Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Union Special 39200AE... Sussed !!!

Since i bought my Union Special 39200AE Sewing Machine, ive been on the hunt everything about it. I have managed to find the instructions, which have some amazing hand sketches of every single component.

But what i really wanted to know is how to thread the thing... There seems to be nothing on the Internet about it, just a few others asking the same question... So i have made it my mission to work it out, and post it up online... There have been two clues, which have aided me. To my delight, 2 images from other sellers selling the same machine have come my way - The image on the right im confirming is not correct - but the one on the left is bang on….

I have made things easy - each cone / thread is a different colour, and i have taken picture at each process - and numbered each step.. The Middle 2nd thread is a right pain to thread, esp as its goes inside the machine. I took me a while to figure it out - If the below images are too small, download a nice handy PDF here:


Enjoy ! You are using a Union Special Machine that was made in 1920 !

Friday, 20 May 2011

Union Special 43200G and 39200AE - & old amazing sewing machines from yesteryear

With any kind of industrial process, machines come and go and get replaced with time. The Denim Production process has quite an interesting history, as for the last 30 years not only have the way we produce denim been modernised, from lovely Shuttle looms to modern counterparts, but also the way we make jeans from older sewing machines and the transition to modern industrials sewing machines.

There are so many little touches which have been lost when we modernise. When i look at old vintage denim styles, one thing for me stands out, Wow that stitch is amazing ! Researching and learning which machines created the styles has become just as important for me as the fabric its made on. You got to understand the past to move forward. Its one thing to use to get Antique looking denim, made on old drapers looms, but a whole other thing using vintage machines to make them… I have been slowly buying up / and finding out what machines I need for my studio, and nothing seems to get me excited like a "Union Special" Sewing machines… Simple things like button holes, bar tacks, overlocking stitches, roping effects /skewing or buckering on hems of jeans, irregular tiny stitches are all super amazing and fresh today. Most Brands Like LVC / John Bull / Kapital and 45rpm are only using these types of machines to make there collections on, its easy to see why.

This old Levi's denim pant, notice the small tight "SPI" stitches per inch...

Picture (C) Michael Allen Harris

modern denim is nothing like this...

Modern industrial sewing machines fall flat when it comes to these small details… These older machines were to slow and labor intensive operate, but produced very unique characteristics in the way the denim was produced, which cannot be fully replicated now. There are a number of amazing vintage sewing machines, but I just want to touch on two…

1st is the Union Special 43200G.

Picture credit: Victor & Sarah @ Raleigh Denim (beautiful set up guys !)

Picture credit www.dc4.de

This is particular model was used for chainstitch construction. These vintage machines are still some of the strongest machines out there and highly sought after worldwide. This particular model can go from anything from 5000GBP to 10,000GBP, only because of its unique pushing and pulling style of sewing, it is indispensable. This "push" and "pull" creates directional pressure and is used to sew areas along the waistband, hem, and other parts of the denim. Along the hem, the directional pressure will create a roping effect, and it is this "roping" makes the machine so special.

My friend Rudy who owns one of the best denim shops "Son of Stag" in Brick lane, London with his UNION SPECIAL 43200G

Top Image: push and pull "Roping" effect made on a Union Special 43200G vs regular chain stitch under.
There are 3 or generations of types of 43200G

Below is a video of Roy Slaper of "ROY"- Denim Nut, who is amazing on another level ! Roy is making all his denim the old way, and he has slowly got all the old vintage machines.. its super inspiring looking at what he is doing and achieving to such an amazing level... just notice how many machines he is using, esp look as he is using a Union Special 43200G at 02:05...

2nd Machine i want to touch on is the Union Special 39200AE
picture credit: Balwin Denim ( This machine ive just acquired).

This Particular Union Special is from 1930, and is a 3 cone over locker. Im Super excited to have a Union Special, even if its the smaller brother to the 43200G. ( update ! As of July 2011, ive just acquired 43200G! )
Above are two videos of 43200G in action

Above is a video of Mike Hodis of Rising Sun, another amazing person, keeping it super real.
Below is a video about Raleigh Denim, they are also a new breed of denim designers, who are making there denim the old fashioned way... Look out for Living Legend, and friend RALPH THARPE, I was lucky to work with him in 2005.
Below is a Video Of Denim works Japan, and there 43200G