Sep 27, 2011

What I Have Learned About Cam Stacks

Q: How is sewing like playing piano?

A: It's something I want to be able to do it, but don't I want to learn how to do it.

A couple of years ago, I lucked into a sewing machine. I met a couple that were cleaning out her Mother's house after she had passed away, and one of the things they were selling was her sewing stuff. Through that connection, I scored an older Viking-Husqvarna 6430 sewing machine, a nice cabinet/table and all the miscellaneous stuff that she had amassed from a life-time of sewing. All for about $100 as I recall. Bobbins, seam rippers, measuring tapes, buttons, extra machine needles, chalk... it's all there. El Dorado!

This Fall I finally got around to signing myself up for a sewing class to actually learn what to do with my magnificent acquisition. I have an endless stream of pants that need hemming (thanks to my genetics and early taste for coffee, I guess), and I want to be able to make simple alterations like taking in seats and such.

Always eager to stress myself out and over-prepare, I dusted off my machine last week in anticipation of the start of my community ed class and spent some quality time with the manual, teaching (or re-teaching) myself threading, bobbin winding, stitch selection, stitch length, etc.

Great success! I Know My Machine! Hurray! I get it!

Unfortunately, every battle has its collateral damage; during my self-directed crash course, I managed to crack my "cam stack". Here's how you, to0, crack your very own cam stack:

  • let your machine sits idle for years, 
  • then one day, decide to turn it on and use it for awhile. 
  • By then the grease will have set up or evaporated, the plastic parts (which are already brittle from being old) will get stressed and...
Presto! In no time at all, you have just cracked your can stack. Easy as pie!

I am apparently a text-book schmuck for making this mistake. If you have an old machine, get it service and lubed BEFORE you start putzing around with it.

The dreaded cracked cam stack is apparently a common problem with old sewing machines (at least the Vikings) and it can be fatal. Once this happens, the zig-zag doesn't work, which puts a hitch in things like hemming pants. Of course, this model is no longer supported, there are some after-market parts but they get bad reviews and it's difficult to replace this piece if you can find a part. Other than that, I am on Easy Street right now.

Frustrating. The old machine seems so much better made than any of the new machines I have looked at, but the repair (if it can done) will probably double the cost of the machine. Still, at the initial cost, it's probably worth putting some money into the machine to try and salvage it. Plus, I like the machine; I feel I've put enough into understanding it that I want to see this through and stick with it.

In the meantime, it sews really, really well in a straight stitch; just no zig-zag. I'll get myself through my class with this machine for sure and I am confident that I can sleuth out a solution to the cracked cam stack in the coming weeks, or at worst, the coming months.

Still, it's annoying as hell to have this break just when I am fixing to use it, but I suppose nothing ever breaks just sitting there, either.



  1. I also bought a 6430 - new - in 1973. I was a professional seamstress then also, and was destroying other machines in 8 - 12 months. The 6430 didn't break down for 13 years - and the company loaned me another machine to use while they fixed mine ( sewing was my profession! ). The problem was the 'life-time oiling mechanisium ' - I had worn it out in 13 years. They replaced it - returned it to me - and I have been a fan of Viking Husqvarna ever since.
    I was wondering if your realized there was a small round 'knob-wheel' underneath the hand wheel on the right hand side of the machine? Pull this knob out and it puts the machine into a low-speed high-torque gear - it will literally (with the right needle) walk through layers of leather or denim. Thought you'd like to know : )

  2. There is a yahoo group for owners of the 6000 series. In the groups files, there is a list of people who can still repair these. May be worth a try.

  3. I had a Viking 5730 and cracked the camstack by forgetting I had a cam in place when I folded up my machine to close the cabinet. :( I was heartbroken as I had never had a machine I loved so much. I thought it was too expensive to repair so I bought a new Viking and I have never enjoyed it, or felt it was half the joy to sew with, so if I were you, I would have this one repaired and look forward to years of happy, easy sewing. I am now looking for a 6000 series machine to replace the one I threw out! Wht a mistake, as I have even found people on ebay who repair them, let alone people in the sewing machine repair business in my town! The gear is sooo helpful. Good luck!