We can rebuild it... Maybe?
December 21, 2007 9:38 AM   Subscribe

Can my sewing machine be fixed?

After a failed stupid attempt at sewing too many layers on my Singer Stylist 476 (from the late '60s I believe) my machine quit threading the bobbin. A repair place in town looked at it, found that the top gear was broken and said it would be over $200 to repair. And then started talking about how great their NEW machines are. That quote sounds really steep, especially when followed by a sales pitch.

So what I'm wondering, is no particular order, is:

Does that quote sound really high?

Should I find another repair shop? Of course I should, but I've been asking around and all I have heard so far is that there are not any great repair places in town (Portland, OR) any more. Do you know of any?

Can I fix it myself?! That kind of sounds like fun. I've come across a few places that sell parts and repair instructions online, but I have no idea what kind of technical ability a person really needs to fix one of these. Think it's doable? I'm no mechanic, but I'm decent at figuring things out.

Should I just suck it up and buy a new machine and chuck the old one out for scrap metal? That makes me sad.

Any advice or recommendations is appreciated. Thanks!
posted by slowfasthazel to Home & Garden (9 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
The quote might be a little high. My wife's 60s/70s Singer sewing machine just had the top gear break too. She had all the gears replaced at a little Mom & Pop repair place here in smalltown Illinois for somewhere round $110. I'm generally a handy person, and while I could probably get the thing apart and back together, adjusting the timing seemed like a whole other ball of wax to me so we opted for a professional.
posted by ScottUltra at 9:45 AM on December 21, 2007

I learned how to fix many kinds of many sewing machines, down to adjusting the timing [once upon a time].

All I can remember about it now is that:

a) nothing can get so broken [especially on a nice old machine like this] that it can't be fixed. That includes when you break it some more while trying to fix it.

b) tinkering with sewing machines is tricksy. And finicky. Being good at figuring things out is key. It's the best [solvable] puzzle I've found yet.

c) sewing machine repairmen are either really overpaid or really underpaid for their expertise, depending on the job. Your job is pretty routine, and the highball quote followed by sales pitch means that they just don't want to do it. Maybe parts are hard for them to find, or there's a little doodad that they just *know* is gonna poke them under their fingernail, or you weren't wearing the right shoes, or any other of the factors that rule the service industry. Find another shop.

I recommend figuring it out yourself. If you don't really need the machine right away, that is. A thing that I never did, but would have been clever, is to take digital pictures of everything before you turn a new screw, or remove an assembly or whatever. That would at least give you the key to returning everything to its current state.

But if you do actually need your sewing machine really and truly working in a definite timeframe...

Try and see if you can watch the repairman fix your machine. Ask questions. These things are really neat.
posted by Acari at 11:18 AM on December 21, 2007

That sounds funky to me. Call singer and ask how much just the part is from them... that should give you a good jumping-off point to see if the shop is being fair.

Is the shop listed on Singer's website as an authorized repair center? If so, and it does turn out they estimated crazy-high to sell you a new machine, I'd blow them in. That's BS.

If they were being honest about what is broken you can always call around and ask how much it would be to replace the top gear on a bobbin for your model, wouldn't even have to drag it down there.
posted by Kellydamnit at 11:30 AM on December 21, 2007

We had a BUNCH of gear's on a friends 70's era singer repaired recently for $100.00. $200.00 bucks sounds high to me.
posted by Medieval Maven at 11:47 AM on December 21, 2007

The idea of throwing away nice machinery like that makes me sad. The new machine will have electronic gimcracks on it that really are not worth fixing, but a broken gear - someone can fix that properly. Well, well before you give up on it you should let a precocious twelve-year-old have at it. I maintain my mother's 1958 Necchi, have done since I was in my early teens, and I still enjoy looking at the mechanical train that makes it all work. I'm hopeful you can find a reputable repair place and get it fixed economically.
posted by jet_silver at 1:51 PM on December 21, 2007

The gears are usually around $20, so they're charging a lot for labor.

Instead of just looking for parts, you might want to see if you can find a working Singer Stylist 476 as a replacement - probably cheaper than that machine the salesman wants to sell you and the repair.

You might also want to look at an industrial sewing machine if you're going to make a habit of sewing too many thick layers of denim.
posted by Kioki-Silver at 2:07 PM on December 21, 2007

Response by poster: That's interesting because I was told that machine was a consumer grade industrial machine. It came with samples of thick denim and vinyl it that had been sewn on it. Regardless, I was trying something ridiculously thick. Yes, I'm kicking myself.
posted by slowfasthazel at 2:38 PM on December 21, 2007

(I could be wrong) - but there's no such thing! It's either industrial or it's not...

My SO picked one up (off the side of the road perhaps? I didn't ask)
Pulled it apart and rebuilt it... He is pretty clever - and said it was tricky (but when I say pulled it apart I mean especially the bits that look like they're not meant to - as is his way...)

I'll ask him when he gets back?
posted by mu~ha~ha~ha~har at 3:42 AM on December 22, 2007

i see older sewing machines all the time at goodwill and salvation army type stores.

they usually sell for $20-30.

look for a similar one for parts, or as a replacement, or for backup while you try to fix yours.

check youtube for a series called 'The secret life of machines". great older series, there's a really good one about sewing machines.

i have fixed quite a few of these, they're simple once you grok it.
posted by KenManiac at 9:15 AM on December 22, 2007

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