Isaac Singer created the first treadle sewing machine for home use in 1851. He based it on larger industrial machines. The first home machines were made of iron and set in wooden tables. The sewing machine runs on manual power as the operator moves the foot pedal or treadle back and forth. The mechanism of the machine is the treadle turning the wheels and belt, which then turn the gears inside the head that attach to the needle shaft, which moves up and down through the fabric, creating a stitch. Though Singer antique sewing machines are found in varying states of disrepair, careful restoration of the machine can bring it back to proper working order in about an hour. The difficulty of this repair comes in finding replacement parts and lifting the heavy iron.
Replace the Belt
Pull the two ends of the original belt apart using two pairs of pliers. A large staple holds them together. Pry the ends away from each other by pulling in opposite directions.
Feed the new belt into the wheels so the two ends meet in the front. Pull the two ends next to each other to measure where to cut the belt. When the new belt is snug but not too tight, mark the end that does not have the staple attached. Remove the belt and cut it at this mark with a box cutter. You can find new Singer belts on the Singer company website.
Create a hole on the new end of the belt using an ice pick and a hammer. Place the end of the ice pick 1/4 inch from the end and pound it with the hammer until it comes through the other side.
Feed the belt onto the machine and close the belt by pushing the staple through the hole and bending it with pliers.
Move the treadle with your foot to run the belt around at least twice.
Repair Moving Parts
Drip two or three drops of Singer sewing machine oil on the joints of the treadle, arms, wheels and in the three pinhead-size holes along the top of the machine head. Move each part slowly to check for damage.
Wipe all metal parts with a methylated cloth to remove dust, grime and excess lubricant. To properly clean each joint, remove the part from the machine. Each machine part has a screw holding it to the Singer machine base. A large, flat-head screwdriver removes any of these screws.
Replace any parts that are bent, chipped or rusted beyond salvaging. These old iron parts are hard to find. You may need to use multiple Singer sewing machines built within 10 years of each other to consolidate and create one functional machine.
Remove the bobbin and shuttle from the bobbin casing. Clean the shuttle and bobbin casing with a methylated cloth. Replace the bobbin and shuttle in the casing. Turn the wheel to watch for needle timing, hook timing and smooth shuttle movement. Adjust the appropriate timing by tightening the screws. For hook timing, adjust the screw on the shuttle until the needle sits dead center inside the hook opening. For needle timing, adjust the screw on the shank connected to the bobbin case until the needle sits dead center inside the shuttle opening.
Replace the Wheel
Grind the bent end of the rivet holding the wheel in place. The bent section reaches to the axle; once it is gone, the wheel will pop off. A rusted wheel will need careful manipulation. Remove the axle with the wheel.
Compare the size of the new wheel to that of the old wheel. If the new wheel does not match because the hub is too small, use sandpaper to whittle the hub to the proper size. Only Singer sewing machine wheels made during the same time period will fit without sanding. These are hard to find; if necessary, a plastic or wooden wheel will work just as well.
Attach the new wheel, plastic or wood, to the machine with a 2-inch bolt in place of the axle and two nuts with one washer. Tighten with the pliers.
Run the machine to test the repair by making stitches in some fabric.