Restoring An Antique Singer Sewing Machine: Parts, Value And Maintenance

Learn how to rebuild and repair an old model singer sewing machine with these tips and instructions. It can be inexpensive to clean or replace parts and return to working condition.

In today's world of high tech gadgetry, there is something peaceful about owning an antique sewing machine of yesteryear. People flock to antique stores buying furniture to display in their homes. A lot of the time I've gone into a shop where there is a lone sewing machine off in a corner or one being used to prop open a door. The balance wheel won't turn. It's rusted solid from years of abuse. The bed of the machine is crusted with layers of dirt and grime. Once you look past the outer appearance. You wonder just what adventures this machine could tell you about.

The first thing to do is wipe the hull with sewing machine oil. Any other substance may harm the delicate decals on the machine. Check to see if the bobbin case is in the machine. If it's there, take it out and clean it with sewing machine oil. Take off the bobbin plate and clean under the feed dogs. A lot of time there is so much dirt and cloth fuzz that the needle cannot be moved up or down. I would put sewing machine oil on the hand wheel. Sometimes it's necessary to remove it and clean underneath. There is a small screw called a stop motion screw. Unscrew the stop motion knob and remove it. Applying a little machine oil will help if the handwheel is "frozen" to the machine. Take off the face plate and apply oil to the needlebar. Turning the handwheel while doing so will help lubricate all the moving parts. Once the machine turns freely, wipe everything down with a soft dry cloth.

Most of the Singer parts are still being manufactured today. You can check with your local sewing machine repair man or check sources such as Ebay or the internet. Needles are usually 15 x1 and can be obtained at a lot of department stores. Even a treadle belt can be bought today. Prices range from $3 to $10.

Some models are more costly than others to restore to working condition. Some of the newer models from the 60's and 70's can be found with little effort. There are treadles that are in bases that are quilt bulky and cannot be moved around. These are the most challenging when it comes to restoring. Often the metal bases are brittle and can break from just being moved. Still they are wonderful to sew on. Need no electricity to operate.

One of the most sought after machines is the Singer 221 Featherweight. Parts for these have a broad range of prices. Depending on where you look for the parts. On the online auctions sites, parts are readily available. If you are looking for reproduction parts or original is another factor that affects the prices. Finding original parts sometimes require patience. Some pieces like bobbin cases and bobbin bases only surface when someone has a machine that they are willing to part out. This means they are willing to take apart the machine and sell it piece by piece. As long as the machine will sew even a little bit, most collectors are reluctant to do this. But every once in a while, someone will come across a machine that has been so neglected that these parts will be available. Again, price depends on it being an original part or not.

Another machine that can be quite costly to restore is the "Blackside". This model was only made a two dates. One is 1941 and the other in 1947. During the war, chrome that was used on the sewing machine was in high demand. Singer helped the war effort by making the chrome pieces out of a black material. These usually were the face plate, presser foot, bobbins, chrome thumb screw and some of the attachments. Before those dates even the handwheel was made with chrome. Singer stopped making them after the war. Only black handwheels were made. Most collectors are on the lookout for one of these machines. No matter what condition the machine is in. Featherweights are made from aluminum so they are very light in weight. Hence the name Featherweight. They weigh around 11 pounds.

Another machine that is highly sought after is the Singer 301. These use the same kind of bobbins as the Featherweight 221. The difference is that the 301 is a slant shank and the Featherweight is a low shank. They use different attachments. The 301 weighs around 16 pounds.

Quilters love both of these machines. They are light enough to move from room to room or to take to quilting class. The 301 is quite the work horse. It can sew thru layers and layers of denim or heavy fabric with ease. It is all gear driven unlike the Featherweight that uses a belt. The gears almost never wear out. A little sewing machine grease, along with a drop of machine oil in all of the appropriate places, and these machines can last a lifetime.

With a little time and effort you can bring back to life a forgotten treasure. One that perhaps could be 100 yrs old, ready to serve a new owner.

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