Saturday, September 19, 2015

Monday, August 17, 2015

Vintage Kenmore 158.10402 - Restored

Downloadable Manual

I've been collecting these incredible little machines for several years now.  The 158 series machines were made for Sears by Jaguar/Maruzen out of Japan.  I consider them to be the Singer 221 Featherweight on steroids.  I suppose, if you are a quilter, the 221 is the holy grail for quality of straight stitch and portability.  However, if you are a typical sewer needing more than a straight stitch, portability, and a compact footprint, this little Kenmore 1040 is a must have.  There were three in the 1040 series: 158.10400, 158.10401, and 158.10402.  The 10400 and the 10401 are nearly indistinguishable, but the 10402 had some differences in the indicator markings.


  • 3/4 Machine w/rose embossed clamshell case
  • 18 lbs.
  • Cast aluminum housing
  • All metal gears
  • Case measures 17" long  x 5.5" wide x 11.5" tall
  • Oscillating vertical 15 series hook/bobbin
  • Straight stitch
  • Zig-zag stitch
  • Blind hem stitch
  • Mending stitch
  • Straight stretch stitch
  • Zig-zag stretch stitch
  • Built-in 4 step buttonholer w/five guides: 3/8", 1/2", 5/8", 13/16", 1 1/16"
  • Light
  • Foot controller w/case
  • Automatic bobbin winder w/five bobbins
  • Feet include: zig-zag, straight, zipper, blindstitch guide with shank 
  • Straight and zig-zag needle plates
  • Needle threader
  • Large and small screwdriver
  • Five needles
  • Two double needles
  • Adjustable presser foot pressure
  • Droppable feed dogs
  • Oiler/lint brush
  • Seam Ripper

Over the past few years I've acquired seven of these machines. From them I have restored three and gave one to each of my daughters as Christmas presents a couple of years ago.  I have a couple left to restore and sell, and then I found this very unusual 158.10402 in virtually mint condition.  I did go through and perform a full restoration; cleaning, polishing, and waxing, along with grease and lubrication.  All functions were checked and it performs flawlessly.

What I didn't expect, nor have I ever seen, was the styrofoam packing.  It was obviously used to secure the machine inside its rose embossed clamshell case during shipping.  This is the most complete, most perfect 1040 I've run across and it has found its way into my little private collection.

The inspection label is still on the side of the case and the original hang tag is on the handle.  It even came with an actual page from the 1974 Sears catalogue from which, I assume, it was ordered.

The following few pictures show the machine from all sides.

 Inside the machine is clean and untarnished.  It received a full oiling and greasing.

 Here are the markings that are changed on the 10402.  The indicator lines are black instead of orange and there is descriptive text instead of dots.

No markings on the manual and the binding is perfect.

The page from the 1974 Sears catalogue featuring the machine and the price.  $160 in 1974 is equal to $800 in 2015.

The electronic foot pedal is pristine and the green vinyl case is perfect.  I've only seen two that weren't torn at the seams.

 This machine came with all of its original accessories including the oiler/brush, the needle threader (in the original box and still sealed in plastic, and the two screwdrivers which are still in their plastic bag.

 Feed dogs work and drop perfectly.  Bobbin case present and accounted for.

 I love the way the end of the machine flips up and the accessory case flips forward for added material support.  The engineering on this machine is amazing.

 The manufacturer's tag on the bottom of the machine.

 A perfect case with hang tag and inspection sticker.

 Here are the oiler/brush (with original oil) and the seam ripper.

 All five buttonhole guides.

 The original double needles and single needles in their plastic cases.  This machine also comes with a straight stitch needle plate and foot.

 Screwdrivers still in the bag.

 Its hard to believe that all of the accessories fit in the tilt out tray.

 The original shipping styrofoam.

 The hinge knuckles are perfect; usually one or more are cracked or broken.

Everything fits into the case except the manual, which is why so often it goes missing.  Of all the machines I've collected, this is the hardest manual to find.

I hope you enjoyed taking a look at the Kenmore 158.10402.  If you have any questions, let me know. The items that are problematic on these machines is that the double belt pulley and the drop feed dogs tend to freeze up after years of nonuse.  I'll be doing a tutorial on easily dealing with both.

Thanks for looking,

Monday, April 27, 2015

Button Down Collar Alternative

How many shirts have I passed up because they don't have button down collars.  If you ride a motorcycle, button down collars are a must.  Button down collared shirts, in general, always look neater than those without buttons.

A simple solution to the problem for shirts without button down collars is to sew them down.

Lay the collar down flat against the shirt and pin in two directions.

Needle down in the corner of the existing seam stitching and take about 4 -5 stitches, then reverse back to your beginning point at the corner; needle down.  Spin the collar about the needle so that you will be going forward on the other side of the collar stitching.  Take 4 - 5 stitches and then reverse back to the corner.

Clip the threads and done.

Here's another shirt.  I didn't have the exact red, so I used a thread that matched the button thread.

Love this solution.

If you like this idea, but still want the look of buttons, you can apply a non-functioning button instead which will save the time and hassle of making a buttonhole.  The problem, of course, is to find a complimentary button.

Hope it helps,

Rewire Willcox and Gibbs Foot Contoller

This tutorial is a step by step photo documentation of rewiring the motor on a vintage (1937) Willcox and Gibbs chain stitch sewing machine foot controller.

List of Materials:
  • Wire:  18/2 SJOOW Black 300V Priority Wire --- Link To Source
    20 feet will do the motor and the foot controller
  • Round Vintage Antique Style BLACK Electrical Plug --- Link to Source
    2 each will do the motor and the foot controller
The wire is the closest match to the wire that came on my machine.  I've seen some with the braided cloth wire.  The source for the plugs above also carries the braided wire.


Cut nine feet of wire (original length) or whatever length works for your situation.

The wire comes with printing along its length which identifies its construction.  This does not match the original look.  The printing can be removed easily with Goo Gone.

Use a vinyl or rubber conditioner after to keep the sheathing material from drying out.

Remove the pedal from the base by first pushing the hinge pin out with a roll punch (1/8"). Shoot it with some Aerokroil first to free it up.

Top view of hinge pin in pedal.

Remove cotter pin at opposite end of pedal.  If pin is in good shape, it can be reused.

Look at the crud under there.  Remove the screw at the heel end of the spring bar.

In order to do a thorough cleaning, remove all of the feet and the securing screws.

There is a plate securing screw under one of the feet.

Interior view of controller, copper contacts, and wiring connections.  Loosen the brass wire retaining screw (top left), the wire contact nut (white wire), and the wire contact screw (black wire), then pull the wire out of the controller.

Use 600 grit wet/dry sandpaper to clean the copper contacts.  Gently push the contact back enough to slide the sandpaper in and then use the flat side of the screwdriver to apply pressure to the contact as you pull the sandpaper across the contact.  Do three passes for each one of the contacts.

Do the same for both faces of the contacts along the other side.

Remove the wire contact screw and plates, then steel wool all surfaces with 0000 steel wool.

To prepare the controller end of the new wire, use the old wire to determine how much insulation to remove.

Cut the black outer insulation with a razor knife, being careful to just score the outer sheathing.  You can then pull apart the insulation, in effect, tearing the remaining rubber along the score path.  In this way, there is less risk of cutting the insulation of the inner wires.

Separate the inner wires and cut the paper away.

Strip the ends of the wire and tightly twist the strands.

Insert the stripped wire through the grommet in the side of the controller until the outer insulation is flush with the inside of the brass retaining clip and secure the brass screw.  Then wrap the stripped leads around the terminal screws, in a clockwise direction, then tighten the nut and the screw. Trim away any extra copper strands.

Now it is time to install the new plug on the other end of the wire.  Prepare the wire in the same way as on the other end.  Tie an Underwriters knot in the wire conductors and wrap about 8-10 turns of electrical tape under the knot.

This is a close up of the Underwriter's knot.

Strip the wires leaving about 1/2 inch of insulation above the knot and twist the wires.

Slide the base of the plug up the wire to test the fit.  What you want is the tape to fit snug into the tubular part of the plug and the knot to sit at the bottom of the dome shaped base.  You may need to add or remove some tape to achieve a snug fit.

Wrap the wire clockwise about the screw at each terminal so that the insulation is tight up against the head of the screw and tighten.  Slide the two parts of the plug together and install and tighten the outer screws.

Reattach the pedal in the reverse order of taking it apart.  Reattach the bottom plate and feet.

I soaked the cast aluminum foot pedal in a bath of hot water and OxyClean, scrubbed with a toothbrush, then buffed with 0000 steel wood, back to the Oxy, then finished with 100% carnauba wax.  Turned out very nice.

Tried cleaning with kerosene and a toothbrush for the first time and had very good results with no ill effect to the decals.  Lighting doesn't show the decal detail well in this photo.  Lightly buffed with Mequair's cleaning wax, then 100% carnauba wax.

After rewiring both the motor and the controller, plug it into the sewing machine to test.  This machine runs extremely fast, smooth, and with good control at low speeds.

Hope this helps,


Don't attempt the techniques explained in this article if you don't have electrical experience or are not certified in electronics.  Doing so may result in electrical shock and/or death.  If you decide to act on these techniques, you are doing so at your own risk.  It is recommended to have your work checked by a licensed electrician or certified electronics expert.