1951 201K Treadle - Cleaning

A couple of weeks ago I decided to sit down and determine the exact state of affairs in regard to my 1951 201K. It worked, and everything moved freely, so I didn't have a huge restoration job like those who have frozen machines.

I wanted to fit a new needle, a standard 90 universal, and in doing so realised that the needle system was a good indication of how dirty the machine was. After a lot of gentle coaxing, the thumb screw finally gave way and I could discard the old rusted needle. Next, I examined the hinged presser foot, it was cruddy, and the hinge was tight. The presser foot shank was really stuck, and very difficult to remove, but I got there.

Not enough people talk about how dirty, smelly, and gross a vintage sewing machine can be. I don't do anything by halves, but even I had to draw the line at dismantling the whole thing and scrubbing every piece of metal.

Do click each image to zoom in and get a really good look at the yuck.

My machine before cleaning.
I'll talk a bit about my cleaning process, everyone has a different approach, but as I'm in Australia many of the most common products discussed online are unavailable to me, so I have decided on the following:
  • Grime: A homemade vinegar+detergent solution on a cloth gets a lot of dirt off, followed by baby wipes (use cheap alcohol-free ones).
  • Oils: D-Solv It, a citrus-based sticky stuff remover. Safe on my 1951 decals, but YMMV.
  • Rust: A few minutes soak in a oxygen-based laundry booster, plus a wiping with D-Solv It removes a lot. Bad parts get a rust conversion treatment using Ranex.
  • Metal: I use AutoSol metal polish for most things, but have also found Purple by California Custom to be very good.
  • Wood: Pale Boiled Linseed Oil is marvelous. I apply thin coats (maybe 4) with a thin cloth pad.
  • Head Finish: Boiled linseed oil combined with some shellac it will make the machine head shine and give some protection if you follow this process.
Head basic cleaning: I wiped the head down with a cloth dampened with some vinegar and detergent. I then lightly rubbed the entire head with D-Solv it.

Grime, old oil and lint, just touching any part of the machine was sticky.
Old oil removal: I am using citrus oil, a product called D-Solv it. I use a paintbrush or cotton tip to apply it, and then wipe it off, and repeat. After the old oil is gone, I briefly soak the parts in a bit of Vanish - a oxygen-bleach laundry stain remover power. This ensures the D-Solv residue is stripped. Next, the newly cleaned part is given a film of sewing machine oil. Some parts of the machine were totally gross: 

Before: The stitch selector cover was actually still stuck on with a ring of sticky oil after I removed the screws. I used a lot of D-Solv it here.
Before: Golden-brown oil film everywhere.
I really found D-Solv it helpful on the metal, and I swabbed every part even after soaking in Vanish. The worst old oil was like hard wax, and needed repeated rubbings to soften and remove it.

Before: The grimy bobbin area and feed dogs. This was taken after I removed the initial brownish-green carpet of lint and dust...

After: So much cleaner, I found pitting from surface rust, and treated each area with rust converter.
In the next photo you can see how the tension assembly gleams white compared to the dirty machine innards:

The bright and clean tension assembly.
My lovely spoked balance wheel was in a poor state, with chipped enamel and a lot of rust. If you zoom into the very first photo of this post, you can get a good idea of it 'before'. I didn't like to touch its rough surface, and didn't think I could do much to improve it. But, I polished it first with Autosol, and then with Purple, and after a couple of hours (and an aching arm and cramping fingers) it was a lot brighter and smoother:
After: Cleaner and a lot nicer to touch.
I re-shellaced the enamel to try and help preserve it and prevent further chipping:
After: One coat of shellac and the balance wheel is already glossier and smoother.
The underside of the machine was awful. I used a million baby wipes.

My spool pins were rusty, but I took some wet/dry sandpaper to them, and with just a drop of water the rust was removed and the pins are silver again.

Treadle stand: My treadle irons are completely rusted. Only surface rust, but a lot of it. I originally planned on trying Ranex rust converter unless further research determined otherwise.
Before: Rust and unknown white grossness.
The irons began to bother me. I phoned around town and got some sandblasting quotes, one engineering firm quoted me $130, which I thought excessive, but had no knowledge to base that opinion on. I eventually found a wonderful semi-retired owner of a different engineering firm who did the job for me very carefully for only $20. I was so thrilled!
After: Carefully sandblasted. All moving springs, rods and bearings had no damage.
I am going to paint the irons with a rust-inhibiting paint in a darker brown colour than the original brown paint. I'm going to give it a couple of coats with a small brush, as spray paint would just get where it shouldn't and cause problems.

Wooden table top: The wood is in sound condition with only a few small veneer lifts. The wooden table surfaces have some bruising, bumping and stains. I have used 0000 steel wool and O'Cedar to shift the light dirt from the thirsty wood, and made repairs to the lifting veneer by gluing and clamping.

Before: I was lucky to only have minor lifting veneer inside the cabinet on one side.
The bentwood underside of the table top was the cleanest thing.
After: All the wood has been given a very light coat of boiled linseed oil. 
The wood is looking good, but after I thought I had finished, I read some furniture restoration blogs and decided to try french friction polishing. The initial results are excellent! I will write more about that polishing process in another post.
After: Only the right-hand section of wood has been french friction polished - look at the difference in clarity! The left hand pieces of wood at the hinge have only been polished with boiled linseed oil. 
I can't believe some people clean their machine in the space of a day. I kept doing little bits here and there, spending an hour or a afternoon. I'm very thorough, and three weeks had passed before I was happy with each part. I still haven't reassembled the tabletop and irons, but the machine is looking great and moves so beautifully.


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