Wednesday, April 26

Singer 616G now up and running

Last year a sewing acquaintance gave me this machine. Someone had given it to her but she didn't want it.  The G in the model number, 616G, indicates that it was made in Germany, but apart from that I couldn't find out much about it in the usual way, which is first just to google it and then see what images and information come up. One image that did was, funnily enough, one with a sewing machine repair man's sticker on it saying "Tom Dilley" - he's in Swindon and I have used his services on more than one occasion. Another image was on 

However, I managed to work out what models it was similar to, and was able to find out, for instance, how the tension unit came apart and how to put it back together again. I found that out here here at TNT Repair. It's a gear driven, slant needle machine, with all metal gears. I have to confess that when I got it I didn't notice any of these things, even though I'd heard all of these terms...... That's what I like about this hobby - I learn new stuff all the time!

This is it with the top and the handwheel off. Notice the highly intellectual newspaper underneath. Actually I think there's some bits of Daily Mail and Daily Telegraph, so there you go. Actually I'll read anything.......... it's all educational in some way!

Closer view of inside the right hand end.

That silver bit in the top right hand corner is the top of the motor shaft.

This is the tension unit taken apart - I laid out the pieces in order, and wrote down the direction they were facing on the machine. Even with help for reassembling available on the internet this always proves useful. Or taking photos. Or both, just to make sure!

Incidentally, another website which is particularly good for information on old Singers, and which I have found helpful for taking apart the tension unit on a 201, is this Old Singer Sewing Machine blog.

I did in fact use bits from both websites to help with reassembling the unit. Even though I've done tension units like this before, I don't do it often enough to remember how to do it off the top of my head.

Apart from that, I basically cleaned and oiled the machine, and then tried out the stitches. Everything was working well, although it was perhaps rather noisy, but then suddenly there was a problem. I couldn't turn the handwheel towards me by hand, or rather I could, but only one "notch" at a time, although oddly if I used the foot controller it was OK. I worked out that the problem was in the area of the motor shaft - if I pressed my finger down hard on it while turning it by hand (electricity disconnected) it worked properly. 

I asked a few questions on the Yahoo Vintage Singers group, and got various replies, and eventually managed to remove the motor from the machine, with help from You Tube. This is what it looked like. Somebody on the Group said it looked like someone had worked on the motor and not done it very well. I believe the holes are something to do with balancing it. Anyway, Husband then took it apart, with my permission......but that was as far as I/we got.......

I have taken apart a motor on a Singer 185, and put it back together again, but that was a different sort of motor. I concluded that fixing this one was beyond me, but as I thought the machine was well worth spending a bit of money on, I took it to the above named repair man.

Here I should say that I have a German friend who I had done some sewing jobs for, but who wanted to get herself a machine so that she could do them herself. I mentioned that I happened to be working on a German one, and that it was made in Karlsruhe [sorry, German people, for the lack of umlaut on the "u" - I still haven't worked out how to insert them, despite Elder Son having told me how to do it....] - at which point she exclaimed "Oh, that's my home town!". So I just had to get this machine up and running so that she could have it, as it clearly had her name on it.

Anyway, Repair Man fixed the motor for me. I went through all the stitches so that I could show my German friend how it all worked. As well as straight stitch, and various zigzag stitches, this machine also does chain stitch; I think the "toy" machine that belonged to my older sister, which was in our house in the 1960s, did this as opposed to lockstitch, but I've never seen one since that did it, so this was something else for me to master. Chain stitch will come undone with a pull of the thread, because of the way the stitch is formed, unlike the usual lockstitch, which doesn't. I think some people use it for tacking.

The white bit in the bobbin area is the part you have to insert to do the chain stitch. The throat plate on the right is the one you have to use.

And for any other sewing machine enthusiasts, this is the underside of the plate, so that you can see the part number - 507115

And this is the working machine, all fixed up! Unfortunately the plastic base broke when Husband dropped it. It's such a shame that these tough all metal machines came with plastic bases! I've seen other broken ones. It's now gone to the lady whose name was written on it. I have to admit that because this machine proved more difficult to get going than others I've worked on, at times I felt like shoving it under the table and forgetting about it, but I think it was well worth persisting with.  Oh, and there just happens to be one on Ebay now for £299!!!!!!! [I think it's been reduced as I see it's now on for £269.99]

I have got three other machines waiting in the wings....... in order of priority, a Janome Novum which I bought in a charity shop, a Jones (1970s model) and a Harris hand machine, both of which I have just been given. I was phoned recently and asked if I could put a new drive belt on a machine; after initially saying I hadn't done it before and therefore recommending my Repair Man, I thought - that's silly, I'm sure I can do it. So I rang her back and said I'd do it, and I did. Another string to my bow!

And for anyone who follows this blog and knows that we moved last year after 32 years in the same house, what should I see on the windowsill of our old house recently? You've guessed it - an old Singer! Ah, I thought, how lovely. I have since found out that the new lady of the house rescued it from being taken to the tip! Just what I would have done.

And now on with some sewing jobs.


Tuesday, March 28

Re yesterday's post, entitled "Oxford Bike Works step through bike"

If you subscribe by email, when I publish a post you get it in your inbox, and so do I. However I have not yet received that email, so am wondering if those who subscribe by email have also not received it. I have read about this happening to other bloggers. So that's the reason for this extra post - if you receive this one, but didn't receive yesterday's, then I would be very grateful if you'd let me know below in the comments. And if you didn't receive it then hopefully you will click on it and read it now!

I confess that if there's one thing that would put me off continuing with this blog, then it's the techie side of things. It took me ages to set up the blog in the first place. I'm sure there are ways I could improve it if I spent hours researching how to, but that would be less time spent cycling or sewing (maybe one day I'll get round to a bit more of the preserving I'm meant to be doing too!!).

What I really need is someone to sit beside me showing me what to do!

Anyway - did you get yesterday's post?


Monday, March 27

Oxford Bike Works step through touring bike

I have been intending to write this post since last October, and now having read this post on anniebikes recently about the Rivendell Clementine I've been inspired to get on and do it, as her post, and the comments that follow, has lots of interesting things to say on the subject of step through bikes. I also found this article about mixtes on Lovely bicycle! very useful. I didn't even realize that my own bike, a roughly 20 year old Trek, was a mixte until a few months ago, and now I'm a great fan of them - I've learnt a lot in the past year!

My mixte Trek

Back last year, this bike was off the road for several days, and as it was and is my main and preferred means of transport I felt lost without it! It was a bit like my sewing machines - some time ago I realized I could probably do with having two machines, partly because different machines are good for different things, but also in case one ever goes wrong and I can't fix it. Eldest Son told me of this formula about the number of bikes people have, and I believe it has also been applied to sewing machines  - it is n + 1. What this means is that is the number of bikes/sewingmachines one has but one always wants/needs one more.......

So last year I decided I really would like to have that + 1 bike. A couple of years before that, I had looked longingly at first Thorn touring bikes, and then at Oxford Bike Works bikes. OBW bikes were similar to Thorn's and a mere 14 miles or so away from me, and as I do like to try to buy locally, I decided to arrange a visit to Richard there. I wanted a step through (this was before I knew what a mixte was) as I didn't want to swing my leg over the saddle, having done it on the Trek aluminium hybrid that I should never have bought in 2014 (although technically it was a women's frame, the crossbar was high and I ended up swinging my leg over the saddle). It's not that I can't do it - I just don't want to.

I had the choice of a step through frame with either 700c wheels, which would be built from a frame supplied by Intec, or 26" size wheels with a frame made by Lee Cooper in the UK, and being basically the OBW Model 1. Both were steel. I went for a short ride on one of Richard's "men's" bikes in the 26" wheel size (I can't actually remember the frame size of this bike - this is significant regarding what happened in the end) and decided to go for the latter, although it was more expensive, as I liked the extra controlability that the 26" wheels seemed to give. Richard took the measurements of my Trek, as I was happy with the size of that, and did various measurements in the workshop with me on the bike I had ridden, and the new step through bike was ordered. At this point I should mention, as it's significant later in the story, that I thought I remembered him saying, when I was sat on the bike in the workshop, "I think you need a large frame".

I requested a Brooks B17S saddle. I like my Bontrager saddle, which I was measured for in my local bike shop, but I had wanted to try a Brooks for ages and adding it on at this stage was cheaper than adding one later. And small bar ends.

Six weeks later I went to collect the bike. I have to say that my immediate impression was of disappointment, because my first thought was that the bike looked small, a little bit like a child's bike made to fit an adult. I hadn't expected it to look like this. It may sound silly but I didn't want a bike that looked small, even if it was the right size for me. I actually think now that that first thought - of it being small - was because it was too small. Anyway, I rode it the 14 miles home. I have to say it was an extremely uncomfortable ride!! My immediate thought, thinking of the very harsh ride that I got with the Trek hybrid, was "Oh no, what HAVE I done....? Have I made another mistake?"

This was the bike as it was when I first got it home.

One thing I knew was that despite what everyone says about breaking in a Brooks saddle, there was no way I was ever going to break this one in. I'd worn my padded undershorts even though I wouldn't normally need them on a short journey like this one but even with them on I was very uncomfortable! So that was the first thing that would have to be changed. I came home and read up all I could about the different Brooks saddles, comparing all the measurements, and comparing the B17S measurements to those of my current saddle. I concluded that I would probably be better off with a wider one. I wasn't getting the width that I needed according to my sit bones measurement. Lovely Bicycle! has a very good post on Brooks saddles.

Another thing that I thought might be affecting the ride were the tyres, which were Schwalbe 32mm (I think they were Marathon Plus but I can't be certain now). I also didn't think the handlebars were at the sort of height we had originally agreed, but it wasn't until I rode it home that I realized this.

So, back to OBW. Richard changed the saddle to a Velo model, which I knew wasn't my ideal but was acceptable, put wider tyres on (unfortunately I can't remember the width now), and raised the handlebars to the position I wanted by putting in more spacers (though it was only afterwards that I realized that in fact this put the handlebars slightly nearer to the saddle, which I didn't want). This time I left it with Richard, and he kindly returned it to me a few days later.

New saddle, and extra spacers under the handlebars.

I took it out for a ride. It was more comfortable, but inside me I had this awful thought that I'd just spent about £1600 on a new bike and I knew I wasn't happy with it.....Husband and I measured and measured both this bike and my Trek, to see if there was a logical reason why I didn't feel right on it. There was very little difference in the measurements, although one important one was in the distance from the saddle to the handlebars; I needed to move the saddle further back but it wasn't possible - it was as far back as it would go. I do know I've got long arms. Again I refer here to Lovely Bicycle!, although I can't remember the particular post, but it says somewhere concerning fit, that in the end you just have to go with your gut feeling as to whether a bike is right for you or not, and my gut feeling was that this one wasn't, although the only reason I could give was that it just felt small, and generally not right.

In the end, Richard offered to take the bike back and give me a full refund, and this I accepted. I rode it back and he kindly took time to discuss things with me. I think it was probably like when I know a sewing customer of mine isn't happy (thankfully it has rarely happened!) - I just want to know what's wrong and put it right if possible.  I did mention that when I first went to see him I thought he had said that I needed a large size, as opposed to the medium I had. So possibly there was some error in the sizing, but neither of us could be certain. 

He did put forward two ideas; one was taking one of his large size bikes home to try out for a longer time than I had originally had, and the other was that he was thinking of getting in a step through in the next couple of months in a large size for customers to try and maybe I would like to try that out. I would have been particularly keen on trying out the large step through, but I have heard no more. I am the first customer he has refunded - he obviously has lots of happy customers judging from his Facebook page.

My own theory is that given the choice between two sizes of bike, I would naturally tend to choose the bigger one, which may be something inexplicable, or may be down to something logical - I don't know! I've studied bike geometry until it comes out of my ears.....

Regarding step-throughs and mixtes, I also know now that looks wise I definitely lean more towards a mixte. As I said earlier, I like to buy local when possible, or at least British, but I have to admit that a bike I am leaning towards is the Dutch Koga Traveller. I would have loved to have the steel Koga Randonneur, which another blogger, Brenda, has, but unfortunately Koga are no longer making them. The Traveller is aluminium, which I would have steered (ha ha...) clear of after my experience with the Trek, but after more research and talking to people who know more than me I'm inclined to rethink my opinions. I've also looked at the bikes made by VSF Fahrradmanufaktur, although they only come in black [Note added 7th April: Having delved deeper into the website I find that they do indeed come in other colours, and some very nice ones too.]  The mixtes apparently only come in one frame size, which I don't understand. You certainly get a lot for your money with both of these.

I'm slightly nervous about buying a bike from somewhere that isn't within reasonably easy reach by bike (for me that's Tadcaster or London for the Koga, and London or Cambridge for the Fahrradmanufaktur) in case I need to take it back for any reason, and neither of these makes are available within that sort of distance, but hey ho, maybe I shouldn't worry.

I'm sure I've missed out something I wanted to say but after several days of reading this post through and editing it I'll go ahead and finally post it.

And just to give you something to look at, Vulpine, the bike clothing manufacturer, have collaborated with British frame builder Gavin Buxton of August Bicycles to make this very beautiful - and expensive! - mixte. Intended more for urban riding than touring so I understand.

All comments and opinions very welcome on this subject (as on any other post of course)!