Kenmores of this vintage are great sewing machines. Often understated, they are very popular among folks that know Kenmore branded for what they are… durable all metal sewing machines with a wealth of features suited for just about any sewing task imaginable. If there is anything I have learned from working on these machines, is that they are well built and well thought out in design. Not particularly flashy, they are neat in appearance and the layout of their controls is practical and efficient. Routine service is made easy by way of “popping off” the top cover (held with spring clips) without the bother of removing screws, and well marked oiling points.
Powerful motors, double belt reduction belt drive, hyper extension presser foot lift, a great variety of utility and stretch stitches, and a very forgiving tension control adjustments are a few things that make these sewing machines a great choice for garment construction. Many of the Kenmore models, like this one, have expanded capabilities with the use of a plethora of pattern cams and unique gear driven attachments for making button holes and even monogramming. These features, and more are what make restoring these machines worthwhile… They are great quality sewing machines that deserve to be preserved and “kept in the stream”.
This Kenmore model 158.16012 is a great example of a Kenmore quality sewing machine. Virtually indistinguishable from the model 158.1802 (Kenmores self proclaimed “Kenmore’s Best”), both machines use the same body castings, controls, latch release presser foot clamp, bobbin winder, and super high shank presser feet. Both machines have a 1.2 amp motor and double belt reduction for increased piercing power at the needle. Mechanically, they are very similar. Both use a gear driven oscillating hook and class 15 bobbin. Under the machine, the sewing assembly is identical. The linkages found in the top sewing arm of the machine is a little different, but both have the same cam stack and built in stitches. The selection of built in stitches is scant, and the full range of stitch selection comes from using stitch pattern cams. From a sewing perspective, the most important difference between them is the needle homing position. The 1802 is a left needle homing machine whereas the 1601 is a center needle homing machine. Otherwise, the color of the dial centers is the only difference you will notice… Take a look.
The 1601 being restored here is typical of most Kenmores. Cosmetically, the paint is in good condition but requires deep cleaning. Mechanically, the emphasis is on removing oil varnish that has coated the inside of the rotating assemblies, replacing the grease in the oscillating hook gear box, restoring the motor, disassembling and cleaning the tension mechanisms, and ensuring all of the linkages responsible for making all of the built in and pattern cam stitches are adjusted and operate smoothly. To achieve this, disassembly of the sewing mechanism in the sewing machine head, the connecting rod, the stitch length fork, the bobbin hook case, and various of the bits and pieces associated with these assemblies is required. Disassembly of the cam stack and linkages in the top of the sewing machine head is not required, except for the connecting rod, the stitch length fork, and the gears, there is everything can be cleaned in place.
Starting off, here is the machine before restoration…
The assemblies removed are laid out for cleaning… In this step, all of the old oil varnish will be removed.
The parts are ultrasonically cleaned and then soaked in oil heated to 250 degrees F to drive off residual moisture. They are then wire brushed to bright steel… the needle bar and presser foot bar are polished glass smooth.
The hook gear gear case is opened and all of the old grease is removed, the gears are cleaned, and the case is packed with new grease. The gear box grease in every vintage Kenmore I have restored needs this service. The old grease ages to the consistency of beeswax and is no longer effective at lubricating the gears.
Next the motor is disassembled. The armature shafts and the commutator are polished, and the brushes are reground flat.
To complete the mechanical restoration, the tension assembly is disassembled and cleaned…
The machine mechanisms are reassembled
The next step is to do a complete cosmetic deep cleaning of the machine and correcting paint chips with color matched paint. After cleaning, the chips can be repaired. On this 1601, they are minimal, but the result makes the machine look so much better… it’s the details that matter.
This completes the restoration, and this Kenmore is in tip top condition. It runs smoothly and it looks great. The whole purpose of such a detailed restoration is to return a great high quality all metal vintage sewing machine to as close to “as new” as possible. This restoration is a great example of achieving that goal!
For comparison, here is the machine before restoration…
and here is the machine after restoration…
If you like what you see please visit our Etsy store at https://www.etsy.com/shop/pungoliving, and see all of our other restored fine quality vintage sewing machines. If you have any questions, please contact Lee at Pungoliving@gmail.com. If you like what you see please visit our Etsy store at https://www.etsy.com/shop/pungoliving, and see all of our other restored fine quality vintage sewing machines. If you have any questions, please contact Lee at Pungoliving@gmail.com.
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