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Stripping Paint off a Sewing Machine

Monday, June 2, 2014

The paint on this Singer was really rough on the bed and many areas were chipped and badly scratched.  Around the motor and base of the machine it was really tacky.  After a lot of thought I decided I would strip the paint off the machine and give it a new start.

After stripping the paint I discovered how beautiful the raw metal was underneath.  I loved seeing the old machining marks.  Rather than priming and painting the machine again I decided to keep it raw.  This picture doesn't show how amazing it was in person!

To finish the look off I made a new base because the original one was falling apart at the joints and badly worn.

Stripping paint isn't for everyone.  It takes a LOT of time and patience.  I spent a full day on this machine.  My husband even made a comment, "this machine is like an art piece"!  I want to keep it on our dining table or bookshelf so I can look at it all the time.

Below I will show you the process, tips, how to thread the light wires back through the machine (it was the first time I did it) and before and after pictures.

 Take everything off the machine: motor and terminal, light** and wires, bobbin area, face plate, tension assembly and stitch-length selector cover.  I also took out the presser foot bar which wasn't a big deal and made things a lot easier.

** I suggest before you take out your light wires that you look inside and take note of where the wires lead through your machine.

  To prevent stripper and garbage from getting inside I used what I had on hand: stuffed plastic bags inside the big openings and q-tips for the smaller openings.  I didn't plug ALL the opening because of their odd sizes but was just careful not to get stripper or gunk inside.

Here's the main tools I used for stripping.  The paint scrapper was my main tool.  You'll also want a LOT of rubber gloves.  The process took about 5 coats of stripper so I went through a few pairs of gloves every 15 minutes plus more during the clean-up process.

 After trying to use my big jug of stripper I realized it was too old and gloppy.  I rushed to Home Depot and picked up a sprayable stripper and it was SO much easier (no paint brush needed).

 The paint is bubbling... so exciting!  Just so you know, stripping off of metal is a much different experience then stripping off of wood.  With wood the paint pretty much peals off in huge sections and separates itself from the wood.  With the metal the paint only got soft and I really had to scrap with my razor.  I did one coat, scrapped, another coat of stripper, scrapped, another coat, etc.

 This is what it looked like when I felt like it was good enough.  It was goopy and stripper got in areas like the needle bar and bobbin area so I used my air compressor to blow everything out and it was so easy and helpful.

 After blowing everything off and giving it a quick wipe down I brought it inside to do the finer cleaning details.  I used cotton balls, q-tips and rubbing alcohol to clean all the surfaces and this is what it looked like after.

 Next was putting everything back on, oiling and greasing (the exciting part)!  TIP: I also use sewing machine oil on a cotton ball to rub all over the outside of the machine to protect it from rust and to give it a nice shine!

 This was my first time trying to thread the light wires back through a machine and it was almost impossible without having anything to guide it.  I used picture-hanging wire and looped it through the terminal ends, threaded that through the machine and guided the light wires through that way.  It took just a few minutes.  Turn the handwheel spoke to make sure the wires are clear from any moving parts. (there's gears in the top-middle area of your machine and the light wires need to be against the FRONT of your machine, down by the stitch selector opening and then it exits through the hole at the base).

 Here's what it looked like when I was done.

 Next attach your light cover...

 ...then onto attaching light wires to the terminal!

 Here's the pieces you should have.

 Attach the light switch with this exact orientation.  I knew what wire attached to the switch because the wires were just wrapped in a loop without a real terminal on the end.

Slip your switch through the terminal opening and screw the little nut over the threads and then your thread cover after that.  I didn't take any more pictures after this because I was way too excited to put it all together.  The other wire that is attached to the light switch goes onto the red terminal prong.  The other wire coming from the actual light through the machine goes on the yellow.  Then you can hook up your motor wires: black to black and red to red.

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Other pictures just for fun:




2 comments on "Stripping Paint off a Sewing Machine"
  1. Excellent explanation of your technique and results! I loved the machined looks so much, I may leave the one I am stripping the same bare look. Beautiful. You didn't mention how much muscle this takes. Lots, doesn't it? So far my husband has not "let" me use a razor. Pshaw. Time for the razor now. How could you possibly do all you did in a day? Awesome teacher. Awesome Machine.

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    1. Thank you for your kind words! Tell your husband to hand over the tools! :) It doesn't take much effort at all to strip paint.. it's just MESSY! You'll want heavy duty rubber gloves because the stripper will eat through the thin kind. I usually get splatters of stipper on my skin or manage to rub up against it and it starts stinging (just be aware you'll want to wash it off your skin very soon). The stripper does its magic in about 5-10 minutes and is ready to be scrubbed off. A metal bristle brush does a nice job on curved edges and I use a flat razor to tackle to flat edges really quickly. Cleaning off the stripper and old paint seams daunting when you look at it but paper towels wipe it up nicely and it's cleaned-up in 10 minutes or so. Use cardboard under your work area so you can throw it away without much clean-up. The bare metal looks amazing in person - the pictures don't quite capture it! Let me know if you end up doing it - I'd love to know how it turns out!

      I can 'in the zone' a little too much when I have projects and have to finish them quickly so I don't get too anxious haha! All the magic happens when baby is napping (or late at night) :)

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