Bobbins · Hengstenberg · Needles · Shuttle · Whittler transverse vibrating shuttle

Hengstenberg/Anker finally working!

It took a long time but my little Hengstenberg/Anker is finally working!

The motor

This was in February 2018 – over two years ago. I had cleaned her up and got her sewing with the original 12×1 needle, and attempted to fit a motor. The difficulty here was that not only does the Saxonia balance wheel rotate clockwise (the opposite direction of most machines in the UK), but mostly in that it has such a large diametre.

The opposite direction of rotation was easily overcome by mounting the motor facing the wheel rather than next to it. Mounting it parallel to the wheel behind the machine would leave no room under the arm anyway – it is a small machine! The above photo shows my prototype with a rubber band, but I did get a proper belt for it, too. πŸ™‚ Plugged it in and promptly had the circuit breaker in the flat blown out.

The circuit breaker shuts off electricity when it detects a surge of current, and in our flat it was quite sensitive. There was in fact nothing wrong going on here, the motor simply switched on to its full capacity very quickly. This happened because of the large difference in diametre between the balance wheel and the pulley of the motor: in order to reach any kind of speed of rotation of the balance wheel, the motor had to rotate very quickly, pulling far more current than usual, so it tripped the circuit breaker, even though the motor was not in any way burning out. To fool the circuit breaker, I pressed down the pedal very slowly next time, and sure enough all was well.

Of course this wasn’t the way to sew with it, but I had to check the speeds, etc. The pulley on the motor had to be a lot larger, but unfortunately it wasn’t something I could buy off the shelf, so the project got put on hold until a solution presented itself. This is still not solved, although I do have some leads and ideas, but mostly I decided to leave this machine as a hand-crank for now because I acquired other machines to sew fine jersey (my initial reason to try this one). I might revisit the motor idea later, if necessary.

The needle

The other problem here was the needle.

This machine has a very tight needle clamp, and I couldn’t get a needle with a thicker shaft into it. I found that 108×3 needles should work, but would require dremel work to widen the groove in the needle bar. I was just about to do that when other things happened and the project got shifted back in the queue.

But now I discovered a modern needle that has a thin enough shaft to fit into this clamp, and it works beautifully: it’s 46×1. These industrial needles are not readily available here in the UK, but I bought mine from a seller on Etsy (“TreadleLady”) and eBay (“CastleShed”), from the USA. She offers them as substitute needles for 12×1. I must add that these needles have a very long eye to point distance, and when I tried them on several other machines made for 12×1 needles, I found that the point was too long and interfered with the feed of the fabric and was getting caught on the fabric when you were putting it under the foot or removing it (see this separate post on needle measurements). However, on Hengstenberg/Anker they are just the ticket! The point could have been shorter, but it does not drag on the material, so it’s fine. The long point is of course excellent for sewing fine fabrics and fabrics made of very fine yarn (microtex or nanotex), knitted and woven, so since this machine can use it, that’s what I’ll be using here.

The shuttle

However, there’s still a problem remaining: the shuttle tension. This machine has a very nice boat shuttle with an interesting spring design that eliminates sharp corners: the thread wraps around a disk instead. Except that in my case the tension screw is jammed all the way in!

I have to confess that I bought another Hengstenberg/Anker because it was in much better condition overall, and then I put it in storage. Now I can’t find it! Oh I know it’s there, it hasn’t been lost, but there are too many boxes and things in front and on top of it, so that I cannot locate it without emptying out the lot. I was hoping that the shuttle in that machine wouldn’t be jammed, but as I can’t find the machine… I’ll have to see about unjamming the one I’ve got!

This is the shuttle. The spring has a disk with a groove for the thread to run around, this disk is lowered into the big round hole in the shuttle wall. The more the disk is lowered, the higher the tension. The tension screw is the tiny little thing near the nose of the shuttle – not the larger flat screw near the butt end. That flat screw simply holds the spring in place, and should always be tightened. The tension screw is the one jammed all the way in on my shuttle, so what were they trying to do – increase tension?

Who knows. In the first version of this post I wrote that they must have been trying to decrease the tension because when I pressed on the tip of the spring, it decreased the tension. The manual tells you that the tension can be adjusted either by tightening or loosening the screw, but they are not saying which way does what. However, my spring was badly deformed because it wasn’t even touching the screw, with the screw all the way in.

I had an email from Paul (thank you!) who told me that in his machine the screw actually works as usual – tighten to increase the tension and loosen to decrease it, so this is the right way, not what I’ve got.

I bent the spring so as to get a really low tension on the thread going around the disk, but when I put the bobbin in, I still had too much tension. Why?

Wrong bobbin. This shuttle, like many other boat shuttles, has a spring-loaded cup in its nose end and a tiny indentation in its butt end that holds the bobbin. The above photo shows the bobbin that came with the machine, but this cannot be the original bobbin because it is too long. (Unless they always intended thread tension to be so very high? I don’t know for sure but I find it hard to believe.)

In the bottom photo I released the bobbin so that the cup sprung back to its full length, and you can see by how much it was depressed – way too much. This created a considerable pressure on the bobbin which caused high tension as the bobbin could not spin freely.

This is a typical boat shuttle bobbin though. I have a dozen of them or so, and all but one have the same overall length, although the shape of the pips differs as well as their length, that is the caps are placed further away from the ends or closer to the ends. Jones TS bobbins are different in that they have round pips rather than pointy ones, but they are still of the same length. I’m sure I couldn’t use all those bobbins in this shuttle, but I think I should be able to use quite a few, as this bobbin actually fits quite nicely, were it not for the length.

So, out comes the dremel. Since there is no where to get the correct bobbins from, I am adapting the shuttle to accept the most common bobbins in my box. All I need to do is deepen and widen the indentation in the butt end of the shuttle, and as you can see from the above photo, it doesn’t need to be all that much either. The spring-loaded cup does need to be engaged to keep the bobbin in place, just not quite so jammed as it is now.

But what of the tension screw? I am afraid it is permanently jammed. I’ll try heating it at some point, but it’s been sitting in creeping oil for the past two years and there’s still no movement. This machine was very rusty, and there was quite a lot of rust in the shuttle, and there is still quite a lot of rust inside the cup – I can see it coming out when I depress it. The screw might have just rusted in. But never mind – I can bend the spring into shape so as to get low bobbin tension, and I shall simply give up on adjusting it here. After all, even the manual states that: “As the machines are sent out with the tensions properly regulated, it will not be necessary to alter them until the machine has been used for a considerable time.” How long is that, do you reckon? πŸ˜‰

The adjustments

I recently looked at the various adjusters of a typical transverse shuttle machine using Jones Family TS as an example. Hengstenberg/Anker is not a TS machine, yet it is based on it, and only the shuttle movement is significantly different. The head, although redesigned, is more similar to a classical TS head than to anything else.

Jones Family TS head with adjusters
Hengstenberg/Anker head opened up
Hengstenberg/Anker adjusters

Hengstenberg/Anker head has the same foot pressure and thread tension controls as all other TS machines, and it also has take-up strength control on the side of the head, but where is the take-up lever range control?

It is inside the head, so you cannot adjust it when the head is closed. You can see it clearly in the bottom photo: the needle bar is mounted in the middle of that head insert – the whole thing moves up and down along the edges of the head. Above the round needle bar there is a rectangular slot that the take-up lever is passing through, so that when this large insert moves up and down, the slot pushes the take-up lever down, and the spring at the base of the neck of the machine pulls it back up. Just like in the other TS machines where the take-up lever threads through the needle bar, there is a screw in the top end of the slot for the take-up lever that pushes down on the lever and regulates its range – the more the screw pushes down the lever, the greater is its range of motion because the lever always comes up to the full height when the needle is in its top position. The screw therefore regulates the bottom end of the lever movement.

But this control is kept inside the head. Evidently, the designers didn’t think that young ladies should muddy their pretty heads with the complexities of sewing machine adjustments. 😏

Otherwise the adjustments are similar to other TS machines. Foot pressure is quite light but does have a reasonably wide range, and you don’t want it to go too heavy anyway because this machine only has single-sided feed dogs. Upper thread tension adjustment is very sensitive, again, as is common among TS machines – thank goodness for that spring-loaded adjuster that they came up with later on! Stitch length adjuster is on the bed where you usually find it, so all the usual things in place.

The result

So how is she sewing, now that everything is working more or less as it should? She’s good, very good. She’s very light going and nice and quiet. Compared to Vesta TS with the same Saxonia geared balance wheel, Hengstenberg/Anker is a lot smoother and lighter, and I believe this is because the vibrating shuttle mechanism with its swinging arm is lighter going than a transverse shuttle with its straight line movement. And now that I’ve fixed the shuttle tension, it can make a lovely flexible stitch on fine jersey – over 70% stretch on the shortest stitch (0.7mm or 35 SPI – stitches per inch). And no tantrums – just balance the upper tension. πŸ˜ƒ

I have a “standard” or “medium” feed dog height set up here: such that the feed dogs submerge by about 0.5mm on the way back. This ensures that there is absolutely no drag backwards, yet it allows for reasonably long stitches as well. I get a stitch length range between 0.7mm and 3.6mm – not bad for a little machine!

To be precise, this machine has two positions for the thumb screw of the stitch length adjuster: the left position allows for ultra-short stitches of 35 SPI (0.7mm) but caps the maximum stitch length at 9.5 SPI (2.7mm), while the right position starts at 21 SPI (1.2mm) but allows for extra long stitches of 7 SPI (3.6mm).

I think this butterfly has finally emerged from its cocoon having completed the transformation, and it might just win the title of my “garden machine” sending the tiny Vesta off to eBay. 😲

3 thoughts on “Hengstenberg/Anker finally working!

  1. And now I have read your posts in reverse order! Very informative it is too and the pretty girl is up and running once more. LOL!


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