Easily Put A Vintage Sewing Machine Head In Cabinet

Hello everyone,   one of the hardest things to deal with when working with vintage sewing machines is the removal of the head from the hinge pins of its cabinet or case.  And since it is a pain to remove, why shouldn’t it be a bigger pain to put back? The short answer is easy. After several near mishaps and smashed fingers, I finally stumbled upon someone who had been there before and was openly sharing his technique. I am not sure whose idea it was or when it started but it works wonders and I want to share the experience with anyone who currently finds themselves in the same predicament.

quickly change machines


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When our now vintage machines were young and in their prime it was not at all uncommon for a cast iron treadle head to weigh over 20 pounds. With the advancements in technology, these same heads found themselves getting motors and lights attached to them. Now the weight is pushing 30 pounds.  The only advancement for the hinges during this time consisted of hinging towards the front of the machine for storing under the lid so the cabinets could also serve as tables and be more accepted as furniture when they were not in use. In making this change the modifications to the heads consisted of set screws to lock the bases onto the hinge pins. When the machines only tilted back for cleaning the set screws were not needed as the machine didn’t tip back far enough to pull itself off the pins. Just before aluminum heads started a whole new generation of machines, our faithful old steel and cast iron machines started having options other than straight stitch and reverse. When  ZZ came to play so did more steel gears and shafts. Decorative stitches also added to this weight and it was not at all uncommon to have a fully loaded portable sewing machine that would tip the scales between 38 and 45 pounds.

SO even in the beginning, it was entirely possible to end up with pinched fingers and heads that were dropped. It could quickly ruin someone’s day, turning machines into doorstops and causing more than a few unlucky souls to wear a cast when they couldn’t get their feet out of the way fast enough. The problem being the hinges would not stay up at an angle where they could be aligned with the holes in the base of the machines, sometimes either the left or right might align while the other would drop down. Each failed attempt only added to the stress and fear of dropping the head, while taxing the arm muscles and the wrists.  Now for the super simple ingenious solution for this problem. RUBBER BANDS, yes some ingenious person discovered that if you place a rubber band stretched from the left hinge pin to the right hinge pin at the height of the table the hinges will stay up.  Wide rubber bands work better in my opinion but I have also used multiple narrow bands to do the same job. Once the base is slid down onto the pins and the set screws are tightened simply cut the rubber band and remove it from the hinges.  It doesn’t matter if you stand in front of the machine to do the alignment or the back of the machine I found it equally gratifying while lining up the hinges with the bases.



So there you have it. I would like to say I figured it out but I can't, I would truly love to shake the hand of the person who did and present them with a bow of respect and humility. But since I can't do that, I can share this person's love of helping others to use and enjoy their machines by passing it along to someone else. I hope this finds its way to some who have struggled like I did.  Until next time,enjoy your machines and may you never forget to put the presser foot down before you sew .

quickly change vintage sewing machine heads



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About Melissa Shields

Mel is a 30 something year old quilter, attempting to balance her old school roots with today's trends. When not sewing or shopping for a new sewing machine Mel enjoys reading, reality TV, and Nascar.

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