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Old 29th Apr 2010, 8:58 am   #1
fidobsa
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Default Singer Sewing Machine

I bought this machine a couple of years ago to make new cushion covers for my 1976 camper van project. It was only £10 from a local secondhand shop but it's a nice bit of engineering so I would like to get it working properly. It's a Singer electric one probably dating from the mid '50s, going by the case style (my mother has a late '40s hand driven one which has a nicer polished wood case with arched top). The electrics still work fine but there is a problem with the cotton tension as it keeps breaking the cotton. I will go into more detail if there is anyone here who knows about these things.
I managed to get the covers made up by a customer who is a retired seamstress but I might redo them as they could do with being a tighter fit.
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Old 29th Apr 2010, 9:27 am   #2
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Default Re: Singer Sewing Machine

I had the same problem with my Jones hand-operated effort and I eventually cured it by the simple expedient of threading the needle from the opposite side. I understand, however, that certain brands of synthetic thread are prone to breaking, ie are unsuitable for machine use.

This site has available various Service and Owners manuals for free. You'd have to see if your model is listed and, if so, what info is available for it.
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Old 29th Apr 2010, 9:50 am   #3
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Default Re: Singer Sewing Machine

Is the cotton breaking from the needle or bobbin side of things?
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Old 29th Apr 2010, 11:22 am   #4
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Default Re: Singer Sewing Machine

What is the Singer model?

Have you tried adjusting the thread tension? The bobbin tension doesn't normally need adjustment once set up in the factory, but the needle tension needs adjusting for the thread in use. If it is too tight the thread will break. You should adjust the tension using a piece of rag so that the stitches are locking in the middle of the material rather than on the top or bottom.

What thread are you using? Some market stall polyester thread is very poor quality and will break if used in a machine, and old cotton thread can lose a lot of strength and break easily.

As Darren says, you need to make sure that you are threading the needle from the correct side or the thread will break immediately.

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Old 29th Apr 2010, 12:24 pm   #5
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Default Re: Singer Sewing Machine

You also need to be using the correct size of needle. This is especially important with heavy or uneven material (corduroy for example).
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Old 29th Apr 2010, 12:44 pm   #6
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Default Re: Singer Sewing Machine

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Originally Posted by Darren-UK View Post

This site has available various Service and Owners manuals for free. You'd have to see if your model is listed and, if so, what info is available for it.
Thanks Darren, it's a 15K80. I downloaded what they had but it's just a parts list rather than a manual. I will have to have another go to see what it my machine is doing as it is some time since I tried it. It did come with the instruction book but I seem to have lost that.
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Old 29th Apr 2010, 1:01 pm   #7
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Default Re: Singer Sewing Machine

The instructions are here http://sewingonline.co.uk/instructions/singer15k80/
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Old 29th Apr 2010, 6:32 pm   #8
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Default Re: Singer Sewing Machine

Thanks for the link. I just tried again and the cotton kept breaking, always the top cotton that goes through the needle, the underneath one was OK. I tried some different thread that seemed a bit stronger. This time the mechanism seemed to keep going stiff and the belt slipped. I turned it by hand for 2 or 3 stitches and it freed off and I could then carry on with motor power for several inches of stitching. If I do get it working properly I think I will need some way to slow down the motor as it seems very fast. I made an electric drill speed controller for my fathers birthday many years ago, if it has not been thrown out I could scrounge that from my mother.
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Old 29th Apr 2010, 7:06 pm   #9
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Default Re: Singer Sewing Machine

The motor in these old machines is an AC/DC one with brushes. There should be a large rheostat in a pedal which is used to control the speed, though a modern thyristor speed control can be substituted and will be more efficient. If the motor is running at maximum speed it will be very difficult to use - even very experienced machinists rarely run machines flat out.

Have you lubricated the machine? Basically, you need to oil everything that moves, and apply oil to any oil holes. You can buy sewing machine oil but any light machine oil will be OK. 3-in-1 doesn't have a good reputation in the sewing machine world. You can make a good machine oil by mixing 40% car engine oil, 40% baby oil and 20% paraffin. It's difficult not to overoil these machines and it's quite common to get excess oil running down the needle bar for a few days afterwards - make sure you don't get this on your sewing work.

Does the machine run normally when not threaded, or is there still resistance?

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Old 29th Apr 2010, 7:18 pm   #10
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Default Re: Singer Sewing Machine

Mum inherited hers from her Mother, she always had trouble getting the thread tension right, she uses it on no.4 most of the time which is a good compromise. I assume you're threading it perfectly correctly, and that the tensioner is correctly assembled!
I have the manual somewhere, it is illustrated with lovely photos of a pleased 1950's housewife demonstrating how to reach up and plug it into the ceiling pendant.
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Old 29th Apr 2010, 7:25 pm   #11
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Default Re: Singer Sewing Machine

I agree with everything said above by Paul, especially the bit about lubrication.

Also, make sure the needle is mounted with the eye facing left to right and the channel running down it faces left.

With the foot down remove the thread, from the eye of the needle, and compare the force needed to pull it with the thread from the bobbin, they should be roughly the same
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Old 29th Apr 2010, 8:54 pm   #12
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Default Re: Singer Sewing Machine

No, I've not lubricated anything. I will see if I can get some sewing machine oil. Yes, it runs smoothly with very little resistance with no cotton in. I tried again with turning it slowly by hand. It becomes stiff when the needle is out of the fabric and on the last 1/3rd of its upward stroke. I checked the needle and the groove does face left i.e. toward the main body of the machine. The tensioner consists of 2 dished washers with a spring and knurled nut. the nut is just on the first few threads so the tension is almost on minimum.
The motor speed control is present but just not very controllable. You either have the motor buzzing but not turning or turning too fast. I'm hoping that the sort of electronic control that chops the top and bottom off the sine wave will give the motor more torque at low speed. Is the rheostat in series with the field coil?
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Old 29th Apr 2010, 9:08 pm   #13
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Default Re: Singer Sewing Machine

On these motors the rheostat is normally in series with the armature and the field is on full mains. This gives a better starting torque.

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Old 29th Apr 2010, 9:19 pm   #14
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Default Re: Singer Sewing Machine

There is a knack to using a rheostat speed controller. The motor does indeed hum alarmingly when you start to apply power, but this is normal. It helps to turn the balance wheel with your right hand when starting the motor at a very low speed.

You can buy replacement motors and/or triac speed controllers from several eBay sellers if you're not bothered about keeping the machine in original condition, but I find the original arrangement works well enough with a bit of practice.

I did have to change the interference suppression caps in my 1934 speed controller. I found the machine running at full speed by itself one day
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Old 29th Apr 2010, 10:10 pm   #15
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Default Re: Singer Sewing Machine

These are a universal motor and dont have seperate field and armature windings as a DC motor might. There is a 3-pin connector on the standard Singer motorising kit which contains neutral, controlled live and a permanent live for a worklamp.

Yes, they buzz loudly (and a little disconcertingly) as you push your toe down, then suddenly take off, this is the way they are. You are supposed to give the handwheel a little pull to help it to start smoothly.
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Old 30th Apr 2010, 8:33 am   #16
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Default Re: Singer Sewing Machine

Quote:
Originally Posted by McMurdo View Post
give the handwheel a little pull to help it to start smoothly.
This is normal behaviour for electric motors and has the nick-name 'Stick-tion' in the electric railway modeling circles. Adding current to the motor does nothing - then adding a little more suddently the model (or sewing machine) bursts into life.

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Old 30th Apr 2010, 5:49 pm   #17
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Default Re: Singer Sewing Machine

If you can get hold of a copy of the JMB General Studies A-level papers from 1988 (am I giving my age away here? ) from somewhere, they happen to contain a beautiful diagram of both a chainstitch (single thread; everything unravels if you pull the live end) and a lockstitch (double thread: one above and one below) sewing machine in one of the questions.

Simple sewing machines (AOT the modern ones with a single selector dial for the various stitch modes) are all fairly similar, anyway. There's nothing in one that would scare off anybody who's used to autochangers!
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Old 30th Apr 2010, 5:53 pm   #18
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Default Re: Singer Sewing Machine

Quote:
the nick-name 'Stick-tion
aka Static Friction


PS @ mods: can you see what is happening to the html buttons
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Last edited by paulsherwin; 30th Apr 2010 at 6:30 pm.
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Old 30th Apr 2010, 7:58 pm   #19
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Default Re: Singer Sewing Machine

The knack to using this sort of speed controller is to advance the pedal slowly until the motor just takes off (rather like a car clutch in reverse), then back it off to the desired speed.
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Old 30th Apr 2010, 8:49 pm   #20
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Default Re: Singer Sewing Machine

Hi.
I have an old Singer sewing machine here from the 30's I have no use for it although it works a treat, the plinth is falling to bits though.
I will keep it for the Scottish Meet if anyone wants to take it away.
Sorry I know I should have put this elsewhere, """but"""
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