Saturday, March 2, 2013

Motorectomy & Head Transplant

Bet you didn't know I was a surgeon. Heck, I haven't even been to medical school. Actually this was minor surgery and the patient is alive and well. I have been planning this operation for months. I was just waiting for a suitable head to come my way. My plan was to insert a modern electric sewing machine into a treadle cabinet. Singers are the easiest and most plentiful options. Old Singer treadle cabinets are a dime a dozen. If you are patient you can find one in good condition for a reasonable price. I paid $100 for this 5 drawer Singer cabinet with a coffin case. It held a Singer 127 with Sphinx decals. I also own a Singer 66 red eye and a 28k hand crank. I really didn't need another treadle machine and especially not one with a vibrating shuttle. I determined I would find a Singer 237 to convert over to foot power. Not all electric machines can be converted to a treadle. The best candidates have an external belt driven motor and a short side deck that won't interfere with a drive belt. Yesterday I picked this little lovely up at the Goodwill for $30.

It came in a ratty looking case and needed a cleaning but otherwise looked to be in excellent condition. A perfect candidate for my proposed surgery. Note the short side deck located just under the hand wheel. Plenty of room for a treadle belt. First things first. I needed to clean it, lube it and make sure it worked. The only problem people run into with the 237's is cracked bobbin case covers. It is the only plastic part on the underside of the machine. Mine is not cracked but I think it may have a few rough spots in the opening where the needle enters to access the bobbin. I'll worry about smoothing those out later.

Someone had been a bit overzealous with the oil can on the underside of the machine. Actually I would rather it was over oiled than too dry. If the metal doesn't have a light coat of oil it is more apt to rust when folks store their old, unloved machines in a damp garage or shed. The main problem I've run into with over oiled machines is that the oil can harden into a varnish-like substance and freeze up the machine. This is usually remedied by going over the metal parts with a hot hair dryer. Don't try that on plastic parts, though. I sopped up the excess oil, hit it all with a hair dryer, then re-oiled the moving parts lightly. The bobbin case wasn't very dirty. Just needed a little oil. I scrubbed the feed dogs with a bit of oil on an old toothbrush and reassembled and closed up the machine bottom.

Now on to the upper mechanisms. The top of the machine was clean and rather devoid of oil which was surprising given the state of the underside.

Again I went over it with the hair dryer to loosen up any hardened oil and then oiled the moving bits. The only parts of a sewing machine that require actual grease are any gears (or some potted motors). Upon closer inspection I did spy a gear under the zig zag selector assembly.

It had some old grease already present but I added a touch of my favorite white lithium for good measure. The area under the face plate that houses the presser foot and needle bars was also very clean. Just needed a little oiling.

I closed everything up and threaded the machine in preparation for testing. The motor was strong and the machine did what it was supposed to. I had to file off some burrs from one of the thread guides where the chrome plating was coming off, and loosen the bobbin tension but those were minor things.

Now it was time for the fun part. Removing the motor and light. Each are held on by a separate screw.

That's all there is to it. Once the screws are removed those pieces come right off and you can remove the rubber belt. Easy peasy.

Now the machine is free of those restrictions and ready for a simpler life. Electricity? We don't need no stinkin' electricity.

This is the cabinet donor waiting patiently for the beheading. Sorry Sphinx, but you have to make way for the new(er) kid. You can see by the date etched into the motor from the 237  that it is circa 1969. Not all that new but the Singer 127 is from 1892.

The Sphinx came out of the cabinet easily. It just slid up off the mounting pegs. I then had to remove the drip pan so that the 237 would have enough room depthwise. Otherwise it fit like a glove.

I had to shorten up the leather drive belt. I place clothespins on the ends so they can't slip down through the holes. I then loosened up one end of the large staple, cut the belt shorter, used a safety pin to make a new hole through the end of the leather belt, inserted the opened end of the staple through the new hole and used pliers to clamp it back down. Here is the 237 all cleaned and ready to rumble.

I made a couple of videos to show how nicely it works. The first one is rather shaky because I have a hard time holding a camera and operating a treadle machine. But you get the idea.

This second one shows the superior piercing power of the treadled 237. Here it is sewing through 8 layers of denim. I'm not sure how well it would do that if the electric motor was attached. You'll note I got wise and sat the camera down this time.

And that is how you can convert an electric machine to foot power. It only takes a few minutes.


Bettecroc said...

I was sent to your blog from the Artisan Square forum when I asked about converting my Singer 237 to a treadle. Your blog and videos are just what I was looking for. I haven't used a treadle since I was a little girl. Now to locate a treadle base!

crazihippichic said...

Glad I could help. Good luck with your conversion. :-)

Matt Twin said...

I just got a treadle table for my 237m and it works a treat! folds into the table and everything, thats for the write-up it helped inspire me :)

crazihippichic said...

I'm glad I was of help, Matt. :-)

QuilterBee said...

I have a 237 too, got for four bucks! I'm want ing to convert it to treadle also but the videos are not working. Like they are blank, says video doesn't exist.

Can you help me? And one more question, bc it's a ZZ is it harder to treadle? Thank you, Amie

luvewe said...

The videos got deleted and I no longer have copies to upload. But they just showed the machine sewing. The photos in this blog entry show how to make the conversion. If you need to see one in action, try searching YouTube for singer 237 treadle. Hope that helps.