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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 21st Jun 2021, 6:32 pm   #1
DianeDavies
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Default Singer sewing machine sticky pedal

Hi, not quite radio, but I wonder if anyone has worked on the foot pedal of 1960s sewing machines. It hasn't been used since 2015, but all its bits work, it's just it goes 0 to 60 in a nanosecond! And stops dead even faster if I take my foot off the throttle. Should I open the pedal and poke around inside?
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Old 21st Jun 2021, 6:39 pm   #2
paulsherwin
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Default Re: Singer sewing machine sticky pedal

You need to confirm if this is a simple rheostat pedal, as used until the 70s, or a thyristor based pedal which will have lots of electronics inside. Take the cover off, take a photo and post it here.
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Old 21st Jun 2021, 6:48 pm   #3
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Default Re: Singer sewing machine sticky pedal

...with it unplugged from the mains, of course
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Old 21st Jun 2021, 7:00 pm   #4
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Default Re: Singer sewing machine sticky pedal

People will be more able to help you if you post the model number. The 60s / early 70s was a time of change for Singer (to put it mildly) and the design of their machines changed a lot.
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Old 21st Jun 2021, 7:28 pm   #5
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Default Re: Singer sewing machine sticky pedal

Hey there, so I have had issues with my singer foot pedal which was a black bakelite one with a button for the foot as I believe Paul is describing. If it's this one, I had issues with it going by itself and also the instant fast speed making sewing impossible.

The ghost start and stop was caused by the aged capacitors inside that were put in to avoid TV interference. I threw these out and it was fine after. I think you can replace them but I didn't bother, though it does interfere with digital telly funnily enough!

The speed control is affected by a mechanism that a plate is pulled towards carbon discs and sometimes, you need to slacken or tighten the spring via a screw until you get the perfect speed control. You will see that there is a ceramic device and on the top it has this plate that pushes in and out when you depress the button.
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Old 21st Jun 2021, 7:34 pm   #6
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Default Re: Singer sewing machine sticky pedal

The 'going by itself' thing is well known and is indeed caused by the two interference suppression capacitors failing short circuit in a rheostat pedal. That doesn't sound like the OP's issue though.

If you don't replace them your neighbours won't thank you - they're fitted for a reason.
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Old 21st Jun 2021, 7:37 pm   #7
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Default Re: Singer sewing machine sticky pedal

Yes I figured as such, I would suggest she should throw them out though or replace, mine made quite a loud pop and caused an almighty fright and a small orange carpet stain!
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Old 21st Jun 2021, 7:41 pm   #8
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Default Re: Singer sewing machine sticky pedal

Quote:
Originally Posted by paulsherwin View Post
The 'going by itself' thing is well known and is indeed caused by the two interference suppression capacitors failing short circuit in a rheostat pedal. That doesn't sound like the OP's issue though.

If you don't replace them your neighbours won't thank you - they're fitted for a reason.
Ah yes! See I didn't realise until recently that they affect modern digital TV! So I thought it would be just analogue so it's on my list of things to do now before I get back into sewing
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Old 21st Jun 2021, 8:06 pm   #9
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Default Re: Singer sewing machine sticky pedal

If it is one of the pile of carbon disks type they can stick together and give your symptoms. A good tapping on all sides may cure it, failing that a dismantle and clean of the disks, let them dry well before re-assembly.
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Old 22nd Jun 2021, 5:30 am   #10
DianeDavies
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Default Re: Singer sewing machine sticky pedal

Thanks, organising the photos! Sounds really positive!
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Old 22nd Jun 2021, 10:48 am   #11
DianeDavies
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Default Re: Singer sewing machine sticky pedal

Hi
update on the sewing machine which is a Singer 185K, handbook dated 1958. I got my husband an ex-BBC engineer with an electronics degree but no experience of sewing machines, to come in on this, and took photos of the dis-assembly of the controller. We thoroughly cleaned the linkages, and re-lubed with white grease (a tiny amount!), cleaned the brass contact pads with P1000 paper and polished up the large contacts with ethanol. The capacitor buzzed out ok but he does have a spare if needed. All those drawers in the garage come in handy at times. We reassembled and tried it out without fabric or thread and it still runs but although I think it's better it's still a bit keen! We didn't attempt ot clean the carbon discs as we could do the rest as these actions would still be reversible.
I had a go at uploading the photos but I can add others if you need more details! All the photos were numbered in the order taken but that format has disappeared.
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Last edited by DianeDavies; 22nd Jun 2021 at 10:50 am. Reason: explanation of photos attached
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Old 22nd Jun 2021, 10:55 am   #12
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Default Re: Singer sewing machine sticky pedal

PS the screw in the contacts assembly was very loose so we tightened it to the end of the thread.
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Old 22nd Jun 2021, 11:20 am   #13
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Default Re: Singer sewing machine sticky pedal

That is a traditional rheostat controller.

You have done all the right things so far. The capacitor in the photo looks very sick and I would replace it - the pedal will work with the caps removed, but may generate interference.

I don't know how much experience you have with this sort of sewing machine. The power does come on a bit quickly unless you are very careful - you have to squeeze the pedal very gently with your foot if you want a soft start. The action is very different to later machines with electronic controllers, but you get used to it. Some old school dressmakers always preferred to use a hand cranked machine because that allowed more precise control.

You can buy conversion kits to use an electronic pedal with these machines.
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Old 22nd Jun 2021, 11:37 am   #14
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Default Re: Singer sewing machine sticky pedal

One of these?
https://www.amazon.co.uk/SEWING-MACH...4361826&sr=8-6
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Old 22nd Jun 2021, 12:44 pm   #15
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Default Re: Singer sewing machine sticky pedal

When carefully adjusted these controls have a smooth progressive action, better than the usually later types using resistance wire. It can take quite a bit of time and patience to get them just right.
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Old 22nd Jun 2021, 2:55 pm   #16
DianeDavies
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Default Re: Singer sewing machine sticky pedal

Hi, Paul. I learned to electric machine sew on this machine when I was 9, and I could get slow motion for inserting sleeves and doing buttonholes. Given that I was sewing doll's clothes I really could not have coped with the erratic speed it has now. I have looked up the replacement foot controller and contacted the dealer in Bristol, but being a bit old fashioned I'd really like to get this machine back on its feet! I agree about the hand operated machines, but my first sewing experience was a treadle machine which pre-dated this Singer!
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Old 22nd Jun 2021, 3:29 pm   #17
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Default Re: Singer sewing machine sticky pedal

In the early 1970's, when you had to select the right voltage setting for your TV to get a decent picture, the picture on Mum's black & white TV used to momentarily vanish with a burst of noise every time she started her 1950's Singer. I wondered if it was radiated interference or interference transmitted via the ring main, and thought would be instructive to try running the sewing machine from the cooker point in the kitchen via an extension lead. It did indeed fix the problem. Mum then used the cooker point until we got a new colour TV that wasn't bothered by the Singer.
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Old 22nd Jun 2021, 3:37 pm   #18
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Default Re: Singer sewing machine sticky pedal

If the pedal is still operating very erratically then there are still some dirty or loose contacts somewhere, so all you can do is dive back in and have another look. You may also find that things improve if you operate the pedal vigorously for a few minutes with the mains switched off. The technology in a rheostat pedal is very simple, and there's only a few things that can go wrong.

As you probably know, your 185K is a very solidly built machine which will do standard lockstitch sewing as effectively as anything more modern (it's basically the legendary 99 from 1911, and built like a battleship). It's well worth putting some effort into sorting it out.
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Old 22nd Jun 2021, 5:10 pm   #19
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Default Re: Singer sewing machine sticky pedal

I found that I had to fiddle with the screw in picture 4 for quite some time until I found a sweet spot where I could have a slow start. It's still not perfect but you can get good control. I never cleaned the discs though (but I think I should).

One thing I failed to mention is be aware that some, not all of the older pedals have aspestos washers on the base attaching to the ceramic (though your hubby probably would have noticed with his experience). Mine does unfortunately, so I decided never to take the ceramic portion off the base as the two washers are covered in dust and are undisturbed and I would like them to stay that way...
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Old 22nd Jun 2021, 6:05 pm   #20
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Default Re: Singer sewing machine sticky pedal

They made loads of attachments for these machines which will make it do more or less anything that a modern zig-zag machine will do. Some of them are works of engineering art. My daughter in law would never go back to a modern plastic machine having used the one we gave her.
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