Why not write about it?

I stuck a wiki and a journal together because I'm complicated like that. The journal is for passing thoughts and observations, the wiki is for more sketched out ideas.

Sometimes you'll see a link to a wiki page that hasn't been written yet. Don't worry, it will be at some point.


Having a treadle sewing machine, I was not content to have a motor-driven serger and so I set about converting it. A serger is a specialized sewing machine that creates an overlock stitch that finishes a fabric's edge (the stitch keeps the fabric from fraying but can also be used decoratively). It also trims the fabric at the same time using two blades. Pretty neat, I didn't even know they existed until a couple of years ago. A treadle is a way of powering something with your feet, mechanically. Basically it transforms the rocking motion of your feet into rotational motion, while adding the mass of a flywheel to make it easier to maintain the motion.

I bought a three-thread serger second-hand for pretty cheap (sergers come in models that use from two to five threads). It didn't come with a manual so I had to track one down. I visually identified it as a Simplicity SL803?, rebranded (which was a pain to do). Anyway, half of it was this hideous brown color so I painted it blue and put a crazy star on it:

Sergers are more complex internally than most sewing machines, there are all sorts of cams and gears and linkages in there (everything was covered in lint when I got it, cleaning these things periodically is a must). Thus it takes a bit more energy to run a serger.

This is the treadle base that went with a Singer Model 115 circa 1917, which I will be restoring and converting to a hand-crank. I got the whole thing for $10. These bases are cast iron and will last forever with the proper care. I cleaned, greased, and adjusted the treadle so that it ran smoothly (See Treadle base adjustment).

Here's the serger with its motor in place. It's just belt driven. The idea is to use the existing drive wheel with the treadle base. Simple.

Here it is with the motor removed and the wires to the internal light snipped. I couldn't leave the motor in place because its associated mount and power plug would get in the way of the treadle belt.

This is the original baseplate (note the hideous brown color). The metal flashing was used to protect the wiring, it was just stuck in there with adhesive. I needed to modify the base so that the treadle belt could pass through it, which meant cutting out the right side.

Here's the modified baseplate. I used a scroll saw to cut out the section. The plastic will melt around the cut if you run it at too high a speed or feed too slowly.

I made a tabletop with a cutout so that the belt could pass through. I'm not using a traditional leather belt, I'm using my vegan alternative. Once everything was in place it was a simple matter of just slipping the belt on!

That's it! Pretty simple and it runs great. It's not even much harder to treadle it than a sewing machine. It's easy to slip off the drive belt and remove the serger, which is not attached to the table in any way. I was also able to install the drawers from the original cabinet on one side of the tabletop.

There are two runners under the feet of the treadle, those simply raise the treadle up off the floor a bit so the foot pedal doesn't hit the carpet. Back when this machine was built, carpet wasn't usually thick enough for that to be an issue!

See also: Treadle homepage - Kenmore Conversion - Serger Conversion - Treadle Base Adjustment - Vegan Belt - DIY

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Page last modified on September 18, 2005, at 05:26 PM
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