Sewing Machine Addiction: Improved Eldredge Rotary B

Amid the frustrations of work today, I decided to do a little sewing machine tinkering to get my zen mindfulness on. There’s something about brushing out the dust, oiling and waxing these old things that mellows me out. Industrial chemical fumes perhaps? I really should buy myself a facemask one of these days.

My project for the day was this ebay find, which of course came with a beautiful wood base that was utterly demolished in transit because people seem to forget that antique wood is fragile and sewing machines are heavy and the postal service is not big on delicate handling of the bajillions of packages it throws around each day. However, it’s still an awesome machine.

The Improved Eldredge Rotary B. (This is before I cleaned it.)

eldredgerotarybbefore It takes unusual 20×1 needles, of course, being of the era (30s?) when every sewing machine company sold needles for their machines. The needle is similar to the modern 15×1 system, though, in that it’s flattened on one side. (If I *really* wanted to, I could probably put a standard needle in but not push it all the way up into place and make it work, though it wouldn’t be as stable as it should.)


It has a friction drive motor, which isn’t all that unusual (some other machines like Whites and mid-century Elnas have these too) but it’s actually built or snugly wedged into the body rather than mounted on it. So far I can’t see any way to remove it. It also has the unusual Chicago post electrical set up. The foot pedal and sketchy cord that go with it were also demolished during shipping, not that I’d have trusted them anyway. But that will be a scary rewiring job, if I try it at all, because I’m very newb at electrical systems and the Chicago ones aren’t polarized and I don’t yet know what that means for rewiring a machine. (And this machine wasn’t intended as a workhorse so I don’t have to have it running to enjoy it, exactly; I bought it because of the art deco styling and its idiosyncracies.)

It was so, so, so dirty.

bobbincasebobbin holymessbatman

But it cleans up nicely!

spoolpin needlethreadguide decal afterstitches

The threading is unique. I have another older Eldredge and both have more steps than most to thread them, but once threaded correctly the stitch was very nice and even, especially since I was turning the machine by hand. The stitches have an interesting antiqued look because of the dirty, probably 60+ year old thread in the bobbin and the tarnish on the presser foot. There’s something about that patina of age I like–I’m not as intrigued by machines that look new as I am by machines that have a history to them. (Same thing with faces, oddly enough–the older I get the more bored I become with straightforward beauty. It seems so blank, so simplistic; I enjoy looking at faces with more of a story told in them. Interesting how one’s ideals about beauty and aesthetic appeal change over time.)

This blog post (here) links to a complete manual (bless you, Anne Graham, for posting it because I’d have never threaded it otherwise.) And it also links to a source for needles, bobbins and bobbin cases (here), which is incredibly helpful for machines this old and scarce.

So for a clean and oil job, I’m pretty happy, but there is still some tightness I’d like to work out, and this plug/wiring system is a problem to puzzle over too…

Husqvarna 19e Belt Replacement

My Husqvarna is a 19e, which is a sleek, classic-car-shiny piece of vintage goodness. It runs, but when I received it the v-belt was broken. I took the broken belt out and measured it and bought a 19 1/4″ lug belt to replace it. I’m not sure if I’m doing something wrong or if I measured wrong and the belt just doesn’t fit or what, but I can’t get the damn thing back in the machine. The compact cast iron body of the machine is visually appealing but difficult to open up and access. To really get in there I had to remove the base which has the motor and wiring still awkwardly connected to the body, remove the handwheel and remove the reduction gear thing-y. I had cut the original belt off to measure, and as usual, regret not carefully photographically documenting the position of everything first. The technical manual helps, but it has line drawings that aren’t especially clear on the position of small parts and springs and where exactly everything should be.

imageHere’s what my actual reduction gear looks like:

image(4) image(7)

My machine is filthy; I keep tinkering at it with alcohol and q tips or Mrs. Meyers basil scented cleaner on the parts that aren’t really moving and potentially damaged by the moisture. (Too many chemically fumes makes me dislike the process.) There are some parts on that reduction gear that were tricky to replace when I tried to put the (too short?) lug belt on and reassemble.  Trying to get it on was a truly awful time suck, since the belt has to go over the handwheel and loop over the reduction gear. But to get it on the reduction gear you have to get past the large outer gear on the reduction assembly (in the photo above it’s the gear to the farthest left). I tried doing this first and putting it on the handwheel last but it’s just not possible with the angles and the tension on the belt. It was an incredibly awkward process compared to a Singer, where you usually just loosen the motor mount bolt and create a little slack, loop the belt where it needs to go, and put everything back in place.

I was also not super impressed by some of the components of this gear setup. While the machine is solid and seems like it’s well built, the case that goes over the motor and the smaller belt is plastic and is, of course, cracked where the screws go. It probably won’t ever be all that secure when I put it back on. The reduction gear itself is not exactly solid feeling. It’s plastic of some kind and probably would be one of the first things to go to crap on the machine. There is a little plastic bracket that fits inside a part mounts the reduction gear to the rest of the body–that’s cracked too. It fell out during disassembly and I had no idea where it went originally, but it fits inside that mount and over a two pronged metal piece. Seems like a less-than-efficient design. There is a spring and a metal arm toward the bottom of the assembly that I’m not sure exactly what position to return to when I’m finished either, but we’ll see.

So the Husqvarna and I are at a standstill until the 15″-21″ stretch belt I ordered arrives. I read good things about the lug belt, but I think I’ve put about 4 hours into it so far and I just don’t know how the improved traction is worth all that. If/when I get a belt successfully installed on this, I’ll definitely post a step by step since the 19e seems really difficult to find any specific information on.