Are you using the right motor lubricant for your Singer Featherweight? There are old, original tubes, new tubes and even some new kinds on the market... but are they properly suited for the Singer Featherweight? How would you know? Watch the video tutorial above or scroll down to read through Carmon Henry's tutorial in text format.
We are often asked if this lubricant is appropriate for other vintage Singer Sewing Machines -- and the answer is yes - so long as your vintage Singer motor has motor ports with a felt wick inside. If you are unsure of this, then if your manual indicates that your vintage Singer motor requires motor lubricant, then this lubricant will be perfectly suited for your machine.
Today I want to talk to you about motor and gear lubricant for the Singer Featherweight. There is much discussion about what is the right type of lubricant to use, specifically in the Featherweight motor and the purpose of the lubricant overall. So, I would like to clear up some of that information and also show you where, how and when to use the lubricant as well as tell you about some exciting news and developments here at April 1930's Singer Featherweight Shop.
Original Singer lubricant from the era of the Featherweight is a basic non-flowing, low melting point grease. Non-flowing, meaning that it will generally stay where it is put, and low melting point meaning under low heat, the lubricant will gradually melt and be reduced to its basic lubricating properties.
This is a cutaway view of the Featherweight motor that was given to me by Dave McCallum, and it offers an excellent view of where the lubricant goes inside this motor. The Featherweight motor has two lubricating ports, one on the top by the belt and one on the back of the motor. Inside each port is a felt wick as well as some space to hold the lubricant. When the motor is in use there is a small amount of heat that is generated partially from the friction between the shaft and the bushing and this heat causes the low melting point lubricant to liquefy, wick through the felt and onto the shaft of the motor. If the melting point is too high however, the lubricant will either not melt at all or not flow through the wick unless the motor gets very, very hot - which is not a good thing.
We have spent the last year researching, testing, and having laboratory tests done on the original Singer lubricants in order to supply featherweight owners with a lubricant that would meet the unique needs of the Featherweight. We are pleased to say that we finally have such a lubricant.
But first, let me explain the importance of the proper melting point.
Below is a snapshot of a simple heat and melting point tests to illustrate the melting points of a few of the sewing machine lubricants found today. We simulated the felt wick by placing several different lubricants on a thick felt mat, testing to see how fast they melted and wicked through the felt.
- Lubricant #1 is original Singer motor lubricant from the United Kingdom.
- Lubricant #2 is our newly developed lubricant from the Singer Featherweight Shop.
- Lubricant #3 is Original Singer motor lubricant from the US.
- Lubricant #4 is new Singer lubricant in the red/white/pink tube.
- Lubricant #5 is a new white-colored Singer lubricant in the blue and yellow tube.
- Lubricant #6 is "Nova's" syringed lubricant.
- Lubricant #7 is Tri-Flow Grease.
US lubricant was obviously a good motor lubricant according to original Singer standards, but we believe the later UK formula to be better because of its lower melting point. Excess heat is what destroys electric motors and the cooler that you can keep a motor, the better its overall health, life and longevity. Thus, as you can see from the time-lapse in the video above, that the melting point of our new lubricant is within range of the original Singer lubricant from the U.K.. You will notice that the melting point of ours is far less than the US vintage and modern Singer lubricants, as well as the other popular machine lubricants currently on the market. Lubricants #4 and #5 did eventually melt with a significant heat increase. Lubricant #5 left a white-ish powdery residue behind, but it was 4th in line to actually melt. #6 turned a yellowish-brown in color with the temperature increase, but it did not lose form nor did it melt - it actually started to smoke and burn like #7 did. Lubricant #7 did not change color, change shape or melt either. That is because Tri-flow lubricant is not designed to melt and will burn and smoke if the temperature is hot enough. Although Tri-flow is superior in its lubricating properties for places like gears, it is not properly formulated to use in the lube ports of the Singer Featherweight motor.
As you can see from the RPM demonstration we did that the motor to handwheel revolutions only reached a high of 1246 prior to being lubricated. After the old hardened grease was cleaned out of the ports, our new lubricant was added, the the ports were heated with a hairdryer to get the lubricant flowing through the old dry wicks, there was a significant increase in the rpms – up to 1652.
So, what does this mean if you have purchased other lubricants? Good question. The good news is that any of those lubricants will be perfectly suited for your Featherweight gears. In other words, no harm will come to your machine from continual use when using for metal against metal. If you have used other lubricants in your motor then refer back to the time lapse portion of the video. Depending on what you used, you may need to rethink what you've inserted into the lube ports of your Singer Featherweight motor. The white Singer lubricant was 4th in line to melt, but it did take several more minutes and an increase in temperature to accomplish this. So, you may have to run your machine longer and hotter for it to achieve the same lubricating effect. For many years the new white Singer lubricant was the next best thing available for the last several years (aside from finding original Singer lubricant) but now that we have a perfectly suited lubricant for the Singer Featherweight 221 & 222K, we will no longer be carrying those tubes.
Keep in mind, that there is no cure for a machine motor that is worn out from lack of maintenance, but we might as well do all we can to keep these machines running strong into the future.
Our new Sewing Machine Motor and Gear lubricant is now available for sale on our website. It comes with a curved tip syringe that works excellent for lube placement as well as being economical in that there is minimal waste. This application idea is not something I came up with on my own, but what I found to be the best application method from Ray White’s Advanced School on sewing machine repair. Thanks so much, Ray, for all your help!
Each motor lubricant comes with an instruction sheet. Page 1 shows how to apply it to the gears and page 2 shows how to clean the motor ports and then how to refill them.
If your machine has old grease on the gears, they should be cleaned first using Kerosene and a gear & lint cleaning brush - or an old toothbrush works, too. We put Kerosene in the same style bottles as our sewing machine oil so that you can direct the kerosene precisely on the point to be cleaned. You may order these long spouted empty bottles on our website as well.
Both the top and bottom gears should be cleaned at the same time. Therefore, it would be necessary to remove the spool pin coverplate and bottom drip pan together.
I recommend placing the machine on a piece of cardboard to catch and absorb the drips from the kerosene and dirty residue that flows while cleaning. Once the gears are clean, the new lubricant can be added by putting a bead of lubricant on the gears and then slowly turning the handwheel. This will distribute the lubricant to the corresponding gear.
We do not recommend using fibrous paper cloths or cotton swabs, etc. to clean the excess away because this will introduce lint and foreign fibers into the gears. Instead, after turning the handwheel a couple of times manually, use your finger to wipe off any excess lubricant. Although the excess lube will not hurt anything it will leave a mess inside your machine.
Repeat this process to lubricate the bottom gears.
To lubricate the motor, it may be necessary first to remove old lubricant clogging the ports. Gently insert the hollow port cleaning tool, which is included, to dislodge any old lubricant making room for the new lubricant.
Remove the cap from the lubricant and insert the tip of the applicator into each of the Motor Ports. You can see from our cut-away motor that the area to house the new lubricant is not large and a little lubricant goes a long way. Depress the plunger gently and fill up the port, simultaneously pulling the applicator out as you fill it. Use your finger to wipe away any excess. Repeat this process for the other motor port.
Singer originallly recommended lubricating the motor about every 6 months and the gears occasionally, as needed. This is our recommendation as well unless you are doing a lot of sewing, day-in-day-out - then perhaps once a quarter, or even once a month. Free-motion quilting requires it even more often.
When you are finished lubricating the gears and / or motor, it may be necessary to pull back slightly on the plunger so that the lubricant is no longer under pressure. Then you can replace the cap to the tip and store without it leaking.
Although this lubricant was developed for us specifically for the Featherweight, it can be used on the gears of any sewing machine with all metal gears, but should NOT be used on plastic or nylon gear systems. If you own a quilt store or a Featherweight business and are interested in carrying this product, please feel free to contact us directly for wholesale inquiries.
As always, we look forward to keeping these Featherweight machines working long into the future and are here to help and offer Featherweight service and technical support. Feel free to contact us anytime.