It operates somewhat similarly to other industrial sewing machines but there are some significant differences. I'll point those out. On a side note, I have also found the Willcox and Gibbs to be quite adaptable to home use for things like quilting, general dressmaking and mending.
The Willcox Gibbs High Speed Lockstitch Sewing Machine with Automatic Lubrication.
|1940? Unknown age.|
|Willcox and Gibbs Chainstich Sewing Machine 1875.|
Many years and innovations later the company would focus on the industrial sewing machine trade. The one I was most familiar with is the overlock first introduced in the 1880's and made into the 1970's. The company diversified and then stopped being in the sewing machine business in 1978, a long run indeed. The particular model discussed on this post, the lockstitch, was introduced in 1899 as a power driven high speed machine for the garment industry. It would come with compatible tables and motors designed for ease of use, power saving and reliability. The rotary feed and tension units took stress off the thread by turning in rotation rather than tugging on the spool, reducing breakage and parts wear.
|Willcox Gibbs High Speed Lockstitch in a Factory Setting|
How Do They Work?
I first found some problems. It is a different bird as they say. Crazy presser feet, a wierd bobbin case and a lot of tangled thread in the rotary take up wheel. Ugh! An operators manual is my usual helper and was not to be found. The only manual located was on Ebay, and far away at that. I have heard there is one on the Smithsonian's archive website but i was unable to locate it presently. I suggest looking both places and getting one. In the mean time here are some basics.
*The Hand Wheel Turns Away. Do not turn towards the operator.
* The thread releases with the needle at the highest position. This is just like other machines.
*Needle sets with Groove to the LEFT.
Oiling the Machine.
|Pull up lever on the oil pump to send the oil through the system.|
|I use this to help pour the oil!|
The automatic lubrication machines should be tested. These operate very fast so it is essential that they be oiled properly to avoid damage. Before beginning fill the reserve with oil to the halfway point. If it overfilled it will leak. Pull the oil pump lever up, and let it go down slowly. There should a tiny drop of oil. Now, check the holes near the front and at the fly wheel. Add a little oil if it has been a long while since last use. I suggest adding some oil to all the moving parts of the bobbin case area. The bobbin winder unit should have a few drops of oil added to the port over the turning arm.
Now that it has been given a little oil, run at high speed to see if the system is clear and operational. Open the cover at the top, see that a small drop of oil formed at the tube going down. If not, oil manually. In time my machine went from not dripping oil to working fine so maybe some old oil clogged it, now gone.
I have no threading diagram. There is one out there I saw it but cannot locate it. It seems it was on the Smithsonian's collection of trade ephemera. The threading procedure was a bit confusing, so here is how I do it with images to help.
|(This is the back view)|
Setting the Bobbin.
|Bobbin case access|
The Bobbin Case.
Insert the bobbin as normal, with the unwinding thread opposite the leaf tension on the case. The leaf tension on my case needs special attention to make sure the thread goes under it properly. Then thread through the hole on the top.
|Mine keeps doing this- just pull it under. Check yours.|
|Proper threading of the Bobbin Tension.|
|Through the hole and all done|
|Bobbin inserted correctly, face down. Just push it back.|
I am unaware of other models of the High Speed Lockstitch machine so please understand there may be differences in features in older or newer machines. Here is how to make some adjustments to the machine for sewing different types of fabric.
Boy was this a mystery! Push in the metal button and turn the handwheel away from you until the numbers come into view. I am not sure exactly what they represent, other than a guess as stitche per inch as this is an American machine. Lower numbers for longer stitches, higher for smaller ones. I use 10 most for medium weight, 14 for light and 7 for denim.
1. Press in button and turn handwheel AWAY until it clicks.
2.Turn again towards or away until you see the number you want.
Presser Foot Pressure:
Turn the screw at the top of the machine near the round thread take up. It goes downwards for more pressure, up for less. I was able to get a big variation in this, a great feature. With it up can do free motion sewing like for darning or quilting. No special darning attchment was needed. With high pressure did a great job on canvas. Start in the middle and then experiment from there.
Winding a Bobbin:
Set bobbin in the slot, it fits tightly. Wind as normal. It has a mechanical auto stop.
How do I sew on a machine that does not have reverse? I need to keep the stitches from unraveling!
This is a hassle, I know. Having used many old sewing machines, this issue has become part of my life. I do love auto reverse, back tack and the best of all AUTOMATIC THREAD CUTTERS but they are not what life is made of. Here is my work around for treadles and others that have no reverse. It works for most fabrics but the lightest ones.
1. Make a 2-3 stitches.
2. Tug slightly so the machine goes over them again.
3. At the end of the seam, with needle at the highest point raise presser foot.Move it back 2-3 stitches. 4. Place down again and sew over the edge.
Here's a quick view of this maneuver:
|Very slight variation in shank height.|