Saturday, 5 September 2020

Unjamming a Stitch Length Regulator


It can be frustrating doing up an old machine when something is seriously jammed.  This is the stitch length regulator on a Singer 99K hand machine that I have been working on.  When I bought it earlier this week the knob was screwed all the way in and stuck fast.  It was stuck in the position for the longest possible stitch.    

It wasn't possible to get any oil in and onto the thread of the screw, so for two nights running I laid the machine on its back with a piece of cotton yarn wrapped around the screw and soaked the yarn with oil.  The hope was that oil would seep down into the machine and start loosening the screw.  No joy.  Even when using locking adjustable pliers, with a strip of leather protecting the milling around the knob and to help grip, it just wouldn't budge.

It was time for a different approach.  The most likely cause of the jam was hardened residue left by old oil.  This can be softened with heat, so I gave the machine a good blast with a hair dryer until the knob was hot.  I was a little worried about applying too much heat and affecting the japanning, so if I ever need to do this again on another machine I will make a cardboard collar to protect the rest of the machine.

While the knob was still warm I tried turning it with the pliers, and finally it moved.  Sure enough, when I could see the thread of the screw, there was the black residue that had caused the trouble.


The quickest way to get rid of the residue is with metal polish.  I always have a tube of Peek metal polish handy to use on my sewing machines, so I put a small splodge onto the screw.


Then I used some strong crochet cotton to rub the polish back and forth into the grooves of the thread.  The muck came off quickly and easily.

Because there was bound to be some more rubbish left inside the machine, I oiled the thread, screwed the knob back in, cleaned that oil off (which came out brownish), and repeated a couple more times until the oil came out clean.   

Now the knob is nice and clean, and easily adjustable, so once I get the machine up and running I know I can adjust the stitch.

I am now over halfway through cleaning up this particular machine and should be ready to test the stitch in a couple of days.  It is a while since I worked on a machine.  I had forgotten how much I enjoyed it!

9 comments:

  1. Bliss to read abut old machine spa baths/tinkering during this testing time. Thank you.

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    1. Thank you! There will be updates about this machine in the near future. It is looking better by the day.

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  2. After your Youtube tutorials I have managed to do most of my machines now. The last one, Jeanette MacDonald, is a 66 treadle and she had the balance wheel jammed. After swimming in oil, still no go. Was contemplating a hammer after wrenches didn't work. What did work - thanks to His Royal Highness who thought feeble female me Man I can do this - and he couldn't for a while. Then a stroke of genius (rare for him in all things mechanical) he used one of those silicon things used for undoing jar lids! I'm going to try it on Vera Lynn as she has the foot adjuster a little too tight, but fine for sewing strings. But I will definitely try the metal cleaner again first. xxx

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    1. Oh genius. I haven't got one of those jar lid things. That could be the answer to a jammed part on another machine I have. Many thanks to HRH.

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    2. Nothing ventured, nothing gained - and great to pass on a successful tip! Cheers. :D xxx

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  3. I love working on the vintage machines as well. Been working on my 301A this morning and my 99k is upstairs waiting for parts to arrive. I'm hoping to replace the broken stitch adjusting lever - it will be a big job but worth it in the end. Such a cute machine. Another one I'm working on is a model 66 Red Eye that I believe was once a treadle. Would love to make it one again but that I'm not sure I can do. I ordered some Peek after reading how much you love using it! Can't wait for that to arrive! Jan in MA

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    1. Best of luck replacing that lever Janice! These jobs can be a bit scary sometimes. Peek is great stuff. It's the finishing touch after putting in all the hard work on a machine. You only need a tiny bit on a cloth, so a tube lasts for years.

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    2. I'm glad I only ordered the tube. Thought about the larger can and truly my husband's toys would probably benefit from this purchase as well. I might have to hide it from him! Jan in MA

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    3. I clean the stainless steel cooker hood with my tube. Comes up nice and shiny. There will be plenty to share with your husband!

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