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Other Vintage Household Electrical or Electromechanical Items For discussions about other vintage (over 25 years old) electrical and electromechanical household items. See the sticky thread for details.

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Old 28th Apr 2024, 1:56 pm   #1
Pamphonica
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Default 1953 Singer Sewing Machine (201K) Controller Failure

I just hauled out my venerable Singer 201K (motorised) sewing machine to experiment with making up dust covers for equipment with 0.5mm pvc sheet. Inevitably it was a bit creaky after 20 years unused, but it fired up. It will get a proper oiling today.

However, half way through, the machine started turning itself on even without my foot on the pedal - very disturbing and potentially a bit dangerous!

I took the pedal to pieces and found a very hot capacitor inside. It must have gone leaky and was allowing a lot of current through intermittently.
There are two TCC Metalmite CP37U 0.04uF/250Vac caps inside, in parallel across the variable resistor. The resistor is in series with the motor.

Not having an exact replacement, I put in a single 0.068uF/300Vac rated cap I had to hand. It worked a treat, allowing speed control from very slow to full ahead all.

I assume the caps are there to help compensate for the inductive motor load at lower speeds. At "full thrust" the pedal just shorts out the variable resistor (and caps) and puts full mains on the motor.

Just a note for posterity in case anyone else has this alarming failure.

-Jeremy
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Old 28th Apr 2024, 2:10 pm   #2
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Default Re: 1953 Singer Sewing Machine (201K) Controller Failure

Yes, the caps fail short circuit and produce exactly these symptoms. I replaced mine with X2s.

Congratulations on owning a 201K, one of the best domestic sewing machines ever made. They last forever with a reasonable level of maintenance. Mine was made in 1934 and is still all original, except for the caps and the motor drive belt.

Professionals still like to use these machines today, despite their pretty basic nature. They're best used with an RCD because of the lack of earthing.
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Old 28th Apr 2024, 3:44 pm   #3
Graham G3ZVT
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Default Re: 1953 Singer Sewing Machine (201K) Controller Failure

"They all do that sir"

Sequence of events in my case
Set up my 99K to hem some tiny curtains for the grandchildren's Wendy-house in the garden. Went out to hang the curtains, and returned to find the machine going full pelt stitching its own thread.
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Old 28th Apr 2024, 3:51 pm   #4
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Default Re: 1953 Singer Sewing Machine (201K) Controller Failure

Some serious users do fit these old school machines with a modern electronic pedal, but the original rheostat pedals give surprisingly good control.

I always assumed that the pedal caps were there to reduce interference as the contacts moved about.
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Old 29th Apr 2024, 11:16 am   #5
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Default Re: 1953 Singer Sewing Machine (201K) Controller Failure

A professional seamstress friend of mine has had a couple of these types of failures in the machines she uses for classes (preferring the more robust older ones) for which I've used X2s like Paul. She had her main machine (a Singer 206) converted from electric to treadle operation as she found it gave greater control and was quieter for long sewing sessions.
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Old 29th Apr 2024, 2:00 pm   #6
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Default Re: 1953 Singer Sewing Machine (201K) Controller Failure

When carefully adjusted the original bakelite rheostat pedals give excellent progressive control. There are many out there which havn't been serviced for decades.
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Old 1st May 2024, 10:29 am   #7
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Default Re: 1953 Singer Sewing Machine (201K) Controller Failure

You can also get an amazing range of attachments for them. I gave ours, dating from the 1930s, to my son and daughter in law and they got attachments to do button holes, zig-zag stitching and all sorts of things. It is knee rather than pedal operated. There is an identical one on the latest series of the James Herriot tv series housed in the kitchen.

Following a house move they intend to put it in its own dedicated sewing room. This thread has reminded me to replace those capacitors!
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Old 6th May 2024, 1:26 am   #8
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Default Re: 1953 Singer Sewing Machine (201K) Controller Failure

If only I knew the OP had a dead pedal, I could have offered the whole kit including motor and cables.
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Old 7th May 2024, 10:17 am   #9
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Default Re: 1953 Singer Sewing Machine (201K) Controller Failure

Not really dead! Just needed some TLC. But your kind offer may well help someone else.
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