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Thread: Plastic vs. metal bobbins for old machines

  1. #1
    Super Member Candace's Avatar
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    I've been told to use metal bobbins in my vintage machines that have metal bobbin cases and the plastic in newer machines with plastic cases. Basically use what was supposed to go in there when they were made.

    I do only use the metal bobbins in my vintage machines, but am seeing more and more vintage machines sold with plastic bobbins in them. I'm just wondering why? I've been told using the plastic in metal cases can affect tension and cause problems. With both plastic and metal still so readily available, why would someone put plastic bobbins in these old machines?

  2. #2
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    Knowledge? They probably don't know, don't understand and most importantly don't care. :)

  3. #3
    Power Poster amma's Avatar
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    I am not sure, maybe with all of the prewounds available?
    I prefer the metal and wish the new machines still used them :D:D:D

  4. #4
    Super Member thepolyparrot's Avatar
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    Some of my old machines don't seem to care what kind of bobbins I put into them.

    I can even use the very cheap pre-wound plastic bobbins in my 15's - though the machines do seem like the heavy solid metal bobbins best of all.

    When the plastic bobbins came out in the 60's, they were sold as replacements for the metal ones. I used them in my grandmother's 401 and they worked just fine, so I never gave it another thought.

    Since I started collecting vintage machines a few years ago, I've had a couple of slants that didn't like the plastic bobbins, but the rest haven't seemed to know the difference.

    I wouldn't try the reverse, though - I wouldn't use a metal bobbin in a modern machine designed for plastic bobbins.

  5. #5
    Super Member virtualbernie's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by CoyoteQuilts
    Knowledge? They probably don't know, don't understand and most importantly don't care. :)
    I agree!

  6. #6
    Super Member mom-6's Avatar
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    I'm guessing that part of the reason is that the plastic bobbins are much more readily available in places like Wal-Mart which would be where a person would most likely go first to find replacement bobbins.

    Even as an experienced seamstress I did not initially recognize the differences between the various bobbins and attempted to use wrong ones on one of my machines and did not realize that was part of the cause of the birdnests I experienced with it. Need to go back and figure out which bobbin really was meant for that machine and see if that will make it work right. Also need a bobbin cover for it. The random piece of clear plastic does not substitute very well there either.

  7. #7
    Super Member thepolyparrot's Avatar
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    The plastic bobbins were manufactured and sold as replacements for the class 66 bobbins in the 60's.

    Clearly the Singer Company thought they would be all right.

    And they're still being sold as class 66 bobbins.

    If there were something wrong with using them on a machine made for class 66 bobbins, wouldn't Singer have re-classed the plastic ones or maybe put a disclaimer on their current packaging by now? "Not to be used in machines made prior to 1960" or something like that?

  8. #8
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    For best results use the bobbins that the manufacture of you machine recommends. If they are for vintage machines then you may have to contact manufacturer or check on line for correct ones. I tried using #15 in my singer but #15j was recommended and it seemed to fix fine but was actually a bit smaller and would jump out of the case causing problems.

  9. #9
    Super Member jljack's Avatar
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    They probably are using what they have on hand. I agree, metal in metal, plastic in plastic

  10. #10
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    I really wish bobbins had some sort of labeling on them so I would know which one is which.

  11. #11
    Super Member Stitchnripper's Avatar
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    None of my machines are particular. I use either plastic or metal, depending on which I grab. I have two vintage singers, one a treadle using a class 15 and one an electric using a class 66. I use plastic or metal on my dinky mechanical Brother which is the least fussy machine I have ever owned. It doesn't care about bobbins, threads or needles and will sew anything. (I feel like I bragged on it too much and now when I go to use it it will crash on me!!!!!!!) Of course the featherweight uses it's own bobbin, and I only have metal ones. Maybe that's all that's made for it.

  12. #12
    Super Member virtualbernie's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bearisgray
    I really wish bobbins had some sort of labeling on them so I would know which one is which.
    I know. I have 2 singers that both use plastic bobbins that look very very similar. I had to put nail polish on one set so I could tell the difference because they didn't fit each other.

  13. #13
    Super Member lalaland's Avatar
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    I've used both as well in my old and new machines and rarely had a problem but I stopped using metal bobbins in the top loading newer machines since part of the assembly is plastic and my repair guy told me the metal bobbins will wear the plastic out. Made sense to me so now I only use the metal bobbins if the casings are all metal as well.

  14. #14
    Super Member Candace's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by amma
    I am not sure, maybe with all of the prewounds available?
    I prefer the metal and wish the new machines still used them :D:D:D

    I hadn't thought of prewounds being a reason. I can see that.

  15. #15
    Super Member Candace's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mom-6
    I'm guessing that part of the reason is that the plastic bobbins are much more readily available in places like Wal-Mart which would be where a person would most likely go first to find replacement bobbins.

    Even as an experienced seamstress I did not initially recognize the differences between the various bobbins and attempted to use wrong ones on one of my machines and did not realize that was part of the cause of the birdnests I experienced with it. Need to go back and figure out which bobbin really was meant for that machine and see if that will make it work right. Also need a bobbin cover for it. The random piece of clear plastic does not substitute very well there either.
    Any place I go, Joannes, Walmart etc. carries both.

  16. #16
    Super Member Candace's Avatar
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    I find this thread curious as I've been told by vintage machine folks that the plastic bobbins are a no-no!

  17. #17
    Super Member lalaland's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Candace
    I find this thread curious as I've been told by vintage machine folks that the plastic bobbins are a no-no!
    That may be because some of the plastic ones are shaped differently and this can cause them to "jump around" in the casing which could lead to thread jamming which can affect the tension and/or the timing if not caught in time. Also, the plastic bobbins do wear down in the metal casing eventually and that can also cause a problem. I think a lot of the time we say NO because that's the way it's always been, but that doesn't mean that's the way it has to stay.

  18. #18
    Super Member QultingaddictUK's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by virtualbernie
    Quote Originally Posted by Coyote Quilts
    Knowledge? They probably don't know, don't understand and most importantly don't care. :)
    I agree!
    Ditto, it's obvious that the older machines are setup to use the heavier metal bobbins as plastic ones weren't made when you were in action, duh!

  19. #19
    Super Member katyquilter's Avatar
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    I'm about to try a plastic bobbin in my 99K which I recently purchased at a thrift store. It came with one metal bobbin and I bought the metal 66 bobbins which should work. they fit but do not work - the machine refuses to sew, it's as if the bobbin is just a hair too tight. So someone suggested plastic. I'm going to have to get some to try soon unless someone has a better suggestion.

  20. #20
    Super Member lalaland's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by katyquilter
    I'm about to try a plastic bobbin in my 99K which I recently purchased at a thrift store. It came with one metal bobbin and I bought the metal 66 bobbins which should work. they fit but do not work - the machine refuses to sew, it's as if the bobbin is just a hair too tight. So someone suggested plastic. I'm going to have to get some to try soon unless someone has a better suggestion.
    Go for it!

  21. #21
    Super Member virtualbernie's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by katyquilter
    I'm about to try a plastic bobbin in my 99K which I recently purchased at a thrift store. It came with one metal bobbin and I bought the metal 66 bobbins which should work. they fit but do not work - the machine refuses to sew, it's as if the bobbin is just a hair too tight. So someone suggested plastic. I'm going to have to get some to try soon unless someone has a better suggestion.
    If the plastic doesn't work, try adjusting the tension screw on the bobbin case. WARNING: YOU ONLY HAVE TO TURN THE SCREW JUST A HAIR--TOO MUCH CAN CAUSE PROBLEMS!

  22. #22
    Super Member QultingaddictUK's Avatar
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    http://www.singermachines.co.uk/sing...-metal-66k.htm These are the ones I always use with no problems.

  23. #23
    Super Member QultingaddictUK's Avatar
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    Oops double posting

  24. #24
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    This is very interesting. I have an old Brother 8200 sewing/embroidery machine that I bought from a great dealer in Kentucky. We now live in Ga. Wanting new bobbins I went to the local dealer, of course wanting metal bobbins. I was promptly told I shouldn't be using metal bobbins, I should be using plastic! If that's the case, then why did the machine come right out of the box, unopened box, with metal bobbins?

    So, I called the dealer I bought it from, they had never heard anything about not using metal bobbins in that machine. Now this is just my opinion since I'm still confussed over this issue, I prefer the metal bobbins. They don't seem to jump as much as plastic. I've also had some platic bobbins end up with little sharp edges that tear the thread.

    Maybe it's just a personal prefernce. I'll certainly be reading to see what answers are posted.

  25. #25
    Super Member QultingaddictUK's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by virtualbernie
    Quote Originally Posted by katyquilter
    I'm about to try a plastic bobbin in my 99K which I recently purchased at a thrift store. It came with one metal bobbin and I bought the metal 66 bobbins which should work. they fit but do not work - the machine refuses to sew, it's as if the bobbin is just a hair too tight. So someone suggested plastic. I'm going to have to get some to try soon unless someone has a better suggestion.
    If the plastic doesn't work, try adjusting the tension screw on the bobbin case. WARNING: YOU ONLY HAVE TO TURN THE SCREW JUST A HAIR--TOO MUCH CAN CAUSE PROBLEMS!
    I have had to do that with my older machines, never with the new one, I suppose it's wear n tear, and I agree with your warning, just a tiny smidgen and then test the running of the thread. This video is a super to show you how: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TaH9yB7XUBk

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