Universal Treadles Re-visited and Some Thoughts on 3/4 Treadles

Page 2

First Day's Work


We've dealt with universal or muilti-machine tops on Treadle On before, but it's been some years and I ran into a rather effective approach at the Portland TOGA and offered to try doing one as something of a demo. As so often seems to be the case, the project took on a life of it's own and I ended up revisiting some past approaches and also deciding to make myself a new 3/4 size treadle because I hadn't sewn on a VS machine in a long time and had both a nice pre -1900 Sisnger 28 and another that desperately needed restoration, so, why not?

Cathy Nelson's multi-treadle top approach was pretty simple. She made a flat plywood top, held on with round head carriage bolts and butterfly nuts, laid out a slot for the belt to run in and postioned and cut a hole for the machine she would use the most, or that had the smallest footprint. Then she positioned the next machine she wanted to use over that opening and removed wood wherever necessary to allow it to drop into the hole. The machines rest on the top, they are not buried in it.



This is Cathy's top. You can see that it has some odd cutouts here and there. These are to accommodate various protrusions on the underside of different machines she has used in the top. Also worth noting is that she uses a plastic belt made from aquarium air hose. The ends are glued and sewn together. It is somewhat stretchy and worked on every machine we set on the top.


This was the highlight of our machine testing. You are looking at a fully operational Featherweight treadle!


Once I got home, I had some catching up to do, but about a week later I was able to start on this project. Obviously, the first thing you need to make a universal treadle is a treadle. I had a Singer 66 in very bad shape that I thought might work, but also had a modern steel Singer 15-88 treadle with a so-so cabinet that I thought might be a candidate if I went first class on the wood work. The first thing to do was to get the cabinets off of the two treadles. The 66 treadle frame turned out, unlike the cabinet, to be in good shape. The 15-88 treadle was one I had stolen the pitman from earlier in the year, so I have to deal with that somewhere along the way.

Here are the two treadles:



I bought a piece of 1/2" birch multi-ply plywood, 24x30 inches, as the basis for the multi-top. I had a set of three birch drawed in a little drawer frame that I thought would work well on it. They just barely fit on this treadle. They won't go on the ohter treadle at all.


Getting the two treadles ready to work with and a piece of wood bought was as much as I got done the first day.


Ah, but the second day! That was a burst of multi-directional energy that got quite a bit accomplished. It wasn't necessarily all well directed, but at the end of the day there was something to show for it and a few conclusions drawn. I'm just going to run you through the day with me...



Cathy sent me a very nice drawing of her top. I used an Xacto knife and cut out the opening as she had drawn it. Here I had it fastened to a heavy board I had on hand but ultimately decided not to use. I was just getting the feel of things.



When I took the cabinet off of the 66 I just took it out to the shed. Now I decided maybe I wanted to look at some of the cabinet pieces and see if I could use them. This meant getting the cabinet inside again and disassembling it. Just in case someone hasn't really seen a drawer stack screwdriver before... they do exist and make the removal of drawer stacks oh, so easy.



I've stripped off the entire flip top structure... the lid and its base, to get down to the basic treadle top.


Here's the opening cutout from Cathy's pattern, sitting there staring at me and saying, "OK, now what?"


This picture was to kind of study the opening in relation to the drive wheel.


At this point, I began playing with an alternate idea... two "L" pieces that could be pushed together to vary the size of the opening and different machines set on them.


Yep... could be made to work... here's a White FR...


and a Singer 15-88



An opening would have to be left for the belt...


Also, the rear "L" would have to have a couple of cutout areas to allow for hinge pin pods, as shown here, looking at the back of the 15-88


Over the years I've become pretty specialized. The only machines I mess much with are Singer 15's, Class 31 industrials, White FR's and pre-1900 singer 28's. I have an industrial top that takes the 31's and 15, but not the FR's and 3/4 size 28's. So, I had to try a 28 with my "L" pieces. Works... I didn't get as far as cutting out any wooden L's, but I did figure out how I would install them and keep them adjustable...slotted through bolts.



Getting down to serious work. To make Cathy's top you have to have a board. I decided to use the flip lid. As noted, this cabinet is rough, but this is kind of a "Mark I" run anyway, so here we go... The lid will cover the opening...



Super important step! Finding the exact plane where the treadle belt will run. I did this by hanging one plumb bob on the front table edge and another on the back edge. Then I moved and adjusted them until they were lined them up tso that I could sight from front to back and both bob lines were directly aligned with the drive wheel. I marked those positions on the base top and drew a line across, then positioned the lid and pattern with the holes cut out and marked everything.



Here you see the lid sitting over the hole, pattern drawn and aligned.



There are numerous ways to saw an opening. I used a jig saw at this point. You can use a hand jig saw, which is the most common way of doing it. I put together a table jig saw. You can also do it by hand with a keyhole saw. In any event, you should drill at least 1/2" holes at corners to make it easier to turn the saw. I used a 7/8" Forstner bit, wood auger bits or spade bits will also work. On the later, final adaptor plates I build for my treadle, where the plates would have full wood support underneath them, I made the cutting simpler by using a band saw. This required cutting an entry slot at the back of the piece, but made the rest of the cutting easier. Figure out what you're comfortable with and what will work for you with the tools you have.



Back on topic again... with the pattern drawn on the lid, you have to saw it out. This is best done with a jigsaw. The drilled holes are at corners where the line has to turn. As it happens I have long wanted to adapt my router table to accept a jigsaw mounted on a plate, so that I could do jig sawing while controlling the work, rather than controlling the tool itself. I stopped for awhile and worked on that project...


and here you have my "jigsaw table". I removed the work plate from the tool and installed the tool on a plastic plate that fits the router table. I am a happy camper. One of the things that is making my shop such a joy this go round is a new policy. If anything bugs me and seems like it should be improved... stop what I'm doing and fix it now! Don't just let myself be bugged by it for several more years.


This and the next show the process of cutting out the opening.



Here is theopening and belt slot cut.


The 15-88 drops right in. Note that the indents on the back allo for the hinge pin pod castings on the base.


This is what it looks like from the front.



Ah, but the White FR won't fit. It missed by a lot just before this pic. Many FR's have a latch assembly screwed onto the front below the bed. I've removed that, since I don't have a White FR treadle, but the base was thickened where it attached and won't fit the opening. This is where Cathy's technique of removing the necessary wood as you need to comes in...



Here I've marked the lenght of the area that won't fit.


I'm using a wood rasp to smooth up the edges. Who knows, maybe I'll be lucky and it will be enough... It wasn't and I took the piece back to the jigsaw and cut a little notch...


Here you can see the notch. It runs from the "N" to the "R" in Singer


And the White FR now fits perfectly.



Ah, but here I hit a real problem. My 3/4 size Singer 28 would not fit securely in the opening. Its grip on the front and back edges was simply too thin to be trusted to actually treadle and sew on. Ouch! This hurt. So I started messing with another variation of the two "L" shapes I tried above. This time I used some strips of black plastic, with the front and back lips of the beds simply resting on them.


with the 28...

Here with the FR...


and here with the 15. This is a system that could work. I could see maybe 6 or 8 strips of plastic or wood of different widths allowing the use of numerous machines.




However, along the way, I came across an old adaptor plate for pre-1900 28's that I had made way back when we had the bow tie exchange. This was a very simple approach to multiple heads on a treadle, and it's still a very good one. You just use wood or plastic and make a base for the machhine to rest on, with an opening smaller than the basic bed size. With a good sized surface and with the weight of machine heads, it will just sit there and you can treadle happily away. Just don't use too tight a belt!


Here you can see the two indents at the back edge of the opening to accommodate the welded on hinges. Use the same approach for any machine with cast in hinge pin pods.


Here is a shot of the underside of my 28. You can see the welded on hinges to the lefst, and the lips cast into the base. Every head has some sort of lip cast in and you can devise an opening for that lip to rest in.


I became concerned that the reason my 28 wouldn't fit securely enough might be that I had miscut the pattern, so I set my top onto Cathy's pattern as precisely as I could and it's really awfully good. The only place you can readily see any cardboard is that little stretch I widened at the front for the FR.


After a full day of seizing on whatever aspect of whatever part of whatever project I felt like, my shop looks like a disaster area...


There's a workbench under there... somewhere




3/4 Size Treadles

One other item needed some attention before I felt I could really quit and go upstairs where coffee and ice cream were waiting. I was enjoying revisiting the issue of multi-tops from an academic viewpoint. However, for myself, what I really wanted was a nice 3/4 size treadle for my 28's... not something they had to share, but a nice treadle of their very own. I came to the conclusion that while I would use the 66 treadle for this demo project, it would really end up with a nice new top custom fitted for a 28. While there were some small treadles made by Singer, they're fairly rare. There are some very small 17" treadles that I used to think were child's treadles, but were actually for Singer 24 chain stitchers, but in fact, most of the treadles that we encounter with 28's in them are simply regular Singer treadle frames with reduced size tops on them. Standard Singer frames seem to run from about 21" to 23 1/4". While I could wish the one I had was a 21", it isn't, it's 23 1/4", but it's the one I have. When supplied with a 28, the top put on the frame was usually a simple one level board, no flip lid, no drop head mechanism, just a board and a coffin top. The surface was shortened on the right by cutting out the drawer stack on that side, and on the left, usually there was only one drawer. There was no center drawer. So, lets see what we have here....





Just another view...


Here, courtesy of Cindy Peters, is a photo of an original "3/4 treadle". There is no flip-up table extension - cabinet top measures 16 1/4" deep by 29 1/4" wide. As you can see - coffin top & one drawer. The irons (where they attach to the top) measure 21" wide X 11 3/4" deep.



And here is what I can do with what is at hand. You're looking at the 66 treadle, with one drawer on the left (held on with a clamp) ane having had the right side shortened. The top is now 31"x17". The irons are 23 1/4" x 11 1/2". I had the coffin top out in the shed. The coffin top and frame will get used, but I will make a new walnut top.



This has been a huge page and the project is far from done. There will be a third page on the rest of the work....

Go To Third Page

Captain Dick