Fixing up an old Singer industrial sewing machine

Posted: March 21, 2010 in Uncategorized
We found a 1892 Singer ‘Patcher’ sewing machine at a yard sale in Paradise.

These machines are called ‘patchers’ because their long skinny arm allows you to sew up inside of a jacket sleeve, or at the tip of a shoe.
We have been looking for a machine like this to sew in the bottoms of bags, or in other hard-to-reach places.

The machine had been sitting for about 20 years, and was really stiff – hard to crank.  It runs off of a foot-powered treadle, and needed to be taken apart and cleaned.

This is the head of the machine.  It is set up so that you can sew in any direction – with the walking foot moving the material.  This is handy when you are up inside the tip of a boot, and can’t rotate the piece around on the machine.  
Because the machines run off of foot power, they don’t get hot enough to wear things out very quickly, and the tolerances in this 120 year old machine are still very tight.  I cleaned everything with solvent, and oiled it with sewing machine oil.


Many of these parts were made by hand – you can see file marks from the original machinists on some pieces. 

Reassembled and on the treadle base.


When we got the machine, I noticed that one of the cast iron tabs that holds the pivot pin for the needle-driving arm was missing.  The machine would sew, but the action of the rocking arm would cause the pivot pin to fall out after awhile.
Luckily, the people that we got the machine from had saved the two parts of the tab that had snapped off, and they fit tightly in place, with no missing pieces. 

I ‘brazed’ the broken pieces back onto the body of the machine – basically, this means that I used an acetylene torch to get the body of the machine red hot, then put the missing pieces back in place and got them cherry red also.  Then melted brass over the cracks.  Brazing is like gluing with molten metal.


After filing and redrilling the bore on the new piece, the pin fits snugly, and the machine runs well.

There is one other broken part on the machine, but it is not essential.  There are actually a lot of parts available for this machine though most of them are used.  Singer made a lot of these over a long period of time.  Many of the parts suppliers that I have tracked down are in Amish areas – these machines are popular with off-the-grid leatherworkers and horse harness makers.

Sometimes I think that I enjoy working on the machines more than I actually like sewing, and that this bagmaking work is just an excuse to tinker in the shop.

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