Extending the Range of a Singer 338

I bought a 1965 Singer 338 as my first machine to tinker with.

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I found this 1965 Singer 338 sewing machine on Craigslist for a great price. I know it runs, but it needs a lot of cleaning and oiling and lubing before I turn it loose on some fabric. I'll probably be replacing the belt, too.

So why is this here?

This machine (and many others of the era) were capable of doing stitches other than a simple straight stitch. But instead of today's computerized nonsense or even a mechanical dial to change stitches, you got to open the thing up and insert a little plastic disk that moves a cam and alters the drive train of the machine. It's a bit like a Spirograph in a way.

I'd like to design some new stitches, print new disks, and make this machine do some things that 1965 probably never saw coming.

This machine is more heavy duty than my modern heavy duty Singer. Why? Well, think of it like working on cars. In 1965, cars (and domestic sewing machines) were elegantly-designed, rugged things that were easy to work on. Why were machines so rugged compared to now? Because in the olden days, a housewife would need her machine to do anything from hemming suit pants to making drapes and slipcovers for the Davenport and clothing for herself and the children. These days, so-called heavy duty machines are like 85% plastic. They will do a little more than your average computerized hunk of plastic, but not much. Even with the right needle, lightweight leather is probably asking too much.

The most awesome thing about this machine is that it does all kinds of decorative stitches, but you wouldn't know it by looking at it. There is a lid on the top that gives you access to the cam stack. The machine came with about a dozen 'fashion discs' which are these little plastic cams with differently-shaped circumferences. When the zig-zag lever is engaged, a lever moves over and the little cam on top rides the outside of the fashion disk, which of course affects the career of the needle bar.

So my plan is to design and print some new fashion disks. I might also convert it to a treadle, but I'd like to see if I can make it switch between electric and treadle-driven.

  • 1 × brushes for cleaning toothbrushes, wire brush, stiff nylon brush, makeup brushes, and a #0000 steel wool sponge for the chrome.
  • 1 × a new belt? Singer 196386
  • 1 × krud kutter I'm going to use this to degrease the insides
  • 1 × q-tips removing old grease from the gears

  • She's a clean machine

    kristina panos12/22/2021 at 16:24 0 comments

    It's been really exciting to clean this machine. Why? Because it's so elegantly designed, and because there's almost no plastic anywhere but the face plate. To sew is to create lint, and machines get full of lint in a few years of use. Who knows when this one was last cleaned?

    Last night I figured out how to remove the bobbin case, and to my delight, I found a bunch more lint to remove. I'm using a small, stiff, nylon-bristled brush that is meant for cleaning sewing machines to dislodge the lint, and a large makeup brush to pick it up once it's loose. By the way, I highly recommend using makeup brushes for cleaning. They can be had fairly cheaply, and there are tons to choose from.

    Here are the tools I am using to clean this thing up. The white square is #0000 steel wool, which I am using on the chrome bits.

    There are a few rusty bits like the pulley, and I'm using the wire brush on those.

    I am trying to decide whether I want to replace the belt. I'm fairly sure that is the original belt, and I think it's made of leather. I'm not sure, but I think new belts are rubber, which feels like a downgrade. maybe I can find a new-old stock belt.

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