Saturday, May 26, 2012

The Leviathan, Singer's 29K-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.

26 comments:

  1. Great post--love seeing this machine, since I've heard of them but never seen one!

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  2. That was fun to see how this beast works! Way cool! Now you can make shoes and messenger bags.

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  3. I turned down a free one, because I just don't have the room. I can only have so many treadles. If I sewed on leather, I would have taken it. Have fun with yours.

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  4. I watched 24 Hour Catwalk a few times, and during some of the comment bits by the contestants, they show an old black sewing machine in the background. I think this is the machine, or something very similar.

    And yes, it is a very handsome machine.

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    1. I had not heard of this show until you posted this, and will check it out. Maybe I will see the machine too. Amazingly it is fairly common, they last a very long time and were made for years with only slight changes to design.

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  5. Quality old machine, there's still that normally operate, I'm looking in scrap metal to buy, but for now I have found :)

    http://masinski-kutak.blogspot.com

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  6. Thank you for this post.
    I too have a 29k51. We use it in our business, sewing patches on leather. (We embroider the patches we sell and sew).
    Today while locating the machine to a spot we set up and sew, a flea market, the thread tension lever broke when machine fell over....
    Thanks to this blog I was able to follow a link you provided and find the replacement part I needed.

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    1. Oh my so glad nothing more was damaged in the fall. Glad you found this helpful, they are great machines.

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  7. I just bought one I been so addicted to singers that I own 12 of them all different from each ither and I will say this patcher is the one that intriges me the most I repainted all the botyom in old english gold and the base in flat black I took the ryst off n sand parts omg took me dew days but now I have a look like new" 29k I just need the organ needles which I have already order...nice one you have...enjoy!!

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  8. They are really different, the presser foot that moves the fabric and the movable presser bar make it a little hard to get used to operating. Thanks for stopping by.

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  9. Today I noticed the one I have is missing the bar that goes across the body is what controls the foot do you a web site that sells em? Please you can email me at theartist1_2000@yahoo.com... thanks for responding

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  10. Today I noticed the one I have is missing the bar that goes across the body is what controls the foot do you a web site that sells em? Please you can email me at theartist1_2000@yahoo.com... thanks for responding

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  11. I just acquired a 1909 29-4, and yes it's also a leviathan!

    You don't need to unscrew the bobbin cover to remove it. There is a release button to the right of it, and it pivots out of the way on that same screw.

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    1. You are right! I saw what might be the button but it was not moving. A little Tri Flow and it loosened a bit. Thanks again.

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  12. the one you have is a 29-4. The 29k4 has many more replaceable parts and even half of the short arm unbolts and can be replaced where if you damage the arm on the 29-4 you have a fancy boat anchor. (unless you can find someone with precision welding abilities) also, the shuttle plate should have a spring loaded button you can press down on that allows the plate to turn.

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  13. Thanks for the info. I did find the push button with the help of another reader, mine was stuck in place so I missed it. All better now. Having replacable parts is great and keeps these old timers in use.

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  14. Hello!
    I was so excited to find this post, I actually use my Singer 29-4 to hand craft purses. One of my purses is an envelope style purse, so it is wonderful for sewing the flaps down. I wondered if anyone knew if there was anyway to backtack on this machine? I find myself hand stitching with a leather needle at the beginning and end of my stitching. Here is the purses I make on this machine www.well-loved.com. Thanks again for sharing your info about this antique gem!

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  15. I usually leave the thread ends long and hand sew them, like you do. With treadles back tack is done by holding the fabric in place...tugging a bit...and then going on as normal. That is harder to do with this machine for me. On some things, space permitting, I lift the presser bar with the needle down, turn the foot backwards and stitch a few then turn again. I still leave the threads long and knot the underside.
    Have not used this for a purse project but that sounds like an excellent idea, and will try this too. These are great and mine deserves to do more than repairs.

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  16. actually, it's remind me with my mother's sewing machine. manual machine :)
    regards
    jilbab

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  17. Hello, I bought 129 years old Singer 29 U.F.A. machine with original parts, and still function few days ago. Singer machines are amazing.

    Best regards
    Martin

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    1. Good for you, if you ever need help I have several places to find it. They are great machines as you already know.

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  18. Im looking for a singer stitcher 29-4 please.email.me.if anyone has one for sale.or know where i can find one powellkustoms@gmail.com

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  19. What are you using as a replacement for the leather belt?

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    1. In this photo I was using aquarium tubing, as that is what I had at the time. It does work quite well but the ends were frayed at bit and with time would eventually tear so it has been replaced. My favorite treadle belt is this:
      https://www.lehmans.com/p-1551-sewing-machine-belt.aspx?show=all

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    2. It seems they are out of stock but they may be available elsewhere. Mine came from Ebay a while ago. The benfit is it does not stretch out of shape with time and has the right grip for precise work like that I do with this machine. For cabinet treadles it is easy to pull on and off. The leahter belt clip is a pain to do and with these is not an issue, there is a little connector. Easy!

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