Sunday, March 23, 2014

No Gears? Really?

I was at the Quilt Zoo yesterday dropping off a very nice 185.  I wanted to leave a machine there for advertising and for customers to try out.

While there a woman came in with her not black, not tan 221K.  It looks white to me but in the right light it could almost be pale mint green.  None the less, she wanted it serviced.  Lucky me to have been there at that moment.

"What ever it takes.  I have another one that I use.  My husband bought this for me at an auction.  I thought it would be good to get it cleaned up so that I would have another.  The belt doesn't run the machine."

So I brought it home.  The shop was warm (it's all relative up here in the North East.) So I set to work on it.  Betsy had already come by so we were both working on machines.  She had a Kenmore.  Lucky her.

 First  I checked  the wiring.   Directly wired to a clamshell controller.  No Three Pin Terminal here. It looked safe so I plugged it in. Nope, no machine action, but the motor sounded ok.   The belt was moving but there was a mess around the pulley.  Black powdery stuff.

I took off the belt.

"Maybe it's the wrong belt" chimed in Betsy as she looked over my shoulder.

"Nope, that's a 221 belt  I recognize the part number," said I.  Actually it was true, not that I have memorized parts numbers.  Yesterday I searched through the mass of belts that came with the South River Inventory (SRI) and found several FW belts.  Luckily they were labeled as such and I didn't have to look them up.

"Oh, look," she said, "the pulley is broken."

Sure enough it was destroyed.  I managed to remove it by loosening the set screw and wedging it off.

"OH Darn !  I just sent in the Brewer order. "

"How much do we have to spend before we get free shipping?" Betsy asked.

"One hundred and fifty dollars."

"No problem.  I will buy more thread."  she said.

Well.  I am thinking that more thread is the last thing she needs.  So instead, this morning I sent an email to Glenn Williams who has an abundance of FW and 301 parts.  I bet he has one.  Better that, than trying to beef up our order.

Yes, I did search the SRI for the pulley but had no luck. "See, that's what irritates me about this stash of parts," I whined.  "All this stuff and not what I need."

As long as I had the motor off (part way off, it was still all wired to the controller). I checked the brushes.  Oh my.  I had never seen motor brushes this low.
Oh, I am not in the mood to pull this motor apart.  I wonder what would happen if I just blew some compressed air through that motor?

"Big noise," I warned Betsy as I plugged in the compressor.
The air around my work bench looked like the last scene in Ghost when that evil spirit was blown away.  Remember?  It was just a black cloud  rushing out of the room.  That's what came out of the motor.  Black soot and more black soot. 

I dropped new brushes in and tested the motor.  Sounded good.  No ozone odor.  Good.

I set about servicing the rest of the machine. I took off the bottom.  I looked again.  Something seemed wrong.  Where are the gears?

 I had heard that the later model 221s lacked gears and instead, utilized a drive belt.  Another indication that Singer was cheapening the machines.  This belt looks good, though.  Another reason to avoid the white FW.  Now I don't know if they all have belts.  Glenn would know.
Anyway, no gears to grease.  I oiled the feed mechanism and closed up the top.  I oiled the metal contacts on the bottom. Then I looked at the bobbin case base and the hook.

"Oh boy, I sure don't want to pull the hook to get that out. "  I muttered.

It really isn't that hard to pull a hook on a FW or a 301.  It is a matter of loosening two screws, for heaven's sake.  I just didn't want to do it.  You have to pay attention to the flat and position the hook correctly when you replace it.  If you don't mark the screw that tightens into the flat, you can put the hook on the wrong way.  AMHIK. 

I completely removed the screw that tightens onto the flat and loosened the other one enough to remove the hook.  Of course the hook was glued in with old oil.  Nothing a little denatured alcohol couldn't release.

In order to remove the looper, I had to tighten the left behind screw completely and remove the screw holding on the looper.  Don't loose this screw.  

I polished the looper and the back of the hook.  I checked the hook or burrs and reassembled everything.  Because I had been a clever old lady I was able to pop the hook on easily and not have to fart around with adjusting its position.  The machine stitches.  I can't test it with the motor yet.  Gotta wait for the motor pulley.

 There is more work to be done.  It turns out that it was a good thing that I removed the hook.  There was another thread wrapped about the shaft.  I cleared it, and the rust, away before replacing the hook.

This poor little machine has been well used.  It has some battle scars.  I think it will still stitch but I doubt the stitch will be as nice as the FWs with gears.  Who knows?


  1. You are amazing! I would have given up and cried!

    1. No, you would not have given up. I know you. You are the amazing one.

  2. Sometimes the line between a challenging puzzle and a pain in the behind is very thin. No gears in a machine, yikes. Hoping it sews somewhat well. It should still sew better than the plastic primadonnas. I love vintage machines and sew only with them, but the featherweight is not a favorite. Seems a bit underpowered and its cuteness is lost on me. I appreciate that people love, use, and restore them. I will file those hook photos so I can clean one better the next time someone asks. Power to you for persevering.

  3. Hello, my sister and I both have 221k black featherweights, 1954 and 1957. We bought her daughter a white 1962 white featherweight, I found it on ebay. It was in super condition with the original white belt, but was very stiff, I don't think that it had been used, no lint to be seen. I like you, was surprised to see a belt inside instead od the gears, the bottom drip tray was cardboard not metal and the foot and cord didn't unplug. I oiled it and loosened the belt a bit which freed it off, it sews fine but it doesn't sound quite the same as the older black ones. The other difference was that the motor has no lubrication tubes good luck with the repairs.

  4. The "pale turquoise" (greenish white) Featherweights tended to fade in sunlight; I think the paint was not UV-proof. They all have the internal belt instead of gears. Apparently they sew just as well as the black ones (which all have gears), and as long as nothing weird happens to the internal belts, they're fine. If the original external white belt is still on, it ought to be removed and preserved for collector value - after all, it's close to 50 years old and they don't make new white ones! The very newest (black) replacement belts are soft enough to allow the motor to run properly; the older replacements (black and orange) were too stiff and created drag on the motor.