This is the second Kenmore 158.1941 I have had in the shop for restoration. The Kenmore model 158.1941 series of sewing machines is at the top of my list of “convertible” sewing machines for several reasons, not the least of which is it’s all metal construction. Also worthy of mention is the 1.0 amp motor coupled with a dual belt reduction system and the simple operation afforded by the well placed and logical function of the control knobs. The 1941 model is among the last of the all metal Kenmore’s, and certainly the best of their free arm (marketed by Kenmore as “convertible”) machines. This machine was manufactured in Japan by the Maruzen Sewing Machine Company in 1977, it is well regarded for both it’s versatility and durability. Unfortunately, the Kenmore Model 158.19412 is the last of a dying breed. By this I am referring to the end of an era of the production of all metal sewing machines… heirloom quality sewing machines that incorporated solid metals like bronze, cast iron, aluminum, or steel in all of the stitch forming and sewing mechanisms. By 1975, almost all domestic home sewing machines had begun to incorporate synthetic plastic parts into the drive mechanism stream. This included gears, bushings, levers, and other parts that are driven by the machine to form a stitch. Kenmore was the last holdout in the all metal sewing machine arena. Fortunately, this machine, despite it’s late date of manufacture dodged the tsunami of plastic cost saving measures incorporated by all sewing machine manufacturers at this time… The only plastic part found in this machine is the balance wheel belt pulley. Here at least it is not a part that is prone to breaking or wearing out.
The move to plastic was heralded by the sewing machine manufacturers as being an improvement benefiting the end user. They claimed less maintenance, quieter operation, and smoother operation, it was in fact an excuse to save money. Replacing plastic for steel or bronze in the drive train was cheaper to manufacture, and if the end user could be convinced that it was better for them, so much the better for sales. I am not going to argue the benefit of plastic versus steel in any high torque application, such as a sewing machine plunging a needle thru upholstery fabric at 900 or more stitches per minute, it is clear as day. To put it simply… for longevity and reliability, steel is good, plastic is bad.
The model 1941 features ten different pattern stitches plus a great straight stitch. The ability to convert to a free arm and a center homing needle make it a great sewing machine for garment construction, Kenmore included a good selection of stretch stitches among the stitch patterns. The machine features a 1.0 amp motor with a double belt reduction drive mechanism to multiply the torque delivered to the needle. Smooth running and quiet, the model 1941 is perfect for both light weight and heavy weight fabrics. Similar to the 1600 and 1800 series, the model 1941 is a super high shank machine and has a generous hyper extension of the presser foot bar. Typical to free arm machines, the removable bed and accessory tray of the model allows for sewing hems, sleeves, and other portions of garment construction where it is convenient to have a small sewing area under the needle. The removable bed and accessory tray of the model 1941 is made out of metal.., and that’s a big plus. The bed snaps into place and attaches to the machine with a secure and satisfying “click” when the bed latch engages. The machine features feed dog drop for free motion quilting and embroidery, and it is twin needle capable.
This sewing machine is in very good cosmetic condition. The paint is in very good condition and the mechanical mechanisms are relatively clean of any old oil varnish. To restore this machine mechanically to “near new” performance, the motor and tension assemblies will be disassembled and restored. The gear case will be cleaned and the gear grease will be replaced, all moving parets will be cleaned, and the machines body will be deep cleaned. Along the way, any items that need to be addressed will be taken care of. Cosmetically, the yellowing of the back plastic cover, and the bed detach buttons… a common cosmetic condition to Kenmore’s of this vintage, will be restored to its original color.
Moving ahead, here are pictures of the machine before restoration…
The first step is to remove all of the covers and bits that make it easier to clean the machine and access the mechanisms I am going after.
The bobbin case, case cover, and bobbin case hook are removed. These are cleaned with a wire brush. The hook shaft case is wire brushed in place and the next step is to replace the grease in the hook gear case. This is an essential step because I am certain that the grease has broken down over 40 years and is no longer lubricating the bevel gears as it should.
The machine will run quieter and smoother as a result. Next the motor is restored by disassembling, polishing the armature and motor shafts with jeweler’s rouge, inspecting the brushes, and oiling the shaft bushing felts.
Following the reassembly, the motor is bench tested for proper running… Next is the disassembly of the tension mechanism.
Following cleaning, it is reassembled and set aside for reassembly. The next step is the cosmetic restoration, Three things here… the two bed detach buttons, and the rear cover.
Removing the yellowing and restoring the original color is accomplished in different ways. The buttons need to be cleaned in place because they have retaining rings that prevent them from being removed without ruining the button. These are gently cleaned in place with a cotton swab and acetone. The rear cover is much larger and to assure an even color, they are sun bleached using 40 volume creme developer… this is the same stuff used in hair salons for bleaching hair. Coating the part with the developer, sealing it in a plastic bag, and placing it in the sun for 2 hours does the trick.
Next, the body of the machine is cleaned inside and out, detailing all of the nooks and crannies where dirt accumulates. Now is the time to remove the bobbin winder assembly for cleaning as well.
Now, all of the bits, parts, and pieces are reinstalled, the top mechanisms in the sewing machine head and needle bar head are cleaned, and all moving parts are lubricated.
The sewing machine is threaded, the bobbin winder is tested for proper operation by filling a bobbin, and the machine is adjusted for proper feed and tension. As expected, the machine sews quietly and makes a great stitch at all stitch lengths and pattern stitch selections.
So, the restoration is complete and the dial has been turned back 40 years! The high quality of manufacture and time tested durability of these Kenmores will assure that it will sew for many more years. To sum it up, here is the machine before the restoration…
And the after the restoration…
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