I found the machine listed on Kijii (Canadian Craigslist) and found it set up on a table in a random backyard. Not sure what the story was but this machine was about as dirty as a machine could be. Like it had been buried alive years ago down a mineshaft of lint and black oil.
Folks who don't know any better often use any old oil on machines, not the fine clear proper sewing machine oil, and it gums up and thickens up and gathers fabric lint and turns it to concrete.
However I figured, well why not, I paid $50 for it and the light did turn on.
Since then the little girls have been attacking it with Q tips for me and I have been working with a degreaser (if you are in the US and can order it the best stuff is called Bluecreeper).
Yesterday with my first day off from family obligations in a while I had a to-do list as long as your arm and a pile of UFO's about that high too.
So of course I took the Rocketeer out to the picnic table in my own backyard and finished cleaning her off instead.
This machine was made in St. Jean Quebec (that makes it a 500J) in a time that the factory was a real going concern:
Hard to believe now that the manufacture of sewing machines was once a huge industrial endeavour.
The Rocketeer was of the last generation of sewing machines Singer produced before it started to introduce cheaper plastic parts. It is all metal and gear driven (no belts) and meant to look new age and spacey like a rocket.
The decorative and utility stitches are made by bumpy cams that are read by little arms called followers that trace the cam shape to move the needle.
An old sewing machine guy once told me that cam stitches are the most regular and beautiful of all speciality stitches.
I find the way this works fascinating.
We all spend all our lives now using devices about which we have no knowledge of operations. We have passed all that over to mysterious strangers.
We depend on things we can never understand.
That's a new gap or gulf in our lives we never think about.
Some folks had trouble with that divide.
I remember my late father-in-law used to call my husband with software problems with this computer (like he couldn't get email to work).
"I have my screw driver right here," he would say. "Now what do I do?"
It seemed to me as I happily worked cleaning and oiling the Rocketeer, and applying grease to the gears, that sewing people still occupy that divided place in modern society and that we thrive there.
Think of all the people who dress everyday in clothes made by people they will never meet with methods they have no knowledge of.
The Rocketeer it seems to me is a point of connection to some part of me that really is and to some part of sewing that really matters.
So here are is a video of the Rocketeer rocketing along and with the cams in operation: