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Jul 21, 2014

Kenmore Feed Dog FAIL -- What am I doing wrong? (With UPDATES)



Friends, if you watched yesterday's vlog, you know I've been doing some long-delayed maintenance on my beloved Kenmore 158.141, my go-to vintage zigzagger.





I picked this machine up at the Chelsea flea market three years ago and paid $25 for her with the table.  Since that time she has worked flawlessly and I use her (him? it?)  for practically everything.  The one issue I've had since I brought her home, however, is that I can't get her feed dogs to drop.  The mechanism seems stuck.

I was buying something minor on Amazon last week and needed to spend $35 to qualify for free shipping.  I'd had Liquid Wrench on my wishlist for more than a year precisely for the purpose of unsticking this feed dog mechanism, but never acted on it.  Now the time seemed right and I am now the proud owner of a small can of this toxic, stinky penetrating oil.



But I haven't been able to free the mechanism.

This is the switch (below).  When I unscrew the bar that attaches to the feed-dog drop on the underside of the machine, it moves freely.



This is the bar in question.  I removed the screw to have better access to the mechanism immediately to the left.





I sprayed some Liquid Wrench in that cylinder and left it overnight. It doesn't seem to have loosened anything.  BTW, what's that wire passing through it (below) -- is that the culprit?  What purpose does that wire serve?  Does it need to be removed?

WHAT is that paper-fastener-looking wire for?

The other end of the cylinder is pointed (conical).  I'm assuming that the black bar is supposed to pull that pointed cylinder out so that the feed dogs remain in the down position.

Needless to say, there's nothing about how this is supposed to work in the owner's manual.





So what do you think?  Am I doing something wrong, or is there something obvious I've missed?

To be clear, I have plenty of other machines to make buttonholes with.  I do not need the feed dogs on this machine to drop.  I just WANT to make it work!

Thanks for your insights!

UPDATE:  I GOT IT UNSTUCK!  I used my portable hairdryer (which I'd bought used a long time ago for just this kind of thing) for a few minutes and repeatedly knocked on the pointed end with the head of a pair of pliers (I couldn't fit a hammer in the space) and slowly but surely I got it moving freely.  I then oiled it liberally.  Thanks so much for all your help!

Special shout out to Paula W. for getting me photos of her (very similar) Kenmore in both up and down positions (from below).

35 comments:

  1. After you applied the Liquid Wrench, did you tap the part to help the LW penetrate the frozen parts? It helps to set up a vibration to help move it into the interior of the frozen parts. At least that is what my Dad taught me......just tap on it for awhile with something hard like a wrench or screwdriver. LW won't work if it just coats something....must get inside.

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    1. Thanks, Karen. I did tap to the extent I could. It's a difficult-to-access spot.

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  2. Hi, Peter. Looking through my Kenmores, the stuck pin or piston has a slice through it parallel to the sides of the pin, rather like a vintage wooden clothespin. The wire that goes through this trough keeps the pin from turning sideways, so I doubt this has any bearing on whether the pin moves back and forth through the shaft. The wire should not be removed.

    The linkage bar that you've disconnected from the pin is what pulls/pushes the pin. I would reconnect the pin and linkage. My guess is that old oil has dried to a varnish and stuck the pin. Try some kerosene where the pin and shaft touch, then apply some heat with a hair dryer to the shaft. (Leaving the machine's undercarriage exposed to a sunny window where it will get very warm also works.) Lastly, place a flat side of a piece of wood (such as a wooden ruler) against the point of the pin and gently hammer the pin from its stuck position.

    Sometimes these stuck pins take a couple of days to unstick. The 1410 is an excellent machine, well worth the effort.

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    1. I can't deal with kerosene -- even with a balcony, it's just too smelly. Is Liquid Wrench not powerful enough to dissolve varnish?

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    2. Peter, LW is basically kerosene with additives -- at least that is what I've read. The worst thing I've ever dealt with was a stuck bobbin winder on a White Rotary and that took over a week of applying PB Blaster and tapping twice or three times a day. If you're not happy with the smell of LW, wear a mask if you decide to try PB Blaster. Stinks like crazy but it works... eventually! Good luck. It will eventually give if it's old varnished oil.

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    3. I remember reading somewhere that the Necchi company advised a mixture of 90% kerosene and 10% sewing machine oil as a solvent.

      Another liquid I recommend is Tri-Flow. It is a teflon suspension and not widely available (such as Wal-Mart or Target) but it really works and doesn't have an offensive smell. (Not to me, at least.) It's not a substitute for sewing machine oil, though and shouldn't be used that way.

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    4. I once bought kerosene -- I had to get it from an auto parts place -- and it scared the hell out of me. The smell is overwhelming (much worse than Liquid Wrench) and LASTS. Maybe if I had a garage or something -- it's not for apartment dwellers!

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    5. Yes, you're not exactly living on the prairie in a sod cabin with hurricane lanterns and such. I would imagine your building probably has rules against storing highly flammable liquids. (Thankfully, you don't need hairspray!) And there's Willie to think of, too. I use kerosene but only a few drops and in a well-ventilated area with doors and windows wide open. But it really works and is much less expensive than solvents filled with God-knows-what.

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  3. Make it "Rain", and the answer shall be shared with you.

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  4. Apply liquid wrench to the bullet-like device in your last picture. Get a piece of dowel rod or and other suitable material to press against the tip. Tap the free end of the dowel with a small hammer. If it doesn't come free, wait an hour (or a day), add a little more LW and repeat. Eventually it will come free. At that point use your usual sewing machine oil on the part - LW is not a good long-term lubricant.

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  5. You're in the right area, that bullet-shaped pin must slide to the right to drop the feed dog. If Liquid Wrench and light tapping doesn't free it up, heat from a hair dryer is another option. You have even less hair than I do so you probably don't own a hair dryer but maybe you can borrow one from a neighbor.

    Ed

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    1. I have one, Ed, precisely for this kind of thing. I will try using it!

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  6. I don't think the wire is wire. It looks to me like a split pin. I feel certain it was put there by 'Old Man Kenmore' as part of the machine's design to stop moving parts coming apart. I wouldn't advise removing it. If you do then be sure to replace it with a new split pin of the correct size. A split pin is likely to break if you remove it and try to put it back again. They only cost pence.
    Hugs
    G

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  7. Peter, apply the liquid wrench in the stuck joint and use the hair dryer on the local till gets hot and then try to move the feeddogs immediatelly. Repeat it again if necessary. With this technic I have yet freed many frozen sewing machines and parts.

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  8. That pin-thing is a cotter pin. Don't remove it! I am not familiar with this machine, but cotter pins in general are not something to mess with and are not temporary. Replacing it once removed would be incredibly difficult.

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    Replies
    1. I agree ; it should stay there to hold pieces together. I encounter several while doing some mechanics on my vintage VW... When we needed to remove one to change something, we always made sure to buy a replacement in case it broke during the maintenance.

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    2. I've never heard it called that... we call them split pins! You can remove them and replace them but as Cosmic Caro says, you must have a new one regardless if it breaks as opening it weakens it. They are made to be easily accessible. These are used in mechanics all the time. Glad you got the feed dogs unstuck.

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  9. Pete--Are you aware of the Yahoo Group for vintage Kenmore owners? https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/vintagekenmoressew/info I've found it very helpful when I have technical questions. There are over 1,700 members, so most posted questions are answered by someone in the know. Good luck.

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  10. I have almost the same kenmore and my feed dogs no longer lower. I took it to a machine repair shop who supposedly fixed it, but after one lower and raise back home, it stopped working again. So I'd love to know what solution you end up with!

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  11. Apologies for leaving "r" off from Peter in last post. I'm a bad typist, not a shortener of given names.

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  12. I agree that the hair dryer in combination with a solvent (some of them are made relatively odor free - like artist turpentine) or even just regular sewing machine oil should do the trick. The comments suggesting that barrel is just glued with old oil that turned to varnish are probably correct. Once it finally moves - flush it with sewing machine oil and operate it frequently so any residual gook doesn't solidify again.

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    Replies
    1. Maybe set her up on her butt, so solvent applied on the little cone can work its way down into the cylinder that encases it. :))

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  13. Now, oil that slide with sewing machine oil and you should be good for several years.

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  14. Hurrah! If any oil varnish is present on the pin, clean it off as thoroughly as you can with your solvent of choice and wipe thoroughly. A clean toothbrush with sewing machine oil is a good final step. Also, I believe your feed dog knob/linkage/pin assembly is connected to a rod that does the actual raising and lowering of the dogs. (The stuck pin doesn't directly control the dog mechanism -- it's only part of it.) Make sure this rod is oiled via the oil port at the joint.

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  15. There is undoubtedly a vintage Kenmore lovers list on Yahoo that can help. I belong to one for Singers and Elnas and the members are a wealth of information about all aspects of these types of machines. Heat may work, but then again, maybe not due to thwe solvents used. Sometimes they advise setting the offending machine out in the heat for a day or so. My daughter had a very similar Kenmore with the same problem and a repairman was able to free it up, so it can be done. Good luck!

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  16. SeamsterEast at aol dot comJuly 21, 2014 at 5:52 PM

    Generally, PB Blaster is considered more effective than Liquid Wrench, and GM Exhaust Heat Riser Valve Lubricant considered, by far, the best.

    Vibration from a heavy hammer tends to work, up to a point.

    Heat, from a hair dryer kinda helps. A heat gun is better, though extra care needs to be taken. A Burnz-o-Matic works better, but exceptional attentive care need be taken. A heavy jumper battery wire to an automtive 12 volt battery to one side of the frozen piece, the other cable to the other side MOMENTARILY can heat things up well and good enough so a lite coaxing from a hammer can loosen things.

    Some times yah jes GOTTA insist.

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  17. So glad it's working, I have the same machine that a friend kept for years after his Mother died. It was frozen like yours and the service man told he amost had to use a blow torch on it to unstick it. It's a really great machine

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  18. This sort of thing tends to happen often with mechanical devices that aren't "exercised" in a while, mainly because they do things that aren't often needed (when was the last time you turned the temperature dial inside your refrigerator?). I'd suggest that you check the feed dogs on your other machines now, just to see how well the mechanism works, and to apply lubrication if things seem a little too "sticky". I have a similar, but older Kenmore (a 158.220), and your story prompted me to check its feed dog drop linkage (it worked fine). This reminds me of a post made by Bill Holman to the "Viking Sewing Machines pre 1980" Yahoo group (older Vikings are especially prone to seizing up due to lack of use) in which he said something like "you should turn the knobs on the machine every time you walk by just to show it you care."

    Ken

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    Replies
    1. I have a Touch and Sew that probably suffers from this semi-frozen problem, and virtually nothing to lose by working it over. (sighs) I love the interweb!

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  19. How amazing are all these readers willing to help!? So glad you got it unstuck.

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  20. You did it! Greatness! I have this same machine (my mom gave it to me) and it is a great machine. Happy continued sewing with it.

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