1950s Sewmatic ChainstitcherThis one was a "grail" machine. I had been looking for one for several years before my 'net friend, "Randy" told me about this one's availability. Chainstitchers of any kind generally fall into three categories: toys, the occasional industrial, or VERY old. This one is "none of the above" and kind of falls in the middle. Its certainly no toy, its definitely no industrial, and its only "middle aged" as far as sewing machines go. It is a rotary type chainstitcher, and kind of an odd looking little guy. I've always considered the Streamliner to have an Equine appearance, this one is sort of Porcine! The only "plastic" on the entire machine is the acrylic handwheel, which sometimes is yellowed in some of the pictures I've seen.
AKA Precision Chainstitcher
AKA Burroughs Chainstitcher
Zorba has scanned and made freely available a PDF of the manual (10 MB).
I first became aware of this machine in its Burroughs incarnation. What little information that can be found on the 'net about this model always relates that it was made for the military "for use in the field". Its obvious that this factoid has been copied over and over again. There is however, some supporting evidence, albeit sketchy. As will be seen below, my machine was manufactured by the Flint Tool & Mfg Co. of Holly, Michigan - apparently for someone called "Erie Products Company" who apparently then sold the machine under at least two badges, "Sewmatic" and "Precision". Was the Burroughs also built by Flint? Apparently not - stressing the word "Apparently". Having never seen a complete picture set of a Burroughs, I cannot say one way or the other to be sure. HOWEVER, I at one time was able to compare internal pictures of a Burroughs and a Precision. They were NOT identical, they had apparently been made by different manufacturers as there were subtle differences to be seen inside the machines. In addition, I have recollection of seeing a PDF of a military manual for the Burroughs. Crowning the entire confusion, Burroughs reportedly did make unspecified sewing machines and has at least one patent that is sewing machine related. So they made more than their famous adding machines. Also in support of Burroughs being a separate builder of this machine are the fonts. "Precision" and "Sewmatic" are the same font, "Burroughs" is different!
I suspect Burroughs and Flint were second sourcing each other, who actually was the originator of the design is unknown. Or perhaps Burroughs was sold exclusively to the military, and Flint/Erie handled the civilian market. Or maybe even Erie was in charge of the whole mess and subcontracted both Flint and Burroughs to make the machines. What the military needed with a chainstitcher "for use in the field" (if that is, indeed, true) is a bit unclear. I've had it suggested to me that it would have been perfect for sandbags. Field use of this machine would have required a source of 117VAC power, which may have been difficult to obtain where sandbags were being deployed - I'm not sure I buy the oft quoted "for use in the field".
Contributed by Randy, this "Precision" badged version was also...
... built by Flint Tool.
What I've been able to find out so far:
Now to my actual machine.
...comes off easily revealing Flint's badge. Note electrical connector.
Later picture showing replaced screws...
... and with the handwheel back in place.
Badge removed reveals this mysterious hole! At first I thought it was either for another model,
or perhaps an "engineering hook" for the future; but then it occurred to me: Its a tooling hole.
Its in exact line with the two internal bosses that support the lower shaft, this enabled a long
drill bit to drill the bosses for their carrier bearings!
Here can be seen the carrier bearing bosses and how they line up with the tooling hole.
Removing the snap-on front cover reveals the thread spindle, and the thread path.
Removing the feed dog cover revealed that someone had been here before and cleaned it out.
Machine disassembled to get to the stretched belt.
Trying to remove the connecting rod so I could get the belt off wasn't successful.
But I got the belt off by removing the pulley from its jackshaft instead.
The first new belt in place.
Bottom view, the arm has been re-united with the base.
I had made this witness mark with a sharpie before disassembly so the timing wouldn't be off.
The backpanel before re-installation. I don't know what's up with the scratches on the inside...
Re-assembled, showing how a thread spool is installed on the spindle.
Then the spindle is pushed "closed", then the machine is threaded.
The foot pedal and its disastrous wiring.
A closeup of a wiring job that was horrible even before the cords disintegrated.
The inside of the carbon pile controller after removing the bad wiring.
And the inside of the carbon pile itself, those are little carbon disks that are compressed by the pedal.
This cord used to be as "common as dirt", now almost impossible to find!
All new wiring, see text. Also visible here are the original "push rivets" that held the bottom on.
Now the bottom is held on with #8-32 screws after the openings in the cast housing were tapped.
Re-wired controller showing both cords coming out of the controller itself instead of the sewing machine end.
This #8 "Shoulder Screw" was purchased from McMaster Carr (#91259A164) to replace a missing
one in the feed dog assembly. Not an exact fit, the shoulder portion needed to be machined longer.
O-ring used as belt on right, contrasted to cogged V-belt on left.
The second new belt installed.
Closeup of new belt, a much better solution as it won't stretch appreciably.
View from bottom side.
Bottom view with bottom cover back on.
Several stitching examples.
Night shot! Machine uses the "standard" 15 watt nightlight-style bulb. This means it can also use the common
#643 bulb, or even the ultra-skinny Feit bulb as recommended for the Streamliner and Reversew "Rex"! Now
there's an affordable LED bulb available! See my Bulb Study on the Resources page.
This is the best example of this model I've ever seen - albeit I've only seen 2 or 3 others. This one was owned by an "OSMG" (Old Sewing Machine Guy) who was selling off his collection (I'm guessing trade-ins). Good example yes, but that didn't mean "perfect". The main problem was with the wiring. Not just that it had disintegrated, but also that the connector that mates with the machine is no-longer made. It used to be as "common as dirt", lots of test equipment manufacturers used it - HP, Textronics, WaveTek, etc. I'd thrown dozens of them away over the years. Now they're selling for upwards of $30! I finally found a NOS for $8...
As can be seen in the picture of the control pedal wiring as obtained, whoever created this mess wired it such that all the splicing occurred at the connector that plugs into the machine. Unfortunately, this connector was not made for this type of wiring (Unlike the 3 wire connectors on old Whites and Kenmores, among others) so an unmitigated mess was created - and that was before the wiring deteriorated over many years and ended up being the disaster I inherited.
I have no idea how the machine was originally wired, nor do I know what the original connector was like on the wiring side; however, I chose to make the splicing in the controller itself and run both cords into the controller instead of to the machine as is usually done. Given the large size of the wiring access opening in the controller, perhaps it was originally wired this way - who knows? However, doing the wiring this way both results in a neat job, and a MUCH simplified way to wire it in the first place! So that's what I did. The 2 wire cording that runs from the controller to the AC plug is rubber wiring purchased from the local hardware store - NOT the cheap vinyl crap that dries out and cracks. The 3 conductor cord with its three pin connector then leads from the controller to the machine.
UPDATE: Another example appeared on eBay - the wiring was also kaput, but in enough better shape to figure out what the original wiring lashup was. The connector that plugs into the machine was indeed where the spicing was located. It was molded onto both cords - I still think "my way" is a better solution for this particular model.
As seen in the above pictures of the foot controller, I replaced the original "push rivets" with #8 screws. Repeated use of these pins caused deterioration of the plastic bottom plate of the controller. The existing holes in the casting were already the correct size, all I had to do was run a #8 tap in them and install the screws. This is the first time I've encountered a Carbon Pile controller in place of the usual wire-wound type.. Its a true variable resistor, as opposed to a rheostat or potentiometer, and looks to me like it could last centuries of use. Referring to the pictures, it consists of two "piles" of carbon disks which, when compressed together or relaxed, vary their resistance. When the foot pedal is fully depressed, an alternate set of contacts shorts out the piles altogether for full speed operation. Other than a small amount of apparent speed variation when holding steady, this type of controller seems as easy to use as the wire-wound (or even solid state) types.
Actually, it turns out that I had another machine with a Carbon Pile controller, the Micro-Bell has a single stack (as opposed to this dual-stack) version. That controller is probably not good for as much amperage as the one used here, but it doesn't have to be as the Bell's motor is very small! In a matter of sheer co-incidence, the Bell is wired (from the factory) in the same manner that I re-wired this Sewmatic as detailed above. Check out my Sewing Machine Wiring section on the Resources page.
The belt needed replacing, and the machine needs to be disassembled in order to do so. As can be seen in the pictures, I used a "Sharpie" to make a witness mark on the 1:1 gears so the machine could be reassembled with the correct timing. The belt that was on it was a stretch belt, and it was stretched out of shape as is usual for its kind. I replaced it with what I'm pretty sure was a #335 or #336 Buna O-Ring. It worked fine, but wouldn't last any longer than the original belt, maybe not as long! So I ordered a cogged V-belt that works perfectly, and should last decades. This is a 9-7/8" circumferance belt, #978. See the resource page if you need one. It turns out that all that needs to be done to replace the belt is to remove the motor - then remove the jackshaft that connects the handwheel to the large pulley by loosening the tiny Allen set screw and pulling it out. Then the large pulley can be "manipulated" such that the belt can be squeezed on, then the whole thing reassembled. BE SURE TO MAKE A WITNESS MARK as shown so the two cogs mesh correctly upon reassembly! Take the opportunity to clean and re-oil the jackshaft while you have it out - and oil the rest of the machine while you're at it.
Lastly, there was a "shoulder screw" missing from the feed dog assembly. Fortunately, there was a second screw which, upon experimentation, fit the needful location. So with a pair of calipers, I was able to measure and order a replacement. Unfortunately, "Standard parts aren't, Interchangeable parts won't.". I had to have a machinist friend machine the underside of the screw's head to extend the shoulder portion about 6 thousandths of an inch (0.006").
It sews a nice stitch, although I found that it may not like all types of fabric - the feed dogs totally shredded some satin I tried, but felt went right through without issue. More experimentation is in order! This machine uses a 24x1 needle, same as the Singer #20, and many other chain stitch machines.
Its hard to find out more information - "Sewmatic" and "Precision" have both been used in reference to sewing machines so much that references to this oddity get lost in the noise. Same with "Burroughs", except pages about Burroughs adding machines are legion, coupled with text that "Burroughs also made sewing machines" with no further details make finding information difficult. The increasing deterioration of search engines in general - true boolean searches just aren't possible anymore, heuristics get in the way - means I can't even find the military references I once could - exactly one seems to be findable instead of several as in the past.
OTOH, there doesn't seem to be much information about Flint Tool & Mfg Co at all. I found one reference that claimed the company existed from 1930 til 1959, but of course have no way to verify. Erie Products Co comes up pretty dry as well, there is an "Erie Products Company" that obviously has no relationship, but that seems to be about it.
A reader came forward with a patent for this machine, US patent "US 2688944 A" - dating from September 1954. More info, including some really cool engineering drawings, can be found at this off site link.