Monday, July 21, 2014

Yes, The Meteor Is Still Broken.

Meteor In Garage
The 1962 Meteor is still in the garage, still broken. Part of the fun of owning a vintage car is being able to do some of the mechanical work yourself, and lucky for me I married a mechanically minded man - without him I couldn't own this car.
But, that also means that I need his help to get the Meteor back up and running again. In case you missed the previous Meteor episode, the car crapped out on me while on a weekend drive back in mid-June, we couldn't get it running again and had to have it towed back home.
Fast forward 5 weeks, and we've figured out that the issue is somewhere in the ignition system. When we time it correctly, it will run for awhile, but it eventually comes out of time again. No, we're pretty sure it's not anything with the timing chain or gears, since the simple act of futzing with the distributor and re-timing works. There is a test that we can do to definitively see if it is the timing with the distributor, but I have to wait for my other half to have the free time to help me. Sigh...
So I wait! Meanwhile, while I am missing driving my baby, I've found some sweet original marketing images of the Meteor. Mine is not the S-33, but the basic model with the original 221 engine...
I'm going to try and nail down one evening this week when we can check the Meteor and for sure find out what the problem is - then our next steps will be to fix it.
For you mechanically minded readers, I hear that it may be just as economical (and better in the long run) to switch out the stock ignition system and install an electronic ignition. Any thoughts if one is better than the other? I'd love to keep this car as stock as possible (because it is, at this point, all stock), but if switching ignition systems means less issues down the road (and therefore more driving time), then I'm down with it. It's just not as easy as fixing a vintage sewing machine!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Atlas Model A-59

Atlas Model A-59
This is the newest addition to the family, a PINK vintage 1950's Atlas Model A-59. I picked her up in Wisconsin on vacation, and she was in pretty sad shape. She was dirty, the presser foot bar was misaligned, the needle was in the wrong way, and the wiring was a nightmare! But you know what? She was only 10 bucks, and for that price if it didn't work, it was going to make a pretty rad decoration in the sewing room!
Atlas Model A-59
The wiring was so messed up on this baby - wires badly spliced all over the place and old, sticky electrical tape barely holding it all together. We updated the wiring a bit with some left-overs I had from another machine, so now at least it is safe. If I decide to sew with her more, I'll probably look into something even better, just so I don't have this mess of plugs and sockets in the base.

We couldn't get the old motor re-wired, so again I pulled an extra from my scrap parts bin for the old girl. I'll probably end up painting the motor either white or gray, the black just doesn't go with the pink, gold and chrome.
Atlas Model A-59

The base is original, but I recovered it with new fabric. It was this old nasty brown stuff that was flaking and pulling off, and it had a ripe mildew smell to it. I peeled off all the old stuff, sanded it down a bit, and used Mod-Podge to apply the new fabric. It's finished off with a hard coat of acrylic clear coat to keep the fabric from ever absorbing moisture and mildewing in the future.

Now for a bit about the Atlas machine itself. This is a straight up Singer 15 clone made in Japan. I've also got a very similar machine in a light blue that is tagged "Brother", and I used to have one other in a pretty turquoise tagged with the name "Morse". I do believe that there were factories in Japan that made all of these machines, and would tag them according to the buyer's instructions. This particular Japanese clone has lots of flair, from the gold-toned tag "Atlas" on both the front and back of the machine to the message stamped in the bottom of the stitch length plate "Exclusively made for Altas in Japan". And there's a black and gold decal in the center of the bed that reads, "Atlas Sewing Centers, Miami, Florida". Now that makes perfect sense doesn't it? Where else would a pink sewing machine come from?

I had a few issues getting a good stitch out of her. The bobbin case in the machine was damaged, so I had to quickly borrow a Singer 15 Class case from another machine to test it out. The stitch width lever works, but the knob to the right is supposed to act as a stopper and indicator, and doesn't work. Despite all of that, she DOES sew! It's what you'd expect from a Singer clone, a little louder and a little clunkier than a classic Singer, and the tension is tricky. Still, she does sew and looks pretty sweet in the sewing room! I think I'll let her stick around, but most likely she'll be displayed on a shelf where I can keep an eye on her!

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Montgomery Wards Model 1320: Mr. Minty

Meet the newest member of my sewing machine family, a vintage 1970's Montgomery Wards model 1320. This minty fresh machine came from a neighbor's house, they were having a bit of a yard sale and asked if I would be interested in taking this guy home.

I have to admit, I've never had great luck with any post-1960's vintage machines (I used to have a few, like the Singer Golden Touch and Sew 750 - from which I learned why they are so aptly called "Touch and Throw's"), so I was a little hesitant to take Mr. Minty home with me.

After giving Mr. Minty a thorough once-over I discovered that he is a Singer class 15 clone made in Japan, which means that the inner-workings are based on the Singer 15 class machines (and the 15 class bobbins will fit with this machine). Although it is basic, I was surprised at how versatile it is; there's a straight stitch, zig-zag, and a stretch stitch built-in to this machine.

This machine also has the ability to lower the feed dogs for darning and free-motion stitching.

And one of my very favorite features of this machine is the bed that slides on over the free-arm, it's all metal! No stability issues here, this metal table is SOLID!

It also sews nicely - not as smooth or quiet as a vintage Singer, but it does a good job and I'm pleasantly surprised!

I'm not sure how long I'll hold on to Mr. Minty, I have too many other sewing machines that I love to sew with, and don't really have room for one that I probably won't use. But I think I'll let him stay and sew with me for a little while before he finds a new home!

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Project Finish: The Red (Monochromatic) Quilt

I finally finished the Red (Monochromatic) quilt that I started in Jacquie's class earlier this spring at the Paducah, KY quilt show.

I made each of these three modern log cabin blocks separately, with LOTS of help from Jacquie! Working with this kind of improv piecing technique is difficult, as I kept wanting to just make the same block over and over again, I had to really THINK about making each one different.

Jacquie also suggested putting all three blocks together in a very asymmetrical composition. The quilting was a total experiment, as I didn't want to just quilt an overall design on the whole thing. I wanted the blocks to almost look like they are floating out from the white background. As with most stuff I make, I'm not sure I like it at the moment, but am very glad to have it finished!

The colors in this quilt are an extension of my color study: I used a monochromatic color palette, all different tints and shades of RED. I do plan on making some more studies with other classic color combinations using the improv piecing techniques I learned in Jacquie's class, it will be good practice for learning more about colors and modern log cabin piecing.

Now I'm on to quilting that vintage fan top, remember that one? I've got it basted and plan on a combination of some simple machine quilting along with hand quilting in the fans. Hope to have it finished soon!

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Camera Play

I recently dug up my old (like 30ish years old) Nikon 50mm lens that belonged to my Nikon FM camera back in High School. I bought the camera and lens second-hand for photography class, and the FM has long since bit the dust, but I held on to the old lens. It was never worth much and as you can see it's been around the block a few times (and dropped along the way).

I currently use a Nikon D40 with the standard 18.5-55mm lens, which of course is fully integrated with the electronic features of my camera. That means the camera can be fully automatic right down to the focus, and I most often use it that way. I though I'd see if I could use the old 50mm on the D40, and took it out for a test drive last week. The biggest difference is not having any automatic features and having to use the camera manually, being forced to think about f-stops, shutter speeds, and focus all over again. Luckily, since the D40 is digital, I can see a preview of my photo immediately and adjust any settings before taking another photo, no need to wait to develop film! Still, my first batch of photos were mostly out of focus and overexposed. Here's an example - I was trying to focus on Fidget's face, but she was moving so fast that her hair is the only thing in focus.

When I posted about playing with the old lens on the Facebooks, I got several comments about old lenses, mostly how you can experience serious difficulty when using old lenses made for 35mm film with new digital SLR cameras - or shouldn't use old lenses at all. Thankfully, the old Nikon lens connects perfectly with the mount on the Nikon D40, and I am not experiencing any issues with focus that would make it impossible to use the old lens. But it did make me curious about the old 50mm vs. my new lens - was there any difference? I ran a few tests today to find out.

The first difference I noticed is in f-stops for each lens. When taking these shots I realized that the f-stops on the new lens run from f-5.6 to f-29, while the old lens goes all the way down to f-1.8. Since I'm a big fan of depth of field, I like that the old lens offers bigger aperture settings, and could see through the SLR camera that I can get some very shallow depth of field with the old lens. Nice! Here were my test results with the two lenses:

Using the exact same settings on the camera and lenses manually, here are two shots; top is the old lens, bottom is the new.

Can you even see any differences? Hardly, but the bottom photo is a bit lighter than the top photo. I want to say that the focus looks a bit different, but that could just be my old eyes.

On taking another set of photos, I do notice that the old lens has a different field of focus than the new lens. The new lens seems to capture more background in focus than the old lens, even when using the exact same settings. Old lens on the left, new lens on the right.

This photo set includes the old lens on the top, new lens on the bottom.

The biggest thing I noticed while taking this shot was how much easier it is to manually focus with the new lens. It is harder for me to see when things get crisp in the old lens, and although I was trying to focus on the flamingo in the top shot, I really have the flowers behind in sharpest focus.

And the new lens seems to be shooting all the photos a bit more exposed than the old lens, almost imperceptibly. Yes?

The thing I like about shooting with the old fixed 50mm lens is how it forces me to frame the shot and think about composition, not to mention being acutely aware of the light situation when using settings manually. Since it looks like the lens works great with my camera, I think I will leave it on and play some more. Although going through this experiment has taught me that I can ALSO use my new lens with manually settings to get pretty much the same effect - good to know!

What kind of camera do you use? Do you have more than one lens - and if so, which is your favorite?