I’ve had my Mum’s 1955 Elna Supermatic for a long time now, and I know I’ll always keep it. Mum bought it when she was at teachers college, and it was the machine my sister and I learnt to sew on.
It hasn’t worked for several years. The first problem was that the coupling knob on the flywheel was stuck and would not disengage to wind the bobbin. You could still wind a bobbin – but only in sewing mode with the needle still going up and down! Then the flywheel became ‘sticky’ and needed a little push to get moving – annoying, but I got used to it and the machine would still sew with this little bit of encouragement. And then it got more and more unresponsive and finally stopped altogether.
I really missed my Supermatic. My main sewing machine is an industrial straight stitch. Yes you read right, it only sews straight stitch! This means no zig-zag. No buttonholes. No three step zig-zag. No twin needle. Nothing ‘fun’.
Although I’ve been lucky enough to have access to a buttonholer at work but there is nothing like the convenience of being able to do this at home. And I’d really like to start making my own lingerie, for which zig-zag is pretty much necessary. I decided to make the effort to get Miss Supermatic 1955 fixed.
There is a group called Elna Heirloom Sewing Machines, where I discovered the secret to loosening the bobbin clutch. I bought myself a new pair of multi-grips, and with Jim’s advice to insert an allen key in the hole behind the needle bar to immobilise the flywheel, and a bit of brute strength, it soon loosened. I should have used a cloth though because I scratched it slightly – oops! My next step was to sort out problem two, the unresponsive flywheel.
During my research I read that this was a common problem with this model. The motor turns the flywheel by means of a friction pulley that rests against it, which when left for extended periods of time, can form a flat spot. This means when you try to sew, the motor goes, but the flywheel does not turn and drive the needle mechanism. The solution is to replace the friction pulley.
I found a YouTube video of a guy replacing the part which was very helpful. There is another one here. This gave me the confidence to take my machine apart and have a look. Yes, there is a definite flat spot there!
The next step was to find a replacement part. I wondered if this was even possible for a 60 year old machine! A search online revealed one for US$25 plus exorbitant shipping halfway around the world, and while I was thinking about that, I found one for sale on TradeMe with a $1 reserve. I lost that auction, but won the next one and $6 later had a Very Important Part on it’s way to me.
It took me a couple of weeks to get around to replacing the part, and boy was it fun! I did it outside in the sun with the cat’s help. Here’s what happened.
First I removed the flywheel again to reveal the pulley. The next step is to remove the pin holding the pulley in place. The pin is 2mm wide, so I had to rummage around in the garden shed for a while to find something suitable that was 2mm wide, and finally settled on a small nail. With a hammer I blunted the point so that it matched the pin.
Before I could try to remove the pin I had to secure the motor unit from wobbling every time I tapped it, so I jammed the handle of my multigrips in there somehow and it worked.
I tapped away at the pin and nothing budged. Back to the garden shed to look for some CRC and surprise, I actually found what I wanted. A quick spray and tap, tap tap… still nothing budged. I was worried about damaging the end of the pin. Goodness knows where I would find a replacement one of those!
Next step was to blast the heck out of it with CRC. As I wasn’t sure about the safety of this stuff on the rest of the machine, I positioned a cleaning cloth underneath. Finally the CRC loosened the 60 year old bond, and the next few taps started to move the pin. I kept the cleaning cloth in place just in case the pin dropped down into the machine never to be seen again. Can I say that finally getting the pin out was very exciting?!
The pin is like a hollow tube with a slit down it’s length. At this stage it started to rain and I had to move everything quickly indoors, paranoid about losing the tiny pin…!
Once the pin is removed the pulley slides off the metal post, and the new one is soon in place. I used a baby allen key to line up the holes in the post and the new pulley:
And then the pin can be re-positioned. I started it off with a couple of light taps:
then simply squeezed it back into place with the multigrips. Job done!
The real test was to come – did this process actually fix the problem? I replaced all the flywheel parts, plugged in the power, found a test scrap, – and she sews!
I’m so excited! I now have zig-zag! And three-step zig-zag! Now I can sew bras and undies! And have fun with all those Elna cams and their fancy stitches!
Have you ever explored the inside of your machine, or done any sewing machine repairs yourself? I haven’t in the past, but I am tempted to learn more about how it works now!