Thursday, May 9, 2013

Requiem for a faithful serger - or new life?

I finally wore out a machine. My serger has been misbehaving for about 6 months (or more, I haven't really been counting. Just wishing it would stop acting this way.) It would simply decide to stop running,
while I paused to adjust the fabric going under the foot - I'd step on the pedal to start again, and...nothing. I'd slap the doors for the inside compartments to make sure they were closed tight and the electronic override wasn't overriding, and it would start again. Then it got worse, and I'd have to turn the hand wheel to make it start. Ruh roh.

A few weeks ago it began to slow down while stitching, which was the beginning of the end. I called my resident fix-it guy in to listen to it going RRRrrr, RRRrrr, R...r....R....r and he told me to STOP RIGHT NOW! Apparently I was burning up the motor brushes, with sparks appearing through the vent holes and everything. What? The machine is a mere 23 years old, has been a solid workhorse forever, and we understand each other. Well, I guess I truly don't understand how the needle can occasionally unthread without the thread breaking...but that's a digression we don't need to pursue right now.

So this was a great excuse for my dh machine technician to pull the thing apart to see what makes it tick - or not. So sad to see my first really good machine purchase end up in pieces on the workbench (which, as each of our 3 children knows, is the place broken toys end up and from where they only occasionally return!)

In the land of broken toys -
The brushes (which aren't brushes at all, rather elongated cubes of carbon at the end of springs) are indeed nearly totally worn out - they're supposed to be about 3/8" long, and mine are down to nubs like well-used pencil leads. Fine. An internet search turned up no sources for Bernette motor parts, but a somewhat sketchy Ebay seller in China that would send us 4 new generic ones for $8.00, with free shipping. Hopefully they'll fit the machine. I only need 2, but the man says "we'll find some motor that can use the others." (And he blames me for the excess everything in this house?)

To our great surprise, a little box from China was in the mail less than a week after the order was placed. Here's a photo of the new brushes compared with the old ones - amazing! 
They don't look exactly the same - but he was still hopeful.

In the meantime, I couldn't operate without a serger. I'd recently done some investigating for a possible replacement, so I must have known the need would soon be urgent. The Saturday I had to stop using the Bernette, I ordered my new Juki MO644D, and it arrived on Thursday - talk about fast! I started using it immediately - after all, those chiffon prom gowns needed to be roll-hemmed. I like the new machine, with one caveat. The Bernette has all the control knobs but one on the right side, without having to open any of the doors - I could adjust stitch length and differential feed from the outside, and flick the switch to roll hem too, only having to open the door to adjust the knife for cutting width. The Juki hides both the knife adjustment and the stitch length knob inside the left door. I knew this when I bought the machine, but for the price decided I could live with it. It truly is an inconvenience, though, because of the way the counter is set up in my studio. I have a lowered shelf to hold the serger or coverstitch machines, and the left side of the machine butts up against the counter to support the garment/fabric as I sew. To open that door fully to adjust the stitch length, I have to lift the machine up onto the counter. Ah well, it does do a nice stitch, and I'm so happy to have a fast serger again!

So, did my miracle-worker/machine-tech-dh resurrect the old serger? As of yesterday, it's reassembled. After running it non-stop for a while the motor, which ran roughly at first, hums along now. I haven't threaded it to test the stitching, but we feel pretty confident that I'll soon be able to add it back into my machine arsenal. Tune in next time for an update! Nothing wrong with having one serger threaded and set for seam finishing and the other for roll-hemming, is there?


  1. Well, as Inconvenient as the down time was, I think you'll LOVE having the different machines set up at the same time to do different tasks. Congratulations on the new machine and on having an in-house fix-it guy who could save your old friend!

    1. I know you're right, Mary! It's something I should have done long ago. And the Juki cost about 1/3 what I paid for the Bernette 22 years ago!