Nova often tells her students to treat their Singer Featherweight foot controller like a china tea cup. The internal parts of the original Singer Featherweight foot controller are not replaceable and are very delicate.
The foot controller works from a carbon resistance pack on the inside. This is comprised of a porcelain (typically) pack filled with thin, round carbon discs. The carbon discs are the delicate parts.
When a foot controller is opened for service (not something recommended for the owner to do), Nova can tell how the foot controller has been treated. If there is a lot of carbon dust present, it is an indicator that the foot controller has been dropped, or kicked over time. The dust is from the breaking of the carbon discs inside the pack.
The photo here shows the inside of the foot controller. On this foot controller the porcelain pack is broken away. You can see the carbon discs on the inside.
Eventually, when multiple carbon discs are broken, the foot controller will begin to get hot. Singer Featherweight foot controllers can get so hot that they can catch carpeting on fire. Since there are no internal replacement parts, the foot controller has to be replaced with an electronic model. (Click here to see the replacement foot controller available through Nova’s online Shop.)
Therefore, be careful! Treat your foot controller carefully (like a china tea cup), and if it is getting hot – replace it.
Registration is open for Nova’s Featherweight Maintenance Workshops at the International Quilt Festival in Houston. Nova is teaching two classes there this year on Friday and Saturday. These are the only openings remaining for 2016 for Nova’s Featherweight Maintenance Workshop. The workshop numbers are 522 (Friday) and 715 (Saturday). Click here to be directed to the Quilts, Inc. web site for registration. Don't delay. These workshops sell out quickly.
When you are doing routine maintenance to your machine or minor repairs such as changing out the motor belt, be sure to check for thread that has become entangled in various places and remove it.
This photo is of the motor pulley. The red is thread. There was a large amount of thread wound around the pulley causing the belt to slip and wear.
Thread entangled in the machine can cause a variety of problems including excessive wear, sluggishness, etc.
A clean machine is a happy machine!Happy Stitching!
The MAAS metal polish that I carry in my online Shop (click here to find it in the Shop) is fantastic for restoring Singer Featherweight attachments, case latches, face plates, chrome bobbin winder wheels, and other metal parts of the machine that are not painted.
It works well to remove rust and polish out blemishes on the original attachments, bobbin cases, tension discs, etc.
It should never be used on the painted portions of the machine. Products for caring for the paint, decals, and carrying case are detailed on Nova’s Featherweight Cosmetics Card.
Happy New Year!
This year we will begin the Tip of the Month with information about your Singer Featherweight Motor. I hope you enjoy the video and find the information useful!
I hope 2016 will be a wonderful and prosperous year for all.
I always like to keep our Tip of the Month for December short and simple since we are all busy preparing for holidays with family and friends.
I just want to caution you about being careful with the light bulb on your Singer Featherweight. Many emails and calls have come in this month about light bulbs not making good contact, and therefore, flickering, or not staying lit. The contacts at the back of the light fixture are small and round. They must connect with and stay connected to the contacts on the back of the light bulb. It is quite easy to damage these or the light fixture itself creating the problem of the bulb not staying lit. The most common ways of damaging the contacts are when installing a new light bulb (a gentle touch is always best) and when lifting the machine.
Yes, when simply lifting the machine out of the case, onto a table, etc., the bulb can be “mashed” to the side and the contacts damaged.
Although the light fixture is a replaceable part, always try to prevent damage to our beloved machines. Be careful not to put pressure on the bulb when lifting the machine.
Wishing you and yours the happiest of holidays.
The sewing mechanism continuing to run when winding a bobbin is a common occurrence with Singer Featherweight 221’s. The stop motion knob (small silver knob inside the large hand wheel) must be loosened (rotated toward you) to stop the motion of the needle and feed dogs. Often, though, these parts continue to run while winding a bobbin.
There are four primary reasons for this happening:
1) The stop motion washer which is immediately behind the stop motion knob has been installed incorrectly. The washer has three outer nodules along its outside edge and two inner “ears”. The “ears” should be facing toward the outside of the machine, not to the inside.
2) The threads inside the hand wheel bushing are dirty with old oil, lint, dust, etc. These should be flushed out with kerosene (use a syringe) when changing a belt, etc. Never swab these threads out with a cotton swab or paper towel. The fibers that remain behind can cause the same problem as the old oil, lint, and dust.
3) Those same threads are dry. Oil them after cleaning.
4) Worn threads in the hand wheel bushing. This is a natural consequence of using the machinery, but can be accelerated by constantly turning the stop motion knob instead of the large hand wheel. Only rotate the large hand wheel, not the small stop motion wheel. The 1946 Featherweight that I do all of my piecing with, has this problem. Its threads are damaged/worn and it sews very slowly while I am winding a bobbin. That’s life. It is still a great sewing machine and my favorite to stitch with. One thing that has worked well for me is to flush these parts out, then oil them, then hold the thread uptake lever motionless while the stop motion knob is not engaged (like when winding a bobbin) to work any loose particles through the threads. BE VERY CAREFUL WHEN DOING THIS. You do not want to lose your finger! Make certain the stop motion knob is disengaged and never force any of the machinery.
There are still a few seats left for my 2016 Singer Featherweight Maintenance Workshops in Huntsville, TX. If you are interested, now is the time to register and reserve yourself a seat. Here is a direct link to that page: http://www.novamontgomery.com/singer-featherweight-221-maintenance-class.htm
Modern quilters are causing the popularity of the Singer Featherweight 221 K7 machines (the pale green Singer Featherweights that Singer referred to as “white”) to dramatically increase. These were all manufactured in Great Britain in the Kilbowie, Scotland plant and were the last of the Featherweights that Singer produced.
These machines are belt driven on the interior (as opposed to the black and tan Singer Featherweights that are gear driven machines on the interior). And, there are several distinctive things about these machines that need special attention. In a recent Tip of the Month we looked at their motors and noted that some (but not all) have sealed motors.
This month I would like to call your attention to the motor pulley on the Featherweight 221 K7. The motor pulley is constructed of Bakelite (an early plastic). After this many years, the Bakelite has become brittle in many instances. It tends to chip and break quite easily. The motor pulley in the photo is a good example. The machine that went with this pulley was recently on my workbench. When I initially began working on it, I thought the motor shaft was bent. Then it became apparent that there was major damage to the pulley. Luckily, there are replacement metal motor pulleys available, and you can now find them in my online Shop. Installation is simple. Just remove the set screw on the original pulley, remove and replace with the new pulley aligning the hole for the set screw.
Due to the differences in these machines and the black Singer Featherweights, and due to my students’ requests, I have developed Nova's Featherweight Maintenance Card for the 221 K7 (the white Singer featherweight). Click here to order. As always, my emphasis is on educating the owners of these wonderful machines on caring for them, so they will continue to endure and sew on.
There are many educational opportunities available for owners of Singer Featherweights:
1) Former Tip of the Month postings here on the web site
2) Videos posted under product descriptions. There are lots more of these coming in the next few weeks.
3) Nova’s Featherweights and Quilting Facebook page
5) Workshops at the International Quilt Festival in Houston, TX at the end of October (It is my understanding that these are full at this time)
6) Nova’s Featherweight Maintenance Workshops in Huntsville, TX in 2016. These are posted here on the web site. I posted them earlier than usual this year due to repeated requests. At the time of this writing, they are booking quickly with a few seats left. If it has been a few years since you had this workshop, consider repeating it. It is constantly being updated to bring students the most up-to-date information available. Click here to be taken to the registration page.
7) Nova’s Retreat in Rockport, TX scheduled for February 2016. Registrations are coming in for this event. Seating is limited, so don’t delay. Click here to be taken to the Retreat page.
8) I will be traveling to several guilds in 2016. Talk to your program director about me coming and sharing with your guild. I am booking for late 2017 and 2018.
This month's Tip is a video showing maintenance for a portion of the underside of the machine.
Something else to mention to you -- If your machine becomes jammed (the hand wheel will not turn) do not remove the feed dogs. Removing the feed dogs will not help you correct the difficulty. You will find information about safely removing jam in the Tip of the Month from May 2013.
This month I would like to discuss bobbins and some of the difficulties they can cause.
Improperly loaded bobbins or bobbins that have the thread ‘tail’ caught around the outside of the bobbin or exposed can cause tension issues. I thread from the inside of the bobbin through a hole, then hold the thread tail close to the bobbin while winding so that it breaks off cleanly.
Examine your bobbins before you load them with thread. Occasionally, there are manufacturer defects that can affect how the machine sews. See photo. Old bobbins can have rust on them that will affect how they move within the bobbin case. Clean them with kerosene and emery paper if necessary.
Never use a bobbin that has been dropped on a hard surface or stepped on.
Beware of bobbins from the big box stores – regardless of what the package or brand name says. They are typically just a tiny bit too large and can easily get stuck in your bobbin case. Protect your original Singer Featherweight bobbin case! It is not worth damaging it over a cheap, poor quality bobbin.
One additional thing I would like to share with you this month – never put pliers on the spindle or the positioning finger of the bobbin carriage. That part is not replaceable without replacing the entire hook. That is a very expensive mistake! Let's prevent damage to our beloved machines.
As those who are frequent readers of the Tip of the Month know, I typically choose to write about current issues that have come to my attention during the previous month.
There is evidently a lot of information floating through the FW forums about the ‘white’ Singer FW motors. I do not participate in any of the forums, simply because I do not have time, but I have received multiple inquiries about this information.
There were two different motors originally placed on the ‘white’ (mint green) Singer FW (Singer Featherweight model number 221 K7). The earlier motor was a motor that needed lubrication just like the black, original Singer Featherweight 221 motors.
The only thing I ever recommend placing in a Singer Featherweight motor for lubrication is Nova’s Motor Lubricant. I spent three years conducting research with a chemist to develop this product. NEVER put a liquid oil of any kind in your Featherweight motor. NEVER put a lubricant that is ‘sticky’ in your Featherweight motor – just as the original manual advised to never put Vaseline in your Singer Featherweight motor. Both substances (liquid oil and ‘sticky’ lubricant) are certain to give your motor extreme difficulties and can ruin it. If your motor ‘smokes’ – you can be assured that it has had a liquid oil placed in it. I do not recommend using a motor that is smoking. If it burns – you will have lost your motor.
To conclude on this point – I have done the research. Nova’s Motor Lubricant is the only thing that I am placing in my machines. I want to keep my machines sewing.
The second motor placed on the Singer Featherweight 221 K7 machines (‘white’ machines) is a sealed motor. That means there is NO way for the owner to lubricate this motor. It has no grease tubes. It was sealed from the factory. Additionally, some late black motors that were replacement motors are sealed motors. These motors do not have grease tubes or ports where you can add lubricant.
You do not need lubricant whatsoever for the 221 K7 machine with a sealed motor. It has no gears to grease and the motor is sealed.
I do not recommend the owner of any Singer Featherweight to open the motor on their machine. The parts inside are delicate, and brittle with age.
Evidently, there is a recommendation on some of the forums for owners of the ‘white’ machines with sealed motors to open these motors up and ‘relube’ them as a part of normal maintenance after fifty plus years. I do not recommend you do this. Remember, you can’t believe everything you read on the internet. Several customers have contacted me after receiving this advice. Their motors are functioning fine. Leave these sealed motors alone - just sew and enjoy your machine.
Remember to check my Greetings and News.
The material contained in this month’s Tip is repeated from earlier Tips. However, I continue to receive questions on a daily basis about some of these issues, so they bear repeating.
Many questions and requests have come to me regarding the difference between kerosene, oil and lubricant. These are not interchangeable terms or products.
Kerosene is used to clean the MECHANICAL PARTS (not the painted parts) of the machine. (For information on cleaning and protecting the finish on your Featherweight, its decals, case, etc. - see Nova's Featherweight Cosmetics Card.) Kerosene is the only thing I recommend you use to clean your machine. Kerosene was what the engineers who designed this machine recommended for cleaning the mechanical parts.
Kerosene usually has a blue label or is in a blue container. I am aware that it is available on Amazon in a one quart can with a red and yellow label (brand is Sunnyside). It is available from hardware stores (Ace, True Value, Lowes, Home Depot), typically in a gallon container. It is also available at Wal-Mart and some sporting goods stores in a quart container. Look in the camping section of the store. Do not substitute paint thinner, camp stove fuel, etc. Do not look for kerosene in a paint store or the painting section of a store – you will not find it there and the salesmen will try to sell you something else. One customer from California was told that kerosene was outlawed in California by Proposition 65. After we visited she found kerosene in the camping department at her local WalMart.
Many terms are different in the United Kingdom than they are in the United States. A customer (Joe W.) has been kind enough to share a scan from an original British Singer manual. The verbiage used in the British manual is almost identical to that used in the American manuals.
“Machine Working Heavily – If, after standing for some time, the machine works heavily, use a little paraffin in place of oil. Then run the machine
rapidly to clean the bearings, thereafter oiling with Singer superior machine oil.”
The verbiage is almost identical - the term kerosene in the American manual is paraffin in the British manual. For us in the US, this is unthinkable – paraffin is wax. In the UK paraffin is the same as our kerosene. In the UK kerosene has a different meaning as well. Therefore, in the United States use only kerosene. In the United Kingdom use only paraffin.
I do not currently sell kerosene through my web site because I ship USPS and kerosene is a flammable liquid that cannot be shipped through USPS Mail.
I do realize that there are superior solvents for cleaning machinery on the market. However, they are NOT safe for the finish of your Featherweight. They will remove it and the decals. If you spill kerosene on the finish, simply wipe it off with a paper towel.
Oil is any good sewing machine oil: Bernina, Dritz, Singer, etc. Do not substitute 3 in 1 Oil, WD-40, etc. Sewing machine oil is available from a variety of places including Hobby Lobby, JoAnn’s, etc. Never use a “penetrating oil” on your Singer Featherweight. It contains chemicals that will ruin the finish on your Featherweight if any is accidentally spilled there.
I do not currently sell sewing machine oil through my web site because I ship USPS and oil is a liquid and not permissible through USPS Mail.
Lubricant is a grease required for your vintage machine’s motor and metal gears. It is NOT a liquid. Its consistency and absorption rates are critical. That is why it required three years of research with me working with a chemist to develop a quality product for these machines. Read the labels on the red or blue tubes. They say nothing about being used in machine motors. I fully realize that they are being marketed for use in machine motors by many who claim to specialize in Featherweights. For more detailed information refer to the Late August 2014 Tip of the Month. Click here to order Nova’s Motor Lubricant.
Your Singer Featherweight’s Sewing Hook
The hook is what makes the stitch on your Singer Featherweight. NEVER remove the hook from your Featherweight. Removing the hook will cost you money! The last three machines on my repair workbench have had their hook removed by someone prior to coming to visit with me. The timing is fouled and they produce a stitch that mimics tension problems. Correcting this is an extremely time consuming, tedious process. Prevent the damage – leave the hook alone. For clearing thread jams, see the Tip of the Month from May 2013. This is a far better and safer way!
I have said this before, but it is worth repeating… Be extremely careful whom you trust with your Singer Featherweight. The majority of the repair work in my repair shop is correcting what someone else has ‘fixed’. Additionally, I had a customer who notified me earlier this month who had been charged a large amount of money to ‘rebuild the clutch’ on her Featherweight. (I’m not sure what they even could have done – there is no part typically referred to as a ‘clutch’ on a FW.) Since that experience, her machine was tight and did not run well. The conclusion after we visited a bit – the belt was not installed correctly…..
Lastly, I would love to come to your area and share Nova’s Featherweight Maintenance Workshop with the folks there. It is an extremely empowering workshop. I typically travel at the invitation of quilt guilds, so visit with your program director and have them contact me. If you would like to see me at a major show in your area, contact the education department for that show – often they do not believe there would be enough interest to merit a workshop on Singer Featherweights.
I hope this is helpful and informative.
The Tip of the Month for May is a video demonstrating cleaning under and reinstalling the needle plate on a Singer Featherweight 221. Enjoy! Happy Stitching! Nova
Many of you know that I recently had an article (“A ‘Green’ Little Black Machine) about our beloved Singer Featherweights published in The American Quilter. I am exploring the idea of publishing a series of stories about Singer Featherweights and their owners. I have had many intriguing stories told to me in the past few years. If you would be willing to share your stories and photos with me, please email me at a special email I have set up for this project: FWStories@novamontgomery.com.
Our Tip for this month centers on carefully examining your machine as you are maintaining it, keeping a watchful eye out for potential problems.
As noted on Nova’s Featherweight Maintenance Card (click here for more info), the center section, far right, discusses maintenance items to be performed with the machine lying ‘on its face’. That would be taking the machine with it sitting like you were going to sew and pulling it forward onto its ‘face’. This is the best position for the machine to be in for you to reach the two places on the arm of the machine. And, gravity will work in your favor to move the kerosene and oil down where they will reach the necessary places on the machine mechanism. This is also the easiest position for the machine to be in for you to apply Nova’s Motor Lubricant (click here for more info) to the grease tube / well / shaft on the back side of the motor.
While the machine is in this position, take advantage of the visual opportunity to clearly see and examine behind the large hand wheel and behind the motor belt pulley for thread that has become entangled. The photos show just such a situation. There was a large amount of thread wrapped around and behind the hand wheel bushing causing this machine to struggle. Removal of the thread solved the problem. If you find thread in these areas, it is usually a matter of simply unwinding it and removing it. Kerosene can help lubricate the thread, soften it and can make it easier to remove.
I have received numerous comments from my students and customers about the difficulty of finding kerosene. While shopping for it they have been told to substitute everything from diesel, to paint thinner (I was actually told that, myself!), to propane (BOOM!). What are these sales people thinking? And, I find it extremely interesting that you are looked at like you just sprouted spring green leaves from your ears when you ask for kerosene. Historically, kerosene was the very first thing refined from crude oil. It literally took America out of the dark and lit homes with kerosene lamps and lanterns. The refining of kerosene is how John D. Rockefeller built Standard Oil. Now, when you find kerosene lamp oil, it often has a coloring agent, scent, etc. in it. What we need for our machines it just plain, clear, K-1 kerosene.
Since this has become such an unforeseen issue for so many, I am going to be researching and hopefully finding some resources to help with this. I cannot ship kerosene or sewing machine oil (liquids – and kerosene a flammable liquid) through USPS. So, when I have found some possibilities, I will post links for you. It will have to be shipped UPS. I hope this will help.
An article I authored on Singer Featherweights being ‘green’ machines is in the current issue of The American Quilter. Hope you get a chance to take a look at it!
Don’t miss my Greetings and News.
The Tip of the Month for March is about cleaning your Singer Featherweight.
A large portion of the issues that come through my repair workshop are caused by machines that are dirty and ‘gummed’ up with 50+ years of lint, old oil, etc.
I hope you enjoy the Tip and find it beneficial. It discusses recommended products and techniques, and the reasons for them.
Don’t forget to check my Greetings and News for the latest. And, I would love for you to ‘Like’ my Facebook page.
Due to everyone’s busy schedule, this month’s Tip will be shorter and simpler.
A simple maintenance item that needs to be done periodically is tightening
the screws on your original Bakelite “S” plug on the electrical cord set. Such a simple thing, but I forgot to do this on the cord set at my workbench that is my official ‘test’ set. Now I have a nut and screw missing…. It is very simple – just take a screwdriver and tighten the screw.
Please remember to inspect your electrical cords periodically for damage; nicks, cuts, severe crimps. We want to stay safe. Preventing damage is always best – cords are damaged when they are sticking out and the case lid is closed on them.
Aluminum wiring is almost always a smooth wire (no groove down the middle of the wire). Aluminum wiring should be replaced. In the photo the wire on the left is aluminum (smooth). The wire on the right is copper (groove down the center).
I offer a service for you to replace dangerous electrical cords. Send me your foot controller, and I will replace the wiring for just the cost of the cord set with no labor charge (of course you will need to pay the shipping). While I have the foot controller, I will clean and inspect the interior making any necessary adjustments.
The new cord set comes with ‘built-in’ plugs for both the wall outlet and the machine plug. The machine plug tends to be much stiffer and a bit more difficult to plug and unplug than the original Bakelite plug.
If you would like the original Bakelite “S” plug installed on the new cord set, I can do that for you as well. However, there is a labor charge due to the amount of time and the tedious nature of the work involved.
It is quite common for me to receive bags of parts to the original Bakelite “S” plug that someone has disassembled and cannot reassemble. It is also common to receive plugs that have been incorrectly reassembled or damaged by attempted reassembly. When they are all counted – there are sixteen small parts that must be correctly assembled and aligned. As I previously stated – it is a time consuming and tedious job. Unfortunately, if the Bakelite plug has been broken, it is dangerous, and will have to be replaced.
Some of my international customers have brought to my attention that they would like their cords replaced and an original Bakelite plug retained, but the cost of shipping the controller to me through international post and then me returning it is prohibitive. Due to this concern, the following solution is offered. I can place an original Bakelite “S” plug on a new cord set and send it out with instructions for cleaning the interior of the foot controller and installing the new cord set. In this scenario, the original Bakelite “S” plug would also need to be purchased (or possibly ‘traded-in’).
I trust that you will find these new options helpful.
Finally, my wish is for this holiday season to be filled with joy and great blessings for you and yours. I have been greatly blessed during the past year by my association with all of you. Thank you.
Merry Christmas and Happy Stitching!
Is my machine a Featherweight?
During the past month several inquiries (and a few communication difficulties) have occurred regarding whether a machine was or was not a “Featherweight”.
The model that Singer designated as “Featherweight” was the model 221. Technically, the majority of machines are model 221-1 due to a patent update.
Though Singer did not put the model number on them until the 1950’s, they are distinguishable by some very distinctive traits:
These are a few of the obvious features to determine if your machine is a Featherweight – “The most popular portable in all the World”.
Welcome to the Tip of the Month for October 2014. I’m glad to have you reading! I know many of you are new to the world of Featherweights and to my web site. I’ve been told that the Tip of the Month can be intimidating. Please don’t let it be. There is a wealth of information here for you and your Singer Featherweight, but you don’t have to learn it all at one time. If you are new to Singer Featherweights, I would direct you toward Nova’s Featherweight Basics Card. Everything you need to know about the basics of using your machine is contained on that 8 ½” x 11” card (click here for more information about Nova’s Featherweight Basics Card). Consider this analogy: there is a lot of information about bicycles – maintaining them, changing tires, adjusting or lubricating the chain, the physics of how they work, etc. But you don’t need to know all of that to enjoy riding a bicycle. The same principle applies to your Singer Featherweight 221. Learn the basics and enjoy using it while learning more as you go.
If you have been a reader for some time, you know that I typically write about things that I have seen in my repair workshop or that I have had numerous emails about over the past month. This month I would like to discuss the Adjusters Manual for Singer Portable Machine 221-1 that has become readily available and popular through an internet auction site. During the past month, multiple emails have come in wanting to know if I have the spring for the back of the hook for the Singer Featherweight. Because of the information contained within this Adjusters Manual, folks have pulled the hook off of their Featherweights and think they have a spring missing from their hook (see the excerpt from the manual).
THIS IS ERRONEOUS! The publication date of this manual is 1935. Singer changed the design of the hook after this manual was published. So, the vast majority of Singer Featherweights out there do not have springs on their hooks.
I have consistently advised my readers that if you do not have the knowledge to do what you are contemplating doing to your Featherweight – don’t do it – even if you own the Adjuster’s Manual. It is more than likely going to cost you some serious money (for shipping and repair). Several of these machines have been sent to me to reinstall a hook that was not broken and adjust the machine so it will sew again. Let me repeat – don’t remove the hook from your Singer Featherweight unless you are absolutely positive you know what you are doing. Of all the machines I have serviced and repaired, only once has it been necessary to remove a hook – and that was due to the point on the hook being broken by a needle that would not stay inserted in the needle shaft.
Additionally, this month I would like to recap, define, and distinguish three terms of vital importance:
Kerosene: Kerosene is a heater fuel that comes with a blue label or in a blue plastic bottle. I recommend kerosene to clean the mechanical workings of your Singer Featherweight removing the old oil, lubricant, lint and dirt that can impede the function of your machine. Diesel, WD-40, liquid paraffin, Liquid Wrench, PB Blaster, etc. are NOT interchangeable with kerosene. Kerosene will not harm the finish on your machine. You will find kerosene at hardware stores.
Sewing machine oil: Oil is a liquid. It flows. Any good quality sewing machine oil is fine for your Featherweight 221 (Singer oil, Bernina oil, Dritz oil, etc.). Again, never 3 in 1 oil, WD-40, etc. I do not sell oil through my web site because I ship through USPS and their regulations will not allow me to ship a liquid through the mail.
Lubricant: Lubricant is not a liquid. It is a grease. It is to be used on the machine gears and in the two grease tubes / wells on the motor (one by the belt and one on the back). I invested three years conducting research to identify a lubricant that I believe would be good for our beloved Featherweights. I introduced Nova’s Motor Lubricant in late August of this year. See the Special Tip of the Month from Late August for more information, and there is a video under the product description (click here to be taken to that page). I will be adding videos about using the lubricant for the Singer 301 / 301A and other vintage machines. You should be lubricating your Singer Featherweight motor at the end of every project or at a minimum every other month. The most neglected part of most machines in Nova’s Featherweight Maintenance Workshops and on my repair workbench is the motor. If you love it – you'd better lube it!
For more information on my travels, etc. please see the Greetings and News page here on the web site (click here), and don’t forget to ‘Like’ my Facebook business page: Nova’s Featherweights and Quilting.
The Special Tip for Late August 2014 was very important. I would like to ask you to reread it and consider it carefully. If you own a Featherweight 221 or other vintage machine, you need to be lubricating your motor regularly. I recommend lubricating every other month with my new product, Nova's Motor Lubricant. Click here to order.
For the rest of the Tip for September, I would like to direct your attention to some new products I am carrying. Most of these are specialty products which makes them a bit more expensive, but very advantageous.
Nova's 301 / 301A Maintenance Card Finally, one of my Maintenance Cards for the 301 or 301A machine. Click here to order.
LED Bayonet Style Bulb This is a great bulb for your Featherweight. It will not get extremely hot and burn you like the regular bulb. It is rated to have a long life. And, because it is LED without a filament to break, it should be very compatible with our little portable machines. One additional feature of these bulbs is that they have the 'cat eye' connectors for greater connectivity in your machine. A big, "Thank you!" to Kermit C. for helping me locate these and testing them for me! Click here to order.
Offset Screwdriver This is a specialty tool not available in the run of the mill hardware or home improvement center for removing the screws in your needle plate. The difference is the width of the blade. This one is very narrow to allow it to fit into the slot of the screw heads. Click here to order.
I hope you find these products beneficial.
Special Tip - Late August 2014
This Special Tip has been a long time "in the works". I hope that you will read it and share it with your guild members, bee members, and friends. Because of the special nature of this Tip, you have my permission to reprint it (without editing) in your guild newsletter or share on Social Media.
Featherweight Motors and Lubrication
by Nova Montgomery
The motor on a Singer Featherweight, or any sewing machine, is its heart and soul. If the motor fails, there is a halt to that machine’s sewing capability. The Singer Featherweight motor can be opened, cleaned, and most often restored to full sewing capacity. However, preventing damage is always preferable to fixing a problem.
Unlike modern sewing machine motors that are sealed, the Singer Featherweight motor (and all vintage Singer motors) must be lubricated on a regular basis. There are two grease tubes on the Singer Featherweight motor; one on the rear and one on the top of the motor. These two grease tubes must be filled with an appropriate motor lubricant in order for the motor to continue to operate. Lubricating the motor is often the most neglected part of maintaining a Singer Featherweight. At least ninety percent of the machines that come through my Singer Featherweight Maintenance Workshop and across my repair workbench have nothing in the motor grease tubes. And, since the motor will function for a time with these grease tubes empty, the owner is often unaware of the damage being caused inside the motor.
The photos show what can happen inside a Singer Featherweight motor when there is no lubrication along with other factors including age and heavy use. Not lubricating a motor properly can accelerate the build-up of soot and can cause excessive wear. Soot builds up inside the motor and can cause the motor to begin to hesitate and finally to stop altogether. When a motor begins to hesitate, we instinctively reach up, turn the hand wheel and “help it” start. The built-up soot can usually be cleaned out and the motor restored to full operation, but this is not a task for someone inexperienced in servicing these motors. Never let anyone who is merely “mechanically inclined” attempt to open your Singer Featherweight motor.
The design of these motors is ingenious and has kept them sewing for decades. At the bottom of the grease tube is a wick held in place by a copper spring. Grease is inserted on top of the wick in the grease tube. The wick absorbs and carries the oil from inside the grease (all greases are carriers for the oil contained within them) down to the shaft of the motor. As the motor heats (part of the normal process of the motor running), the wicks are warmed dispensing more grease for greater lubrication during use.
The key element is the grease. If the grease is “too thin” (or if straight oil is used), too much is dispensed into the motor and could cause the motor to smoke as well as possible deterioration of the wire coating inside. This could lead to permanent damage to the wiring on the motor’s interior. If the grease is “too thick or sticky” not enough oil will be released from the grease to lubricate the motor. If a product such a petroleum jelly is used, a sticky mess that could be combustible is created inside the motor. It is interesting to note that Singer cared about these motors enduring. From the very beginning, Singer’s owner’s manuals warned customers about using only the right lubricant. The original owner’s manuals specifically warn against the use of petroleum jelly – most likely because it looked similar to the original grease. I have opened and cleaned enough motors where petroleum jelly was put into the grease tubes to know that this is a certain recipe for disaster.
When nothing is inserted into the grease tubes, there is nothing to lubricate the motor and the wicks at the bottom of the grease tubes become dry and harden. When they are hardened, if they are pushed on, they will cause too much friction against the shaft of the motor and can cause a motor to slow or stop. So, it is very important not to push on these wicks or remove them. They have a vital function to the operation of the motor.
From the research I have conducted, the original lubricant ceased manufacture quite some time ago and the word “motor” was dropped from the packaging. In my opinion, since Singer stopped manufacturing their original motor lubricant, a product of a similar quality has not been available to adequately lubricate a Singer Featherweight or any other vintage Singer motor. Over time in using the name brand product, I have observed inconsistency from “batch” to “batch” – this caused me great concern. So, I began conducting tests on the original motor lubricant from the 1930’s, 40’s and early 1950’s. Then I began looking for an independent laboratory to go beyond my capabilities and conduct more controlled and in-depth scientific testing. My goal was to find a product that would function like the original grease that has successfully kept these machines sewing for all these years to lubricate the motors of the Singer Featherweights and other vintage Singer machines.
After months of testing by the lab, the research findings concluded that there does not appear to be an exact match for the original lubricant currently available. Consequently, the quest shifted from finding a “match” to finding a lubricant that is as close in characteristics/properties as possible to the original. This has been accomplished and a material was identified! I conducted the final testing in Singer Featherweight motors and it appears that consistently the motors are being better lubricated and functioning more efficiently. All my testing has had positive results and I am now using only this product in my personal collection of machines.
So, I am very pleased to introduce you to Nova’s™ Motor Lubricant! As my mission statement indicates, I want to help you preserve your machines for years to come.
Nova’s™ Motor Lubricant is packaged in a syringe with a lubricating tip (this is a blunt tip - NOT an inoculation tip). I chose this packaging because the lubrication tip allows precise application of the grease (i.e. puts it where it needs to go) and allows for complete filling of the tube. It also displaces the old lubricant, so your grease tubes are filled with fresh new lubricant all the way to the wicks. In my opinion, it is also a great lubricant for the metal gears.
Remember, though, beginning proper lubrication with the new motor lubricant cannot undo years of poor lubrication or other maintenance issues. And, it is not recommended that anyone inexperienced with the Singer Featherweight motor system attempt to open a Featherweight motor. If your motor needs service, it is always best to seek service from a reputable and knowledgeable technician.
Nova’s™ Motor Lubricant is intended only for home users for lubricating sewing machine motors with grease tubes and metal gears. It is not intended to be used in any commercial / industrial setting. Never put Nova’s™ Motor Lubricant on nylon or plastic gears.
Nova’s™ Motor Lubricant – an excellent choice for your Singer Featherweight’s (or other vintage Singer’s) motor and gears.
Click here to order Nova’s™ Motor Lubricant. There is a video demonstration for you under the long description of the lubricant.
For August I had planned a major announcement about the health of your Singer Featherweights. Unfortunately, everything is not quite in place for me to be able to share this “big news” with you. I am now aiming for a special announcement mid-August. It is coming – I’m having to learn to be patient.
So, this month I substituted a video with information about cleaning a drip pan. None of my videos are “scripted”, so you get what I am thinking / feeling. I apologize that in this video you will hear the word “nasty” used to describe this particular drip pan numerous times. (It really was!) ;-)
I received a couple of emails this month inquiring about homemade drip pads cut out of felt. My experience with these has been that they are almost impossible to remove from the pan and that they are not very absorbent. The pads that I carry for the Singer Featherweight 221 are made from a felt as near to the original as I could find. These are manufactured specifically for me and differ from others on the market.Enjoy the video and be watching for the special edition Tip of the Month later in August!
I would like to visit with you about the foot controller for your Singer Featherweight this month in the Tip of the Month.
Nova’s™ Basics Card instructs you to treat your foot controller like a china tea cup. Why?
I often have students come into a quilting class, unpack their foot controller, drop it on the floor and then kick it into the position they desire for their comfortable sewing. This is NOT treating your foot controller like a china tea cup!
The original foot controller for your Singer Featherweight is a “carbon resistance” foot controller. Most often there is a porcelain “pack” inside the foot controller that has stacks of carbon discs inside. The porcelain is delicate, but the discs inside are much more delicate. If enough of these delicate discs are broken, one of two things will happen: 1) the foot controller will cease functioning, or 2) the foot controller will begin to get extremely HOT. Occasionally, a foot controller that is getting hot can be adjusted and it will be fine, but most of the time it is terminal. There are no replacement parts being manufactured for the original foot controllers. (I do carry a very nice electronic “full foot style” foot controller in my online store, but I would prefer to keep these machines as original as possible for as long as possible – prevent the damage.)
The photo shown here is carpet in the classroom area of a quilt shop where a foot controller became so hot that it burned a hole in the carpet. So, if you stitch with shoes on, it is a good idea to check your foot controller occasionally to make certain it is not getting hot. And, ALWAYS unplug your machine at the wall when you are finished sewing. Recently, while doing some other testing of machines, I had them plugged into wattage meters. I had heard and read about “leaking” electrical appliances, but when you see it happening it is quite revealing. I observed the meter light up randomly though the machine was NOT in use. So, ALWAYS unplug the machine at the wall – for safety and energy savings sake.
Lots of new and exciting things happening within the month of July that will be of interest to you and your Singer Featherweight. I know I keep promising, but everything should be ready to launch by the first of August.
My “Tip” to share with you for June encompasses several topics. As is typical for me, I’m writing about things that have occurred during the past month.
During my Featherweight Maintenance Workshops in May – there were several students (some “new” to their machines, some who have been sewing on their machines for years) who were surprised to discover their machines would sew in reverse. This is one of many things covered on my Nova’s™ Featherweight Basics Card. This Card was developed to cover the “basics” of using your machine. There are many unique attributes of the Featherweight; thread path, needle direction, bobbin direction, etc. These are all covered in full colored photos on the Basics Card.
Needle insertion can be difficult. One additional tip I would offer would be to begin by putting the needle down into the hole it goes through for stitching. Make certain it is turned the right way by looking at the top of the needle shaft and orienting it correctly. Then raise it up into its position (as high as it will go) and tighten the needle clamp making certain that you have not rotated the needle when raising and tightening it in place.
I received an email from a new Featherweight owner whose machine was jammed. She had invested a great amount of time on various Internet forums, and due to the advice given there had spent money on unnecessary parts, etc. After emailing me (I offer Consultation Services for very reasonable fees), the diagnosis was swift and she was successful in getting her machine sewing. Nova’s™ Featherweight Troubleshooting Card addresses just such issues. It has full color photos on the front and verbiage on the rear (such as, “with various things to look for in diagnosing the problem and find a solution”). Owners can potentially save a great deal of time, frustration and some money with the Troubleshooting Card.
Each of the five of Nova’s™ Featherweight Cards was developed because of my students’ requests to address various issues about their machines. Each Card addresses different information about the Featherweight. (Click here to purchase Nova’s™Featherweight Cards.)
Additionally, there is a wealth of information here on the Tip of the Month, which is indexed for your convenience and ease of use.
I also received some interesting historical information this past month about the part numbers on the Singer Featherweight bobbin case. I’m always delighted to receive additional information about Featherweights! From the evidence presented, it is possible that the number 45750 was the number of the base of the bobbin case and the totally assembled case had a reference number of 45751. While some of the historical data I have collected via the hundreds of machines that have come through my Maintenance Workshop and across my repair workbench do not agree with this – it is quite interesting and intriguing. It does not change the fact that the reproduction bobbin case (now numbered 45751) does not fit the vast majority of Featherweights. What does this mean for you? Protect your original Singer Featherweight bobbin case! When in your sewing studio, etc. keep the bobbin case with the machine not in a separate drawer or box. When you are taking a workshop, don’t leave your bobbin case unattended. When you leave for a break or lunch, put your bobbin case in your wallet. If you need to replace a lost or missing bobbin case, I will work with you to help you get a bobbin case that will work with your machine.
Lastly, the three major repairs that I have encountered with Featherweights on my workbench in May have been to repair what someone else has “fixed”. I am repeatedly cautioning you about to whom you should trust your Featherweight. Just because someone is “mechanically inclined” does not mean they have the knowledge or skills to work on your Featherweight! In each of these cases original parts were ruined (including a motor) and had to be replaced, resulting in much costlier repairs in the end. In one humorous instance, the owner was on the phone discussing charges, procedures for shipping, etc. She repeated what my fee would be for the repair she needed. Her “mechanically inclined” helper was listening in the background and shouted, “That’s not enough to charge for something so contrary!”
Short videos are continuing to be added to the web site demonstrating and comparing various products. You will find these videos in the description of the various products.
Work toward instructional videos is continuing also. Hopefully, these will be available by the end of the year.
For almost three years I have been conducting research on a critical issue pertaining to the maintenance and longevity of our Featherweights. I am quite excited to finally have drawn some conclusions. I’m hoping to be ready to share this research and the conclusions with you next month. Be watching!
I hope you are reading my Greetings and News (located under Contact Nova on the Navigation Bar at the top of each page of the web site) for information on what is happening with Nova’s Featherweights and Quilting. And, I would be very honored if you would “Like” Nova’s Featherweights and Quilting on Facebook. I’ve been somewhat negligent on postings there over the past month due to my travel schedule and the research I’ve been conducting. I hope to do better this month!
The Tip for this month is in both text and video (see below).
I recommend using only kerosene to clean the mechanical parts of your Singer Featherweight. There are other, better solvents on the market, but they can be harmful to the finish on your Featherweight. I see photographs on the Internet of people recommending using other, stronger solvents, but they can damage your machine’s finish.
The engineers who designed your machine are the ones who originally recommended cleaning the mechanical parts with kerosene in the original owner’s manual.
I have received emails and phone calls from concerned students and customers who have been told that diesel is the same thing as kerosene. This is not true. Kerosene is a heater fuel that can be found in a one gallon container at most hardware stores and in a quart container in camping departments. I also heard this month about someone recommending “tiki torch fuel” to clean a Featherweight. Tiki torch fuel has citronella (to keep mosquitoes away) and other additives. You can use kerosene as torch fuel, but I would not use tiki torch fuel with its additives to clean my Featherweight. Nor would I use colored “lamp fuel” – just plain kerosene.
Our Tip of the Month this month deals with ‘Commandment’ # 7 from March's Ten Commandments for Your Featherweight. I have received several emails and phone calls about this, so I wanted to show you the why behind the ‘commandment’. The end of the video will also address paint loss in peculiar areas on the machine. I hope you enjoy.
Please remember that the Tip of the Month (as well as all of the information on this web site) is copy right protected. You must have my written permission to copy the information in any manner.
Remember you can order Featherweight Parts and Accessories securely through my web site (under ‘Shop’ on the Navigation Bar at the top of the page) or by calling me.
Last month’s video Tip received great reviews! However, there are a number of loyal readers who only have dial-up, so for a time, I will alternate between the video Tips and written Tips. I have created a YouTube channel, so those of you who have that capability, can see everything I have posted on video. I am posting a number of short video demonstrations about various products that I carry, anticipating that they will be useful to you.
Please remember that the Tip of the Month (as well as all of the information on this web site) is copy right protected. You must have my written permission to copy the information in any manner.
Ten Commandments for Your Featherweight
1. Thou shalt remember to hold the thread tails every time when you begin stitching (this will prevent jamming the machine).
2. Thou shalt always rotate the hand wheel toward you – not away from you (again, this will prevent jamming the machine).
3. Thou shalt remember to properly maintain your Featherweight (see Nova’s Featherweight Maintenance Card for good information – click here to be directed to Nova’s Featherweight Maintenance Card).
4. Thou shalt use only sewing machine oil on the machine.
5. Thou shalt be very cautious of the source of information you heed about your Featherweight (not everything you read or see on the Internet or other sources is true).
6. Thou shalt not use damaged or overfilled bobbins in your Featherweight.
7. Thou shalt not use a screw driver on the top tension assembly of your Featherweight.
8. Thou shalt not use any cleaner with ammonia or alcohol on the painted portion of your Featherweight (see Nova’s Cosmetics Card for information on products and cosmetic care of your Featherweight – click here to be directed to Nova’s Featherweight Cosmetics Card).
9. Thou shalt not travel with or ship an improperly packed machine (see the Tip of the Month from October 2013).
10.Thou shalt not disassemble something that you lack the knowledge to reassemble (there is no need to remove the sewing hook or the motor to maintain your machine).
Bobbin Case Tension Issues
This month I am debuting a video Tip of the Month! Please let me know how you enjoy it!