Tuesday, 23 February 2016

Servicing your 201K part 1

In Australia and in the U.K. there are loads of these machines around. There were literally millions of them made because they were so good Singer made them from the 1930s until the 1960s. A straight stitching machine in the 1960s that cost more than any zig-zag, free arm machine and people still bought them. Why? What's so good about them?
Firstly, Singer made these with special hardened steel gears, so they were as tough as nails. They had an incredibly simple system of getting the bobbin moving (just one bar underneath the machine) which performed a perfect stitch on both the top and bottom, and it could stitch everything from silk to leather. Just about any machine can be made to sew through leather but the 201K can do it easily**.
** As a side note, sewing through leather is easy enough, but leather tends to get dragged back by the presser foot and will bend and break your needles as well as screw up the stitching (and with leather, there's no second chances). To properly sew leather on a sewing machine you need a walking foot (even feed foot) which moves the work from the top as well as the bottom (the regular feed dog), or a wheel feed and foot, which Singer made several models of.

Now, next thing you should know is that the 201K has two forms: The early cast iron one and the later aluminium one. Here they are:
1936 201K3 cast iron weighs a ton!

The 201K23 (201P) weighs half as much
They look radically different because aluminium is so much weaker than iron that Singer had to redesign the head to make it stronger. The stitching mechanism is identical in both machines.
Technically the cast iron version is a 201K3 and the aluminium one is a 201K23, but it's really not important.

Electrical first

Okay, so you have your 201K on the bench, what's the first thing to do? Firstly, check the wiring, particularly between the motor and light. You can see that the one in the photo isn't that great, but I'm aware of it and will be replacing it. Replacement is not trivial and I have a blog entry devoted to this. See here for replacement of the Singerlight wiring.
This is usually the wire that goes first

Check both sides of the bakelite plug

1950s vinyl insulation does not last forever, especially in Australia. It cracks and flakes off. I heard recently from a guy in NSW who said that all old Singer motors are death traps and none of them would ever pass a safety inspection. He has good reason to say that: He imports and sells cheap quality Chinese replacement motors.
Here is my experience: I have fixed literally hundreds of electrical machines and none has ever been a problem. Also, I had one that had been tested and had a safety tag on it when I bought it, so I don't really believe this. If you choose to buy a second hand sewing machine that doesn't have a safety tag on it, you are expected to take full ownership for getting it tested, and the device will have a label saying just this. You have been warned. If you don't know what you're doing and the wiring is suspect, don't plug it in or you might kill yourself.
The wiring is by far the most important thing to check in the same way the brakes are if you buy a second hand car. It's the thing most likely to injure or kill you if it's not good.

Foot Controller

These came with radio suppression capacitors, which are a problem when they fail. Their purpose is to suppress AM radio interference and they also suppress some of the sparking inside the motor. When they fail, they bridge the electrical connections inside the controller and your machine starts sewing at full speed all by itself! All sewing machine repair people I know remove the capacitors. I wrote an earlier blog entry here on these, and the example was the twin capacitors. Here is the procedure in pictures for the single capacitor version:
turn over, remove screws, push the button on the other side
It's the grey thing. I've disconnected one side
disconnected. It would work perfectly well now, but remove it

before putting it back, drop of oil here and around the button

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