My mum’s got an old electric Singer sewing machine which is about 40 odd years old. Singer sewing machines are well supported generally and parts are readily available, but I find it’s sometimes fun to try and find the cheapest way to fix something myself.
The foot pedal on this machine went pop and smelled horrible after. The machine then stopped working, oh dear.
The pedal is of high quality construction and easily better than any generic replacement on the market, so it was definately worth saving.
Opening up the pedal was just a few screws, which then exposed the whole mechanism. The mains resistor was in tact and seemed to test with resistance. A good start. The contacts were in good condition as was the rest of all the components, except for the mains input capacitor, which has spectactularly failed and split open, a common problem on older mains capacitors.
Repair kits are readily available for about £5, but that seemed expensive to me! Using the existing capacitor as a guide, I found a suitable component on eBay for £2.09 delivered. That’s more like it.
The capacitor I used was: Film Capacitor, 0.1 µF, 250 V, PET (Polyester), ± 5%, R60 Series (from eBay).
Here’s a little slide show that I hope will help others fix their pedal, should it fail.
With the old capacitor cut out and the new one soldered in, the pedal was ready to run again. Sorted.
Cost of a replacement: £15-30 for a generic part. Cost of repair, £2.09, 1 cup of tea.
On the back of a previous article about a repair I did on the rather wonderful Elna SP sewing machine, a reader got in touch. She was a genuine sewing aficionado and had several top of the range current machines, but she used the trusty Elna SP for many smaller jobs, where the other machines didn’t quite cut it.
All Elna SP machines are getting on a bit and parts are either re-manufactured, scarce or secondhand, if you can find them. Having said all that, a well-maintained Elna will run for many years and last much longer than new metal on sale now.
The foot pedal on this machine had gone pop, bang, finito. It smelled terminal.
Knowing that parts for this machine are rarer than hens teeth and I do like a challenge, I took on the job. I’m based in Worthing, West Sussex and the machine was located in Scotland, so after a short wait, the knackered pedal arrived in the post.
The pedal is held together with four small self-tapping screws and came apart easily. The reason for failure was two-fold. The copper leaf contacts had arced excessively and caused major pitting in the contact strip (see slide show) and the probably ensuing resistance had caused the main resistor to overheat, causing the winding to fail.
The contact surfaces were easy-ish to fix, or rather breathe new life into as all they needed was cleaning and re-shaping. The resistor was a bit trickier to mend. Getting hold of a replacement was going to be near impossible, so the only thing to do was to try and repair it. Without that particular style of resistor, of that value, it wouldn’t work again. Luckily, there was some excess resistance wire on the thing and I managed to twist it in to the broken section. Soldering was not an option, since the wire was an alloy that wouldn’t take to solder and in any case, these things get hot in normal service. I twisted both ends of the break to form a new section, while maintaining the same length of windings on the resistor, essential if I was to match or get close to the original specification. Difficult. Luckily, after a few goes, I managed it and the applied a little heat-conducting (and therefore dissipating) paste to the join.
With the pedal reassembled, I was only able to test it with my meter, since the sewing machine was far too heavy to post. The pedal tested as a closed circuit (OK), which was a result. I then had to wait for the pedal to be collected, taken back to Scotland and tested. Fortunately, my fix worked and the machine sprang in to life, without a hitch or missed stitch.
Now, a word of caution with this one. This is NOT the best way of mending something like this and all I’ve probably done is prolong it’s life a little longer. There are generic sewing machine pedals that would work with this machine and will be fine, when this one fails in future, but that’s not the point. The main thing is that something that was broken is now working and even if it’s not the best fix, at least it will run for a bit longer. Happy days.
Cost of replacement: (generic part) £15-30. Cost of repair, my time, a bit of solder and several cups of tea.
On first impressions, this machine didn’t have a lot going for it. It had been stored in a garden shed, never the best place to store a sewing machine, it was dirty, neglected and broken. However, the weight of it indicated that this was a quality item and worth investigating.
This machine comes from a different time in manufacturing where the focus was on quality rather than on price-point in the market and as a result, it’s made to outlive most people. In fact, many electric sewing machines made by Elna, Singer, Toyota, Janome, Brother and so on, built until the 1980s, are items of sheer mechanical excellence inside and should be cherished. Anyway, on with the problem and repair.
The owner had stashed the machine away many years ago and as a result, it had seized. Details of the fault were scant, I was just told that it didn’t work! Upon powering it up and operating the foot pedal, the hand wheel turned slightly before making a horrible mains AC hum. It was time to un-plug, rapidly.
There are exposed oiling points on the Elna SP, a nice maintenance touch, but clearly these hadn’t been used in many a year. Opening up the machine’s lid on top of the motor and bobbin transmission cover below revealed a lot of dirt and neglect which I first cleaned and then oiled lightly with special oil, in to all the moving parts. Automotive brake cleaner was used to remove old dirt and grease from the needle area and gears. New grease was then applied to the parts that needed it and more oil to other ‘metal on metal’ parts. The trick here is to not apply so much oil that it ends up on the fabric being stitched.
Once the machine was running smoothly again, I noticed that the bobbin shuttle wasn’t turning, not even a little bit. Not ideal. Time to delve a little deeper and on this machine, it meant complete disassembly of the bobbin shuttle assembly, which then revealed a stripped worm-drive hook gear (part 403030). This seems to be a fairly common issue on these machines as they get older.
Obtaining a new hook gear was quite easy via eBay; BSK (Bedford Sewing Knitting Machines) supplied the part for a reasonable £15.99 including P&P within 24 hours. Once fitted, it was a case of fine-tuning the bobbin/ hook timing to suit the needle. It’s a similar principle to valve and ignition timing on a petrol engine car, a process that will be familiar to anyone who’s ever done any spannering on an old Mini or Escort for example.
With the timing complete, a few tests using old material revealed that the machine was working once again with no missed stitches. I gave the machine a final polish with car wax before handing it back to the owner for my own satisfaction.
Thanks also to More Sewing in Worthing, West Sussex for their advice on machine oil. www.moresewing.co.uk.
Cost of a new machine (of this quality): £500 plus. Cost of repair: £15.99, plus time, plus a little oil and patience.