This is a custom order restoration for another great Kenmore model 158.1941 sewing machine! In case you are not familiar with the model 1941, before I get started I will tell you a little bit about the machines history and features.
Kenmore offered three machines in model 158.1941 lineup first introduced 1n 1975/76 as the model 158.19410. The model 158.19411 came out in 1976, followed by the model 19412 in 1977. Manufactured by the Maruzen Sewing Machine Company in Japan, they remained essentially the same machine over their three year production run. The most noticeable difference in the later models was the addition of Kenmore’s proprietary super high shank presser foot and quick detach presser foot clamp. In most other aspects they are identical. Here’s a run down of the machines features.
The 1941 features a 1.0 amp motor that drives the rotating assemblies via a double belt reduction pulley. Kind of like using a lower gear in your car, the reduction pulley amplifies the motor’s power to the sewing mechanisms and gives the machine very impressive piercing power at the needle. The stitch mechanism consists of a class 15 vertical bobbin case and a gear driven oscillating hook. The machine also boasts a super high lift presser foot extension that will accommodate an impressive fabric thickness. This is especially useful when sewing over bulky seams with thick fabric. The 1941 also has a feature to drop the feed dogs for free motion sewing and a spring loaded presser foot button for adjusting the presser foot pressure. The body of the machine and all of the components in the sewing mechanism is made of metal. The only plastic found in the machine is the rear cover and the balance wheel motor belt pulley. The 1941 is built for durability and has proven itself over four decades of use.
Kenmore designed the 1941 to handle a variety of fabrics and it offers a balanced and useful selection of stitches suitable to a broad application of sewing preferences. The machine offers a selection of 10 utility stitches (including a good mix of stretch stitches) plus a very nice straight stitch. The machine uses standard class 15 bobbins and standard 15X1 sewing needles. As far as the body styling and sewing assemblies compare in the 1941 model series line, they are pretty much the same. All have center homing needles and all are “convertible” sewing machines. This means that the front of the sewing bed is detachable from the machine to reveal a free arm for sewing cuffs, hems, and collars. All of the body parts and panels (except for the rear cover) are made of metal. This makes for a high quality “feel” that plastic simply can’t deliver and enough weight for a smooth and stable sewing experience. The 1941 can utilize Kenmore’s gear driven attachments by swapping out the front cover lid with a lid containing the attachment’s gear drive. This is especially useful for Kenmore’s button hole attachment. The 1941 is a fairly portable machine and sits a case with a flat bottom case tray. The machine is designed for sewing on a table. There are no hinge attachment points and it was not intended for sewing in a cabinet. To sum it up, the 158.1941 is a portable and powerful sewing machine and an excellent choice for garment making and general purpose sewing projects. Heavy sewing projects using denim and upholstery fabrics are not a challenge as the machine’s feed mechanism and powerful motor delivers impressive piercing power smoothly and quietly.
So now you know a little more about the model 158.1941 machine in general, lets take a look at the machine selected for this restoration. This machine is designated as the 158.19410 and it is the first model in the 1941 series. This machine uses standard low shank presser feet while the 158.19411 and 158.19412 machines use Kenmore’s proprietary super high shank presser feet. I chose this model specifically because it uses standard low shank presser feet. I see this as an advantage because It can use any number of standard inexpensive low shank feet that are readily available. On the other hand, Kenmore’s super high shank feet are more expensive, harder to find, and more limited in their application. Lets get onto the restoration…
This machine was chosen because it is in good cosmetic and mechanical condition. It’s hard to say for sure how much use this machine had, but there is some marginal oil varnish build up on the sewing mechanisms and the machine is fairly stiff because the oil has dried up in the joints. My guess is that it probably saw some use in it’s early days and was then stored away for a significant amount of time. The few cosmetic flaws include a few minimal scratches and some slight yellowing on the rear plastic cover and tension dial. These are common issues that can be readily restored. The mechanical restoration will include disassembly of all of the assemblies in the needle bar head, and selective in place disassembly of rotating and rubbing parts under the sewing machine bed. The sewing assemblies in the sewing machine arm will be cleaned of all grease, varnish build up, and everything will be oiled and adjusted for quiet operation. Disassembly of mechanisms in the sewing arm is not necessary as oil varnish affected parts and linkages can be readily cleaned in place. The connecting rod will be removed, the motor will be restored, and the grease in the gear case will be replaced. All of the parts disassembled will be ultrasonically cleaned, heated in oil to drive out moisture, and wire brushed to like new condition. The needle bar and presser foot bar will be polished to a glass smooth finish and all bearing bores will be cleaned with a wire brush to provide a smooth running and quiet sewing machine.
Here are some pictures showing the machine before restoration…
The Mechanical Restoration
The mechanical restoration begins with removing all of the body covers and disassembling the assemblies in the sewing machine needle bar head. The main connecting rod and the bolts connecting the rocker shafts and connecting rod are removed from under the sewing machine bed. The feed dogs, bobbin case, and bobbin hook assembly are also removed.
All of the parts are laid out for cleaning…
Looking closely at these parts you can see the oil varnish buildup. This varnish is on the inside of mating parts and the only way to clean them completely is by disassembly. The goal is to restore these assemblies to like new condition for like new performance.
All of the parts are ultrasonically cleaned and heated in oil before they are wire brushed to like new condition. The needle bar and presser foot bar are taken a step farther and they are polished glass smooth.
The bobbin race cover has a removable plate. 45 years is plenty of time for dirt and gunk to accumulate so it is disassembled and cleaned.
The pins that the rocker assembly rotate on are removed one at a time and then wire brushed. This preserves the rocker shaft adjustment and restores a smooth contact surface.
Where the parts are selectively removed, the oil varnish on the mating assemblies is removed and the bores are cleaned with a round wire brush.
Next the grease in the gear case is replaced. As the pictures show, there is very little grease remaining in the case and none on the gears. The new grease added to the case not only keeps the gears lubricated, but also considerably reduces the amount of noise from the gear case.
Next the motor is disassembled and restored. Kenmore motors are excellent quality and durable and restore nicely. Polishing the shafts and commutator restores them to their peak performance. The motor felts are oiled and the brushes are reconditioned.
After assembly, the motor is “run in” at varying speed to seat the brushes and the shafts within the bores and to ensure the motor runs powerfully and smoothly… It does and Kenmore motor never disappoint me.
Now the tension assembly is disassembled and cleaned.
Notice the wear and buildup on the tension shaft in the picture above? Like the face of the tension discs, it is in direct contact with the thread and must be as smooth as possible. It is wire brushed smooth before reassembly.
The next step in the mechanical restoration is the bobbin winder assembly. Unless a spring is broken, it is seldom necessary to disassemble and simply requires cleaning and oiling.
Following reassembly, it is adjusted to wind a tight and even bobbin.
With all of the assemblies cleaned and reassembled, the mechanical restoration is complete and the next phase is the cosmetic restoration.
As I mentioned before, the machine is in good cosmetic condition. It needs to be cleaned and there are a few paint dings and scratches that can be addressed. Simple and straight forward, the cosmetic restoration begins with a deep cleaning.
Typical of Kenmore sewing machines of this vintage, the rear cover and tension control knob are made of plastic. I call it Kenmore plastic because as it ages it turns yellow. This is commonly found on Kenmore machines of this vintage and it is so on this machine. Fortunately, the yellowing can be reversed and in doing so, the original color is restored.
Next step is to color match the paint defects. The paint defects are identified and then they are corrected with a color matched paint using an air brush. The repaired area are then coated with clear polyurethane to provide a durable finished surface.
The only thing left to do is polish the spool pins… and with this done the cosmetic restoration is complete.
With the machine cleaned and assembled, the tensions are adjusted and the machine is run to ensure that all of the stitches are balanced and properly formed. As expected, the machine runs much smoother and quieter than it did before the restoration and all of the controls turn smoothly as they should. But… there was a surprise inside! It was kind of like finding some loose change stuffed deep in the sofa cushions. I didn’t expect to find it and it was probably there a long time. Hidden inside the front needle bar cover I found the original sticker price tag affixed to the inside needle bar cover! It’s unexpected because it is a little paper sticker and I certainly didn’t expect to find it after 46 years. It’s presence is part of the machines provenance and I left it in place.
So… now we know that a new Kenmore model 158.1941 cost $275.00 in 1975, but how much would it cost today if we adjust for inflation? I remember 1975 well because it was the year of graduation from High school and $275 was a lot of money back then, so I looked it up. Using the inflation calculator from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, something that cost $275 in 1975 would cost $1,440 today!
Well, that’s pretty much it and the restoration of this 1941 turned out beautifully… here is the machine after restoration…
Well, I hope you enjoyed the restoration process as much as I did… It is satisfying to know that a durable high quality machine made some 46 years ago is now running as smoothly and reliably as it did then. Not only that, I have every reason to expect that with proper oiling and maintenance this machine will run reliably for many more years to come.
Looking for a similarly restored quality vintage all metal sewing machine for your sewing room? Let us know! We specialize in custom orders and are happy to locate and restore the “perfect” machine for you!
As always, If you have any questions, or if I can be of any assistance, please contact me through Etsy or send me an email to Pungoliving@gmail.com.
Thanks for reading!