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Thread: Tension problems that drive you nuts.

  1. #1
    Super Member J Miller's Avatar
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    Tension problems that drive you nuts.

    Last December I was given a badly rusted and frozen up Singer 99K. I named him Rusty. The machine was complete with bobbin (filled), needle, needle plate, slide plate, and the rest of the parts connected to the head. Only the motor, light, wiring, foot controller and case were missing.
    The machine had been in a flood, then sat out on the back of a truck in the rain.

    At first I was going to part the machine out. I pulled a number of parts off to put on other Singers that needed them. Only to realize that each time I'd make a Sew-Classic order I'd order the parts I pulled off Rusty, put them on the other machines and put Rust's parts back in his box.

    So I decided to make Rusty a project. It was my goal to get him freed up and running, replacing only the parts that absolutely needed replaced.

    Getting all the parts freed up took a lot of Liquid Wrench, and other penetrating oils but gradually he came loose. First the main shaft, then the bottom. The biggest problem was the big arm that connects the oscillating hook to the other parts. It was rusted tight to the bolt. That didn't free up until I finally got it disassembled.
    As I got him freed up I pulled off most of the bottom parts cleaning each one then oiling it as I went.
    Finally down to the bobbin drive I tried to get the bobbin carrier out of the machine, but it was rusted enough that I couldn't get it out of the hook. I eventually got it out, but broke the ring on the hook in doing it.

    Fully apart I finished cleaning all the parts that were off. Then made my first parts order.
    I ordered the thread take up lever assembly, oscillating hook, and bought a feed dog screw from the LSMG.

    About a month ago I began to reassemble the machine. A kerosene bath to flush out as much of the remaining rust as possible first, then the bottom end went in first. No problems there, just assemble it.
    Then all the parts went into the left end. Needle rod, presser foot shaft, lever, and tension release parts, thread TU lever assembly, and finally the top tension itself. I used the TFSR instructions to do the tension.

    Once together I set the needle to hook timing and adjusted the feed dogs.

    Then overjoyed that my old rusted machine was together and would soon be sewing I found a full bobbin, grabbed a roll of thread and some scraps and threaded him up.

    All the joy was dashed when all I could get was very bad birds nests and broken top thread. During the entire time I spent attempting to diagnose the problems they manifested themselves under the needle plate and around the bobbin carrier. The thread was binding so bad you could actually see the tension it was under as went around the bobbin.

    I tried everything I knew, then contacted Miriam to pick her brain. For a couple weeks off an on we worked on Rusty. I'd tell her what I did, she'd make suggestions, I'd do them then report back.
    Finally at our wits end, we'd done everything to find the problem except rearrange the molecular structure of the machine. I replaced the bobbin carrier as the old one is pitted. (Works good in other machines though) I also replaced the bobbin carrier latch, as it was severely pitted. Then finally the two top tension disks. Same reason. Nothing we did changed anything.

    I was down to trying some parts off of Lady Godiva, my other 99k that does work. I was in the process of putting Godiva's needle plate in Rusty when I noticed something different between the two.
    The thread TU lever on Godiva was sitting higher than Rusty's. I turned the hand wheels to make sure both levers were as high as they'd go. Rusty's was lower.
    I was concerned that I'd gotten the wrong parts, but all the serial numbers matched. So I had to figure out what I did wrong when I put the assembly in.
    I then set the counter weights on the left end of the shaft so that the needle bar, and it's connecting arm were straight and compared how all the other parts were arranged. In Rusty the little offset part with the left hand thread that the thread TU lever is connected to and is connected to the counter weight was turned different.
    I loosened the screw in the counter weight and rotated the offset connector so that Rusty's TU lever matched Godiva's. Then spun them both a couple times to see what happened. I had to do a couple of readjustments to get Rusty's to match, but I got it.

    Then pulled Godiva's needle plate out and put Rusty's back in, threaded him up, grabbed some scraps and took a deep breath ............. ( had put the spoked hand wheel on to make it easier to hand crank him) ........
    put my finger in the wheel and started to turn it.
    No gunching and gritching ....... maybe?
    A couple inches of sewing and no broken thread ......... maybe??
    Then a lot of inches of sewing with no broken thread .............. Maybe???

    Finally after about 18" of sewing I stopped turning the machine, turned the scraps over and looked at the bobbin thread .......................... then did a little happy dance.

    We were sewing. Nice little evenly formed stitches on both sides, no birds nests, no jams, no broken threads, just stitches. He even does a nice looking back tack too.

    So, the entire problem wasn't a tension problem although it acted like it. It was a timing problem. The thread take up lever wasn't in the right place at the right time with the thread. It couldn't pull the thread up and out of the bobbin area at the end of it's up stroke. So everything bound up.

    This morning I put the regular hand wheel back on then put a motor on and that machine runs like a race car. The only thing is I don't have a case or even a base so he want's to vibrate all over the bench top.

    I have some fine tune adjustments to do, but Rusty is finally sewing.

    Now, for those that want pics, I'm sorry but I don't really have any to post. Most of the befores were lost when the old computer died earlier this year. What I do have is mostly to use for diagnosis. I'll get a few of him sewing and see what else I can find in a bit.

    Joe

  2. #2
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    Wow, that is quite an adventure you had to get it running but you were victorious in the end and that's what counts, right?

  3. #3
    Super Member J Miller's Avatar
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    Yepper.

    Joe

  4. #4
    Senior Member coloradosky's Avatar
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    Congrats, Joe, it will probably become one of your favorites to sew on.

  5. #5
    Super Member J Miller's Avatar
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    Rusty just sewed his first quilt square this afternoon. Still need to do some fine tuning, but I think he's gonna be alright.

    Joe

  6. #6
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    I love it when a machine goes from "I think I can" to "YOU BETCHA!! I CAN!!!" Good job Joe!
    If you feel like you're special...it's 'cause you are!
    Momto5

  7. #7
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    I bought a 99K new. It was a fun machine, when it sewed you couldn't beat it and when it didn't you wanted to beat it. The machine threw fits when the tension went crazy and I would rethread, clean the machine, oil and let it set and nothing seemed to help. Maybe the next time I turned it on it would work fine without any other adjustment. I finally tired of the fight and traded it off!

  8. #8
    Super Member k9dancer's Avatar
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    Thank you for explaining the problem and detailing the solution. I'm bookmarking in case I ever run across this.
    Stephanie in Mena

  9. #9
    Power Poster Jingle's Avatar
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    Good for you to finally get it figured out.
    Another Phyllis
    This life is the only one you get - enjoy it before you lose it.

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    Can't make up my mind if you are a detective or an engineer. In any case, CONGRATULATIONS on your persistence and your success.

  11. #11
    Power Poster miriam's Avatar
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    Joe could make a tutorial on just what we emailed back and forth about finding that problem. I was not able to figure it out - I failed to note that he had replaced the thread take up lever. I was having him check for dried oil, burrs, that little spring inside the foot lift, dried oil down in hole by that spring, the tension pin, rust or dried oil in the tension, bent needles, burrs on the throat plate, you name it we checked it. I thought the tension spring was set wrong. I had one that was caked with dried oil and barely moved. I got the oil off and it worked fine. It was doing the same thing. I knew the loops under weren't being formed right - that take up lever and spring are very important. It can be very frustrating - you won't find a repair shop that would do that - costs would be way out there. It took a lot of patience. I'm pretty sure Joe was ready to throw it out a window a few times. He would email, I emailed some idea back and then he tried it the next day. Then that didn't work I'd scratch my head and try to come up with some other idea, he tried that, nothing until he figured out that thread take up was not in time. There are times when you have to just undo what you have already done and do it over. I know he did that multiple times with that tension. I'm sure that is why it costs so much to go to a repair shop. Happens to all of us one time or another. Don't give up too soon. I'm sure Joe is now an expert on Singer 99 tensions. It is called the 'School of Hard Knocks'
    Last edited by miriam; 07-22-2012 at 02:53 AM.
    NEVER let a sewing machine know you are in a hurry.
    good mothers let you lick the beaters - great mothers turn it off first

  12. #12
    Super Member J Miller's Avatar
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    There is one strange thing about those top tensions too. I assembled the one on my first 99K, Godiva by the instructions in the TFSR site. Same with the second machine, Rusty. But they are no where near the same when it comes to how much the adjuster nut is screwed on the shaft.
    I've got the TFSR instructions printed out and will completely take each one apart and very carefully reassemble both machine's tensions. Just to be absolutely sure they are right and I can quit tinkering with them.

    Miriam, thanks a bunch for your help. I do appreciate it.

    Joe

  13. #13
    Super Member J Miller's Avatar
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    There is one strange thing about those top tensions too. I assembled the one on my first 99K, Godiva, by the instructions in the TFSR site. Same with the second machine, Rusty. But they are no where near the same when it comes to how much the adjuster nut is screwed on the shaft.
    I've got the TFSR instructions printed out and will completely take each one apart and very carefully reassemble both machine's tensions. Just to be absolutely sure they are right and I can quit tinkering with them.

    Miriam, thanks a bunch for your help. I do appreciate it.

    Joe

  14. #14
    Power Poster miriam's Avatar
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    That TFSR instruction manual is worth it's weight in GOLD. I keep it around. Some times I print out just the page I need in large print and scribble on it as I go. Link: http://www.tfsr.org/publications/tec...achine_manual/ We all need to support those people!!!
    NEVER let a sewing machine know you are in a hurry.
    good mothers let you lick the beaters - great mothers turn it off first

  15. #15
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    ty for sharing your experience. Nice to have a friend willing to guide you thru it. I learned a lot from reading this.

  16. #16
    Super Member J Miller's Avatar
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    sewmany,

    I don't have children to pass what I learn on to. So part of my enjoyment with what I do is sharing what I know. Not only do I sometimes help others, but I learn more too.

    Joe

  17. #17
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    Congratulations Joe! Sounds like quite the adventure. And this is why I really like having multiples of the models I collect; swapping parts in and out, or just visually comparing them as you did, has really taught me a lot. I'm always surprised when I think part X is the problem, but then I install part X from another machine and the problem remains. It's a great way to learn.
    - Rain

    Vintage Singer Sewing Machine Blog
    http://vssmb.blogspot.com/

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    Member patches6032's Avatar
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    wow! Awsome!
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