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…and my tangential reflections on current events

The way I see it, I have two options for dealing with the social tension surrounding the Ferguson announcement. I could barricade myself in my office-turned-sewing-room-hoarding-zone and read Brave New World this weekend, or I can continue to fight with my Husqvarna. I’m choosing the latter.

It’s a strange kind of unease that comes from being in this place in this time in this particular social position. I lean left, did gender theory and labor history in college, am deeply concerned with police violence and the militarization of the police force. As a white person who was able to go to college and with some measure of security in my employment and housing, I know that some degree of social privilege has afforded me those things. I know social standing is an infinitely complicated thing and I am sympathetic to the ways that social opportunities are limited by class, gender, race, place, appearance, and on and on.

I don’t know, based on the limited information I and everyone else have about the Michael Brown shooting, if it was “justified” or not; from my limited perspective, it seems like anyone who knows how to handle a gun could and should have stopped short of killing someone. It also seems like, given similar situations where they *might* feel threatened, officers tend to shoot to kill people of color far, far more frequently than they do white people. That should be a grave concern for all of us, regardless of color. (People who want to spin statistics about same-race violence to explain this away bother me, too–depending on the source, white on white violence is not so different than the statistics people are flapping their jaws about.) I think the protests speak about more than only the facts of this case, and that people who dismiss the protests because they think Darren Wilson was justified miss the point. We all want to feel like our lives matter, that the laws of the country we live in apply equally to all of us, as we as a nation claim they do. We all want a power structure that handles authority justly and that acts in accordance with the principles it purports to hold. When the failure of those laws and that system are brought to view as clearly as they have been here it seems imperative that we listen to the voices that rise in protest.

I’m also really uncomfortable with a lot of the more conservative response to these events. Of course it’s frightening and unfortunate when places are looted and buildings are burned. But those moments represented such a small part of the protesting that to dismiss it all in its entirety because of those seems ridiculous. The crowdfunded billboard in Ferguson (“Pants up, don’t loot”) is the worst pigheaded kind of idiocy, and seems born of an eagerness to incite unrest. Seeing people using the looting and the violence as a reason to pour out their unfiltered social ignorance and biased crap just sickens me. I would be interested in an analysis of language on social media and the increase in the use of the pronoun “them” and the phrase “those people.” Any time I see that, I know what’s coming. Gah.

But being pretty close to the area, it has me skittish. I don’t think looters are going to come pillage my house or anything so dramatic. But I worry about violence that might come from any side in the demonstrations. I worry about outside forces with their own agendas that might want to capitalize on the unrest. During the first protests, there were rumors about plans to come to my town and, long story short, a white militia of open carry activist types was all over it, heading to the mall to “defend” it. A nightmare. I’m nervous about groups like that finding an excuse to take their crazy flag out and fly it meeting groups with other extreme ideas. I’m nervous about way the protests and civil disruptions might move throughout the city. I, like everyone of every color and political orientation, want my family to be safe as it tries to go about working and going to school and getting groceries. I know that some sweeping systemic changes need to happen for some Americans to have that safety and not worry about their sons being shot by police. But it’s frightening to be on the edge of the place where our country is negotiating those changes with tear gas and broken windows. Hopefully the next few weeks pass smoothly and safely for all of us, but it’s hard to believe that will be the case when your area is full of National Guard, military contractors, inflammatory media disseminating bad information, and on and on.

Where was I? Oh, yeah, sewing machine therapy. 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.