Playmakers and their awesome shops
This week I made a trip out to UNC in Chapel Hill, NC to do an overhaul on the costume shop's machines and make sure everything was working as it should. They have a mix of home machines that the undergrads tend to use and industrial machines that the grad students tend to use. I'll let you guess which ones are better cared for.
The people in charge were not there, so I was unable to get permission to take pictures of their setup. However, I did see a tour going through, and they might be able to schedule those? I was a little busy enjoying working on the machinery to pay too much attention to my surroundings. If you want more information about the awesome things they work on, and the schedule for their future shows, check out their website: PlayMakers Reperatory Company.
I love working with theatres and educational facilities. It's always a wonder when I get to work with both at the same time. UNC and NCSU have me do work around their shops a few times a year just to make sure everything is running smoothly. Working with both universities is a privileged and I always love the people I work with.
You can schedule basic training during service calls
Fair warning, there likely won't be any fun pictures with this one. Sorry :(
You can find this information by digging around on the site, but I figured it might be a good idea to post a little blurb with the same information: you can request some basic training and explanations during a service call. If you're working with tough materials on a regular basis and those are causing needles to break or timing to go just slightly off, I can walk you through the process of checking what can be done by a beginner to see what might be causing the issue.
Having a background in machinery repair isn't necessary to do basic fiddling on most sewing machines. You can check the state of your equipment just by looking, feeling, or listening to what's going on with your machine. Some of the most common issues with light duty industrial or home machines are that you might have put some material through that the machine wasn't rated for, or only handles gingerly.
Sewing over sequins or beads, leather, vinyl, denim, etc. can overtax a lot of lighter duty machines, and it will usually show by the needle bending and hitting the needle plate. This could cause the middle portion of the needle plate to bend and get barbs that catch thread and throw off the lower thread's ability to be caught, or might cut the upper thread during sewing. This is a quick diagnosis, but pretty easy to repair. You should almost always have a spare needle plate for those just-in-case moments if you're a professional/regular stitcher.
This is one of many possible issues that could arise, and generally one of the most visibly obvious ones. The on-site training I offer is $50 for roughly 30-45 minutes where you can ask questions or have me show you how to work on your machine in-shop or at home. I can also walk you through the steps I follow when adjusting the machine for any work it needs.
RESURRECTING antique machines.
Sometimes I am asked to help restore old, old, old pieces of machinery. This weekend I finished up restoring an early 1940's antique Brunswick machine where the oldest patent listed on it was 1941. I was only asked to make it look shiny and decorative, but later I found out why; the wires from the motor to the power "box" were entirely bare. All the sheathing that was on them had long-since dry-rotted and been covered in rust. That's a fire hazard, one hell of a fire hazard.
Below is a layout of all the parts that were "external" on the machine. Aka pretty much anything that would touch the outside, or kept something in place that touched the outside. With older machines, there's quite a few pieces, but significantly less than with newer all-metal machines. Almost every standard steel portion of the machine had rust, including some that were chromed and that it was leaking through in small spots.
I've used quite a variety of parts cleaners over the years. Ranging from ultrasonic baths to bench grinders with wire wheels and just about every kind of chemical cleaning agent you can name. I've found that a diluted version of grill cleaners, stainless steel polish, and something like WD-40 will do wonders. I've found my own mix of them, but it's taken me close to 5 years to figure it out. If you want to do some testing, best of luck! (It's not difficult, I just appreciate the ability for people to learn for themselves with a little nudge in the right direction.)
Below is the end product of what came out. It came in colored with as much rust and grime as there was black enamel on it, and left like this. Not too shabby for about 6 hours of work and another 3 hours of soaking. I still had to give a thorough warning to the owners not to plug it in or turn it on, and they said they weren't planning to, it was only a decorative piece, so let's hope they keep it that way. Yay!
caution - Chemicals are bad, m'kay! i've been using these cleaning agents for quite some time and know their ins and outs. Wear a face mask, safety glasses, and keep pets away from the area in which you are working. skin contact is tolerable if you immediately wash it throroughly.
Industrial feet, feed, and needle plate
Aside from tension issues, one of the most often found problems with industrial sewing machines is keeping an eye on your feet (walking or otherwise), your feed dog(s), and your needle plate.
Here's one of the places that some "unexplained" issues can be resolved. If you're sewing a good thickness of fabric, or a dense fabric, or even stretchy fabric, it is possible for your needle to move out of alignment during sewing and manage to hit the needle plate. A full on needle point hit will almost always break the needle, but if it just glances off, it will only leave a mar in the needle hole on the plate. This can catch on the upper and lower threads, and often effect how your stitch looks, or either of the threads could fray out and tear randomly.
You guys are what makes this job worth doing
I started doing most of this work because my wife needed someone with mechanical skills to work on her machines, and keep them running for production orders. However, the reason why I continue to do the work is because of great customers.
A new one contacted me last week and I made the first visit to their shop yesterday. An excellent group to work with and I'll be doing a full-shop service for them next week. I'm not listing names/businesses because unless otherwise told, I tend to keep business's information. Unless two customers could work well together.
In other news, I am looking for anyone that I have done work in the past to shoot me over any testimonial if they think I did good work. These testimonials may be used on flyers or on my website. I am also offering up listings for regular customers on my page for anyone who may be willing to collaborate with others in the same industry or who are willing collaborate with others. A few of my regulars have made good connections with other people through my ability to network, and I hope that mutual business will always bring more work for everyone.
Alright, I'm back and off to do more work!
"The sewing machine guy of NC"
In case anyone is wondering about the name, it was kind of thrown out there by happenstance.
A while back I started returning phone calls by saying, "Hey, it's Nash Page, the sewing machine guy..." and most people took to introducing me as that to their friends and colleagues. So...here we are! There's a few "Sewing Machine Guys" out there in the world, but none (that I could find) in NC, let alone the east coast. So, that's where the name came to be from.
New blog, who dis?
Hello everyone! Here is where you will likely find all sorts of random posts and adorable creatures. Usually involving cute animals that "help" me with my work, unique machines, fun machines, maybe some before/after shots of restoration machines, and the general mayhem I find amusing or that happens to me!
I try to avoid being serious as often as I can because it takes a lot of the joy out of life. You'll often find me to be stoic, but that doesn't mean that the mechanical parts of my head are still.
Everything can be an adventure if you're willing to look a little deeper than the surface.
Here's a picture of my shop cat:
Your sewing machine guy:
I am a Jack-of-Most-Trades that was roped into working on sewing machines, and managed to find a knack for it. I love hilarity, fixing things that are broken, video games, dogs, cats, most other creatures, and sleep. Especially sleep. On here you'll usually find tidbits about recent visits or ADORABLE CREATURES THAT LOVE ON ME WHILE I WORK. There may be ancient machines, there may be unique machines.