Sewing Machine Problems: Bernina Favorit Edition

Despair, today thy name is Bernina. *sob*

My 740 has a cracked vertical gear. It was fine just days ago. Totally fine. I have no idea how it broke since I’ve hardly used this machine, but I noticed it today turning over the balance wheel by hand. It’s a slight catch, like when thread is beginning to jam or there’s some issue with a bobbin. It took me a few minutes to realize that the vertical gear in the Bernina was cracked completely through. There’s a gap in the teeth, and when the teeth of the other gear get misaligned because of it, that’s when there feels like there’s a catch in the machine.

On the plus side, I might be able to fix it. Eventually. I’m signed up for Ray White’s super legendary awesomeness SEWING MACHINE REPAIR CLASS next month. I had no idea the White Sewing Center is but a two hour drive from my humble abode so I will be revisiting my former life as a commuting student and driving back and forth for the three glorious 8 hour days with fellow obsessives. I am beyond excited about it. I only signed up for the basic class, which likely will not cover the mad drama and heartbreak of taking apart a machine to replace a gear, but it will definitely teach me enough about the interconnected systems of the machine to be able to adjust the timing and any other things I might mess up in the process. I don’t want to undertake this repair till after the class, but when I do, I will be documenting it extensively (because abandon all hope, ye who attempt to dismantle any part of a sewing machine without photographic help retracing your steps) and will share my progress.

I was considering selling the 740 in order to make room in the collection for a machine I *thought* was too good to be true–a Bernina 540 in exquisite shape complete with table and a dazzling array of vintage accessories. “Sews great.” they said. “Should be in a sewing machine museum,” they said. Should be in the ever growing museum of stupid mistakes I’ve made re: sewing machine purchases. When I received it, it was frozen. A few hours and some TriFlow and some BlueCreeper and some Singer lubricant and a whole lot of f-bombs later and it sort of turns, but something is still so bound that the entire machine sort of heaves forward at a certain point in the rotation of the handwheel. The motor turns but only while emitting a banshee-like screech and of course it doesn’t actually engage the machine because the belt is completely disintegrated and I don’t have a replacement that fits it. The seller was super nice and most likely shipped it at a loss, so I feel almost bad for him–I don’t think I was deliberately misled but think the seller doesn’t sew and doesn’t know the first thing about it. Like that the machine actually needs to turn. *sob*

Since there’s jack crap on the internet as far as in depth information on the favorit, I took some photos of the 540 as I tried to nurse the ol’ girl back to functionality:

A view from above. The silver toothed gears are the decorative stitch cams; my lever is frozen at the moment so even if the machine ran, not usable. Visible close to them is the dirty looking white-ish gear–it’s one of three or so that is nylon/silicon/some kind of mystery crap sixties plastic prone to breaking. I do love that the oil points are clearly marked in red.

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Another top view. Under the main shaft is the vertical gear (I think), another plastic gear. This is what cracked in my 740. It’s interesting that the needle position selector in this one is a wider pin and moves very freely; this is bound up on some of my other Berninas and not TriFlow nor BlueCreeper nor sailor names has pried it loose yet.

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Oh, look, my cracked hand wheel. No one knows how to pack sewing machines except sewing machine obsessives. It’s sad. I’m not even mad about it, because luckily there is a metal core like a common metal stop motion knob which will keep it functional even if all the plastic crumbles away. Behold the disintegrating belt. It feels like a cloth covered elastic hair tie, which is interesting and a bit different than the other belts I’ve seen on machines of the era..

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Front view. Cosmetically, she ain’t bad. I like the avocado green, though, because I’m stylistically perverse like that.

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Interesting details that differ significantly from the Records and other Berninas I’ve seen. No buttonholer lever, but a toothed setup instead.

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The decorative stitches it can do. Theoretically.

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The back view, where the dust is a bit more obvious. It has a three pin connector power cord/speed control pedal. I have a flatbed Husqvarna and a Pfaff 130 that use this same somewhat uncommon setup. It took me forever to find a cord that would fit this shape.

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Underside. The machine looked pretty clean so I was surprised to find it so bound up, but it was dry as a bone and so dusty. The Favorit models I’ve seen all have these covers on the underside obscuring the gears. I’m not sure if it’s because the Favorit hook system is supposed to be faster and more heavy duty than other Berninas and they felt a need to have an extra protective layer over them, or if these are more like oil pans, or what exactly. But the black cover houses the hook gears which are metal on metal and need lubricant.

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I removed the stop motion knob and the balance wheel and oiled the main shaft here. The clutch washer and stop motion knob work just like a typical Singer’s.

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Here’s the hook gear.

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Here’s the third nylon/plastic gear with its cover removed.

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The middle cover removed. Not a gear, but grooved metal parts that move against each other. Not sure why this cover is held on with a spring, either.

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So ends the tour. We’ll see what the BlueCreeper does overnight. The Necchi facebook folks turned me on to the wonders of this penetrating lubricant. I wouldn’t use it for oiling a sewing machine but it’s great at breaking loose stuck parts–apparently it’s used heavily in the logging industry to loosen rusted screws and a billion other things. I have been very impressed by its ability to un-stick what TriFlow couldn’t on another machine. It seems to need a few hours to really get in to all the cracks, so we’ll see how it works tomorrow.

Today was not a good day for hoarding.

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Sewing Machines and Manuals: Vintage Bernina 740

favoritSo I know I said the thing about the not hoarding any more machines. Sigh. But then I saw a machine like this, a Bernina 740 favorit, on ebay for super cheap listed by someone who seemed very grandmothery and knowledgeable and loving to her machines and could not, for the life of me, resist buying such a rare and well cared for piece. (image source) I realllly shouldn’t be spending more money on something I don’t need (I can hear the lifepartner now: ANOTHER sewing machine??!?) but I look at these as something like investments, in that I can love them and use them and learn with them but pass them on to other hands if I choose to some day and they probably will still be worth something after my heavy usage. Vintage sewing machines certainly don’t seem to be devaluing, especially high end models; reading sewing blogs from 5 years ago discussing the pricing makes this pretty obvious. And if I can actually apply skills I’ve taught myself to repair them, so much the better for the potential return on my “investments,” should it ever be possible to pry one from my clutches.

Berninas are held in high esteem by people all over the interwebz, but I’ve never tried one. I was drooling over a few Record 530, 630 and 730 models for a few months, but the Husqvarnas I’ve been trying vainly to fix really turned me off on anything with plastic innards and tight, enclosed motor free arm body styles. The beautiful thing about the Favorit models is that they are a) flatbed, meaning I can access the lower mechanical parts easily for cleaning and oiling, and b) at least some of them have an externally mounted motor, making for easier belt replacements if needed and even motor replacement if it came to that. The ebay description claimed an all metal construction, so I’m hoping that’s correct, as at least the 730 Record models have plastic parts (cam gear, etc) that do eventually wear out. c) It’s 60slicious. That cream and avocado color scheme. That font. Those curving lines. Why are contemporary sewing machine designs so inattentive to sheer visual pleasure?? This is fun to look at.

Another beautiful thing? Evidently these are possible to rig up to huge industrial motors. Like so:

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I have seen 740 Favorit and 730 Industrie models, but am not sure what the difference is in the construction. The motors for the industrie ones are enormous and mounted below the machine, and I’m not sure how the sizes compare. But I will enjoy investigating!

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So of course I had to seek out a manual, and was happy to find that Bernina has a page devoted to out of print manuals. (bernina manuals) The translation is clumsy, but it’s kind of part of the charm. The manual for the 740 is (here).

The ol’ girl should be arriving around Christmas time, which means I’ll be enjoying this new baby over some spiked eggnog. Can’t wait!