Tuesday, September 25, 2012

1926 Singer 99 - Part 1

On a recent north Georgia treasure hunt, I found yet another vintage sewing machine at an incredible price. Well, incredible for me anyway. It is a 1926 Singer 99, complete with the Bentwood case and knee control lever, for a staggering $25!!! That may seem a lot to some of you for an 86 year old sewing machine that needs refurbishing, complete with a total re-wire. But to me, that is a steal! In my local Craigslist, these machines frequently run for much higher, and on eBay the prices are just plain ridiculous. Sure, I'd easily pay $150 for the same machine if it were already refurbished, rewired and in excelled working condition; but no way would I pay that much for a machine where I have to supply the parts and the labor. That takes away from my sewing time!

This is the machine, as found; and now affectionately known as "Ruby". Other than lots of dirt, lint and crumbly wiring, she doesn't look bad for her age at all.

1926 Singer 99

I want to keep this machine as original as possible, with the exception of the wiring. Wiring that is 80+ years old can be scary - brittle, crumbly, and exposed bare wires. All of those things can add up to a painfully dangerous shock, house fire, or worse. And being unable to test the machine's motor, I have to keep in mind that it may need replacing. So the first step was to photograph everything and from multiple angles and begin assessing what parts/materials I would need to restore this machine.

First things to add to the budget, electrical supplies  - $30 for a potential motor replacement; $5-$10 for wiring/cords/soldering supplies/etc. I already had some wire left over from the previous machine's re-wire; I bought it in bulk to save on shipping. Somehow, I knew I would be going down this road again in the future. But I still want to account for it in the 'total cost' of refurbishment. It gives me a good idea of a machine's 'cost of ownership' should I decide to rescue another vintage machine. (And we all know given my current track record, there will be others. I'm perusing Craigslist now as I write this post.)

The internal wiring didn't look too bad on the surface. But, being cloth covered, looks can be deceiving. Upon deeper inspection, I found exposed wires where both the cloth and latex insulator had worn away, and on a few of the end connectors, the wires had broken into separate pieces.
On the surface, wiring 'looks' okay. But it is hard and non-flexible. It has survived past its lifespan.

The yellow tape is to mark which motor wire actually connected to the incoming power. Being a DC motor, I could switch the two motor wires with no ill effects. The yellow-taped one just happens to be longer in order to reach the input connectors. Also, the amount of lint and dust in the electrical compartment was a fire waiting to happen with the exposed, decayed wires.

The motor controller is removed from the case. This controller requires the round-ended knee lever, which I was fortunate in that it came with the machine. Those levers frequently are lost, and sell online for more than most machines are worth.

The BU7 A motor that came with the machine. I did jury-rig a quick set up to test that the motor  powered up and turned over. It did; but I failed to notice the rotational direction; more on that later.

And just in case technology failed me, I made a hand drawing of the wiring to put away with my notes. And even though I back up my photos religiously, I still like tangible hard copies of some things, thus my diagram:

More disassembly to come in the next post.


Michelle said...

Can't wait to see more!

Thaddaeus said...

I would really like to see Part 2 of this, as I have the exact machine and with the trouble of tracking down a cord with the two female ends I am wondering if it's possible to just wire a power cord in directly to the motor controller and forgo the detachable power cord.

looking forward to Part II!

Scott said...

Thaddaeus - I am working on part 2, life took a side-step recently and the hobbies took a back burner. I would not recommend wiring straight to the motor controller. You may have to switch to a 3-pin connector and wire your machine that way. Singer eventually went that direction with the 99's and dropped the 'double female' plug. I'll try and finish part 2 in the next few days.

Anonymous said...

Scott, thank you so much for putting these Singer 99 restoration pages up. I've just obtained a 1939 version of the same and your nice clear images are going to be a huge help.
Thank you again - all the best to you and yours (: