Thursday, July 25, 2019

Millie's DIY Spa Staycation With Bernie, My Reluctant Sewing Machine Technician

It is amazing how quickly a man who is not interested in taking apart your sewing machine changes his tune upon learning how EXPENSIVE it is to ship the darned thing back to the factory to have it worked on by someone else.  Meet my newly cooperative sewing machine technician:

He's Not Just a Cutie; He's HANDY!!
My husband Bernie can take just about anything apart and put it back together again to get it working: lawn mowers, ovens, cars, air conditioning units, computers, commercial espresso machines...  We were all scheduled to send Thoroughly Modern Millie (my 2013 APQS Millennium longarm quilting machine) back to the Iowa factory for "Spa Servicing" -- but I had a change of heart.  The folks at APQS say that a spa visit (factory refurbishing, essentially) isn't necessary until a machine has seen 9-10 years of heavy, daily use in a business setting.  Although my machine was used as a rental in an APQS dealer's shop before I adopted her in 2017, that's only 3 years of heavy business use and I've only quilted a few quilts in the two years I've had her.  SO...  There's really no way she needs to have all of her guts swapped out for new parts yet.

So last week we got out the manual, turned to the back with the Maintenance and Troubleshooting appendices are located, got on the APQS forum to see what has worked for others facing similar issues, and Bernie took the covers off my machine and got busy with his tools!  Here's what all we did:

  • Wiped down the rails, cleaned the wheels, removed the needle plate cover, and cleaned the hook assembly area
  • Checked the hook for burrs, found a burr that could be classified as a gouge, and filed it smooth with emery cord
  • Checked the thread guides and needle plate for nicks, burrs or grooves (did not find any)
  • Gave the hook a WD-40 "bath" and re-oiled it
  • Checked the encoder wheel and adjusted it to the tightest position
  • Checked the motor brushes and blew out the carbon dust from the motor
  • Checked that the wicks were touching moving parts inside the machine head and adjusted the one that wasn't touching anything
  • Adjusted the needle positioner
  • Adjusted the hopping foot height (and finally got the foot level this time)
  • Checked and adjusted the mag collar sensor
  • Removed, disassembled, and reassembled the tensioner device
Basically, we did our own Spa Visit at home.  As expected for a machine that's only a few years old, my Millennium did NOT need all of her wear and tear parts replaced.  Thread guides were fine, motor brushes were fine (previous owner may have already replaced them because they are nearly brand new), and I didn't find any grooves or issues with any of the thread guides.  Angie at APQS Tech Support helped us over the phone and emailed PDF instructions with very clear photos that were a huge help.

The biggest issues we found were:

  • The encoder wheel needing adjusting to snug back up to the carriage again, because the little rubber wheel was worn enough that it wasn't always in contact with the carriage when the machine was moving.  That can cause irregularities in stitch length in regulated mode.  
  • The gouge in the hook.  I don't think I've ever broken a needle on this machine since it's belonged to me, but SOMEONE did!  Perhaps it happened when someone was renting the machine before I purchased it.  The APQS manual says that, if you break a needle, you definitely have a burr SOMEWHERE that you should find and file away before continuing quilting, but I can imagine if the needle broke during someone's rental session why they would want to keep quilting if they weren't experiencing any problems with thread breaking or anything.
  • The hopping foot not being perfectly level, which can contribute to some of the directional tension needle flex issues I've been having
  • Last but not least, my tension assembly was not working correctly before and it is SO MUCH better now!  Something was jammed in too far and pinching the takeup spring before, so that no matter how much I loosened the tension dial on my machine, the upper tension did not loosen at all.  Even when I loosened the tension dial to the point that the discs weren't even touching, I still felt a heavy drag on my thread when I pulled it through the eye of the needle and my stitch samples still looked like my upper tension was too tight.  I thought I was going crazy that I couldn't get good stitches for any other thread but Glide, but my tension assembly was stuck at the right tension for Glide and it was like it wasn't adjustable at all.
After doing all of that, I played with So Fine thread and made sure I could get a pretty, balanced stitch with that, and then I threaded up the machine with some King Tut variegated cotton thread.  I am a MUCH happier camper now as far as tension is concerned!

APQS Tension Assembly

We did place a parts order for Millie.  She's getting a new encoder wheel -- encoder wheels are kind of like the hooks on your bra band.  They should fit snug on the loosest setting when you first get them so that as they stretch out (bras) or wear down (encoder wheels), you have a couple of adjustments you can make to get them snug again before you need to replace them.  Angie from APQS also suggested flipping my carriage wheels (rather than replacing them just yet) -- that's like rotating the tires on your car.  We'll do that when we change out the encoder wheel.  But I also ordered a few other goodies that I'm excited about:

Texas Hold'Em Bracket: A Place Holder for the Quilt Top Roller, So the Hand Brake Still Functions

"Smart" L Hook and Bobbin Case Top, Larger M Hook and Bobbin Case Bottom
M Bobbins and Prewounds on Left, L Bobbins and Prewounds on Right
My parts should be here by end of day tomorrow, but we won't get a chance to do anything with them until Sunday after church.  My kids are in a production of The Sound of Music at our church with performances Friday evening and Saturday afternoon, and one of my sisters is in town this weekend, too.  But I'm looking forward to getting reacquainted with my newly-rejuvenated longarm machine next week!


Karen - Quilts...etc. said...

I just love a husband that can fix things - sometimes I hear stories from one of my SIL that have to hire someone to fix anything in the house because this particular brother of mine is totally inept at anything but computers and I'm so glad that my husband seems to be able to fix anything except the A/C - that's not bad. I bet Bernie is great guy to have around!

Gretchen Weaver said...

That is so great your husband is mechanically inclined and worked on your machine for you. My husband wouldn't even have touched it! You make beautiful quilts and they're going to be even better now! Happy stitching!

Lakegaldonna said...

Wow, Bernie did a great job!
I'll bet having those larger capacity bobbins just make you smile. Thanks for sharing all those little thing with all of us.

Fred and/or Marlies said...

I think the genetic stream skipped over me and handed a full load from my mother to our son. Bernie's grandmother was extremely found of her father's ability to do anything and she herself was not afraid to tackle whatever came along. So to her dying days she spoke of her father as the man who could do anything. He was a tool maker by trade. Somehow the putting together again strain skipped me as I'm VERY good as taking things apart but putting them back again is another matter. Bernie has always been handy with mechanical things that I would never even touch. You have a gem there Rebecca.

Rebecca said...

I can not believe how much I enjoyed reading your post just now. It was so enabling and I do not even have a long-arm!
My hubby is a fixer also all though a lot of the new electronic stuff is so self contained that can not happen. It takes a little longer to get him started on a project now but once I find the start button 9 out of 10 times its a done deal.
It is also good to hear how great the help is from APQS even though you did not buy your machine direct from them.

SJSM said...

Isn’t it great to know it wasn’t all in your head? Bernie is a keeper. In our home hubby does the computer interface items and I do the mechanical. If I can’t do it, we find a handyman. In my realm that means the sprinkler system, cleaning machines to get gunk out or replace parts and general repair work around the house. If the job demands more muscle than I have we hire someone. After a few plumbing disasters I have a handyman come in unless it’s a simple job such as a drip.

I’m glad you are up and running again and soon to be racing.

WAZOO! Quilting said...

Gosh, we have done all those things on our Gammill, so I think I will give it a whirl on my Millie. I'm the one with the reluctant Millie whose carriage moves stiffly. It sounds like your husband is as handy as mine, and I don't know how I would trouble shoot three machines without his help! Thanks for the run down on your spa day. I think my Miss Millie will be pampered this weekend.

MissPat said...

Three cheers for mechanically incline husbands (mine is not). You'll need to bake his favorite pie/cake whatever.

LA Paylor said...

that was fascinating. I don't even have one o those but still very interesting. I'm impressed! And now it's gonna work better. LeeAnna

Chopin - A Passionate Quilter said...

Rebecca - do you still want those rulers? Nanette -

Chopin - A Passionate Quilter said...

I have a hubby just like yours and he has remade and corrected all the problems that I have had with my HQ16! Added LED lights, remade the frame, and found out that the ribbon connections to the stitch regulator was not connecting correctly! We are blessed!