I just purchased a 1914 hand crank Singer sewing machine. After inserting a needle, it runs perfectly. To obtain information and a free manual, I just called Singer. You really can't get better service than that. So, don't pass up something used because you think you can't get a manual.
I just found it. Here you go. singerco.com/accessories/manuals> (02/06/2009)
If your machine is working properly you can look on the top and you will find 2 maybe 3 big screw heads and on the bottom the same and you can remove these screws without any danger (fear on your part will put your heart in your pocket though). This only removes the outer shell of even the old machines.
Anything that moves while you move the spindle, handle the way the machine moves is how to oil one or 2 drops is enough. The old machines are easy because they are simple inside. Then replace the top and bottom.
Right now you have no need to bother the tensions except running a small piece of material thru the little flaps, takes out the lint the thread leaves. A good rule of thumb is to take all the thread out of your machine an run the heck out of your machine for 2 or 3 minutes a month even if you don't use it. (02/28/2009)
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