Monday, May 19, 2014

Vintage Revival: Kenmore 76

I continue to keep an eye on Craig's List and depending on the machine, I will reach out and see about testing a machine.  This time my interest was piqued by this Kenmore.
I'm usually interested in much more reliable in manufacture machines.  What does that mean?  Mostly it just means that Sears picked the best price for their manufacturer for the machines they put the Kenmore name on.  This means the quality could vary widely.  This machine, for example is interesting in its differences from all of the Singers I've worked with.
I love the gold strips that show you how to thread the machine.  This one didn't even come with a bobbin, so the threading lines were nice.
This machine has a simple friction wheel from the motor to the hand-wheel.  It is inefficient and I can see why it wasn't very popular. The motor can be shifted from the hand-wheel to the bobbin for winding with a simple lever push.  The nice thing is that you don't have to un-thread to spin the bobbin since it all happens right here on the side.
This machine came in a cabinet.  The cabinet isn't fancy and we'll leave that for another day.  Getting it out of the cabinet was a little bit of a learning curve, but I managed.  This machine is cast aluminum under the aluminum front and back plates.  I easily picked this one up with one hand once I got it free of the cabinet.  If it was re-homed in a case, it would be a great portable due to its lightweight makeup.
Before I even removed the head from the cabinet, I discovered that the presser-foot bar was completely seized.  No movement whatsoever.  This is what made me take of the front and back covers.
When I took off the rear cover, this little pin fell out.  That's right.  The only thing holding the presser-foot lever in the machine was the back cover.  Wow, just wow.  That's okay, it let me take apart the lever and get in there with some oil.  It turned out I needed to let that oil sit for about a day, move the bar up and down as much as I could and repeat before I could get reliable motion out of the presser-foot bar.
This machine was a closet queen.  What's that?  I have only anecdotal information, but it seems if a sewing machine spent more time in the closet than on a table sewing, it was called a closet queen.  Very pretty, clean and all the oil mostly dried up.  All of the wiring looked good.  I did a once-over by hand to make sure none of the wiring was damaged or dry-rotted.  Funny how they didn't bother to make the power input keyed in any way.  Maybe if I had the bottom cover on it would be more obvious which way it attaches.
I was a little worried that the machine might be out of time since it does have all these internal belts.  That fear was unfounded.
This is the underside of the bobbin race.  Let's leave the bobbin talk for my next post.  That one will take a while.
Here is another look at the presser-foot bar and the needle-bar.  Thankfully the needle bar moved freely enough.
While the machine was originally a "no-oil" machine, I figured some oil on the shaft of the motor wouldn't be remiss.  Even with the covers off, I couldn't get at anything that looked like an oil hole.  It seemed to help, though.
Here is a good shot of the power transfer method that gets that energy from the motor to the hand wheel.

This machine breaks all the rules, in my opinion.  It runs backwards.  Meaning it turns opposite what you would expect out of a sewing machine.  On my treadle, my Singer Stylist, on my Pfaff, my Brother and my Baby Lock, you only turn the hand-wheel towards you to advance the feed-dogs and the stitch cycle.  This machine you turn it away from you to make the stitch.  It took me forever to figure out what I was doing wrong.  Ultimately, I had to let the machine tell me.  I hooked up the power and gave that pedal a tap.  That was the only way to get it to make a stitch.

Next post about this machine we'll go over bobbins.  It will be much more fun than you think.

Kenmore sewing machine:  $20
What I've learned about sewing machines so far:  priceless


  1. Wow Becca, the whole machine is a little different. You should have a interesting time cleaning this one up. This is why it's so fun collecting vintage machines.

  2. Hi Becca, you never mentioned if you had a manual for this particular sewing machine. If not I found one on etsy Thought it might be nice to have.

    1. Thanks for sharing that, Joe! Although, I think I don't mind muddling through since that manual costs almost as much as the sewing machine and cabinet. To be fair, the sewing machine didn't sew when I bought it so the price was more than fair.

  3. That is a spectacular machine! I love that retro look teamed with a lightweight body, so practical!


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