Cleaning · Transverse shuttle

Reviving a transverse shuttle machine

I recently got bitten by the transverse shuttle bug. 😲 So I had to clean and revive a few TS machines. They all wake up from their slumber, but you need to tickle the right spots. πŸ˜‰

I am generally a lazy person. I don’t like to clean things for the sake of them looking like new, especially if they are 120 years old. What’s the point? If I wanted new, I’d buy new. What I want is to make my old ladies tidy and ready to sew, without dropping zombie blood all over my sewing.

With a transverse shuttle machine you need to put some effort in the underbelly because the mechanism has many parts that tend to get clogged up in old solidified oil. This typically jams the mechanism, partially or completely.

If the machine is seized or moving very stiffly, it is best to start with a clearing solution to dissolve that solidified oil a bit. There are many things you can use for it, some people swear by kerosene or paraffin, but I can’t stand the smell. Other people just use some kind of oil – any oil – sewing machine oil, WD-40 or whatever obscure bottle they’ve got at the back of the garage, but this isn’t very effective. I prefer to use fresh 3-in-1 oil, that is, a bottle bought this year and not one from 1960s. πŸ˜‰

Flip back the machine and cover everything you see in the underbelly with the oil (or kerosene). Drop the oil into the oiling holes on the arm and column too. If using kerosene or another solvent, be sure not to drop any on the lacquered surfaces of the machine or it will ruin the lacquer more than the Time has done. Which is another reason I prefer oil – you’re safe with oil, it does no damage to the lacquer.

Leave the oil to work overnight.

The underbelly

There are a lot of parts in the underbelly that need cleaning. The race just needs scraping but the feed mechanism needs to be taken off to clean.

A typical mechanism of a TS machine
Feed mechanism from another TS machine

To clean the feed mechanism, undo the screws holding down the stitch length bar and the feed dog height regulator. These parts look a little different from make to make, but essentially they are the same. These screws are often stuck, so use plenty of creeping oil, be patient and persevere. The more parts you manage to remove and clean, the better your machine will work.

On the top side of the bed, open or remove shuttle slide plates and remove the needle plate and the feed dog slide plate, if you have one. Behold very dirty and clogged feed dogs! You should now be able to lift the feed dogs out, after some cleaning.

Or may be not, as was the case with this Jones TS. But the only reason that the feed dog was stuck and could not be lifted out, was dirt and solidified oil! So apply more oil (be careful with kerosene here!) until you get it out.

Behold a huge build-up of dirt on all of those parts as well as the channels in the bed, and clean it all off. Scraping with a flat screw driver is rather satisfying. πŸ™‚ Then put it all back together and oil all moving parts with sewing machine oil (not 3-in-1!).

The head

If your machine is still stiff and you think it might be the head, you need to open it up. I found that in some machines it is actually better to leave it alone – it might be difficult to put it back together just right. But obviously, if it is heavy going, you don’t have a choice!

The head comes apart in your hands as you undo the two screws, so be careful. There are springs in there that will jump in the opposite directions, which is why I’m not keen on opening it. But then once open, it is all quite straightforward, just scrape off the dirt and clean it up. Sorry, I haven’t got a picture to show you!

The hand-crank

If your machine has a hand-crank, don’t forget to clean that as well! Usually you just need to oil it in the oiling holes, but if it turns over stiffly, open it up and clean. It’s quite simple and can make a huge difference.

The shuttle

And last but not least – the shuttle. Shuttle design varies a bit, but usually there are parts that can be brought up or forward to clean underneath. You need to try and make sure that the thread path is clear of dirt.

Put it all back together, oil liberally with sewing machine oil and run the machine for a good while. You don’t need to thread her at this point, but I would suggest to insert the shuttle. Oil again and again as she gets noisier – don’t worry to over-oil at this point. Oil every moving joint, not just the oiling holes.

When the mechanism runs lightly, thread her up and do some sewing. She will be oozing zombie blood at first, that’s normal – the joints are getting flushed. Once she runs clear, leave her overnight and test sew the next day again. There will be likely more zombie blood, so oil richly, sew, let it sit overnight. Repeat until she runs clear in the morning.

There might still be occasional zombie blood when you just start her up after a quiet night, so always start sewing on a scrap. This will also allow you to check tensions and oil levels: if thread tension is suddenly all off, the machine needs oiling! And after oiling, always sew on a scrap to clear any excess oil. Wipe off the presser bar and the needle bar under the head every now and again – excess oil tends to gather there and might stain your sewing. But otherwise she should be good to go, without staining in between.

When choosing sewing machine oil, always pick the type that does not stain fabric. I use light industrial oil, and it actually dries clear, just like water. I don’t even have to wash it out! So much easier to work with. What did I say – I’m a lazy person. 😁

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