Sunday, June 5, 2016

Vintage Singer 66 Red Eye Restoration - Joan

So often, I still find myself looking for resources that produce START TO FINISH instructions of Vintage Sewing Machine Restoration.   Still haven't found any that are truly complete, so I've started my own.   This is one of many draft posts I have saved, that eventually will be posted.   You can't do this in a weekend folks, not if you are looking for the best quality results that can be accomplished. Some of us "got the bug", did one machine and moved on to some other hobby.   Me - I'm still at it and loving it.   Learning new things every time.

As I type this, This horrific smell of APPLE CIDER VINEGAR is wafting around my workspace.  Why?   Cuz after a weekend of more research, I found a few great videos on ACTUAL tests of removing rust.  The ones with Vinegar seemed really interesting, so why not try it?  I have the perfect candidate awaiting restoration.

Rust Experiment

So here's "Joan" (Which is actually her owner's name) - The Vintage Singer 66 Red Eye as she came in the shop.  I have no idea where\how she was stored, but you'll be able to tell from the pictures that wherever she was - she was there...sitting very still.....for a very VERY long time.....

Singer 66 - Joan 1

Singer 66 - Joan 2

Singer 66 - Joan 3

Singer 66 - Joan 4

Singer 66 - Joan 5

Singer 66 - Joan 6

Singer 66 - Joan 7

Singer 66 - Joan 8

Singer 66 - Joan 9

Singer 66 - Joan 10

Singer 66 - Joan 11

Singer 66 - Joan 12
So after her "BEFORE" shots....there she sits!   People that are new to this hobby are wondering, good heavens...where do I start??   Everyone has their's mine:

Nitrile Disposable Gloves, SMO (Sewing Machine Oil) & PB Blaster
Yep!   Sewing machine oil!   You'll hear from every hobbyist, USE SEWING MACHINE OIL.   You try it and think - my gosh - there has GOT to be an easier way!!   It does nothing for the dirt, grime, rust, etc.   Q-tips, cotton balls.....are you kidding?    This thing needs a power washer and some SUPER STRONG chemicals!     Yep - maybe.   But later.   Not now.    Let me explain why.....

First and foremost - every machine is different.   Over the decades, or in this case, a CENTURY... yes, you read that right.  Her serial number is G2561017.  That number falls into a range that was given to the factory on December 12th, 1912.   So she was born sometime between that day and March 19, 1913.  In March, according to records, another allotment of numbers was recorded for a run of Singer 66's. That puts this old girl at about 103 years old.    Anyway - my point....  each machine is different, because we have no way of knowing what elements, environments she's been exposed to for all those years.   What she in a HOT place?   Cold place?   Was she somewhere near an ocean?   Where the salt of the sea is always in the air?   Was she in a barn that was suffocatingly hot and moist? All of this matters when it comes to bringing these girls back.   It is, after all, painted metal.   Metal can expand, contract, etc.   Paint, clear coat...none of this is permanent.   If the clear coat is cloudy and yellowed like this girl - you have your work cut out for you.   But if you try ANYTHING but Sewing machine oil when you start out, you can ruin the clear coat even worse.   Better yet - the decals.   Those sweet little gold, green and red decals are just water slide decals, and are protected by that nasty clear coat (if the clear coat even still exists!!!)

Gloves, sewing machine oil, start oiling.....everywhere.    Every single moving part.   Soak it up good. PB Blaster, which is essentially oil with a little petroleum distillate and a CO2 propellant to make it shoot out, on all the moving stuff (THAT IS NOT PAINTED).   We've got to get everything moving. 


The oil will reveal what's under the dirt - cloudy clear coat, good decals?    BE GENTLE WHEN RUBBING!!   Let it soak in on it's own.   Once everything starts moving - THEN you can start removing parts.    Take pictures as you go, mark the parts, write notes.  I have put almost 100 of these together now, so I'm good throwing it all in a pan.   If you are new to this - do as I say, not as I do.   Take a billion photos!  

As I remove the metal parts, I'm setting them in a rubbermaid casserole carrier.  I'm excited to try this Apple Cider Vinegar experiment, because I'm at the point now that I don't look forward to cleaning, rubbing, shining every single part.   I want to get these girls back to their owners in less time than what it has been.    These machines can take months, from start to finish.   Soaking, shining, polishing, scrubbing.   There is no QUICK fix.  The container below is only half the parts, I'm still working on removing the insides.  NOTE: Read on to find out how this went.

Here we go!!    Pour in the Apple Cider Vinegar and cover it up.  It's June 5th, 2016.  This is a good time to mention that it took about 14 hours (in total) over the course of 3 days to free this girl up.  Take your time, don't rush.   It's worth it in the end!!!   See ya in a few days!! I can't wait to see what shape these parts are in after soaking in the ACV!!

UPDATE to this Post: 30 days later

Within 6 HOURS of the soak, I started rubbing pieces to see how they did.   This was STRAIGHT ACV, so it started doing it's job SUPER fast.   There were places that I had to do as much polishing as I would have had to work the rust manually.  All in all - I don't think the ACV soak saved me any time.    Very impressive results - but there is a dull gray (bare metal) look left behind to some of the pieces that needs an enormous amount of elbow grease to polish back to a glossy shine.    Depending on the metal (ie, chrome or nickel plated), the shine won't come back.   I personally feel that the nostalgia of sort-of-shiny-with-pits is better than a dull matte finish.    If I use this process again, it's going to only be on RAW metal.
Every Part was neutralized with oil and polished
Many still need more polishing


  1. Very interesting! I will enjoy watching the progress on Joan! Curious to see how the acv works! I have a few vintage Singers. They sure were well built!

  2. This is fascinating! I have several old singers and don't know where to even start. I wish we were closer to you, to bring one in. One belonged to my great grandmother, a treadle. The latest is a featherweight and I don't want to take it to the local guys as they do something that makes the machine smell. I can't be around a lot of chemicals so I don't want that smell, the one my friends machines have that have been to the mechanic.
    LeeAnna at leeannaquilts at gmail dot com

  3. Good Morning, I am a first time owner of a Redeye: When you suggest oiling, are you applying it to the actual metal with the decals? I certainly do not want to ruin the beautiful art. Thanks! Jane