Cooler than its modern counterpart - and more practical.

We now officially have more sewing machines in our house than people who live here. Yours truly is personally in charge of the care and feeding of said machines - mostly oiling, but also adjusting.

I don’t mind the oiling, but I do mind the “cans” (plastic bottles) of sewing machine oil. The spouts are all too short to reach the oiling holes through the openings in the housings.

To make the task easier, I ordered an old brass oil can from eBay. It had a nice, long spout like I wanted though it did look rather scruffy.

Scruffy oil can
Scruffy oil can 1
Scruffy oil can 2

Besides scruffy, it was also filthy.

There’s a lot of folks who look at that kind of thing and think “Ooh! Patina! Beautiful.” As a person who intends to actually use the thing, my thought was “Ooh! Icky! Somebody didn’t spend much time keeping the tools clean.”

First things first: It’s got to be clean enough to handle before it gets close to our sewing machines.

Clean up
Clean up 1
Clean up 2

I took it apart, then soaked the metal pieces in alcohol to soften the caked on oil. After that, I chucked a steel brush in the drill. With the drill clamped in a vise, I carefully brushed off the crud.

You may have noticed that the oil can was missing its cap. I cut a small piece of brass rod then drilled and tapped it for an M3 thread.

Making the cap
Making the cap 1
Making the cap 2

The cap threads on the spout were pretty much worn off. I used a steel M3 nut as a die and made new threads on the spout.

After a little work with the disk sander on the cap and a few minutes with the buffing wheel it looked like this:


Clean, shiny - but it still has some character. Dents, dings, bent spout - and I didn’t try to get rid of all the brown oxidation on the brass.

The original gasket for the spout seems to be held together only by polymerized oil - time to make a new one.

I made some measurements, then got out some leather scraps and my old drafting set.

Making a leather gasket
Making a leather gasket 1
Making a leather gasket 2
Making a leather gasket 3
Making a leather gasket 4

I marked out the circles using a compass. While I was at it I also made some “coasters” to put under the thread spools on my Adler sewing machine. The spools sit directly on the japanned and shellaced surface - I don’t want the spools to wear through the finish.

I cut the pieces roughly to shape using a pair of scissors then took them out in the garage to the disk sander to make them really round.

You can drill leather. The 5 millimeter holes for the spool coasters were no problem. If you need to drill a larger hole, I’d suggest drilling a 5 millimeter hole then enlargening it by steps with successively larger bits. That’s how I did the 10 millimeter hole in the gasket - drilled to 5 millimeters with the drill, then drilled out by hand to 9.5 millimeters to fit the neck of the oil can spout.

I didn’t have any thinner leather - the gasket only needs to be about 1 millimeter thick but all my scraps are 2.5 to 3 millimeters thick. I sanded the gasket down on the 40 grit sandpaper in the belt sander - by hand. Just rub it back and forth. I tried it once with the sander running, then spent ten minutes searching the garage to find where the belt sander had flung the gasket.

I filled the can with oil, then tried it out on the Adler sewing machine. The long spout lets me reach places the stubby spout on the modern oil bottle can’t reach.

All done
All done

You can see how much longer the spout is than the one on the plastic bottle. You really need that long spout when oiling a sewing machine - and it looks so much cooler than the plastic bottle.

Yeah, I could have ordered a brand new oiler from Amazon. There are some really nice industrial oilers that don’t cost much. My little brass oil can does the trick, though, and it goes much better with my 1925 Adler class 8 sewing machine and my wife’s Pfaff 262 from 1965.