Last week I ended up with two Surprise! machines: a Free parts machine the same model as Charlotte but with battered finish, and a Franklin Rotary. I might not have thought to try to put the two together if they hadn’t come home at the same time, but there they were, sitting next to each other, and it just seemed to make so much sense.
The Free was 6 hours from being taken to the dump when I called about it, so I am trying to feel happy to resurrect it in some form rather than guilty for taking it apart.
I posted about the Franklin a few days ago.
I know people who rave about the White Family Rotary as one of the nicest machines out there. I have not had the pleasure, and had been thinking towards putting one of my Japanese 15’s on these Free irons to be a free motion treadle, but I’m flexible. I’m talking to a friend about fabricating a hopping foot for a White style bottom clamp, which seems to be the big impediment to people trying this. If it doesn’t work out I can always switch back to using one of the several 15’s I have to do the job.
Because I am lame I didn’t get any pics of the Free in its cabinet before I started disassembly, but I have a good set of the disassembly itself. Relatively good. Still don’t have the lighting sorted in the studio, and I was shooting with my iPhone in ambient light, so, well, these shots won’t win awards but should give you the general idea.
The cabinet was blessedly assembled almost entirely with screws. I expect this made some of their carpenters and cabinet makers extremely sad, because there was no real joinery needed for anything but the drawers. It makes me very happy, though, because non-destructive disassembly was trivial. Also, I love the scroll work in the dress guard:
The most accessible screws were on the back panel, so that’s where I started:
They sensibly used backing nuts rather than trying to thread the casting. Here’s one half unscrewed:
This shot shows some of the damage this poor cabinet has suffered over the years:
The cabinet, irons, and machine tell the story of a treasured antique that was toted around and kept up with furniture polish, and used in a hallway as a catch-all for keys, drinks and whatever other random things needed a place to sit. The top is badly scarred, and the whole cabinet has been knocked about. Two of the wheels are missing entirely, and the other two were replaced at some point with Bakelite that is crumbling.
The machine was cleaned thoroughly of all of the gold in its decals and down to the Japanning over most of its surface, but there is no sign of rust, very little dust, and all the parts turn freely, especially given that they haven’t received a drip of oil in anyone’s memory.
These irons should be an excellent treadle base, and the brightwork on the head is in far better shape than Charlotte’s was. Unlike most irons, the Free’s were painted brown. There is not a speck of rust to be seen, they’re just sort of rust colored.
I need to keep reminding myself that it’s a better fate for this machine to get broken down for spare parts and its irons to build up a new treadle; far better than going to the scrappers.
Anyway. On with the disassembly! Here’s the back off:
And the fronts to be removed. I love screws!
Top screws will require an angled driver to get them out:
but they broke free without much fuss. Here’s the top:
And the naked irons! That’s my other frankentreadle lurking in the background:
Next I needed to break down the Franklin’s cabinet to extract the top. here’s the Franklin’s oogly cabinet— scratched, battered, and … unfortunately styled:
I took a lot of pictures of me trying to figure out how to get this apart. Unlike the Free, this cabinet was held together almost exclusively with glue. Once I got the hinges visible in this picture off and the lift mechanism and machine plate removed I had a glued up box. Here’s a terrible shot of the inside:
These are the hidden hinges for the machine plate:
It took me a good 15 minutes to discover that once I removed the lifting mechanism I could swing the plate up out of the top and get to these screws:
At which point I started looking at the plate for the Franklin:
Comparing it to the top from the Free cabinet:
Which looked like they might possibly maybe be persuaded to mate up:
But the lift hardware on the Free cabinet was in the way, so I removed that. It had two opposing nuts that are used to adjust the height of the machine head plate:
They were easily broken free with a pair of adjustable wrenches I keep for just this job:
And the plate and lift were removed:
Allowing me to compare the Free top and the Franklin plate and see that mating them up was not really in the cards:
I can sit the Franklin plate on the top and make that work, but I won’t be able to drop the head into the irons and close the lid:
I spent quite a bit of time trying to come up with some way to make this work, but finally had to accept that the proportions of the Franklin dictated by the left facing bobbin case mean it really doesn’t want to fit nicely. This picture shows where the treadle band needs to be, and how far off that is for the Franklin:
So I decided to break up the glue joints to see if the top from the Franklin cabinet could be mated to the irons. These are the remnants of destruction:
Here’s what remains of the base:
And here’s the reassembled plate + surface:
So I put that on the Free irons and…
FAIL. The top is too narrow and the machine head too deep to drop into the irons. If I want to have this head fold neatly into a cabinet on these irons I will be starting from scratch. That’s not sensible, given that this is sort of a lark of a project. Here’s another view:
And from underneath:
Nope. not going to work. The machine heads are just too different in proportions:
So, I’m back to this as a plan:
Stay tuned for the next installment!