Husqvarna 51E

My obsession with vintage Husqvarnas is in full swing. It started with the one I recently posted about, which I got from Goodwill for $25, with a running motor and a turning handwheel but broken belt. It seems like once I get the belt issue fixed, it should actually work. (I re-measured the old broken one and found it to be closer to 19 3/4″ rather than the 19 1/4″ belt I have been fighting with. That half inch makes all the difference in the world. I think on my first measure I didn’t stretch it far enough because I didn’t want to touch all the goo all over it. Yuck.)

Being  a hoarder obsessive (not even joking), I also find it virtually impossible to pass up a $20 sewing machine even though my “office” is full of almost too many of said machines to move in. One day, I will start an Etsy shop. But not today. So Goodwill has provided me with multiple Husqvarnas in various states ranging from completely frozen to partially frozen to filthy and seemingly hopeless. In addition to the 19 with the belt problem, I have a 1030 (frozen handwheel/main shaft) and a 6020 with a frozen stitch selector and a broken stitch selector knob from someone trying to force it. I also bought another mystery one from ebay which looked to be in good condition, save for the missing speed control/power cord.

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What some internet scouring and the super-helpful Yahoo vintage Husqvarna group tells me is that it’s a Husqvarna Viking 51E. Which is basically just a flatbed version of the Husqvarna 21 (which some argue was the best vintage Husqvarna model). It’s nearly impossible to find anyone talking about the model online, so it will be interesting to try! It has a three prong power cord, which doesn’t look like anything I currently have except maybe the Slantomatic cord, which is the wrong shape. I’ll have to see it in person before I try to find a replacement. Regardless, I love the green finish and the styling. My guess is that it, too, will need a new belt, but looking at the external setup and the lack of a reduction gear involved, my guess is that it will be easy peasy to throw a standard stretch v-belt on there. Also, with the way that everything is aligned and that exposed handwheel, if I could rig that up in a treadle table I bet I could even treadle with it!

8 thoughts on “Husqvarna 51E”

  1. i recently saw one of these fitted with a hide away into table set up here in sweden for about 15 bucks, wondering if its a nice machine. The 21 looks amazing but the 51e – is it a kind of semi industrial. Im wondering what your experience was with it and how it sews

    1. Hi–I’m actually not very impressed with any Husqvarna I’ve sewn on, I’m afraid. The old green metal bodied ones look gorgeous, and the ones with the metal cleated belts seem like they would have a lot of power but in my limited experience, they weren’t any better for actually working on than any of my other Singers. The bobbin design is unusual and unless using a plastic bobbin, with mine, it was loud and finicky. The real reason I dislike them, though, is for maintenance reasons. Replacing a belt on the 19 and 21 models is a nightmare. There’s no easy way of getting in there to access stuff. And so many important pieces are little and plastic and brittle after all these years. If anything breaks, it’s a big problem. In the 51, it is nice, since the belt is external and accessible, but the clutch/handwheel release knob is plastic inside and won’t hold up to much abuse. (In the slightly later models, the original bearings were saturated with lubricant and they often bind up and freeze completely. When you try to spray them with something like WD40, it essentially ruins the machine. I’d be careful of that buying them secondhand, too. But I’m rambling.) Anyway, I wouldn’t consider any domestic husqvarna to be a semi-industrial. They aren’t built tough like the Bernina “semi-industrials” and with so many crucial parts being brittle plastic, using it for anything heavy duty will probably just end up breaking something important.

  2. I have my grandma’s 51E that she bought in 1964. The belt looked cracked and said HOOVER on it, so I took it to a vacuum cleaner shop. They sold me a Eurkea belt for $2.00! It fit, but it took some muscle to stretch it, being that it was so new. My problem now is that the zig-zag doesn’t work. I’m reluctant to put money into this machine. Any ideas? (I did clean and oil it as best I could. It still has a feeling of “stiffness.”)

    1. It’s so cool that you have your grandma’s machine–and also that they found you a belt! There is a series of parts that has to move the needle bar from side to side for zig zagging, and in my limited experience when these aren’t used they tend to gunk up with old oil and need to be unstuck. I wouldn’t sink a lot of money in it either, but often fixing gunk related stuff only requires the right kind of lubricant, time and some heat. If you can, try to get some TriFlow (Amazon carries it) in oil form–the spray kind will get everywhere inside the machine, I find) bc it really does work wonders that regular sewing machine oil can’t and you can use it for regular oiling too. Blue Creeper is harder to find but works even better at penetrating gunk in old machines–I apply it to all the oiling points, let it sit overnight, and then the next day parts are often unstuck. And the super secret weapon is a blow dryer–if you work your way over the moving parts using it to really warm the metal it expands and contracts with the temperature changes and this helps the lubricant work in and makes the old gunk temporarily pliable. So if you lubricate it, heat it, and gently try the zig zag motion it might unstick. The problem I’ve had with some Husqvarnas, though, has also been the knobs being brittle crap plastic that breaks or strips and then won’t work right with the inner mechanisms. So hopefully it’s just gunk. Good luck!

  3. Hi Amanda! Thanks for sharing your Viking 51 and related comments. I recently came across one in mint condition… except for the belt. Someone replaced it with a newer, shorter belt so the back access panel can’t be opened without taking the belt off and moving the motor down. My machine has a few of the removable cams so I’d like to have easy access to the back… did you ever confirm the belt size required for this machine?

    I have several Viking 21s and 6XXX series machines… I agree, although this one doesn’t have the low gear, it’s simple design is appealing to me. It drives/sounds like all other Vikings with this vertical floating hook system, but because of it, it’s virtually jam-proof… must be the extra room in the race which also makes it clatter more than other hook systems. It’s also the only hook system that I can use heavy upholstery thread in…. even fishing line!

    My all-time favorite machines are the 7XX series Berninas. Their robust yet precision machined metal parts make for a beautiful driving experience. And the class-15 hook system is equally versatile to that of these older Vikings. It’s great we have so many options in machines… they each have their positive and not so positive attributes.

    Thanks for any info you can provide on the belt size for the 51.
    Cheers!
    Steve in Minneapolis

  4. Hi Steve – thanks for sharing! I love hearing other people’s perspectives on the pros and cons of these, especially the hook system. I haven’t confirmed the size of the belt, though the next time I have mine out I’ll measure it to see what it is. I agree with you on the Berninas – I think they’re fantastic, except when that vertical gear cracks. I have one that needs a replacement someday. My all time favorites, though, are 1950s and 60s era Necchis. When they’re oiled and tuned, they’re the quietest, smoothest machines ever.

    About replacement belts specifically, though, I had the good fortune of taking a sewing machine repair class from Ray White a few years ago and he sells a really cheap set of stretch replacement belts in a variety of sizes. I bought one and haven’t had to buy belts in years, and it’s nice to have the different sizes on hand for issues just like this one. He’s got a lot of other great repair supplies too but the belts are here:
    http://www.whitesewingcenter.com/Wholesaleparts-bulk.php

    Happy new year!

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