Cycling and walking

Saturday, June 2

Singer 3105, and the Apollo bobbin case

In my post about the Singer 413 a while ago, I mentioned that I had this machine to work on next. A lady had bought another machine from me and said "Would you like an old one I've got in the attic?" Yes please!

This is it on the kitchen table, preventing us from eating like civilised people should, i.e. at the table.....

There was a slight crack in the clutch wheel but it didn't affect anything.

And afterwards, ready for sale.

This one is made in Brazil, and is the first one I have had that was made there. Getting it going was fairly straightforward, being mostly just cleaning and oiling. However, I did have a bit of a problem with the tension, as I had had with the 413, which I had not managed to get quite perfect, so I wanted to take the upper tension unit off and check that it was clean and working properly. I couldn't at first work out how to get it off, but with some advice from the Vintage Singers group (now on I worked it out - a little bit of levering with a screwdriver and the front of the unit came off. I cleaned it and put it back on.

I then investigated the bobbin tension. Both this machine and the 413 have the Apollo bobbin case. I realized that the two metal parts that create the tension weren't doing their job, and that that was why I couldn't get the tension right, so I ordered a new bobbin case, which cost about £4.95 plus postage. The price of these bobbin cases varies a lot, from even less than what I paid to about £13 if my memory serves me correctly, which made me a bit suspicious. I decided to order mine from what I thought was probably a reputable sewing shop, BSK, rather than some random place on Amazon,

In this picture, the new one is on the left, and the one from the 3105 on the right. The photo isn't that brilliant so I hope you can make out what my arrows are indicating, which is that the outer tension spring is not tight to the other metal piece (sorry, don't know the name of it...) as it is on the new one. I had not been able to get it tight however much I had tightened the screw, so the thread wasn't held in tension.

When the bobbin case arrived, I put it in the machine. At first it appeared to fit but then I realized that it didn't. It did not sit absolutely level in the machine. When I looked at the two bobbin cases, the original one and the new one, I couldn't see any difference at all, even with a magnifying glass, but knew there must be, so I emailed the company, who said I could return it for a refund, though I don't think they understood what I was saying, and thought I'd ordered the wrong bobbin case.

Then along comes Husband, takes a look, and finds a difference. Typical...... I didn't manage to take photos of the difference, but basically there was just a slight difference in the shape of the case underneath, preventing it from sitting in the machine properly. He tried to modify it, with the aid of a file, but without success. So I remained at the kitchen table and fiddled about.........

I removed the two metal pieces from both cases. At this point I did find a tiny piece of fluff between them on the old one - that alone could have messed up the tension. I knew it hadn't been just that, but even so it just goes to show how despite thinking I had got the bobbin case clean I hadn't, and it was only by taking it completely apart that I was able to. I could not get both new pieces to fit into the old case, but I managed to get just the new outer tension spring into the old bobbin case, and hey presto! Problem solved! I got good tension.

I should add here that I thought that the two screws in the bobbin case - one for adjusting the tension and one further along, were the same, but they are not! One is very slightly longer, and one hole is very slightly bigger. I have to confess here that I am writing this up several weeks later and I can't remember which screw went in which hole (should have written better notes...) but just be aware if you ever take one of these bobbin cases apart that the screws ARE different, and take note of which one goes in which hole.

Another note on these Apollo cases - when I was researching how to get the top tension unit off, I came across this video on Youtube. It's quite a useful video. At about 8 minutes in the man talks of there being three different types of these Apollo bobbin cases - made in either Brazil, Taiwan or Poland. He says to try and get the right one for where your machine was made. I don't know if this is correct, but if it is it might explain why a generic Apollo case won't necessarily fit all Singers. I did see comments on Amazon from someone who had bought one and it hadn't fitted.

So, another machine was on the road, and I sold it pretty quickly.

And another one has come along.......... I have just bought a Singer 411g from a Facebook selling group. 

Now, shall I go and sew, or try to change my bike pedals all by myself?


[Note re Bloglovin - I recently deleted my account with them, as I was getting some rather dodgy people following me via there. I am now wondering if this has stopped some readers from seeing that I have written a new post. If you think this might be the case for you, then please let me know. I am not the best at managing this sort of thing.]

Wednesday, May 23

Breaking in a Brooks B67 saddle

 Nearly two years ago, I ordered a bike from Oxford Bike Works (which you can read about here) and thought that I would order a Brooks saddle with it. I requested a B17, but only because it seemed that this was the Brooks saddle of choice for most tourers.  

My current bike at the time, a Trek, had a Bontrager saddle on it (see the pic below) which I was very happy with (I'd been fitted for it in my local bike shop) but the idea of having a leather one appealed to me - in particular less sweaty, but also it apparently moulds to the rider's shape - so, as I was getting a new bike I thought that this was the ideal time to try a Brooks saddle.

However, that saddle was so uncomfortable, that after collecting the new bike, I barely made it the 12 or so miles home, even with padded underwear on, so back it went to OBW. I did ask about changing it for another Brooks, as by then I had done my research on them and realized that the  B17 was so uncomfortable for me primarily because it was just too narrow, but the comment was -

 "If you don't like this Brooks saddle then you probably won't like any of them".

I knew this to be nonsense, having discovered that there were many different styles and sizes. I was given instead a fairly decent Velo saddle which enabled me to ride the bike back home again. In fact, the whole OBW bike later went back, which you'll discover if you read that post. 

The next year, to replace the OBW bike, I bought a Koga trekking bike, put the Bontrager saddle on it, and bought another one (almost the same but not quite - as usual the manufacturer had done that thing that manufacturers often do and "fixed what ain't broke"....) for the Trek. Recently both of these saddles began for some reason to feel uncomfortable on quite short journeys. I had previously been able to do 40 miles, at a push, without using the padded underwear but now I could only do about 20, so I looked up the notes I'd made ages ago on the different Brooks saddles, and read again blog posts such as this one by Lovely Bicycle, as well as lots of comments about them on cycling forums, and began to seriously think about buying one. I should add that I later remembered that I had altered the position of the handlebars on the Koga and thought that this might well have affected the comfort of the saddle. When I altered the bars back again (I wasn't that keen on the new position) the saddle seemed to return to normal! The slight discomfort on the Trek's saddle remains inexplicable.  I decided to try a Brooks anyway......

As I said, I had done my research on the different models, which included looking carefully at the measurements of each of them, and then finding out what I could about the rail length as Brooks saddles have short rails. As I have my saddles quite far back I knew this was important and could be a reason for me not to have a Brooks! I emailed Brooks and asked them for the usable length of the rails on the B67 and B67S, which was the model I had decided on. They replied saying - 

B67    7cm

B67S   8cm

The rails on my Bontrager saddles were about 8cm, so logically you might think that I'd have gone for the S model, but to compare lengths -

B67 260mm

B67S 240mm

My Bontrager 262mm

(I'm still trying to fathom out why the S model, i.e. the women's, has got longer rails, when it is shorter!)

I didn't like the idea of having a saddle that was 22mm shorter than my present one, and so I decided on the so-called "male" version, the B67, despite the shorter rails. Incidentally, amongst all the discussion on the subject of Brooks rail length, very little had come up (in my searches anyway) on  the subject of the position of the rails on the saddle, which even I, with a mere one A-level (I took two, but failed one....)  had worked out was as relevant as the length.  

Sit bones 

As I said earlier, I was measured up for the Bontrager saddle, on one of those clever sit on squidgy things they have in bike shops. Although I never knew what measurement it came up with, I was told I needed the largest size of the model, which was 180mm. I didn't give it any thought at the time, but I have since wondered about why my sit bones are quite wide apart, given that I am a slim person. I have since read that your general overall size doesn't indicate your sit bones size, so you can be "small" and have wide apart sit bones, or "big" and have sit bones closer together. I find this all quite fascinating stuff. It reminds me of when I was expecting my first baby, and the doctor asked me the size of my feet -

"What on earth has that got to do with having a baby?!" I thought. 

But he told me that the size of your feet is an indicator of the size of your pelvis and thus would have some bearing (pardon the birth related pun....) on your ability to get the baby out! I have size 7 feet, (which is quite large for someone of my age, though not large for the younger generation) and all four emerged without any major difficulties, so presumably the big feet helped. Thanks Dad! (who had big feet. Is that correct - does foot size come from the father?). 

Anyway, aside from the size 7 feet, I later measured my sit bones using the corrugated cardboard on a stool method - you sit on it and make depressions and then measure from centre to centre. Mine came out at just under 140mm. You need to add on a certain amount to that to get your saddle size - how much depends on your riding position. That gives me an extra 40mm on the Bontrager saddle, which should be plenty, but I must admit I still always feel as if my sit bones are right on the outside edge, but this could be just my impression, and not fact. There is also the fact that some saddles are fairly flat and others are domed, so the measurement of the saddle width alone is not really enough to go by when choosing one that's right for you. Add to this lots of other factors as well, and it all gets very complicated........

However, I decided that the width of the B67, 205mm, should be plenty for me. After all this research, which was thoroughly doing my one A-level head in, I realized that the only way to really find out if this saddle would fit my bike and my derriere, was to buy one. If necessary I could put it up against the current saddle and if I didn't think it would go far enough back, I could send it back.

Bontrager saddle

I bought it from Tredz, who were selling it for £76.99, which was the best price at the time, plus I got £5 off with the discount voucher they sent. Just a few days later they had put the price up to £91.99! (it still is). It took about 10 days to come as they didn't have it in stock, so I had to be patient. When it arrived I looked at the position of the rails on it and in particular at the position of the usable part. I had tried to work this out from photos, but when I actually came to look at the real thing I realized that they did not extend as far forward as they appear to in photos, as the rail begins to curve inwards sooner than is apparent when looking from the side. I meant to take a photo of it underneath before I put it on the bike but forgot, but see the link at the end to a website with a photo of the underneath. Anyway, holding it up to the other saddle, I reckoned that I could probably get it in about the same position, so I went ahead and put it on the bike. If it proved unsatisfactory I wouldn't now be able to send it back, but could always try and sell it on Ebay.

This is where I had the saddle positioned first - as far back as it will go, and more or less level from front to back -

Brooks B67 as first put on the bike

I tried it out on very short rides (longest about 6 miles) and have to say it felt hard and slippery, and particularly because of the slipperiness I felt less in control of the bike than on my other saddle. However, it was nothing like the discomfort of the B17, so I thought that maybe it was just a question of getting it in the right position, and that I would be able to break this one in. I had read other people's accounts of having to get the tilt of the saddle right, and in particular about having it slightly nose up, so that the back of the saddle is level, meaning that your weight is transferred more onto your sit bones.

Here it is after I had altered it to this position, the back of it now level (with the coal bunker - how handy was that!) -

As I later put it on, more nose up

From the rear - just in case that's of any use to anyone

To begin with I didn't even feel able to ride further than up and down the quiet flat road in our village, but then I went out on a ride of about 6 miles, most of it on a road which had been resurfaced last year so I knew wouldn't be too bumpy!

I have since done a lot of pfaffing around with it. I have read that other people have had to do this to get the position just right, in particular regarding tilt, and fore and aft position, though for me regarding the latter it was just a case of having it as far back as it would go. I had been reading so much stuff about saddle position that something made me think that perhaps I had the saddle too high, so I put it down a bit, but then I put it up again, and then again a bit more! I was hoping that this would work for me as I knew that this would also put it slightly further back. Another thing I did was to decide on which of three pairs of shoes I was going to fix the saddle height to, which might sound a bit over the top, but I knew there was quite a difference in the thicknesses of the soles of the three pairs of "flat" shoes that I normally wear for cycling, and that this could then affect the ideal saddle height. Of course, length of foot will make a difference too, which few people mention.

I also tilted the nose just slightly down a bit. After these two adjustments, tilt and height, it is indeed much better and I think I have just about got it dialled in (as they say...) now. Possibly it could even go a bit higher. All this reading, and watching of You Tube videos, makes me realize that you need to take in all the advice but in the end you just have to have the confidence to set the saddle as it feels right for you, and not as someone else says it should be.

This is the position it is in now -

Apologies for this photo not showing the bike in exactly the same position as the one above - I know that would have been more useful for comparison. The piece of white tape witha line on it on the rack was my method of seeing how much the saddle went back when I raised it. I put a tiny mark on the edge of the saddle to line it up with.

Today I managed a ride of about 15 miles (without padding) which is progress! Admittedly it was in three sections, with breaks in between, but the saddle is most definitely improving. I no longer feel like I am going to slide off it. I keep trying to put my fingers under my sit bones when I am riding to try to feel whether they are inside the area of the metal frame, but it's very hard to tell - I'm just hoping that they are, as if they are not and I am riding on the part which is over that metal frame then I will never break it in.

I have now done just over 50 miles on it, and every time I return from a ride I look at the saddle to see if I can see any impressions of my sit bones. Not yet......

The past.....

As an aside, and as someone who often thinks back to the past and the way things were done then, and about how "if it ain't broke, don't fix it!", I have thought a lot about how ALL bikes would once have come with a leather saddle, and probably, in this country anyway, more than likely a Brooks. My first little Raleigh bike that I was given to me for my sixth birthday in the 1960s, probably had a plastic saddle on it, as by then leather saddles were going out of fashion, but my mum's old black bike that I sometimes rode as a teenager, not having a bike of my own at that point, undoubtedly had a leather sprung saddle on it. Every bike I have ridden since then has had a synthetic saddle on it.

Recently the BBC showed a wonderful programme on the Raleigh bike company, and it included this lovely clip of a 10 year old who cycled 100 miles on her bike with her father and cycled home the next day! Wow!!!

Raleigh clip

I'm sure she's got a Brooks saddle on her bike!

I would have loved to ask this lady if she got saddle sore.

And did Billie Fleming when she rode nearly 30,000 miles in 1938? She also must have ridden a leather saddle.Watch this interview with Billie Fleming.

I have read that a lot of cyclists, particularly tourers, using leather saddles do not wear padded shorts, or padded underwear. Padded shorts were only introduced (correct me if I'm wrong) when mountain bikes became popular in the 1980s, and even then it was at first only a chamois lining without padding. Did anyone ever use any kind of padding before this?

Torque wrench

Just to add a little about the tool I have been using to aid me with all this pfaffing. At Christmas I thought -

"Husband would love a torque wrench"

Actually it was more a case of -

"I would love a torque wrench so why don't I buy one for Husband and then I can borrow it!"

After researching them (that's the trouble with the internet - you feel obliged to do a load of research before you buy something!!) I decided on this X-Tools Essential Torque Wrench kit from Wiggle, which I see has now gone up by £5 since I bought it. Previously I had just used Allen keys but had always been a bit unsure about whether I was tightening things up enough, or maybe too much, so felt that a torque wrench would give me the certainty that I was tightening bolts etc the correct amount. I find it easy to use, and despite some reviewers saying that they didn't always hear the vital click that shows you when you have reached the correct torque, I always do.

Torque wrench kit

Some useful links -

Bocage Biking (useful photo of underneath a Brooks B67)
Lovely Bicycle! (who is not writing about bikes any more but search her site for articles on saddles) (Very informative article!)

There was another very good article on Brooks saddles that I came across, but unfortunately in the midst of all this research our computer went on the blink and I lost all my "favourites", and I can't now find it.

That was a bit of a marathon post. I'll stop there.....

What is your experience of saddles??

Wednesday, April 4

Singer 413 sewing machine brought back to life

Having said that I seem to attract sewing machines that are a bit unusual, this one has nothing unusual about it. However, at the end of this post, you'll be rewarded with a pic of the next unusual one I've just acquired........

This Singer 413 was brought to me by a local lady, via my Facebook page "Needle and Thrift". She was looking for recommendations of someone to service it. I told her the address of the excellent Tom Dilley of Swindon, but also told her what I could do. She brought the machine to me and said she was having a problem with the stitch, which she said was looping underneath and was a bit tight.

Here is the machine when I got it -

Outside generally grubby....

More grubbiness.....

And more....

1 I'm learning to do one thing first when someone brings me a machine that they are having problems with, and that is to see if the bobbin is in the right way round. In this case, it wasn't, so that wouldn't have helped with the stitch problems.

2 Before I did any work on it, I wanted to know that it would actually start, so I plugged it in and pressed the foot controller, aka the pedal (but you get told off by vintage Singer experts for calling it that). Nothing happened. Logic told me that the first place to investigate was the plug, so I took it apart, and found that one wire was completely unattached from where it should be. I confess that I have never actually rewired a plug; decades ago in the machinery bit of my agricultural college course I was taught how to, but just to make sure I was doing it right I consulted the internet and carefully put the wire back in place. Tried again - bingo! Light on and motor running. So then I removed the machine from the base, removed the top, the face plate, the needle and the needleplate, the bobbin case and the clutch wheel (with help, see below).

3 The next task was to remove all the fluff from the bobbin area, and from behind the faceplate. Just when you think you've removed it all, you find some more, and some more, and some more..... I was removing it from the top and from underneath as well.

I'm not quite sure how best to describe this really.......almost enough fluff to stuff a mattress.

A bit more fluff behind the faceplate but not too bad.

The clutch wheel at the side had been stuck - quite a common problem I'm finding - and it was Husband who annoyingly loosened it without much difficulty. I say annoyingly because I hate it when I try and loosen something, can't do it, and then he comes along and does it, with a slightly smug expression on his face......!!!! I always think to myself - oh well it's because I've obviously already helped the process along by my constant trying. It's the same when you've got a jar you can't keep trying, can't do it despite gripping it with a rubber glove, and lo and behold Husband does it just like that. It's also a bit like (sorry about these similes but I need to get this out of my system) when I washed the kitchen floor once and left a mark, which Youngest then-teenage Son noticed a little while later, and promptly removed with ease. I mean, OBVIOUSLY my previous attempts had loosened it but he got the glory!! Huh.......

In the next photo, with that clutch wheel removed, there is old grease on the stop motion clamp washer (that thing with the three sticky out bits), which, unless I'm much mistaken, shouldn't be there. As far as I have learnt, all that is necessary is to put a drop of oil on the shaft that the handwheel sits on, so I removed the washer, pulled the handwheel away from the machine a little, and did just that. Then I put the cleaned washer back on.

NOTE: I always take a photo of this washer before removing it, so that I get it back on in the right position for it to perform its task. I won't go into any more detail about that as there are far better places on the internet to go to find out about it! E.g. here on The Vintage Singer Sewing Machine Blog. Basically this is all to do with stopping the needle going up and down when you are winding the bobbin.

Old grease on the washer

I cleaned the outside, including the base, with a slightly damp cloth, some dry brushes, some slightly damp brushes and lots of elbow grease. There was still quite a bit of yellowness on that front plate, so I had a go at that with the damp cloth and a tiny bit of Astonish paste, after which it looked considerably better.

I oiled all the oil points.

7 When I put the presser foot back on, I found it wasn't sitting parallel to the feed dogs, which meant that the needle was very nearly hitting the foot when using anything but straight stitch. I looked and looked at the presser bar to see if that was the problem, wondering if it wasn't upright, but I have to admit that here Husband again came in handy as it was him that saw it was slightly twisted. A turn of the screw that holds the presser bar to the machine was all that was necessary to put it right. Thank you Husband........ What's good about doing all these different machines is that I learn something new every time. And also that Husbands come in handy.

Incidentally, in my opinion, anyone learning to sew should first be taught the basics of looking after their machine, and told - "READ YOUR MANUAL!". They could save themselves a lot of money and frustration when things go wrong. All this mechanical stuff doesn't come all that naturally to me, whereas it does to Husband and Sons, but I have learnt a lot just by reading manuals. In fact, I'm a great fan of manuals - whenever we get a new machine of any sort I read the manual first. Eldest Son, however, when he was about 7 and got a digital watch for a present, was diving in straight away, and I think I probably said -

"Read the manual first!"

But ignoring his mother, off he goes, pressing this and that and getting it working in no time at all. That's the difference between his brain and mine.

When it was all put back together, I tested out the stitches. I just couldn't get certain stitches to work, and thought - "What am I doing wrong?". Frustration........... So I opened up the top again and realized that I wasn't turning one of the dials round far enough to the correct position. It hadn't been obvious until I did this.

And now for the "after" photos -

A lot cleaner

Nice and clean on top

Ooh that's better.........

The stitching on the far right in the photo below is not so good. After some adjustments I finally got a good stitch - on the left. It wasn't perfect tension, but I think I got it as good as it was possible to get it - perhaps 85% perfect. I had to tighten the bobbin tension quite a lot, but couldn't get it quite tight enough, and I wonder if the reason for this is the fact that the bobbin case is plastic, and you are screwing a metal screw into this, and perhaps the plastic case has worn slightly over the years (I think the machine is over 40 years old) meaning that it's not possible to tighten the screw enough. That's my guess anyway.

 And here's the next slightly unusual machine -

It's a Singer 3105, and it's made in Brazil. It has been given to me by the lady who bought the Singer Capri that I blogged about previously.

One day we'll be able to eat at this table again. Notice that the cat has still got her eating place.....