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 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.