Restoration of a Vintage Model 1958 Gimbels “Regular” DeLuxe


This restoration is interesting for a number of reasons. For me, one of the most interesting things about any machine I restore is it’s history. This machine is no different and researching its history was quite a chalenge. My customer purchased the machine from Shopgoodwill because of it’s name. It’s a Gimbels… and like many machines of it’s vintage, it’s a Singer class 15 clone made in Japan. But who made it? Gimbels did not manufacture sewing machines and like every other retailer would commission a Japanese sewing machine manufacturer to make their sewing machines and brand them with their name. This was a very common practice and is true for all retail store brands. What is unusual about this machine is that I cannot find another example like it. Good luck if you can, but where I can find examples of other Gimbels branded machines, this one is conspicuously absent. My customer explained that she bought the machine because her mother worked at Gimbels department store in New York city and she thought it would be great to have a machine sold by Gimbels to commerate the memory of her mother working there.

The Gimbels chain of retail stores found its roots in Indiana in 1842, they then moved to Milwaukee, and then to NYC. They closed their doors and were liquidated in 1987. In short, Gimbels had quite a heyday! Gimbels was a behemoth of a retail store with it’s largest store in New York city on 34th St. It’s rival competetor was Macy’s department store (located a short distance away down 34th St.). Most people are aware of the Macy’s Thanksgiving day parade in New York, but the Gimbel’s Thanksgiving Parade in Philadelphia was a grand parade as well.

I think it is a great story, and a great opportunity to restore this machine to as close to new condition as possible, and my customer is excited as well!

Restoration Plan

The model 1953 is a straight stitch machine. There are no identifying marks cast into the machine that give any clue clue to who manufactured the machine or when. The model 1953 might suggest that it was first introduced in 1953, but I couldn’t say with any certainty thats the year it was made. The motor on the machine is a Morse motor, and it may be an indication of the machine being manufactured by Morse. The stitch length controls and the top tension knob look similar to controls I have seen on Morse machines, but thats not enough to claim Morse was the manufacturer. The motor may have been replaced at some point in time and the controls also appear similar to machines Brother manufactured in the early 60’s. Unfortunately, I cannot conclusively provide a date or manufacturer for this machine., but If pressed for an answer, I would say it is likely made by Morse for Gimbels.

Part of the reason for this restoration is a sad story. As I said, my customer purchased this machine at a Shopgoodwill online auction. Shopgoodwill is a great place to find both common and unique sewing machines. At any given time, they can have 500 or more sewing machines for auction. I have purchased machines from them, and I have seen some rare and wonderful machines over the years. The only problem with purchasing a machine from them is that there is a high probability that it will be damaged in shipping… If it is in a case, the chance the case will be damaged by the machine smashing it or the spool pin punching thru the top… this is just my personal experience. I like Shopgoodwill and great bargains can be found there, but unless it is very desireable machine to me, I don’t source machines from them.

Unfortunately, this was the case when my customer got her machine. Please don’t take my experiences as a discourgement to purchase a machine from them, but do consider the possibility it may arrive with some damage. The machine listed was in beautiful condition, but because it was poorly packed with the metal foot controller in the box, the machines paint was severly scratched and gouged and the case was smashed. It arrived in quite a contrast to the picture of the machine listed where it was in beautiful condition.

Anyway, she wanted a base for her machine, and asked me if the paint scars could be repaired in a restoration. I explained that it could be made much less obvious with paint matching and she decided she wanted the machine to sew well and look good as well. A mechanical restoration was in order and I promised to do the best I could with the paint repair. Not normally included in a mechanical restoration, I don’t atempt extensive paint repairs, but it was important to make the most of the cosmetic repair for the best outcome.

Mechanical Restoration

As usual, the machine will be disassembled to the greatest extent possible. Each piece will be cleaned and wire brushed to like new condition. The needle bar, presser foot bar, and the bottom bobbin hook shaft will be polished, and all of the chrome plated parts will be polished. The machine will be deep cleaned, and paint repairs will be made with custom mixed color matched paint. The motor will be disassembled, and for this machine, a replacement vintage foot controller will be provided and the main power wiring will be replaced. So, let me get started!

All in all, the machine looks to be in great condition. The paint (except where it was damaged) is in great condition, and the decals are in beautiful condition. The machine was a little stiff to turn by hand and the machine has it’s share of old oil varnish and packed lint. The biggest challenge is the paint repairs and I have high expectations for the restoration outcome.

Here is the machine before the start of the restoration:

.The machine looks pretty good, but here is where the paint is damaged.

The scars on the sewing machine arm are too big to get a nearly invisible repair. Fortunately, the location is such that they are not “in your face” when seated in front of the machine. Paint matching will effectively make them far less obvious. The chips on the bed are another story.

The bed chips are deep and go thru to the metal. The paint thickness is relatively thick here, and because the paint match paint is formulated with shellac, which is relatively thin, it will need to be built up over successive applications. Each application will need to dry before the next application. Instead of seperating the cosmetic from the mechanical restoration, it will be done in steps that are done concurrently. First, the machine is disassembled to the greatest extent possible.

All of the assemblies in the sewing machine’s needle bar area are removed.

Next, all of the assemblies are removed from under the bed.

The plan included the disassembly of the top shaft and stitch length fork… The following picture convinced me not to attept this.

All of those likages fit together and are attached to a single bolt on the machine deep in the pillar cavity. I thought about it long and hard and decide that if I removed these assemblies I may never get them back together and in place. Rather than risk this, I decided to clean them in place. Luckily, the arm shaft turns smoothly and I can work around its removal.

After disassembly, all of the parts are laid out for cleaning.

The parts are ultrasonically cleaned, heated in oil to 250 degrees to drive off water, and then each piece is wire brushed to shiny steel.

The needle bar, presser foot bar, and bottom bobbin hook shaft are polished to a glass smooth finish.

Because of the abundance of plated parts, they are polished too.

All of the plated pieces are going to be polished anyway, but now is a great opportunity polish some of the parts and get ahead for the reassembly.

While all of this has been going on, I have been working on the paint repairs. The bed edge chips are easy. The scars and the large chips on the bed are not.

The bed chips are easily repaired.

The other repairs are a challenge. The bed chips need to be filled and then rubbed out flush to the bed. This required eight applications of paint to fill the chip, sanding the repair flush with the bed, and then glase polishing to complete the repair. Each application was allowed to dry for one day before the next was applied. There is no rush though, there is plenty to do.

The paint scar on the sewing machine arm is another story.

It can’t be filled, so paint is applied in two coats to the borders and then feathered as best I can to hide the repair.

There are a few other chips here and there, but they are fixed as they are found. All in all, it is a great outcome!

Next is the top tension control restoration. The tension discs and the tension disc shaft are polished. Everything else is cleaned. This will assure a smooth thread path and even thread tension.

The large plated pieces are cleaned and then polished. Taking pictures of polished pieces isn’t easy, so you will see them shine on the assembled machine! Sorry, but it is worth the wait… The same goes for the little pieces like the stitch length lever, bobbin winder guide, and other little bits and pieces.

Now its time to restore the motor. The motor on the machine is a Morse motor and it is rated at 1.0 amps. This is a lot of power for a straight stitch machine. I don’t know the condition of the motor because I never run a motor before it is restored. I just feel it is better to do the restoration first. If there is an apparant problem (like shorted wires), I have a chance to see it before it burns up and ruins the motor. Always better safe than sorry!

Before reassembly, the brushes are removed and cleaned, the armature and shafts are polished, the motor housings are cleaned on the inside and the oil wicks are recharged. The main wires are attached and soldered to the brush tubes. After reassembly, paint chips on the motor housing are corrected with paint match paint.

Next, the light fixture is restored. This machine has an aftermarket light attachment that is very likely the same (or slightly later) vintage as the machine. The wires need to be replaced, and I think I can improve the cosmetic appearance by polishing the light shroud.

Except for reassembly, the only steps left are polishing all of the chrome plated pieces.

Before polishing, they are cleaned. Because taking picture of shiny parts is so difficult, They will present themselves in the final pictures… until then, just remember how they look now!

My customer has opted to replace the foot controller. In addition, a new motor/light terminal block is provided.

Notice the name on the controller? Its a vintage Kenmore foot controller. The more I use these, the better I like them. Thet are just the right size, have a great heft and feel, operate smoothly, and have very good motor speed control. They are a carbon pile controller and they run much cooler than resistance style foot controllers (the type of controller the machine came with).

The machine’s sewing mechanisms are reassembled and rough adjustments are made. It is then hooked up to an external electric motor and run for 5 minutes at 1400 rpm. This mates all of the moving parts together and makes the machine incredibly smooth. After this exercise, fine adjustments are made and the motor, light, and all of the bits and pieces are reassembled to the machine.

At this point, the machine is threaded, tensions are set, and the machine is tested to see how she sews! After noodling with the needle depth, top and bottom tensions, and presser foot pressure, I’d say it lays down a very nice stitch. I didn’t clock the machine speed, but I would guess it is 1000 spm or better. The machine has a very solid sound and the motor is very strong. I’m very happy with the outcome!

So, that’s it! The paint repairs turned out very nicely, and are hardly noticeable unless you know where to look. The machine turns smoothly and there is no perceptable slip or play in the assemblies. The parts are completely clean and the adjustments are just right for this machine. Finally, the pictures below show the final outcome. The customer ordered a custom made base in a Mocha stain, and this is base the machine is set into. All in all I think it is a very nice package, and I hope the customer is not only pleased, but uses her “new” Gimbels “Regular” machine for many years to come!

Well, I hope you like what you see and enjoyed the restoration process as much as I did… This unusual Gimbels model 1953 is and runs beautifully as well. Like I always say, some sewing machines need more, some need less, but they all get what they need, and now I can look forward to the next restoration!

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!



Restoration of a Vintage 1976/77 Kenmore Model 158.1914


This is a private restoration of a Kenmore model 1914-2 sewing machine. The serial number 0035262 identifies its year of manufacture from 1976 to 1977. Manufactured by Maruzen Sewing Machine Company, it was made in Japan, and it is a high quality all metal sewing machine, Because of its quality and capabilities, it is a very desirable model with a very good following.

I said all metal…. well, the top motor belt pulley is made of plastic, but it has proven to be durable and seldom a problem in machines despite its age. Otherwise, every other component in the machine is made of steel or aluminum alloy. The model 1914 is a convertible machine. The front end of the bed can be detached to reveal a free arm for sewing cuffs and such. The model 1914 is quite a departure from most of the other machines in the 158 sewing machine series. For example, the top tension control is not a knob dial located on the front of the sewing machine but instead is controlled by a horizontal dial built into the front face of the sewing arm. Stitch selection and stitch width are tucked under the top cover. The 1914 uses Kenmore’s proprietary high shank feet and is a left homing needle machine. The machine includes 11 built in stitches, some of which are stretch stitches which make it perfect for garment construction. It is also a cam compatible machine , has a stitch modifier control, and a seperate setting for making manual buttonholes.

This particular model 1914 is a beautiful example of a vintage Kenmore. Aside from surface dirt and stains, the body of the machine and the mechanical parts are in very good shape. The needle bar adjustment has been changed and as a result the machine will not sew now, but that isn’t a problem in the end. That said, lets get to the restoration!

Here is the machine before the restoration…

Mechanical Restoration

The restoration begins with disassembly of the parts in the needle bar head. There are pieces that cannot be removed because pinchwashers are used. Once removed, they cannot be reused. Fortunately, there is nothing left that can’t be cleaned in place.

Next the bobbin, bobbin case, bobbin race cover and feed dogs are removed. Then, the bottom cover is removed to reveal the motor and the sewing mechanism.

Next, the rear cover, the motor, and the motor pulley mechanism is removed and all of the parts are laid out for cleaning.

I decided to clean each part by hand for this restoration by using a dremel tool and wire wheel. However, the cleaning of the needle bar and the presser foot bar is followed by polishing to a glass smooth finish,

These parts are set aside until reassembly.

Now on to the feed dog drop. On a majority of Kenmores of this vintage, the feed dogs are stuck in place and won’t drop. I suspect the reason for this is because the feed dogs are seldom (if ever) dropped. Because many Kenmores are stored unused for long periods of time (often years), there is ample time for the old oil to dry out and leave oil varnish behind. The feed dog mechanisn is fairly complex, closely fit, buried deep in the machine and very difficult to get to. While it is a common problem, the mechanism is not amenable to complete (or any) disassembly. This makes it very hard to free them up. The best solution? Use heat. I use a butane torcn with a small flame applied to the feed dog assembly. The heat melts the old oil varnish and frees the mechanism quickly. Don’t worry about the machine though, because the oil varnish melts at a low temperature and the heat is localized. To keep the oil varnish from reforming, WD40 is used at the joints to dissolve and replace the old oil varnish. This is followed by sewing machine oil to keep it lubricated. The mechinaism is repeatedly exercised by hand until it drops under gravity (helped by a small spring in the mechanism). This will be repeated at various points in the restoration just to ensure they operate properly.

So far so good. Next the motor is disassembled. The commutator and the armature shafts are polished, the brushes are reconditioned, and the felt wicks are charged with oil.

Kenmore motors are not only powerful (this one is 1.2 amps) but they restore with great results. Kenmore motors seldom fail and when they do they are easy to replace. After restoration they run great and develop good power and speed. This motor is no exception.

Another common problem found in older vintage Kenmores is in the gear case. The gear case is packed with grease that over time dies out and falls away from the oscillating gears. Not so much of a problem with the gears though. They are heat treated steel and in a sewing machine are not subjected to demanding loads. However, the lack of grease makes them noisy and it is certainly better if they are properly lubricated! The gear case is opened, the old grease is removed, the gears are cleaned, and the gear case is packed with fresh grease.

There are assemblies that are normally disassembled and cleaned. However, on this machine, I was unable to loosen the nuts securing them. Rather than break them, the parts are cleaned in place.

Nothing is removed in the top sewing arm assembly. Except for cleaning the worm gear, there is really nothing that needs to be disassembled unless somthing is sticking. On this machine, everything moves smoothly. Oil is applied to all joints and all of the linkages are checked to ensure they are moving freely.

Next, the top tension assembly is cleaned and the bobbin case is disassembled and cleaned. It is surprisingly clean. These steps alone will assure even thread tension so important to an even balanced stitch.

With all of the mechanical parts cleaned and ready for reassembly, it is time to clean the machine.

Cosmetic Restoration

The cosmetic restoration consists merely of deep cleaning. I use GoJo and a small flux brush to clean the entire surface of the machine. This machine cleaned up surprisingly well. There are only a few very small nicks that I’ll bet you won’t even notice in the pictures. After cleaning, the machine looks great… it’s in excellent condition!

Finally, it is time for reassembly and adjusting. The feed dog height, the needle depth, the presser foot height, and the needle swing is adjusted to specification. All of the other points of adjustment are fine. The only way to know for certain the machine is properly adjusted is to use it, so it is run thru all of the built in stitch selections and two pattern cams… one single stack and one double stack to make sure the machine operates properly and the stitches are well formed and balanced.

When running the machine, I was a bit surprised at how fast it would sew. The machine has plenty of power and easily pierces as much fabric layers as I could put under the presser foot without using the hyper extension. Here are the sample stitches…

One thing I look for to demonstrate the feed accuracy of a sewing machine is the quality of the satin stitch it makes. The machine makes a beautiful satin stitch and I know that it is sewing as it should.

Finally, the machine restoration is finished and it is ready to return to the customer. I know she will be very pleased with the outcome… I am pretty critical of my work and I am very pleased!

Here are pictures of the machine after the restoration…

Well, I hope you like what you see and enjoyed the restoration process as much as I did… This is a beautiful model 1914 and it runs beautifully as well. Like I always say, some sewing machines need more, some need less, but they all get what they need, and now I can look forward to the next restoration!

Looking for a similarly restored quality vintage all metal sewing machine for your sewing room? Let us know! We specialize in private restorations as well as 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.



A General Answer to a Specific Question

A reader recently contacted me with two questions that she wanted me to post an answer to…

“There are two things I’d like to see you cover. One is an explanation of Kenmore model numbers. They make absolutely no sense to me- they don’t seem to run in any kind of numeric order.

The other is an explanation of Kenmore attachments. You mention many times ‘the best buttonholer ever’, but when I look it up, there were many Kenmore buttonhole attachments, and most look no different than the Singer ones. And you mentioned once ‘it has the under-bed mechanism to drive the fantastic attachments Kenmore designed by using a gear driven bobbin plate cover’. But I have no idea what you’re talking about, and I bet most of your readers don’t either.”

Both questions that beg for and answer and clarification. Well, I will do my best to answer her questions and hopefully it will be information that will provide some useful information for my readers and the sewing community at large.

The answer to the first question is generally vague. Based on all of the research I have done on the topic comes to no real answer. Perhaps the executives at Maruzen/Jaguar (the manufacturer) had a meeting every Tuesday to discuss the topic. The debate may have concluded with “I know! let’s come out with a new model!”. If true, it’s a good thing they didn’t meet twice a week! In any case, one has to wonder, especially since the differences between many models is so slight as to make it unnecessary.

In the 158.XXXXX model I believe there are 168 models. There are certainly some models that I come across more than others, and many I have never seen or heard of. There are folks that have an opinion on which model is best, and I know that there are many of each still in use. I do know from restoring them that, for the-all metal machines at least, they are well made and durable machines. The same could be said for Singer, and they generally limited their models to a subset of model numbers that made more sense. That is not always the case, and I don’t think that a Singer “Fashion Mate” model 362 is the same build quality as a model 328K… they aren’t. They are both 300 series models, but they are not even closely related. Anyway, back to the Kenmore question.

There is a lot of information on Kenmore’s that I find extremely useful. If you have not heard of the “Vintage Kenmore Group”, I would urge you to check them out. It is a forum that has a depth and breadth of information on Kenmores that I have found unrivaled. It is a forum so you will need to register, but it is free and the folks are friendly and eager to help. One very useful post is a comparison list for all of the different models of Kenmores the author compiled, and it is pretty complete… search for it.

So, that’s my general answer to her specific question, and where I fell short I hope someone will chime in with a complete and definitive answer.

Her second question? Well, I know that there will be folks taking sides and many may disagree with me, but my opinion on Kenmore attachments remains the same. For vintage machines, they are the best out there (based on my experience with the brands I have used).

The big difference between a Singer buttonhole attachment and a Kenmore buttonhole attachment is how the fabric goes thru the mechanism, and how the mechanism is driven. A singer buttonhole attachment uses the needle bar to drive the mechanism and uses teeth on the attachment and a smooth plate below the fabric to move the material under the attachment. The only problem with this arrangement is that if the fabric drags or is not drawn thru the attachment evenly, the buttonhole will be deformed and possibly ruined.

here is a picture of a 60’s vintage buttonhole attachment (for Singer machines that can zig-zag).

In contrast, Kenmore began manufacturing machines that included a drive mechanism built into the machine to run their attachments (not just buttonholers), While it may not have been noticed, it is on many (but not all) Kenmores. This drive mechanism runs a replacement bobbin plate cover that has a gear mechanism built in. This gear is engaged by the drive mechanism in the machine. The advantage is that the fabric is held in the attachment and the gear runs the attachment (and the fabric) under the needle. This prevents fabric slippage and feed problems when forming the buttonhole.

The geared cover is available for flatbed as well as convertible machines and was supplied with the attachment. Because I have just completed a Kenmore convertible machine restoration and acquired a buttonhole attachment and drive plate for the machine, I will show pictures of the buttonhole attachment on that machine. I also happen to have more pictures of the Kenmore attachment, so it’s not because I wanted to downplay the Singer buttonholer by showing only two measly pictures!

Kenmore offered several buttonhole attachments models, so there are differences in the style and looks, but they are basic in how they operate. So, to answer her second question I think that Kenmore’s buttonhole attachments are much more reliable in the outcome of the buttonhole and is a much better attachment than offered by Singer (or other manufacturers of the day).

As I said before, this is my opinion and I hold to it… but please don’t flame me by thinking it is the end-all to all buttonholer attachments. If you like Singer’s attachment, have success using it, and highly recommend it to others than I respect your opinion.

So that’s it!

I hope I have provided some clarity to the questions, and I would appreciate any comments or feedback on the topic.

Have a great day!



Restoration of a Vintage 1959 Singer Model 185K – Millie’s Machine!


This restoration is one that is dear to my heart. You see, I have been blessed with five wonderful grandchildren. The oldest is my granddaughter, Millie. She is a very talented and artistic young lady! She loves anything that requires her to use her hands and her mind… beading, crocheting, and basically anything artistic and creative is easy for her. Like most young girls, she enjoys music, photography, and her pet dog Daisey.

About six months ago (maybe a year, I can’t remember!) she asked her grandmother (Nanny to her) if she would teach her how to sew. Well, that was it for me. Carole and I thought that it was a wonderful thing that she had developed an interest in sewing. After all, she is dawning on her thirteenth birthday, and learning to sew has so many creative elements that she can use to express her interests and have something to show (or wear) for it. We decided that we would restore a machine for her and give it to her to use, and last, as she develops her sewing skills. The only thing we needed to decide was what model machine to restore for her. We chose the Singer model 185K because its retro styled body offered plenty of space to work with and decorate to match her interests. The 185K is a retro bodied model 99 as is really a 3/4 size model 66. It is a very capable machine high quality machine. It is strong, durable, and powerful enough to last her for a lifetime. It is a straight stitch machine that used a drop-in class 66 bobbin and is perfect for learning. She will never outgrow its utility.

Millie loves to watch a anime character called Sakura. In true anime fashion, the colors are bright and cheerful and as such sets the stage for the design we wanted for her machine. Because we know that she will grow and one day be past any animated character, we still wanted to capture the color and theme in a way she would not outgrow. With the stage set and the goal defined, we set out to restore Millie’s machine.

Restoration Plan

Having already acquired a 1959 Singer model 185K, my plan is to do a complete mechanical restoration that includes the complete disassembly of the machine. All of the parts will be ultrasonically cleaned, heated in oil to drive out any remaining water, and wire brushed to look like new. This will remove all traces of old oil varnish that might inhibit the smoothness of the machine and allow it to run as smoothly as possible. The goal here is to restore the machine to new condition. As part of the restoration, the motor will be disassembled and restored. The “bug eye” light will be rewired, and the controller will be disassembled and cleaned. New wires will be provided throughout.

The body of the machine will be sanded and repainted and then it will be decorated with delicate decals that will result in a machine that is one of a kind… just like Millie!

Here is the machine before starting the restoration

It’s a beautiful machine now, but will look very different when it is finished!

Mechanical Restoration

The first step is to disassemble the machine and prepare all of the parts. The parts are completely cleaned and after they are wire brushed, set aside until reassembly.

Next, the motor is disassembled, the armature is polished, and the motor bearings are cleaned and lubricated. New wires are attached to compliment the color scheme. All of this is done after the parts are painted and some steps in the mechanical restoration are done while portions of the cosmetic restoration are underway.

The light is disassembled and rewired, and the incandescent bulb is replaced with an LED.

Next, the controller is disassembled and rewired.

Not forgetting a very important step, the bobbin tension mechanism and top tension mechanism is disassembled and cleaned… Except for reassembly, this pretty much finishes the mechanical part of the restoration.

Cosmetic Restoration

The bulk of this restoration is cosmetic. Except for the top tension dials and the stitch length plate, the plan is to repaint the machine and apply delicate decals. The parts to be painted are prepped and painted in contrasting colors.

Next, the decals are applied, and the machine is clear coated with multiple layers of polyurethane.

Decal placement is trial and error. Carole has the artistic eye for color and pattern and works thru a selection of colorful decals to get just the right balance. After application, the machine sits for a while for a re-look and decals are added or removed until she is satisfied with the result. The machine is then clear coated with polyurethane for a final protective finish.

When it’s time for reassembly (after allowing for a few days to dry the poly completely), the cleaned parts are pulled together for reassembly.

After reassembly, the machine is run and adjusted and is finally ready to sew.

For Millie’s machine, a fitting base is needed. Stained with Minwax oil stain “simply white”, it fits perfectly. The stain color is a nice contrast to the machine, and the pedal and cord storage fits nicely in the compartment.

Finally, the restoration of Millie’s machine is finished, and the only step left is to enjoy the surprise and to see the joy on her face when she uncovers it. Want to see it? well… here she is.

Well, I hope you like what you see and enjoyed the restoration process as much as I did… Millie’s machine is a one-of-a-kind model 185K and runs beautifully as well. Like I always say, some sewing machines need more, some need less, but they all get what they need… this one got it all!

This restoration is really special for Carole and me, and for Millie. Now I can look forward to the next restoration!

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.


Restoration of a Vintage 1941 Singer Model 201-2… Meet Lola!


This is a private restoration for another fine Singer model 201-2. This beautiful sewing machine is named Lola. It isn’t surprising to me that folks get so attached to their sewing machines that they name them. Vintage sewing machines like this 201 have been sewing reliably for decades. Often, they become part of the family and passed down thru generations of folks that use and cherish them for decades. When you consider that Lola is 81 tears old and still sewing reliably after all that time, it is a testament to the quality build that is evident in every part of the machine. Cast iron body, precision heat treated steel parts, and a gear driven full rotary hook results in a sewing machine that is durable, reliable, and forms a great lock stitch.

Restoration Plan

Although Lola is still used regularly, there is a time to restore her to like new condition. Lola has a lot going for her. She has a beautiful original finish and except for some expected decal wear on the front bed, is in great cosmetic condition. She turns smoothly and is used regularly, but at 81 years old, the customer decided to have a full mechanical restoration and bring her back to pristine running condition and the peak performance 201’s are known for. My initial inspection shows some oil varnish and lint buildup that when restored, will improve the overall feel, smoothness, and performance of the machine and prepare her for many more years of reliable and trouble-free service.

The mechanical restoration will consist of disassembly the sewing assembly up to the gears. All of the parts in the needle bar head will be removed. The rocker arms, feed dog mechanism, rotary hook, bobbin case, stitch length fork, and connecting rod will be removed. All of these parts will be ultrasonically cleaned, heated in oil to remove any moisture, and wire brushed to the bright steel finish they had when new. The motor will be restored, and the balance wheel will be disassembled and cleaned. All of the tension mechanisms will be disassembled, cleaned and polished. All of the plated parts will be cleaned and polished. The paint chips on the edges of the bed and the few nicks observed will be covered using color match custom mixed shellac-based paint. The customer has already cleaned and polished Lola, but she will be cleaned again, and glaze polished to bring out her best.

Mechanical Restoration

Considering her fine appearance now, let’s look at what the disassembly reveals. The following pictures show Lola before the restoration begins.

There is some work to do here so let the restoration begin.

First, all of the parts in the needle bar are disassembled.

Then the bobbin case, feed dogs, and rotary hook case is removed.

It isn’t unusual to find lint packed here… and I have no doubt it is affecting the machines performance.

The next step is to disassemble all of the mechanisms under the bed.

The stitch length fork and connecting rod are also removed.

All of the parts are laid out for cleaning.

Overall, the parts look pretty good, but the oil varnish present on the contact surface and exterior surfaces of all parts will be removed

After cleaning, heating, and wire brushing, the parts are renewed to like new condition.

The needle bar, presser foot bar, and the bobbin hook case shaft are polished to as glass smooth finish.

Parts like the bobbin case and the bobbin hook case need to be disassembled to remove any hidden lint or oil varnish.

First, the bobbin hook case is cleaned.

Lint found here can certainly affect performance, and cleaning all of the small slots and holes will allow the hook to operate freely and as designed.

Next, the bobbin case is cleaned.

Lint found here is in the thread path and can cause uneven bobbin thread tension.

In final preparation, some of the smaller parts of the bobbin hook assembly are rounded up with smaller nickel-plated pieces and tumble polished.

After polishing, the bobbin hook race and bobbin case assembly are reassembled.

The gears and contact surface for the stitch length fork and connecting rod are cleaned of old grease and oil varnish. Next, the gears under the bed are cleaned of all grease and varnish.

The bores the needle bar and bobbin hook shaft are wire brushed to remove the oil varnish that has undoubtedly formed there.

All these mechanical parts are driven by the motor, so the detailed motor restoration is a vital part of the mechanical restoration.

First, the motor is completely disassembled.

The armature shafts and the commutator are polished.

The motor case and worm gear are cleaned.

New primary wires are soldered to the field coil.

The grease wicks are cleaned and recharged with lubricant.

The motor is reassembled, new motor brushes and the grease wicks are installed, and the grease tubes are packed with lubricant.

The motor is run in for a few minutes to ensure it is running smoothly and delivering the speed and power expected. The actual performance won’t be known until the machine is assembled and adjusted. It will then be checked for speed. The 201 is rated for 1100 stitches per minute and is quite fast.

The bobbin winder is incorporated in the motor housing, so it was disassembled and cleaned separately. The bobbin winder “thumb” and everything shiny is polished. Then everything is reassembled. The old, cracked bobbin winder tire is replaced.

Next, the balance wheel is disassembled and all of the internal parts are cleaned.

Because the chips on the balance wheel are numerous and deep, they can’t be paint matched and not be noticeable. A replacement balance wheel free of chips is used instead. The donor balance wheel is used in the reassembly.

The balance wheel is ready to be put on the machine.

Next, the top tension mechanism is disassembled and cleaned.

That finishes the mechanical part of the restoration.

Next, the paint chips are addressed. They are painted with custom mixed ebony black paint.

The machine is deep cleaned and paint chips on the bed are addressed.

There are a few very small paint chips on the sewing machine body. A sample is shown and they are fixed where they are found.

The small repairs will all but disappear from view when the body of the machine is glaze polished.

The front cover, side cover, bobbin slide plat, needle plate, and the stop motion knob are rouge polished on a 6″ buffing wheel and everything is ready for the final assembly. The camera has a hard time with very shiny surfaces, so the results will be shown in the final pictures.

There is one little cosmetic detail that bothers me… The decals on Lola’s sewing arm are in fantastic condition except for one little chip on top of the sewing arm.

Decal restoration is not normally part of a mechanical restoration, but I am going to fix it. The first step is to mix a gold color to match the decals on the machine. Several gold color paints are mixed on a piece of cellophane on the machine bed to get a comparison.

Then the decal chip is corrected using a fine tip artist brush.

It’s a little detail, but I think it makes a difference.

Now, the machine is reassembled.

Lola is glaze polished and is ready for final adjustments. The hook timing, needle depth, and feed dog clearances are set. Sewing is the only way to adjust the top and bottom tensions for a balanced stitch, so trial and error is the only way. It’s time consuming, but worth the effort. From here on out, only minor tension adjustments will be required to match the thread to the fabric for any given project.

Finally, with the final adjustments made, Lola’s restoration is complete. So, how many stitches per minute will Lola sew per minute? Using a digital tachometer, I measure the speed of the needle clamp going up and down.

Because the tach measures the clamp both ways, dividing the number by two gives the stitches per minute Lola is sewing. That comes out to 1118 SPM… the machine is rated for 1100 spm so this is a great outcome.

The customer had some questions about the suitability of the original foot controller. It’s impossible to determine if the controller will work properly before it is restored, so that is the next step. I have my suspicion that it isn’t the original controller. because this style was typically found on model 66’s, but there is nothing wrong with the style.

The foot controller was disassembled, cleaned and calibrated.

Unfortunately, it proved to have poor speed control and is unsuitable for Lola. It has good slow speed control, but at about 3/4 speed, it goes wide open.

A Kenmore carbon pile paddle controller was chosen as a replacement. Brand loyalty aside… for a paddle controller, I think Kenmore controllers are a great alternative, they are carbon pile controllers rated at 1.2 amps and provide great speed control. A new dual lead power cord completes the ensemble.

Everything is coming together now. Lola is ready to sew. The customer also asked me to build a custom base for Lola to sit in. She chose a red oak stain, and the rich color accentuates Lola’s deep black color and beautiful gold decals. So, let’s see how Lola looks after her restoration…

Looking at Lola now, it is rewarding for me knowing that she looks great and is restored to as near new condition as I can make her. I know that she will continue to sew reliably for the next succession of generations and will be cherished and appreciated for years to come!

Well, I hope you like what you see and enjoyed the restoration process as much as I did… Lola is a beautiful 201 and runs beautifully as well. Like I always say, some sewing machines need more, some need less, but they all get what they need, and now I can look forward to the next restoration!

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!



Restoration of a Vintage 1951 Singer Model 201-2… Meet Belle!


Meet Belle, she is a Singer model 201-2 and the serial number AK553646 identifies her as a centennial machine commissioned for manufacture on July 26, 1951. What is a centennial machine? Singer began manufacturing sewing machines in 1851. They celebrated their 100th anniversary in 1951 and in commemoration of the event they changed the usual brass color Singer badge with a commemorative badge that had a blue border and the anniversary dates embossed in the badge. This badge was an instant success for Singer. They could not keep up with demand for centennial machines, and believe it or not, they scoured their factories for unsold and old stock machines made prior to 1951 and replaced their badges with the centennial badge. I have seen machines dated as early as 1948 with centennial badges! Well, Belle is a true centennial machine and proudly displays her badge.

Another thing I learned from Belle, was a bit about her past use. Machines like Belle don’t give up their secrets easily. The excellent cosmetic condition suggests slight use, but the disassembly gave me clues that this is not the case. The chrome plating worn away on the needle throat plate is a symptom of use. When inspecting the parts during cleaning I noticed that plating was missing in between some of the rotating parts. I know that Belle was well maintained and oiled regularly, so what happened to the plating? My guess is Belle was used often and for a long time. I would wager that this 201 has sewn 100 miles of stitches in her lifetime. The amazing thing is that despite a whole lot of use, after restoration the machine is smooth and tight and quiet as a kitten. Vintage machines like this 201 are made to last. Obviously, Isaac Singer had never heard the phrase “planned obsolescence” and he built machines to last seemingly forever. Manufactured using cast iron and precision ground and turned tempered steel there was not much to wear out. In assemblies where wear was a concern, Singer built in a way to adjust it out. Even the screws are tempered steel! These vintage sewing machines were made to last decades, and many machines well over 100 years old still look and sew great. In fact, the more these machines are used (not abused) the better they sew. A drop of oil at each oiling location and simple cleaning is all these machines require.

Anyway, Belle’s owner told me that Belle “needed a little love”. Well, that (and this restoration) will reward her with a machine that will please her for years to come.

Restoration Plan

Belle is getting a mechanical restoration. The owner told me that Belle was her go-to machine and has sewn hundreds of face masks for the Covid pandemic and is used above the other machines she owns. She has had Belle for about five years and noticed some performance symptoms using her. She described her concerns as being old and cracked wiring (very typical for these machines), some stiffness, and perhaps some issues with the bobbin race assembly. When Belle arrived, I turned the balance wheel by hand and besides some stiffness, noticed a binding at the top of the needle bar stroke. The machine had evidence of regular oiling and was relatively lint free. There is a considerable amount of old oil varnish that when cleaned will restore the smoothness the machine currently lacks. The machine will undergo the disassembly of all of the rotating assemblies except for the gears and the upper arm shaft. All of the parts removed will be ultrasonically cleaned, heated in oil to drive off moisture, and then cleaned with a wire wheel until they are bright clean steel. Cosmetically, the decals are in great condition and the black paint is also in great condition. There is some ground in dirt, but it will clean beautifully. It’s really the kind of machine you look for… it has a beautiful cosmetic condition and after a restoration it will sew as close to new as possible.

Here is the machine before the restoration begins.

Let’s get started! Normally, I don’t run a machine until after the restoration is complete. Because the motor’s main wires are almost always cracked or bare of insulation, I worry about creating a short and damaging the motor. But in this case, I knew the machine was being used regularly. By running the machine, I isolated the binding to the motor. I checked the speed of the motor, and it was running at 630 stitches per minute. This is far below the 1100 stitches per minute the machine is capable of and allowing for age, the 980 to 1050 stitches per minute I expect after a restoration. The other concern with the motor was a lack of power. These symptoms can be caused by one or two things. Either the motor is soaked with oil that has contaminated the motor brushes and coated the motor commutator and motor windings with oil, or there is a short in one of the motor windings. If it is caused by oil contamination, it can be cleaned and restore nicely, if it is a short, the motor has to be replaced. Not knowing which, I decided to start with the motor restoration. If it does not improve, I have the opportunity to find a replacement without delaying the restoration.

Mechanical Restoration

To see if I have a good motor to work with, I am starting this restoration with the motor. It is disassembled and cleaned.

Aside from a lot of oil contamination, one of the armature bushings was loose… this was likely responsible for the binding. In addition, a thin flat washer intended to keep lubricant from entering the motor case was missing. Everything inside the motor case is oil saturated, including the armature windings. This is not a good sign, but it can be cleaned. As long as a wire has not shorted, the motor should run fine. Assuming the best, the motor restoration is completed with new wires and clean components.

The motor is put back on the machine to see if there is any improvement… The speed has increased to 690 stitches per minute but unfortunately it is still lacking power. The solution for Belle is a replacement motor. Always being one to look on the bright side, I now have a fully restored motor… too bad it isn’t any good. At least I know how to proceed and when the replacement motor arrives, I’ll repeat the motor restoration. In the meantime, the restoration continues, and the machine is disassembled.

Tip of the Day…

201’s are gear driven machines and they have specific lubrication requirements. Contrary to what many folks think, the gears are lubricated with oil, not grease. On the other hand, Singer potted motors are lubricated with grease. Never use oil to lubricate the motor! Oil is detrimental to the motor windings and damage can occur… on with the disassembly.

The parts are laid out for cleaning.

There is a lot of old oil varnish here, and after cleaning the parts are heated in oil to drive out any water remaining and then each part is wire brushed to bright steel.

The presser foot bar, needle bar, and bobbin hook shaft are polished.

The customer had some concern over the bobbin area of the machine and asked me to check it closely. The bobbin hook shaft rotates at high speed and here the oil varnish can create enough drag to be noticeable. Because these parts move in tight tolerance bores, the bores are cleaned with a brass bristle brush.

The gears are cleaned and lubricated.

Now is a good time to attend to some details. These include the bobbin case and the bobbin hook race. The bobbin hook race has hidden areas that build up lint. As a precaution, it is disassembled and cleaned.

It turns out the bobbin case tension spring on the bobbin case is broken. I replaced it with a spring I found among my “spare” parts. A broken tension spring can cause big problems in stitch quality, and I expect this will make a huge difference in the consistency of the bobbin thread tension.

As you might expect, things like the bobbin hook and bobbin case engage the thread and must be smooth as glass. For the smoothest finish, they are tumble polished.

Besides these, there are a number of other small parts that are easily polished in a tumble polisher. These include the bobbin case, the hook race, and a bunch of other small shiny parts. They were going to get polished anyway…

Next comes the restoration of the balance wheel. The textolite gear on the balance wheel has a shock absorbing mechanism behind it. Sometimes it gets frozen with old grease and doesn’t function properly. It is disassembled, cleaned, and re-greased.

The replacement motor was delivered, so it gets restored next. Same steps as before but with much better results!

The motor is run for about 5 minutes to break in, and it makes good power and speed.

Next, the upper tension assembly is disassembled and cleaned.

The tension discs have a bit of oil contamination, and the tension stud has picked up some stuck-on lint. Because these parts are directly in the thread path, they must be smooth. They are polished to a smooth shiny finish and reassembled. This will assure consistent thread tension.

Finally, the last component to be restored is the bobbin winder. The bobbin winder is disassembled and the bobbin winder tire is replaced.

Great! That’s everything that needs to be disassembled and cleaned before reassembly and adjusting. The next step is cleaning and detailing.

One very unusual thing about Belle is an almost complete absence of paint chips. All sewing machines of this vintage have them. They commonly show up on the leading edge of the bed but are often found on the arm shaft and pillar. Try as I might, I only found one paint chip on the arm, and very few small chips on the edge of the bed. Still, these are corrected with color matched shellac-based paint.

With this done, the machine is ready for reassembly. But there is still work to be done. Belle needs to be cleaned and polished. This step will bring out Belle’s beautiful original finish. She looked good when she arrived, but deep cleaning and glaze polishing removes any “dull” areas caused by oil and dirt, and it brings out the beautiful gold tone of her gold decals.

To finish up, all of the chrome plated pieces are polished, and the machine is reassembled.

After reassembly, I noticed there was still a slight drag in the machine when turning it by hand. As before, it showed itself at the top of the stroke. Turning past it, the machine feels smooth. The drag is not much, but this is not typical for 201’s and it is not acceptable for Belle. Most likely, the drag is caused by a spot of old oil varnish that has formed in either the front or rear arm shaft bushing. The solution? Belle needs to go on the sewing machine treadmill.

The treadmill is a box the machine fits into, and the machine is attached via a belt to an external electric motor. Rather than rely on the sewing machine motor, I can run the machine at a high rate of speed for 10 minutes or so without concern. This runs all of the sewing assemblies and its perfect for running in and smoothing out any stiffness in the sewing mechanism, it also allows for making all of the final adjustments because the parts all seat together. The cause of the drag was in the front arm shaft bushing and as expected, Tri-Flow oil and the warmth generated by running the machine dissolved the oil varnish. The drag is gone, and the machine has the smooth feel it is expected to have… way to go Belle!

Now the motor and balance wheel are installed and the power plug is wired and reattached to the machine. Because the customer requested a different controller than the Singer “button controller” the machine came with, a new dual lead power cord is wired to a suitable vintage carbon pile paddle style foot controller.

The machine is ready to test sew and make all of the final adjustments. These include the presser foot height, hook timing, needle depth, feed dog clearance (side to side and front to back), and initial tension adjustments for the bobbin and upper tension assemblies. In doing this, I noticed two things that needed a little final paint touchup. Nothing significant, but the armature end cap and the light switch ring needed to be touched up. While this serves no purpose other than appearance, they are details, and details matter. Belle is now ready for final adjustments.

Final tension adjustments are made by sewing to get a good balanced stitch. two layers of cotton fabric is used with a new Singer size 12 universal needle. The following shows the stitch formed thru two layers and then folded to eight layers of fabric. The machine handles it with ease.

Just as I expect from a 201, Belle sews quietly and smoothly. The speed control is good and the new motor has plenty of power to run the machine at right around 1015 stitches per minute… not bad for a 71-year-old machine!

Thats it! the restoration is complete and now Belle is ready to continue sewing for years to come.

Here is Belle after her restoration…

Well, I hope you like what you see and enjoyed the restoration process as much as I did… Belle’s before and after performance is like night and day. She is a beautiful 201 and runs beautifully as well. Like I always say, some sewing machines need more, some need less, but they all get what they need, and now I can look forward to the next restoration!

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!



Restoration of an Antique 1918 Singer Model 28K Sewing Machine


Recently, a customer contacted me to help her find a Singer model 28 with a hand crank (Singer called it a hand drive). She wanted a vibrating shuttle machine and was looking at a few model 28’s on the Shopgoodwill auction site. She asked me for my impression on the machines she was looking at. I told her I would be happy to find her a suitable machine and her criteria was simple. She was not particular about the cosmetic condition of the machine, but she was not fond of a lot of color in the decals. It had to be a vibrating shuttle machine, and she wanted it hand driven. Her plan was to purchase the machine and have it delivered to me for a restoration. All of the candidates on her list were either in quite worn condition, too colorful, and for auction prices, quite expensive. After looking at the machines on her list, and looking for a suitable machine, it occurred to me that I had a model 28 that I purchased several years ago that would suit her quite well! I purchased the machine based on the condition of the finish and the decals and my plan was to do a restoration and list it in my shop… well, I never got around to it, and it quite frankly it faded from my memory. Anyway, the machine is adorned with the “Victorian” dual tone gold decals that was just what she was looking for. The bonus was the condition of the original finish and decals. Even before the restoration, it is a beautiful machine. While not perfect, for an age of 104 years, the condition of the machine is quite good. This restoration is a custom order for her, and I look forward to her using the machine and adding it to her collection.

There is something special about the Singer model 28 that just makes it a joy to use. The model 28 uses a vibrating shuttle and when driven with a hand crank, it makes a distinctive “clicking” sound as the needle bar moves up and down. Also distinctive is the slight jog the needle bar makes as it reaches the bottom of its stroke… it’s kind of like it can’t decide if it should go up and down, and finally decides to go up. Another thing that is undeniable about all vibrating shuttle machines is that they make a very nice lockstitch.

Very similar in body style and size of the model 99, the model 28 arrived on the scene in 1890, while the model 99 first appeared in 1923. The model 99 uses a scaled down version of the model 66 drop in bobbin, while the model 28 uses a scaled down version of the model 27 vibrating shuttle. Both are excellent machines, but the model 28 was offered with a variety of decals the model 99 never saw. The 99 came with simple (but nice) gold decals on the bed with “SINGER” emblazoned in gold on the arm shaft, the model 28 came with a variety of decals, some very colorful such as the “La Vencedora”, “Tiffany” and “Ottoman Carnations” decals. Some were very ornate such as the “Scrolls and Roses” and “Cloured Roses and Daisies” decals. Some were painted, such as the “Pink and White Roses”, and there are a variety of dual tone gold decals such as the “Victorian” decals found on this machine…and there are others! So many in fact, that I am on a constant lookout for model 28 machines with the less commonly found decal sets.

Regardless of the decal set or how worn it may look, the model 28 is a solid machine with a fairly simple sewing mechanism, and everything about it just works…

So, what is this machine all about? Well, it is sort of a mystery as to the serial number. The original serial number has been overstruck with several numbers stamped over others. It has (what I believe) is a “G” prefix, and one of the number combinations I made from the numbers fit a model 28 machine dated to April 17, 1918. The other possibility is that the machine has a “C” prefix. If this is the case, it was made in Germany, and when the Russian army entered Germany in 1945 the Singer factory was stripped of all equipment and machinery. There are no surviving serial number records for any machines with the “C” prefix. Because I don’t know if the model 28 was ever manufactured in Germany, I doubt it was made there. I’m going with the “G” prefix. but it does not differentiate between a model 28 made in the USA, or a 28K made in Scotland. There are clues to further help identify it. The faceplate design on the machine (vine + 2 corner dots) was used on the 28K. Based on this, I’m going with calling it a model 28K. Does it make a difference? Not really, they are the mechanically and cosmetically the same machine, but I do think pedigree and provenance is important.

Restoration Plan

One great thing about this machine is the condition of the decals. While there is some minimal wear, the machine presents itself very nicely. The areas where there is decal wear are not such that it is apparent or noticed except by looking for it. While there are flaws, a machine with decals in this condition are much harder to find. The paint is in really good condition too. There is a slight glazing in the bed of the machine, but the paint is a nice deep black color. The plated pieces are in quite good condition with virtually no pitting or rust.

All in all, this is a great candidate for a restoration. As it sits, the machine is exceptionally smooth in operation. The sewing mechanism is silky smooth. There is a considerable amount of old oil varnish coating the parts and this will be removed. To address this, all of the assemblies in the machine will be disassembled and cleaned. I have decided not to remove the upper arm shaft because I don’t think it is necessary. To do so requires driving a pin out of the balance wheel bushing, and because this machine is so smooth, I just can’t justify driving this pin out with a punch and a hammer. Consequently, all moving parts here will be cleaned in place. All of the plated pieces will be polished, and the body of the machine will be deep cleaned to reveal the depth of the dual gold color decals, and then it will be glaze polished to a beautiful deep black shine. The machine does not have a hand crank. Because vintage Singer hand cranks are so ridiculously expensive and scarce, and new Taiwanese hand cranks so inexpensive and plentiful, I am fitting the machine with the Taiwanese brand. They are not as solid as their vintage counterparts, (this can pretty much be said comparing anything vintage to what is sold new today) but they work just fine. So, lets get started!

These pictures are taken before the restoration begins.

The Mechanical Restoration

The mechanical restoration begins with disassembly. All of the parts, with exception of the top sewing arm shaft and feed dog driver fork are removed.

All of the parts removed are laid out for cleaning.

As you can see in the pictures, there is a lot of old oil varnish in and on the parts. They are ultrasonically cleaned, heated in oil to drive off moisture, and then wire brushed to clean steel.

All of the corresponding bores these parts moved thru are cleaned bit round brass bristle brushes.

The needle bar and presser foot bar are polished smooth as glass.

Next, the arm shaft assembly is cleaned in place.

Then the plated parts are polished.

The top tension control and bobbin shuttle are next. These parts get polished anyway, so it saves me an extra trip to the polisher. While I’m at it, it is also an opportunity to polish all of the knobs, Presser foot lifter, take up arm, and all of the other little plated bits and pieces found on the machine.

The top tension control is disassembled and cleaned. The individual parts of this style of tensioner have plated parts meant to shine, so, except for the springs everything is polished.

A very important part of the restoration is to clean and polish the bobbin shuttle. It is the heart of the sewing mechanism, and it must be as clean and smooth as possible.

The next step in the restoration is the bobbin winder mechanism. Because it is a separate assembly, I usually save the bobbin winder for the end. Here the bobbin winder is disassembled, cleaned, and polished. Singer went to great pains with their bobbin winders, and they made them shine. They add a lot to the overall look of the machine… You’ll see what I mean in the final restoration pictures.

The stop motion knob on the machine is not original to the machine… at least not this machine. I opted to replace it with a proper stop motion knob.

The only thing remaining is to reassemble the machine and make all of the adjustment. Now the mechanical cleaning is complete, the cosmetic portion of the restoration begins.

Cosmetic Restoration

The cosmetic restoration starts with deep cleaning. The object is to make an already good condition as good as it can be.

The machine is cleaned with great attention to the decals.

Although it isn’t really noticeable, there are a few nicks in the paint on the edge of the bed. These are simple to fix and it makes a difference in the overall look of the machine. These nicks are paint matched using custom mixed black shellac paint.

Finally, the machine is glaze polished.

Now the machine is reassembled and adjusted.

The needle bar height, shuttle clearance, shuttle timing, and the top and bottom thread tensions are set and the machine is test sewn.

A light coat of sewing machine oil is applied to the body of the machine. From now on, a light coat of SMO is the only cleaning the machine will need to keep the finish looking great. It nourishes the original finish and keeps the decals and paint looking great.

Finally, the restoration is complete! This machine has met all of my expectations and given proper oiling and cleaning, it should last for at least the next few hundred years (give or take a century). I hope my customer enjoys using it as much as I enjoyed restoring it!

Here is the machine after the restoration.

Well, I hope you like what you see and enjoyed the restoration process as much as I did… Like I always say, some sewing machines need more, some need less, but they all get what they need and now I can look forward to the next restoration!

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!



A Tutorial – Cleaning the Bobbin Shuttle from a Singer Vibrating Shuttle Machine

If you have a Singer vibrating shuttle machine such as the model 27/127 or 28/128, this is some preventative maintenance that you probably need. Because the steps are the same, this applies to all vibrating shuttle machine for any manufacture. It’s really easy to do and it will assure that the bobbin tension is smooth and consistent.

This is a shuttle from an antique Singer model 28. From the outside, it looks pretty good.

The small screw at the nose of the shuttle adjusts the bobbin thread tension and attaches the flat spring to the body of the shuttle. Simply remove this screw and detach the flat spring from the body of the shuttle.

Very often, you will find some crud under the spring and inside of the shuttle. Maybe not this much, but remember, anything that obstructs the smooth passage of the bobbin thread will cause tension problems.

Remove all of the debris and if you can, polish the shuttle. Just be sure the surface is as smooth as it can be. Once clean, reassemble it, insert a bobbin and pull the thread up under the flat spring. Adjust the tension screw until the thread has a slight resistance pulling it from the bobbin. This will get you in the ballpark tension wise, and for a good balanced stitch, the final tension adjustment can easily be made while in the machine.

You will find the bobbin tension is more consistent and it is much easier to adjust for a balanced stitch.

Thats it!

As always, our tutorials are provided as a free resource to help you learn and maintain your vintage sewing machine. As our site has grown, so has the cost to keep and maintain it. Despite this cost, I will strive to continue posting tutorials and other relevant content for the benefit of the sewing community. If you found the content of this tutorial useful, please consider making a small donation to help me maintain the site and help defray my costs… every little bit helps.

Help Support our Site…


Make a one-time donation

Make a monthly donation

Make a yearly donation

Choose an amount


Or enter a custom amount


Thank you!

Your contribution is appreciated.

Your contribution is appreciated.

DonateDonate monthlyDonate yearly

Your contribution is appreciated!

Please let me know if I can answer any questions or if I can be of any assistance by emailing me at pungoliving@gmail.com.

Thanks for reading!



Restoration of a 1969 Vintage Kenmore Model 158.1601 Sewing Machine


This Kenmore 1601 restoration is a custom order for a mechanical restoration and it’s a great opportunity to return a premium quality Kenmore to its peak performance. This particular machine is a model 158.16010 which dates it to 1969. Kenmore’s made prior to 1974 are of all metal construction and 1969/70 production dates are particularly good years for the 1601. All of the parts on this machine are made of metal, including the body, panels, covers, and control knobs. The machine has a solid build and feel, but it is not as heavy as it looks. The body and bed casting are made from aluminum. This gives the machine has good heft and a good balance. It is not too heavy to handle in a cabinet, and it is not so light that vibration is noticeable.

Cosmetically, the model 1601 is identical to the Kenmore model 1802. Except for the background pattern on the control knobs, you can’t tell them apart. Mechanically, they are very similar. The internal structure of the arm shaft section is slightly different, but the mechanisms work the same. Both use class 15 bobbins and standard 15×1 sewing needles. They both use a vertical oscillating hook driven by a double reduction belt pulley coupled to a powerful 1.2-amp motor. Both machines are cam compatible and with a selection of 30+ available pattern cams, allow the machine to sew a broad range of utility, stretch, and decorative stitches. Both machines share Kenmore’s proprietary super-high shank presser foot design, and the presser foot has a “hyper lift” extension to provide a very generous clearance under the presser foot. The only significant difference I can tell between the 1601 and the 1802 is that the 1601 is a center needle homing machine. Compared to the 1802, I think this gives the 1601 an edge for quilting where a 1/4″ seam allowance is desired.

When it comes to this particular machine, the differences and similarities are not important. What is important is the machine’s history. This 1601 is a one owner machine that was purchased by the customer after graduating college and she has used it ever since. The machine has been serviced a few times over the years, and it is clear from its condition that it has been well maintained. The machine is clean of lint and shows signs that it has been properly lubricated.

Cosmetically, the machine is in excellent condition. Except for a few paint chips that are too few to mention, the finish looks almost new. So why the restoration? Well, the customer is experiencing a few problems with the machine and told me that it sometimes pulls the cloth into the throat plate. The other issue with the machine is that it struggles with sewing thick fabrics. Considering the build quality of the machine and its sentimental value, she felt it could not be replaced with a comparable new machine. Setting the sentimental value aside, I must agree that replacing this machine with a new machine of similar construction and build quality would be hard to find and very expensive. Anyway, the purpose of this restoration is to return the machine to its full potential and sew at its peak performance. Any issues she was experiencing with the machine will be corrected in the restoration

The Restoration Plan

The plan for this machine is to disassemble and clean all of the sewing mechanisms that turn, slide, or rotate on another part. This includes all of the mechanisms in the needle bar section of the machine, the feed dogs, the bobbin race cover, and the connecting rod. Other parts will be disassembled and cleaned one by one. Kenmore’s use fairly complex assemblies under the machine bed and disassembly/reassembly would prove to be very difficult without losing critical adjustments that would be difficult to restore. There is not much to gain but much to lose. Disassembling parts one by one allows them to be cleaned and reassembled without losing these adjustments. Similarly, the mechanisms in the sewing machine arm are connected by a myriad of linkages and springs. Linkages can easily be cleaned in place. Once done, the machine will run as smooth as silk and after adjustments will make a variety of beautiful stitches. The motor will be disassembled and restored, and the tension assemblies will be disassembled and cleaned. There are many steps to do, but each one is intended to bring the machine closer to near new condition.

Getting started, these are pictures of the machine before the restoration begins.

As the pictures show, the machine looks to be in very good condition. There is some old oil varnish that needs to be removed and a few adjustments to be made.

The Mechanical Restoration

The mechanical restoration begins with disassembly.

The parts are laid out for cleaning.

Each of the parts removed are ultrasonically cleaned, heated in oil to drive off moisture, and then wire brushed to bright metal.

Taking it a bit further, the presser foot bar, the needle bar, and the connecting rod are polished. These parts must be as smooth as possible.

The parts that are disassembled in place are removed, cleaned, and reinstalled one at a time.

Traces of old oil varnish is removed from all of the mechanisms and all points of contact are lubricated.

The gear case is opened, the old, hardened grease is removed, and new grease is added.

The next step is the restoration of the motor. It is disassembled and cleaned, and the armature shafts and commutator is polished.

Not surprisingly, the motor runs smooth and strong.

The top tension assembly is disassembled and cleaned. The tension discs are polished.

The bobbin tension flat spring is removed, and the tension surface and spring is polished… even a slight bit of dirt here can create bobbin thread tension problems.

Next, the bobbin winder is removed and cleaned, then it is adjusted to wind a full bobbin.

The final step is too clean and polish the body of the machine. Once it is done, the machine is reassembled and adjusted. The machine is run thru all of its built-in stitches to ensure each is sewing properly. The fabric I used is upholstery weight denim, the needle I chose is a size 16 needle.

Next, a pattern disc was chosen to make sure the cam assembly was operating properly. I used 2 layers of cotton fabric to make sure the machine wasn’t pulling the fabric into the throat plate. The fabric fed reliably and there was no issue with feed… going forward or reverse.

One of the issues this machine had was sewing thru heavy fabrics. Kenmore’s combination of high amperage motors and double reduction pulley system produces impressive piercing power. This machine is expected to pierce heavyweight and multiple layers of fabric without a struggle. To demonstrate this, the denim fabric is folded to eight layers (full depth of presser foot without extension) and the needle is set against the fabric. This is the best test for piercing power since the machine must start with the needle piercing the fabric from a dead stop… Here, the machine pierced and sewed a seam in the fabric at slow speed with no hesitation… and the stitch quality is excellent.

With the mechanical restoration complete, the machine runs and sews as I expected it would. The machine runs smoothly and quietly. It has plenty of power, and the stitch formation is excellent. Overall, I think that the customer will appreciate the difference in her machine and continue to enjoy using it for many more years to come.

Here is the machine after the restoration is complete… I will say that it looked great before and it looks great now, but the real difference is the one you can feel. Unfortunately, I can’t show that in pictures!

Well, I hope you enjoyed the restoration process! It is satisfying to me knowing that a durable high quality sewing machine made 53 years ago can run as smoothly and reliably today 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 to you, please contact me through Etsy or send me an email to Pungoliving@gmail.com.

Thanks for reading!



Restoration of a Vintage 1940 Singer Model 201-2


Another Singer model 201-2 restoration challenge! This is a private restoration and it like, so many vintage sewing machines, has a special story. This Singer model 201 is a family heirloom. It belonged to the customer’s mother and was undoubtedly used for many years before it was passed down to her.

This machine was one of 10,000 commissioned for manufacture on February 27, 1940. It is what I call a “shiny bits” machine. 201’s made prior to 1942 had more nickel-plated parts and ornamentation than later machines. For example, the rim of the balance wheel is nickel plated and there are other small bits and pieces that were nickel-plated as well. There is no difference in the manufacturing quality between any 201 made before or after… they are all high-quality precision machines; it’s just that these earlier 201’s have a little more “bling”.

Restoration Plan

This machine is scheduled for a mechanical restoration. The machine is relatively stiff to turn by hand and there is little evidence of oil in any of the mechanisms. There is a reasonable amount of lint in the bobbin compartment but otherwise, the machine is relatively clean. I have not attempted to run the machine because the wires leading to the motor are severely deteriorated. There is a significant amount of oil varnish on all of the sewing assemblies and there is no doubt that this is contributing to the stiffness. The mechanical restoration will include disassembling all of the sewing mechanisms up to the gears. With the exception of the gear that runs the bobbin hook race, all of the gears will be cleaned in place., The motor, balance wheel, bobbin case, and top tension assembly will be disassembled and completely restored. All of the nickel-plated pieces, along with the needle bar, presser foot bar, and connecting rod journal will be polished. The body of the machine will be deep cleaned, and minor paint chips will be fixed using a custom mixed color matched paint. All of the disassembled parts will be ultrasonically cleaned and then tumble polished and wire brushed. Before reassembly, all of the parts will be restored to like new condition. The sewing assemblies not disassembled, including the gears, will be cleaned in place. After reassembly, the machine will be lubricated, adjusted, and run to ensure that it makes a good balanced stitch.

Mechanical Restoration

The mechanical restoration begins with the disassembly of all of the parts in the sewing assembly. Starting in the needle bar head, everything is removed.