Sunday, February 20, 2011

History in Action, the 1859 Wheeler and Wilson #3

I would like to introduce you to an special piece of history, the Wheeler Wilson #3 sewing machine.  Now those that know me understand I do have an affection for old things of all kinds but the sewing machine hold a special place of honor to me as it is the main tool of my trade.  This one deserves a page of it's own.

The maker is the Wheeler Wilson out of Bridgeport Connecticut.  More on the people who started it and what they did is here : Wheeler and Wilson Company Info.  The company was founded in 1854 and this sewing machine was made in 1859, making it one of the earlier models.  What makes it even more unusual is I have been told that it appears to be an industrial make, for use in a shop.  The difference between the home model and the shop one is the large hand wheel and the pattern of the irons. 

Wheeler Wilson #3 Irons
 It was quite rusted when I got it and was frozen stiff.  After a lot of oil, cleaning and de-rusting it does turn.  I can't explain to you the feeling I had when I first saw the operate.  It was as if history was revealed to me.  What incredible ingenuity from long ago.

Some things about it were strangely  familiar.   Every person who uses a sewing machine today knows about a "feed dog" mechanism.  Here is it's first application in a machine.  It was the Wheeler Wilson that had it first.  So simple yet so effective.  I've removed the cloth plate to show how it works.

It has a four part action.  With this machine, there is a problem with that.  It seems to be missing something to hold it down so it works best when I have my hand on it lightly.  When the cloth plate is on it makes a lot of noise because of this.  I have used another model that is similar and it was not like this one so I will have to improvise a fix.  Somehow I know the local sewing machine repair guy is not going to help me.  For those who enjoy using older machines, you know this already: the modern machines we use today are not that different from those made a hundred years ago in some ways.  Here is a great example.  Another is the round bobbin.

It sews from side to side using the feed mechanism as show above and a long curved needle.  The needle arm is a separate arm to the presser foot.  The needle itself is long and has a slight curve.  When inserting the needle, the operator is to determine where the needle is to be set, rather than like today where you place the needle up as and it fits in place.   It takes a careful eye to figure this out and some knowledge as to how a lock stitch machine works to do this correctly.  I am still learning.  One major drawback to using a sewing  machine of this type is the needles are extremely scarce.  I have two.  I wish there was someone who makes these but alas, that is not the case. 
Note the curve and channel in the needle.
Very Early Rotary Hook.  This is the correct placement for the needle.

The bobbins are scarce as well.  I have only one.  They are not unlike our bobbins of today, just shaped differently.  The round bobbin was another Wheeler Wilson patent.  The bobbin fits under the machine and it held in place by a holder that is screwed into place.
Bobbin for Wheeler Wilson #1-4.  Mine is so particular it will only work with the bobbin placed the same - the same side out.  I can tell from the rust that this it to be "outside".  If you have trouble, maybe yours is also finicky.
Bobbin Holder in place.  To set, push in the holder and tighten the screw.  I then release it slightly to allow the bobbin to turn and tighten again.

Winding the Bobbin

The fabric moves from side to side, left to right.  Of all the things that make this a cool machine it has to be this.  It is so different, yet I have already wished I could use it more.  I was fixing a life vest that needed new buckles on the webbing at the sides.  To make a long story short, if I could have sewn sideways, I would have been able to fix it in about one minute.   Sometimes getting the fabric under the harp of a sewing machine can limit what you can do. 

Here is the machine in action.  Note the direction of the work.

Now about the cosmetics.  This was very rusted.  There was so much greasy dirt on it I could see almost no decal on it.  With a little cleaning, here is what I found.  
Painted Floral design, like a Fuchsia Blossom. 
The presser bar arm and needle arm both appear to have been plated as there is a remnant of a shiny silver coating in some places.  All of the cleaning was done slowly and carefully.  Rust was removed by using "Evapo Rust".  Anything that was rusted was then coated with sewing machine oil.  The painted areas were lightly coated with carnauba wax.  Not much there as it is not in great shape.  This entire machine was well used, for sure.  All moving parts are lubricated before use.

There is an unusual feature that I was sure was not original but have since found out that it indeed was.  The tension for the machine is regulated by a round hard wood spool and a clip.  This allows for a large amount of thread or a heavy thread to be used.  Here is the tension mechanism in place with blue thread.  Surprising to me, this works pretty well. 
Tension Mechanism and Thread Spool.  It can be adjusted by tightening or loosening the knob.

A new treadle belt was cut for me at Tandy Leather and sewn in place.  Different Wheeler and Wilson models have different widths.  Inexpensive and looks great.  It's a bit loose right now.
Lacing for treadle belt.  This arrangement allows for adjustment on either end.
In conclusion, I have been tinkering with this machine for a long time.  It is not the easiest machine to use.  The needles are so rare that I am very careful with how I use the machine for fear of breaking one.   
The parts are so simple yet all has to be perfectly in place for it to work.  Yet for all the frustration, when it does work it is a joy to behold.  After over 150 years, just being here is enough. 
1859 Visiting Dress.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The Butter Churn

Home Made Butter
This is completely off topic, unless using a vintage kitchen tool counts.  The tool in question is a Dandy Jar Churn.  It was a special gift that makes me feel good every time I use it for the "I did it myself" quality.  Have you ever wanted to make your own butter with a jar churn?  If you have one (or know someone who does) here's how.
You will need:
*Jar Churn 
*1/2 gallon whipping cream (1.89L)
*1/2 to 3/4 Tsp salt if desired.
*Flat wooden spoon
*Large bowl
*container to hold butter when done

"Dandy" Jar Churn
 Notes:  I get the cream at Costco.  The wooden spoon is the type used for rice.  Some people use a masher to clear the milk from the butter.

Making the Butter
Bring cream to room temperature, not cold.  Approx. 50 dregree F.  (Thanks to Dora for this help - cold cream takes longer).  Fill jar churn half way.  Do not fill it more, as the cream with expand during the process.   Turn the handle fairly quickly.  This will take about about 15 minutes to be done.  Several stages happen with the cream during this time.  The first is the cream gets frothy and expands.
First stage of churning.

The cream next becomes very stiff, like whipped cream.  It's hard to keep turning but don't give up now!

 Next it will become a little more milky and then suddenly you can see the butter.  It looks like grain or granules of butter.  You can stop now.

You can stop when it looks like this.  The buttermilk has separated from the butter.

Next, clear the buttermilk from the butter.  It is important to do this thoroughly as any milk left behind will become rancid and spoil.  I do this by draining buttermilk into a jar ( about 2 1/2 cups) and the butter granules into a large bowl.
Rinsing the butter.
  Add cold  water and swish it around to release the excess milk.    Pour out water and fill bowl again.  Continue by using the wooden spoon to press down butter and press out excess water.  Repeat this until the water runs clear.

Remove all small amounts of excess water out by pressing with the spoon and tapping the butter with a paper towel.

Add salt to taste, if desired.  Mix with spoon completely.  Start with 1/4 tsp and add more in small amounts from there.  (I usually go a little over 1/2 tsp.)

Scoop into your mold.

I used muffin tins this time but many things can work.  A glass covered casserole or Tupperware for example.  The finished amount is about 25 oz.  This try was not so easy.  I had to use a small knife to remove them, argh.  I does give a nice shape and size though at 2.5 oz each and 1/3 cup in measure.  I still search for the perfect mold.  Perhaps a rubber one.  Place any molded butter into a refrigerator to harden before removing.
Good idea, but did not work so well.

Wrapped in wax paper and stored in refrigerator.

 So creamy and yummy.  It comes out a lovely color and flavor.