Saturday, May 26, 2012

The Leviathan, Singer's 29 - 4

1905 Singer 29K-4
It is called many things such as the boot patcher, the cobbler, the leatherworker or the harness stitcher.  I call it the Leviathan after the large biblical sea monster.  The model number is 29-4  or 29K with this particular one being made in 1905.  They were in production earlier and later with modifications and model number changes.  Even today,  in the shop I am in during the week has two similar (though much more modern and electric) machines machines made by Consew and Brother.  Perhaps this huge thing could be useful to me?  Would it even work right?  Hmmm.
Gustave Dore, 1965.  "Destruction of the Leviathan"
 First thing was that it needed a few parts.  To my surprise, parts are easily available for this type of vintage machine.  That is not always the case.  Because so many are in use today there are dealers who cater to this.  Some parts from more recent models are compatible as well.  In this situation I needed a tension spring and one was on it's way to my house days later though it was made for a 1940's model.  Fit perfectly.  Needles, Bobbins, Wire threaders and rubber bobbin tires are available inexpensively.  Here's where I got my parts  - Sharp Sewing Supplies but there are many sources.
I found downloadable manual free of charge through the Singer Company.  Click this link: Singer 29K manual

Does it even work?  Well yes it does, but it took some getting used to.  The learning process is still going on.  It is quite different than a regular lockstitch in two ways:  The presser foot works as the feed from the top and the presser foot can be manipulated to move in different directions.  The reasons for this has to do with the primary function it was designed for.  That would be very close work as with shoe repairs.  It makes a lot of noise when operating but it is a pleasant one.  It sounds like "work".  Clank clank clank.

 As an example of it's work, see the image below.  With this pair of shoes, the stitching was coming apart at the bottom side and the overlapping part.  I was able to reinforce the stitches along the bottom then completely turn it to go the flap.  It did an excellent job and saved a favorite pair of Minnetonka shoes.  This would have been a tricky job even by hand because of the tight space at the bottom.  Very cool, very cool indeed.
The presser foot moves by moving this brass handle.
It is quite powerful and sews through heavy leather with no hesitation.  It is slow and cumbersome for sure but with leather fast is not what I am looking for.  I want a one time pass though so as not to make holes in the work.  I also have used this with heavy webbing.
Singer 29k Stitch Sample
Here is a stitch sample made with fairly heavy good quality leather.  The thread used is Jeans top stitching thread.  Heavy thread such as #69 works well too.  I have heard that the presser foot teeth on the underside will leave marks on the surface.  That is a possibility but has not occurred yet with anything I have yet done.  Another reason to get your seam right the first time.
The bobbins are very small and so is the machine arm.  This is what it looks like with the cover removed.
The design is to allow access to tight spaces and that has been very very handy a few times.  A drawback is that it also makes this less practical for doing very large things that need support.  There was a table extension available for these when you purchased them back when new.  There are plans for making them now and I may do that someday.  The time that would have been useful to have was when I was making a bag.  Holding it was a bit awkward on that tiny arm space.  This is what the extension table looked like as sold originally

Anyone who finds this post and is wondering how it's threaded may take note of this next section.  First, get a manual.  You NEED it to explain the bobbin loading and threading.  Simply put, it is not like other machines and you are not going to figure it out on your own.  The outside threading is easy to see but this part was a little confusing to me so here's a picture to clarify.

The thread is pushed down this hole after it leaves the tensioner.  It goes all the way down to the presser foot. 
You will need a threader like this.  There is a tiny hook at the end to hold the thread as you push it down.  Give yourself a lot of extra thread for this, as it can be very tiresome to keep having to re-do it. 

This is where the upper thread comes through.  To get at the bobbin, you will need to loosen the screw and turn the cover.
 Once you get familiar with the machine it is a kind of interesting thing to behold.  It is very masculine.  Of all the machines here this is the only one that my husband actually touched.  He was even the first one to use it.  Go figure.  Is it worth having?  Of course I always say yes but this one has a very different purpose than the others.  So far it has been very useful for repairs, less so for creativity.  If you fix heavy things, then maybe you could use this.  If you just want to make things than maybe not.  That said, I have made a few things with it that would have been very difficult otherwise, like these little shoes. What's another machine anyway.

My leviathan, it is a beautiful beast.