The magic of an all-metal non-electronic sewing machine

As I’ve gotten more into the swing of repairing things, I’ve realized how useful it would be to have a sewing machine around, and know how to use it and maintain it. My initial investigations online showed me that “they don’t make ’em like they used to” and turned up lots of complaints of plastic in the entry level sewing machines that only lasts a few years, if that.

But use-em and throw-em away didn’t used to be the norm. Remember mom’s sewing machine, the one that weighed A LOT and always seemed to be ready for duty, tucked away in the corner? Well guess what? They’re still for sale, but not at Sears, rather on Craig’s List or at Goodwill. I picked up a Sears Kenmore 153.14000, vintage early ’70s (like me!) made in Japan, all metal, no electronics. It’s very cool.

I am particularly enjoying learning how the machine works. Thanks to the splendor of Youtube, there are great videos explaining exactly how a sewing machine makes a stitch that are really useful for learning how to troubleshoot. And with nothing more than a flashlight I can run the machine with my hand and watch the many metal parts in action. I find this lack of mystery to be magical in and of itself.

I have a degree in Computer Engineering, I’ve studied electronics, and quite frankly it’s a lot of black boxes. On paper it makes a certain logical sense, but when you look at it? A mysterious black box.  And if it doesn’t work? Well I guess you pull out the multimeter and try to troubleshoot, but good luck.

On the other hand, a non-electronic, all-metal sewing machine has the potential to be repaired for a very long time. As long as I keep it well oiled, which isn’t that difficult, the metal parts should work for a while. And should one wear out, I could in theory have a new machined. I’m thinking the most likely part of the machine to fail is the motor, and even that may be repairable. Or in the worst case, I could even convert the machine to be manually powered!

The key point is that with this wonderful piece of 1970’s technology I can really come to understand how the machine works, and I can keep it running for a long, long time.

Oh and if you’re wondering what project #1 is? Thermal curtains.

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