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Union Special 39500FW Industrial Overlocker – Transformation Process

My Pfaff 4872 Electronic Serger wasn’t cutting it for me anymore.  I craved durability and power.

The day I decided I wanted an industrial overlocker was the same day I found a lady who was willing to trade her overlocker (plus an extra head) in exchange for my Pfaff.  We both left feeling like we scored!

Let’s be honest though.. the table was in bad shape!  I toyed with the idea of taking it inside my house and using it as it was – but I know me – and I wouldn’t be completely happy unless I fixed it up and made it mine.

So here it goes – the BEFORE and AFTER pictures (my favorite part of course):


I really liked the idea of having a pretty, solid-wood top.

 I machined some pine boards so they were perfectly square, layed them out how I wanted and biscuited them…

 …glued them up for the day…

 …squared off the ends…

 …drew where my opening would be and the small hinged top…

 …and cut along all my lines.  This wasn’t the easiest to do – I used my circular saw as much as I could on the straight parts, which included plunging my blade down on some of the inside cuts.  Other cuts included the bandsaw to clean up some of the lines on the small-hinged top and even my router to square some parts up – it was a huge process but it turned out great in the end.

 I bought a piano hinge and attached it to both top pieces…

…and drilled holes for all the carriage bolts I’d be using (using the old table top as a pattern).

 I used my favorite wood filler…

… to tidy up the two boards I’d be using from the original table.  I sanded everything with 180 grit and prepped the wood for stain.

 This was my first time using these Varathane stains and I can’t tell you how happy I was!  They’re SO much better than Minwax in so many ways.  I was told Minwax wasn’t any good by my Woodshop instructor many years ago and every year I’m more and more surprised how many people use it – I’m ready to throw all mine away!  These stains from Varathane are water-based (easy soap cleanup), very low odor, they dry fast, have beautiful-deep colors, they have great coverage (sits more on top of the wood then penetrating like oil-based) and they were a great price!  I ordered these from and they came just a few days later.  People – get yourself some of these – you’ll be so happy you did!

Ok, moving on 🙂

 I put the ‘Early American’ on first and thought it was too bright so I wiped off the excess after a few minutes and went back over with ‘Briarsmoke’ for an aged look.

I was loving the color!  This was also my first time using Varathane’s Polyurethane so I can’t say much about the “test-of-time” but I really loved how easy it was to apply, that it was low-odor and dried quickly.  It went on milky-white, which I actually prefer because you can see drips and heavy areas that needs to be fixed before it dries.  I did 3 light coats with a quick sanding of a 0000 steel wool pad in between.


 I prepped all the table pieces by removing any foreign material…

…and sanded and wiped clean with mineral spirits.

 I primed/painted all the hardware + table legs.

 I used Rustoleum’s hammered-matte black paint.
I added a new cork pad to the pedal & drawer and made a wooden extension block for the presser foot lift-pedal.


Attaching the table top to the base was one of the best parts, especially with new-shiny carriage bolts!

I ordered a new servo-motor and it came soon after the table was ready – yes!!


 It was my pleasure to fix this old thing up.  A few coats of spray paint and a new cord is all it needed!
 The old wires were soldered down through some holes in the socket so I used my soldering iron to heat up the solder and pull the cords loose to add the new ones.


I thought alot about the machine and how I could make it nicer looking.  There were a ton of moving parts that I wasn’t going to mess with… but I did clean up all the innards as best as I could and the parts that were easily removable got some much needed paint.  Rustoleum’s Hammered Black is always a favorite of mine! 

 This is what the inside of the machine looks like where the oil reserve is – interesting!

 I cleaned up the tension assemblies…

 …and decided the old springs needed to be updated.  I found some (brass?) springs at the hardware store that felt like they had a similar spring to them…

 …and they fit perfectly into the basins of the tension assemblies.

I had to trim the looper springs a few times until they were right.

I figured I’d make threading this baby easier by color-coding each piece according to what thread goes where.

It’s proven to make the delicate threading process easier and straight-forward!

Threading diagram:

 I wasn’t sure when the last time the oil was drained so I took out the drain plug…

 …and was surprised to see all the metal build up on the magnetic plug!

 Look at that amount of metal sludge!

 I refilled the reserve with fresh sewing machine oil…

…until the gauge fell between the 2 lines.

Putting all the last pieces together and using the machine for the first time was so fun!  I love doing stuff like this!

Some more bonus shots because I love transformations (don’t you!?):

– Click HERE to download the manual –
Making one machine happy at a time!  Hope you enjoyed this transformation!

Click here to see a tutorial for making a magnetic trimming-collection bag for an industrial serger.
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  • Reply Dawn Chan

    what a beautiful transformation! can I ask what you would use to remove old lint/oil gunk? I just bought a used serger and it is FILTHY.

    April 28, 2018 at 12:40 pm
  • Reply Dani

    For all-metal machines with no electrical wires mineral spirits and kerosene work wonderfully!

    April 28, 2018 at 12:41 pm
  • Reply Dawn Chan

    Hi Dani,

    thanks for your response. I love your blog and am amazed at everything you do!

    May 5, 2018 at 9:45 pm
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