Wednesday, September 7, 2011

How to Service and Clean a Singer 66... bobbin case and postion bracket

I know the Singer 66/99/185 pretty well by now.  I find it very satisfying to clean and oil these machines because they make the nicest straight stitch.  Rosie came home with me from Cicero, NY.  She belonged in Nancy's family but it was time for her to move on so she came home to me.  I love this model 66.  Probably because I, too, am a red head (still, can you believe THAT?)

Rosie from Cicero

 I recommend making sure that you have good tools when you work on old sewing machines.  I used common screw drivers when I first started.  Finally this summer I bought a set of Chapman hollow ground screw driver bits.  I also bought some bits from Brownell’s.  Since I have at least ten if not more sewing machines to fix up I figured it was time.  I am glad that I did.  What a difference.  Check out  N. Rain Noe's blog  for more information about screw driver bits.

When removing a screw it is so important not to bugger up the head. You need these screws again.  Singer screws have unique threads so just any old screw will not do.  The best way is to apply downward pressure toward the screw hole  FIRMLY as you turn your driver.   If it doesn’t go readily, don’t force it.  Chapman bits will break before they break the head off of the screw.  Brownell bits won’t.  If you cannot get the screw loose with firm pressure and firm turning, wait.  Apply more solvent and try later.  PATIENCE IS A VIRTUE

I will take responsibility for that nasty looking screw.  But not for all of it.  It started out looking a bit sorry, that should have been a clue. 

When I take apart a machine for cleaning I like to have several different containers to keep parts organized.    That way I can keep the corresponding screws with each part.  I use old yogurt containers for larger parts and ice cube trays for small, tiny parts.  I also like to have  containers for the cleaned parts.   I have been baffled when a screw doesn’t fit even though it looks like it should.  So now I keep all the screws a pieces together.  I also like to put screws BACK in their homes on the machine to decrease the chance that I will lose them.  Of course, it helps to remember that I have done this.  Last week I spent a lot of time looking for a screw which was right where it belonged.

I recommend working in a well ventilated area.  Some of the solvents are stinky.  

The only two screws in this picture are the set screw and the motor mount screw.

Remove  the set screw in  the clamp stop motion clamp screw in the handwheel.  Remove the clamp stop motion clamp screw and take note of which way the clamp stop motion clamp washer washer is BEFORE you remove it.  If it falls off as you are removing the clamp screw , when you put this back together you will figure out the right way by trial and error.   Sometimes its best, however, to note the original position of  parts. That tiny little set screw can be screwed right back into its home in the clamp screw for safe keeping.

Loosen the motor mount  screw and lift the motor upward to loosen the belt.  This will enable you to remove the belt and the handwheel  aka balance wheel.

Remove the motor mount screw and remove the motor. I put the screw right back into the machine, then I know right where it is and I won't lose it or confuse it with another screw. 

If your light and motor are attached to each other, you will need to remove the light from the machine as well.  Rosie did not have a light.

Place all of these parts where you can find them later.  This is where a tidy workspace helps.

Remove the bobbin winder.  It is easy to do .   Remove the screw that attaches the bobbin winder to the handwheel shaft ( I might be making up names, here.)  At least I did not call it a whatchmacallit)
 This photo is not Rosie, it is of Syracuse Gramma.  Same idea, different machine
I altered this photo to highlight the screw that you should remove. The bobbin winder has been edited out.

Remove the face plate, back plate, slide plate and needle plate.

Remove the thumb screw and lift up and off.

You can figure this one out

I have already removed the slide plate in the photo below.  To remove the slide plate, slide it out a little ways and then as you gently lift it, slide it BACK toward the feed dogs. This will release it from the spring, seen at the bottom of the photo below.
Slide plate removed.
 To remove the needle plate simply remove  the screws.  I have a ratchet that loads at a 90 degree angle which allows me to access these screws fairly easily.  The back one is a bit tricky.    You can bugger that one up with a common, long handle driver because it can only take the screw at an angle.  BEWARE  of that.

Now I  oil each oil port and every place that there is metal touching metal.  I turn the machine on its side to oil all those underneath connections and  I oil each oil port on the top of the machine as well.  I oil the parts through the back hole too.    I like to use Liquid Wrench if the machine is particularly dirty and old.    It stinks but it does the job.  I suppose kerosene could do the same but that really stinks.  I have tried kerosene because I have read so much about its virtues.  I am not a fan.

I also dabble LW on each screw that I  can see.  Today I had the brilliant, if I say so myself, idea of putting some LW in a long spout oiler.  That enables me to be more precise and less wasteful, a feeble attempt at being GREEN as I recondition these old machines.

Now that the needle plate has been removed and the machine has had a drink, it is time to remove the feed dogs.  Turn the machine on its side and locate the screw that holds the feed dogs in place

 I find that my angled ratchet works the best.  Be sure that you select the correct bit size for the screw to be able to apply as much torque as possible and reduce slippage which will strip the head, aka bugger it up.  Remove this screw and remove the feed dogs.  The feed dogs should lift right out if there isn't too much grit and lint holding them tight.  If they don’t lift right out, jostle and jiggle and gently try to pry them up and out.   They usually  drop down or fall out.    

With the feed dogs removed we can now remove the bobbin case and assembly.  Turn the machine upright and lift the finger of the bobbin case assembly up and toward the front of the machine.

Under no circumstance should you mess with that screw that someone tried to mess with in this photo.
 The bobbin case should then lift right out.  Sometimes it doesn't but it should.  There is nothing but 80 to 90 years of lint and oil and dirt holding it in place.  So jiggle and jostle and work it up and out of there with no fear.  But don't force it.  It will come, I promise.
 Turn the machine on its side so that you can see just underneath the hook.  The pencil points to a set screw.  Loosen this (or in this case I removed it so that I could clean it) This will release the bobbin case assembly so that it, too can be removed.

set screw.  lefty loosey righty tighty
 Sometimes you have to move the assembly back and forth to loosen it.  Or sometimes, as in this case, a gentle tap from below will free it up.

Can you believe that this machine was stitching?  Clear testimony to the fine engineering of early Singer sewing machines.

It is raining again and I am about to lose internet.  The satellite always goes down in heavy rain.  We have had flooding here today and could have more.  Our road was closed going south and going north.  The water receded some during the respite, but it can go up again. 

This stream is directly behind the garage. No cars in the garage tonight!

Next time: Removing the presser bar and the buggered up screw story.


  1. WOW!! Rosie is beautiful!! I'm posting some more pics of my 66 on my blog,
    so come on over. :)

  2. I like the wide screwdriver on my Swiss Army knife for removing the needle plate. It's the right size, the handle is short, and I can store it with my sewing gear :)

  3. OK time for a swiss army knife. It's all about the tools.

  4. Thanks so much for the link to this Elizabeth! I'm Cathy from the wefixit forum. I just found a red eye myself and I totally love those machines. I learned to sew on a 66 and am eager to get one for myself! Your postings are going to help and I appreciate it! I'll probably be here a lot!

  5. I looked for this post since last night and just now found it. It may be a good thing I didn't find it right off 'cause my 1910 Red Head is a little different. I had to take the screw out that holds the position bracket. (I think that's what another post you did was talking about. I'm crossed eyed by now!) She's a $10.00 paperweight, but I'm learning lots without being afraid of doing any harm. Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge and the great pictures!

  6. Thank you so much for the detailed pictures and instructions on how to remove the bobbin assembly. I picked up a Singer 185k at Goodwill, and when sewing, it would just "gather". I looked all over on how to take the bobbin assembly apart, since I am unfamiliar with this type of machine, and this was the first helpful info I could find after a lot of looking. Your caption about "Under no circumstances should you mess with this screw" made me laugh, because that's exactly what I had tried to do. Anyway, after disassembling and a good cleaning, I put it all back together and it sews beautifully now! Thanks!

  7. That was a fantastic blogg. I have just bought two of these beauties from ebay yesterday and I havd fsllen in love with the. They sew perfectly and better than my crappy brand new Toyota. I will never use a mkdern machine again. There id no need to. For gods sake the thing is ninety years old and sews a dream. I am getting addicted to this hobby very easily.

  8. I have just bought two of these little beauties and they sew perfectly. Considering they have been around for ninety years its incredible. They sew better than my two year old Toyota which now has a burnt out motor. I love these machines and will never ever use a modern one again. I am really hooked on singer machines now. Only the old ones. Next? A 201 of course!

  9. Many thanks for writing up this post. I recently came to own my mother-in-law's mother-in-law's mother's (I know!) old sewing machine, and I don't know a gall-darned thing about them. It took me all day to figure out what I even had. This here is exactly the information I need to get it doing well! Now I just need a proper screwdriver...

  10. Hello, My name's Cassandra and my dad found a series 66 singer sewing machine, and it was all stuck and in kinda bad condition, but he took it apart, oiled it up n got all the parts (except 2 which we are in the process of finding and buying) cleaned and ready to work, but he has no idea how to put it back together now lol so I tried looking up user manuals online, but found one where i could read it online n didn't need to buy it, but what i found is that these manuals don't tell you how to repair or put together/take apart the machine, just basically how to use it. Obviously, this is a problem because in order to use it, it needs to be put together. Would it be too crazy to ask you if maybe you could show a tutorial on how to put this model singer back together from scratch? or maybe a video tutorial? it would be more helpful than you know, and i don't know where else to look or who to ask for this sort of thing. My email is or it would be absolutely amazing if you could get back to me (even if the answer's a no which hopefully it won't be xP) as soon as you get the time, and if you do end up helping me and my dad out, i'll try and figure out a way to repay you or something :] thank you!

  11. I discovered a wonderful product tonight called Maas Metal Polish. My neighbor gave it to me for my silver. She got it at either Lowes or Home Depot. It polished all the metal on my 99 and now it sparkles! I accidentally dropped a plop of it on the top and when I wiped it off the black just gleams! Part of where I dropped it was on the decal on the top and it made the gold letters look great, too.

  12. Mate,I loved the way you did yours!! 😎
    Now I need help with my Model 28
    it's stuck😱 what sort of solvent I could
    use to get it unstuck? I noticed a tiny bit of
    Rust under the vertical shaft 😱😱 Help!!
    Thanks!! 😎

  13. G'day! Love the way you done your machine! Great job! Now it's my turn,just got myself a Singer model 28 ,hand cranked,unfortunately
    It's stuck,now what sort of solvent I should use? Kerosene will do or I need something specific?
    I noticed a tiny bit of rust at the bottom of the vertical shaft😱 hopefully I'll be ok!!😜😎

  14. Great Blog!! Beautiful picts, would you be so kind and share the Brownells bits that you use ?

    1. Start here: He has a series of posts regarding screw driver bits. I bought all of the ones he suggested.

  15. I acquired a 66 this year and just yesterday ordered a belt (well, two) for it. I can't begin to imagine how long it has been since it was cleaned, the bobbin case assembly was so full of lint it took me quite a while to get it out. Some one it this machine's past rewired it, so I don't have to concern myself with that, but I am thrilled to have found this page and will be saving it so that I will be able to fully take this machine apart to thoroughly clean and oil it once I receive my belts and oil. I was unable to find a manual that gave me as much information as you have given me here, and I am grateful to you for your thoroughness.

  16. Hi. I try again and again take off the handwheel of my vintage 15k and there's no way. It's like they were a single piece with the shaft. I don't want damage the machine doing something wrong or too rough. Any sugesstions? All ideas are welcome :)
    Thank you so much.

    1. I recommend that you try to loosen the old oil and dirt with some penetrating oil (PB BLaster) and apply heat via a hair dryer. Many times. Over and over

  17. Thank you so much for taking the time to post this. I was just given a 66 today and this article is such a wonderful resource.

  18. Thank you for this post! I have been trying to get in to clean the bobbin holder and just couldn't figure it out. Now it's clean and the broken needle tip removed. Do you have information posted for cleaning and servicing a motor for a 1953 Singer 66? That is my next step.

  19. Thank you for the step by step, patience and simplicity. I am a visual learner, I loved it! Will look forward to ANY information.

  20. Thank you for posting! I just bought an incredibly beautiful 66 Red Eye -for $25.00! All that is missing is the slide plate, which is no big deal. I am very excited to clean it and begin using it! It was like winning the lottery!

  21. I just received my Great Grandma's 1910 Singer 66 and started cleaning and trying to fix it up today and your blog just may have saved me some serious time but I found I have too problems after reading one is the motor screw, I am missing it. It was in my Grandpa's house since the '80s so I have sent my brother looking for it and if he can't do you know where to find a replacement screw. Also do you know a good site to find the belt on line.

    1. At the top of the blog you will find Resources for Sewing Machine Repair page. Click on that and it will take you to a list of Resources. Good luck

  22. Very useful information, thank you. I'll take my charity shop (thrift shop) bargain of a Singer 99 apart for cleaning. It's 100 years old and sews straight stitches, I think, more precisely than some of the modern plastic machines.