Saturday, July 16, 2011

Get That Silver Shiny!

Today we'll cover cleaning up the shiny, silver parts of your machine. I've had very good results using Maas Metal Polish, which kind of smells like lavender. It's the first metal polish I tried, so I can't say if it's better than any others; if there's an alternate product you recommend, please let us know in the comments.

Here's a 201-2 with a not-so-nice stop motion wheel. That's the knurled silver dial unsexily referred to in the Adjuster's Manual as the "clamp screw."

Now let's get down to work.

Before we remove it we'll take out the "stop screw," which you'll also hear referred to as a set screw, though the first description is more accurate. You can see why I like using the Brownells bits, here I'm using one as a mini-screwdriver.

When removing the stop motion wheel you normally just loosen the stop screw as opposed to removing it all the way, but I take it out completely here because it will get in the way of our polishing. Put it someplace safe, you don't want to lose this one.

I loosen the stop motion wheel with just two fingers, but I'll quickly change my grip. See all of the paint chips denoted by the red arrows?

Those paint chips happen when people remove the stop motion wheel and it suddenly falls out, and the knurled edges chip the paint. I know this because it happened to me on my second 15-91 (though I'm not responsible for doing the damage you see on this 201, I learned my lesson).

That's why as soon as the wheel is unscrewed a bit, I grab it with all four fingers and unscrew it the rest of the way, carefully letting it fall into my fingers. It's awkward and slower using all four fingers but safer for the machine.

I also remove the stop motion clamp washer. We don't need to do anything to it, but it's gonna fall out anyway, so might as well. I remove it by grabbing one of the little protrusions. You'll find this tricky to do if you've just cut your nails.

Here's a close-up of the stop motion wheel so you can see the lousy shape it's in. I've seen far worse, but this one is beginning to rust and there's copious scratches.

I've not found a product that will remove the scratches and gouges, but the Maas will get the rust and dirt off and make everything nice and shiny.

All you have to do is apply it with a Q-Tip and rub it into the surface.

After just a minute or so of wiping it off, either with a clean Q-Tip or a cotton ball, it looks like this. Scratches are still there, but all the brownish splotches are totally gone.

Here I'll do a needleplate from a different 201. Doesn't look so hot.

Get some polish on the Q-Tip...

...start rubbing it in...

...and buff it off with a cotton ball.

Whatever you use to buff it off will start turning brown or black.

The cotton ball's sacrifice is not in vain. Now we've got a nice, shiny mirror polish. Tricky to photograph but hopefully you can tell.

I should reiterate that it will *not* get the scratches out, but very effectively removes the splotches and light rust. Here's a shot from a different angle so you can see the light catching the scratches. I haven't figured out a way to remove those yet, but if I do, you'll see it here.

Here's a link where you can order the polish:

That's the smallest I could find, the 4 oz. size. You barely need any of it at all, so one tube will probably last you forever. Note that the photo of the tube might look different here than in the photo up top, but that's the exact same link I used to order it.

I've also tried using this stuff on faceplates and inspection plates, the striated kind on 201s and 15-91s, but I haven't found a good tool for wiping out the very thin striations between the larger stripes. A Q-Tip just can't get in there, and if you can't get in there to buff, the polish can't do its job. I'll keep working on that problem and let you know what I come up with.


  1. Rain, I find that Q-tips just can't get into those little cracks & crevices for polishing, so I use soft, thin cotton cloths on 'groovey' areas. And fingernails. Or toothpicks. & patience.

    I start the chrome cleaning with a good soak in OXO, & follow up with silver polish. I've been using Blue Magic (because it's what was recommended, & it's what I have) but it's rather smelly - I love lavender, so I'll check out your stuff, thanks!

    If you want to peek at my blog, I have a couple of posts detailing how I do my vintage cleaning - would love your feedback!

  2. I've had good luck using my dremel tool with the small wire wheel. It gets into those little grooves. Make sure you use eye protection as the little wire wheel "hairs" like to fly out if you run the dremel too fast.

  3. Thanks for the tip. I'm taking a Singer 66 to a TOGA in a few weeks, and I'll need to clean some rust off. Also on some other machines.

  4. I use Simichrome polish. I think that taking out the scratches might take off too much of the chrome; I haven't been brave enough to do it. If I were brave, I'd use lapping paste and a Dremel tool with the buffing wheel.

    I'm really enjoying your blog.

  5. Hi Rain,

    I just found your blog through Peter's MPB blog. I just read every single one of your post. Thank you very much for all the information in such great details! I just bought a featherweight 2 days ago and am gathering information to give it a good clean (although it's in perfect working condition already). I bought it for $100 from someone who inherited from his great grandmother in law. Eventually when space allows, I would love to get a treadle.
    Anyway, thank you so much for sharing the information. Please keep it up.
    Also, if you need some topic ideas, I would love to read about cleaning/fixing/restoring featherweights, as well as restoring decals (I haven't read anything to tell me if that's possible).
    Take care!

  6. I just found out your blog as well and I really like it! I have an old 15 singer, mid '20s, but the platted parts are really rusty. What do you think I should use on those? I'm worried to ruin the enamel painting on the wheel and the remaining chromium....

    1. A rusty handwheel is tough, because you only want to treat the chrome rim and not damage the black enamel, which means soaking it in a solution is out. I'd try the Maas polish on the chrome rim as you've got nothing to lose (except the cost of the Maas). If you really want to be anal, you can use painter's tape to protect the black enamel, though it may be tricky taping on a curve. Use the narrowest tape you can find if you go this route, 1" or less would be easiest.

      As for other parts like the faceplate or inspection plates, I've been able to remove light rust on those using the Maas; but you're saying "really rusty," so it may not work. I'd still recommend trying it on a small spot to see if it makes an improvement. If not you'll have to take more drastic measures, like soaking those parts in Evaporust or a similar product. But beware; once the shine has been completely eaten by rust, it is gone, and the best you can hope for is a smooth but somewhat dull finish.

  7. Where can you find this Maas polish in a hardware store, auto parts?

    1. I'm not sure; I wasn't able to find it here in NYC, checking local hardware stores, and purchased mine from Amazon (hence the link).

      good luck with it,

      - Rain

    2. I thought I found it at a Wal-Mart?! Pretty sure, but it was years ago?

  8. Rain, your photography is really outstanding! Quite amazing, and so helpful when one is trying to learn something new. Thank you for your hard work.

  9. Removing handwheel question:
    Thaks for this great site. I've learned so much. I have aseveral Singers including a 301 and a 201. I'd like to polish the chrome on the handwheels but I can't seem to be able to remove them. Once you take the screw out, do you continue unscrewing the chrome wheel or does it lift out? I don't know how much force to use if it's an unscrewing type job. Thanks for your help.
    New Jersey