Thursday, December 24, 2015

Rewiring a Singer Potted Motor (Worst Case Scenario)

Once upon a time, I fell in love.   In love with bringing old, abandoned, vintage Singer Sewing Machines back to life.  My absolute favorite, still remains, the Singer 201-2.



 There are so many valuable resources out there for the novice that is just getting started with this life-altering obsession.   There's a Vintage Sewing Machine Facebook group with currently over 20,000 members, a discussion thread on Quilting Board, You Tube Channels and blogs.

One of the most valuable resources when I was first starting out was http://vssmb.blogspot.com/  - the Holy Grail in my honest opinion - "The Vintage Singer Sewing Machine Blog".   Oh the sadness when I realized that it's a "historical only" resource with the last entry dated July 14, 2013.   I've referenced that blog over and over and over again.

One of my favorite posts is the series on rewiring a potted motor (BEST CASE scenario) http://vssmb.blogspot.com/2012/01/complete-how-to-re-wire-potted-motor.html  Thank goodness the first half-dozen potted motors I re-wired were textbook BEST CASE....  because I don't know if I would have kept going with this passion if this happened in those first few years.

Unfortunately - of late - I have only come across WORST Case Scenario's....  and figured it was about time to blog it out for my own reference.   I can't even describe the flip your stomach does when you remove the terminal plug on a Singer 201 and find this:  Sigh.....damn.  Poor Poor baby....

Singer 201-2 Subject A
Might as well dig in and remove all the wires from the terminals.

Singer 201-2 Subject A

 If you notice discrepancies in my photos, it's because I have TWO "Worst Case Scenarios" going at the same time here.  (What are the chances of THAT???)   I'll try to remember to caption each photo so you can distinguish them.  The first machine, I had actually set aside for a later date because I have a deadline for this customer.   Then when I got to the motor off the second one....well.....hence the post.   (sigh)

Singer 201-2 Subject A
The photo above, Subject A, while depressing, isn't the worst... But electrical tape??  Come on people.  Who does that??  

Singer 201-2 Subject B
Subject B is probably the worst I've seen.  I've already gently used the end of a small screwdriver to dig out the GOOP that was remaining of the grommet..   The black sticky rubber goop is also on the machine head and inside the motor.   So here we go:

If you have already looked through the other blog link I posted above on Best Case Scenario, you'll see all the detailed removal of parts, etc.   I'm just going to dig in and get these girls working again

Singer 201-2 Subject B
See that slimy shiny stuff on the carbon brushes?   Yeah...that's bad.  REAL bad.  THAT is what happens when you stick oil (or grease) in the wrong hole on a motor.  Carbon brushes are attached to springs and then capped with those very fragile Bakelite screws.  NOTHING is supposed to go in there ever, except when replacing the carbon brushes.  That area of the motor is supposed to stay completely dry, free of debris, moisture, and most especially OIL or GREASE.   The DRY carbon brushes make contact with the copper commuter and the commuter goes round and round and round very fast.  Pretty little sparks sometimes when you go REAL fast.  Which is perfectly fine might I add, if wired correctly.  If not, melting CAN ensue...  But I digress.   The spring attached to the top of the carbon brush, is held in an "unsprung" state by those Bakelite caps and applies enough pressure to the carbon so that it lightly touches the copper and it forms a gentle arch to the shape of the commuter.  This is part of what makes it go VRoooooommmmm.....

What we have here, is no sign of copper on the commuter (which I already removed), we have a black sludgy mess.  

I had to cut the wires really close (way closer than I'd like) because they were all frayed and covered with goop.  Did I mention that the goop USED to be a rubber grommet protecting the wires?  It was also part of the sheath on the wires.   Crappy wires I might add.  

Singer 201-2 Subject B
Ok....just finished opening Subject A....I take my previous statement back.   I'm not sure which is worse....
Singer 201-2 Subject A
It's not going to clean up itself.   Gloves, Q-tips, toothpicks and Isopropyl Alcohol.  Dig in.  

The Tools to Use
As soon as the Q-tip is black, roll it to a clean spot, blacken it up, flip...repeat, dispose.
Singer 201-2 Subject A
This is NOT a quick process....but worth it for a "forever" machine

Singer 201-2 Subject A
The above shot it for understanding.   There is a thin washer on the end of the commuter.  Do NOT forget to put it back in when you put it back together.   Let me explain why!   See that tiny hole on the left side of the permanent brass ring?   That hole leads back to one of the grease cups.   This is what you are actually lubricating when you add grease to a motor.  The other end has a little brass cap over it.   The WASHER restricts the flow of the grease to JUST the end of the commuter!   It is, after all, metal on metal there. If you lose the brass washer, don't bother putting the motor back together.  You put the carbon brushes and the wiring in jeopardy of lubricant!   AGAIN!     

Singer 201-2 Subject A
The picture above is a gentle reminder of what happens when you take shortcuts and use electrical tape around bare wire instead of properly insulating it with solder and Heat Shrink Tubing.   Electrical tape is NOT for bare wire!   PERIOD!   It eventually heats up and melts.   

Singer 201-2 Subject A
Here is where we UNDO what the previous genius (ahem - hobbyist) did.   I removed all of the electrical tape and used Isoprophyl Alcohol on a qtip to clean the wire in preparation for soldering new ends.  Keep doing it until the paper towel under the wires wipes clean.

Singer 201-2 Subject A
MANY hours, hundreds of Q-tips, toothpicks, dental picks, an eraser, more Isoprophyl Alcohol, paper towels and new grease wicks later, all our parts are cleaned and ready to bring her back to life!

Singer 201-2 Subject A
That last photo reminds me of one particular guest at a lecture that I did last summer on Vintage Singer Sewing Machines.  Whilst the majority of the group was engaged and in awe of what it truly meant to restore and maintain one of these old machines, one wasn't so interested.  Annoyed even. Up until my lecture, she had never taken apart a sewing machine motor to inspect\refurbish\rewire it.  Apparently she liked to hunt Featherweights and resell them to the locals. Would blow out lint with canned air, oil, add new grease on top of the old grease and jack up the price $200 and then re-sell them as fully serviced.  While a Featherweight is a little less involved than a Singer with a potted motor, there is still much to know and take into account before you decide to "do business with friends" in my humble opinion. I smiled kindly at her after the demonstration, gave her a few of my business cards, and didn't say another word. I have since then gotten several calls from HER customers. They tell me that she highly recommends my services!   Sometimes, the know-it-alls that give you a not-so-nice first impression can become great allies if you respond respectfully!  I add this story to reinforce my reasoning for doing this blog post.   Knowledge sharing, is something that I strongly believe in.  My blog has been sparse this past year, but I really do plan on changing that in the coming new year.  :-)

Back to our already scheduled program!

Subject 201-2 Subject A
Lead wires trimmed to about an inch long, braided with copper wire, soldered and insulated with heat shrink tubing. Red on top, black on bottom. 

Singer 201-2 Subject A
Underwriters knot on the wires, more heat shrink tubing on both wires. Next, before you go any further, install a new grommet on the motor. You need a 3/8" diameter rubber grommet.

Singer 201-2 Subject A
Once the grommet is installed, feed the heat shrunk portion of the wires through and start putting your motor back together.   Tuck all the wires around the motor screws, put the washer on the end of the commuter, feed it back in (through the worm).   One screw on the worm goes into the flat portion of the shaft and the other, just screw in (more stability).  I add about a teaspoon or so of grease right on the worm.   The grease I use is is Polylube, the brand doesn't matter.   It's a polyurea Grease (Petroleum based) and can withstand hot and cold.   Bike shops use it.  It's a super slippery formula, kinda like that weird jelly stuff you used to play with as a kid.  It inhibits corrosion and WON'T harden like Lithum, plumbers grease or any other cheap stuff people buy to lubricate gears. 


Singer 201-2 Subject A
Singer 201-2 Subject A
The other end of the commuter peeks through the end under a brass-like screw.   I put a dot of grease there as well.

Singer 201-2 Subject A
I put a little bit of grease on the new wicks, feed them in (spring side up) and put the clips back in.   More grease - these are the actual grease cups - they feed grease to the worm and the other end of the commuter behind that little washer.  Remember the little pin hole?  Screw the grease cup caps back on.

Singer 201-2 Subject A
The machine head where the wiring melted to it has been all cleaned up.   Removed all the old rubber from the electrical tape fiasco and cleaned out the even older wire insulation crumbs. There was also hardened tan colored something (which I assume the previous "service" person decided was good enough to use as grease)......   The same person that opted to insulate bare wire with electrical tape..... Anywho...Cleaned out the 3-prong terminals with Isopropyl Alcohol and Q-tips.  Put the two large screws that held the whole potted motor in place back in and fed the wires down the head and behind the terminal.    Let them hang so you cut them at a comfortable length to terminate.


Singer 201-2 Subject A

I terminated the ends with terminal rings made for the same gauge wire and put all the wires back on the terminals.  


Red wire to #3 terminal, Black wire to #2 terminal.  The leads coming out of the head of the machine are for the light. One is connected to the switch and then comes back out of the switch and goes to terminal #3. The other lead coming directly out of the head goes to #1.   Add the brass rings back, put the knobs on, and screw the terminal box back to the machine and take her for a test drive.

Singer 201-2 Subject A
Plugged her in and hearing her rev up like a Porsche made my heart sing.  These machines, are like royalty when they are properly maintained and restored.    I'm off to work on the rest of her shiny bits now!   My customer is going to be so thrilled.   She thought she was going to be getting "Betsy the 2nd"...turns out, she's getting "Betsy the 1st!"

I forgot to mention - the serial number for this machine dates it to a set of numbers released on September 5, 1940.   "Betsy", as her new owner has chosen to call her, will be celebrating her 76th birthday next year.  And now, she'll run like a dream for another 76 years!   If you come across these beautiful machines, think twice before you put it to the curb or donate it to Goodwill.   They just don't make them like they used to.   If someone told me I had to get rid of all my sewing machines but one, MY Singer 201-2 would remain in my family for generations.

10 comments:

  1. Excellent post. Thank you! Now what do I do with those nasty wires that run out the center post from the light?

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  2. Brilliant post; I'm planning to take apart and refurbish my mother's 201K. Never done this before but love the sound and look of these machines. Both scared to death and excited at same time.

    Thanks for sharing.

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  3. Fantastic post!! I'm so happy I found you! I have what I believe is a 201K, I can't find that number on it but it's decals and decorative face plate match up with yours. I'm using this machine daily but the exposed wires and oozing black goo from the motor are concerning. I will follow your steps and let you know how I make out!
    Thank you!

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  4. Thank you. Really informative post.

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  5. Excellent information! I'm presently about to rewire a 201 motor. There is no insulation on the two lead wires. Do you just solder them to the new wires and then snug up the shrink tubing where they enter the wrapped wiring? Thank you!

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    Replies
    1. Yep! Lead wires trimmed to about an inch long, braided with copper wire, soldered and insulated with heat shrink tubing. See Photos!

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  6. Thank you so much for this post! I have a worst-case scenario 201-2 on my hands. There wasn't a speck of the rubber grommet left anywhere but melted goop inside the motor and on the machine head. And this is my first restoration ever. Ack! I guess that if I can restore this one, others may be easier?

    Your post is a wonderful complement to the VSSMB series of posts. I've gotten as far as cleaning out everything, including the tedium that is cleaning the motor wire in preparation for soldering new ends. Oh, the Q-Tips!

    I'm ready to do the soldering for the re-wire, and that's when I found your blog. Thanks for the confidence boost that this is still worthwhile. Your detailed photos are helpful!

    I'm ready to take a deep breath and perform the re-wire. If the motor works after all this, I get to reward myself with cleaning the rest of this machine! I just want to see and hear a 201-2 humming along in real life. I've only seen or read about it online so far. ;-)

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  7. mlmishaan@gmail.comMarch 29, 2017 at 9:43 AM

    So glad to find this as well. Not much out there for 'worst case scenario's' and not a lot of sewing mechanics want to touch old motor's with a ten foot pole! I have a question about the 'really really' worst cases- worse than what you posted. I just bought a 201 with the worst wiring I could imagine- with all kinds of yellow tape, black electrical tape, etc. Plus goo inside etc. BUT what about those curved black- are they brush leads? brush tubes? They are covered in black tape? but mine is kinda fuzzy- which leads me to believe that oil started to erode those covered whatcha ma callits. How do you replace or redo those? All can NOT be lost. There has to be a way.....

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  8. What happens if you accidentally pull the wire off of the brush tubes? Can it be repaired?

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  9. I am also wondering about the brush lead wires, one of my is unattached

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