines with too, as it loosens up accumulated gunk and ick, but to
make sure and oil the machine well with sewing machine oil when
finished. He also talked to another sewing machine mechanic, who
commented that WD-40 was a lot less caustic than some of the chemicals
they use to clean old sewing machines.

My conclusions are to use it cautiously, clean well, and that it is not
a substitute for sewing machine oil. My husband, who seems to know a
lot about oil, agrees. He said WD-40 is a cleaner and lubricant, and
that's why it crustified the leather glove. He wouldn't get any on the
belts either.
From: Lydia Pratt (lspratt@freenet.columbus.oh.us)
Subject: light surface rust...

If the attachments have light surface rust only and are not severely
pitted, my suggestion for cleaning up the rust is 0000 (yes, all four
zeros) steel wool. I've used it with good success. If you're careful,
you can sort of pull a pad apart and twist it slightly, and you'll get
almost a "thread" of the steel wool which you can work into all sorts of
little crannies on the hemmers. (I suppose that's why they call it
"wool".) Anyway, it also leaves a nice sheen on the nickel plating.

If the attachments are very dirty or gummy, you can dip bits of pad in
alcohol or spray with WD-40 to dissolve grime. Do NOT use alcohol on your
FW body -- I think it's one of the things that can dissolve the gold decals!
From: Lydia Pratt (lspratt@freenet.columbus.oh.us)
Subject: A request; walking feet

To Bob Campbell (if you're still out there):

In browsing through my printed copies of the Digest, I believe I noticed
that you were contemplating stripping down a FW completely and restoring
it in some other color than black or pale turquoise. This leads me to
believe that you understand the processes that were used to finish the
machine in the first place, and I was wondering if you could describe to
the rest of us (in more or less plain English) just what we're dealing
with here. For instance, I think your basic naked FW is some form of cast
aluminum alloy. Then there would be the initial finish (black or pale
turquoise, oil-base paint or baked enamel finish?), then decals, then
something protective over everything (varnish? shellac?). Could you tell
us what each of these layers would be? Then we might have a
better understanding of the "crazing" and other finish problems that occur.

Also, in one of your submissions, you mentioned NOT to use "solvent-based
cleaners such as Lestoil". From my reading on Gaillee's Re-Digest and
Diane Close's restoration suggestions, I gather the following:

On the machine itself:
Armour All = Good
Baby oil = Good
WD-40 = Good
Mild dish detergent & water = Good

Alcolhol = Bad (dissolves finish and decals)
Lestoil = Bad (same)

Can you tell us what common household cleaning agents (Fantastik(R),
Windex(R) qualify as "solvent based", maybe in one tidy page?

On the metal parts/attachments:
Lestoil = Good (loosens rust)
Alcohol = Good (dissolves grease and gunk)
WD-40 = Good (same)

Anyone else want to add to what works/what doesn't??
From: Lydia Pratt (lspratt@freenet.columbus.oh.us)
Subject: Patience in cleaning...

As to cleaning up your Model 127. I'm discovering that in addition to the
WD-40 you need a LOT of patience. The gunk doesn't necessarily dissolve
right away. I have #0000 steel wool which I'm using with a cleaner on the
chrome stuff. I also have Armour All, which was recommended by someone on
the list, but I haven't tried it yet. You might try wrapping a small area
of the machine with a paper towel or two, tilting the head so that the
area you want to clean is parallel to the floor, then saturating the paper
towel (cheesecloth, gauze pad, what have you) with the WD-40 or the
Armour All and going away for a couple of hours. If you can keep the area
you're trying to clean in contact with the agent for a longer period of
time, you might have better luck.
From: peter@evansville.net
Subject: Armour All not recommended

Do not recommend Armour All use on FW machine; however works wonders
on black after dirt removed with damp soapy brush. Naptha is good gunk
remover on underneath parts and works well on nicotine stains; man, how some
of the FW users smoked. Be advised use naptha in a well vented place with no
open flames about. FW machines appreciate a good waxing using a good
quality car wax. Cases that have frayed corners, droopy inside material etc
can be returned to acceptable with a little white glue on the frayed part
and a covering , after glue dries, with liquid black shoe polish. The kind
with a sponge on the end. Just a few tips from a finder of FWs, 99's,
tables and martha washingtons.
From: "Karen Phelps - (phelps@iajet.physics.uiowa.edu)
Subject: Armorall

I just have to laugh at the things I do. The minute I use a product, I
find out there's something wrong with it. Anyway, I agree with Graham
about the shine and protection Armorall offers. I have thoroughly
cleaned all of the featherweights that have passed through my hands with
baby oil including Q-Tipping all of the exterior nooks and crannies. I
then clean the inside with WD-40 and various small tools if things are
really caked. Then lube and oil. After I get through these stages and I
feel it really glistens, I have used the Armorall. It makes them look
like new and shine, shine, shine. It also provides a tough layer of
protection. I think it's a great product and have used it on the FWs and
my 66 treadle with what I felt were exceptional results. I'll look
forward to hearing what the drawbacks are. I haven't found any. Thanks
for the continued wonderful input. I'm addicted to this newletter.
From: Lydia Pratt (lspratt@freenet.columbus.oh.us)
Subject: Treadle Work

Best way to remove gunk so far has still proved to by WD-40, but sometimes
it has to sit for a couple of hours or overnight. To clean out the oil
holes, try pipe cleaners. To de-gunk screw threads or free up joints, try
dental floss. I've been using a chrome cleaner made by Turtle Wax with
good success. I got it at a local auto-supplies store for less then $2 a
can. You wipe it on, let try, then polish off. Serious corrosion (black
stuff similar to silver tarnish) requires repeated applications to get
down through the build-up. By the way, if your machine is pre-1920's the
"bright" metal isn't chrome, it's nickel (according to Graham). Surface
rust may require the use of 0000 steel wool. I've found it doesn't hurt
the metal but DON'T use it on the machine surface -- it leaves tiny scratches.
Genuing pitting, however, is there to stay. If you can get the rust off,
the pitting isn't really so bad -- just proves your machine "has a story
to tell". If the throat plate has trouble fitting back in, be sure the
parts of the plate and the machine that make contact aren't also gunked
up. I had the same problem with the rear slide plate on my machine.
Burnished off the side of the slide plate with 0000 steel wool, and
cleaned out the machine surfaces (very gently) with either a tiny screw
driver blade or a large straight pin. After so many years, what looks
black like the machine's surface can really be solidified gunk that really
doesn't belong there.


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