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Sewing Machine Transformation

Years of being stored and left alone leave machines in poor condition.  The gears get gummed up from old grease, parts rust and the motor runs poorly.

Check out this Singer 201-2 machine I got a few weeks ago.  It was painful for me to run the machine in this state but I wanted to show how much it is struggling.  The machine is running at full speed here, it is slow and squeaky.

After a full days work of disassembling,  re-wiring motor and power/pedal cords, cleaning, greasing and oiling the machine it is SO much happier!

Removed bobbin winder assembly…

… and handwheel.

 Take everything else off the machine.

 Parts to be cleaned and metal polished.  I have these parts in a tube so I can soak them in isopropyl alcohol   The alcohol loosens the dirt and grime.  Brush with a toothbrush and dry well with soft towel.  Use BlueMagic to shine silver parts.

 Bobbin winder assembly with rust…

…and bobbin winder assembly without rust.  Interestingly enough, I used a wad of tinfoil with drops of lemon juice and rubbed the foil on the rusted parts and the chemical reaction removes the rust!

Motor and handwheel parts.  Ready to be cleaned and new wires soldered in.

New motor wires.

Motor with new grease and grease wicks.

Carbon cleaned off motor armature.

 Old, cracked foot pedal and power cords…

 …replaced with new cords.

 Tension assembly removed, parts cleaned and assembled.

Clean machine.  I use q-tips for the interior parts and cotton balls for the exterior because they’re both disposable and I go through a couple handful of each!

Old grease from the motor.

Now everything is cleaned and polished ready for assembly!  I grease the gears with Tri-flow grease.

 Motor and winder back on…

…now handwheel.

Motor wires cut to length and attached to terminal.

I oil all the oiling points with Tri-flow oil.  The best oil for machines!  If you don’t have Tri-flow, use regular sewing machine oil and nothing else!

Use Singer brand lubricant for the motor gears – not Tri-flow.  Tri-flow grease is for non-motor gears.

I used BlueMagic metal polish to buff and shine the silver metal pieces.  This stuff is amazing!  I brush the cream on with a tooth brush and clean and buff with cotton balls.

Here’s the finished product inside one of the wooden sewing bases I made. See tutorial here of how I made the base.

If you don’t know it by now, the Singer 201-2’s are my favorite machine to work on!  They’re sexy and stealthy all at the same time… is that even possible?

If you’re interested in re-furbishing your own machine, I have motor re-wiring kits for sale on Ebay.
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  • Reply Anonymous

    I recently purchased a 201-2 that was installed in a cabinet. While the motor and foot controller cords were in very bad shape your blog made that easy to fix… motor fell in the, "Best case", scenario and doesn't appear to have been used much as the brushes appeared to be either new or recently replaced. Rewiring the motor wasn't something I would've even considered until reading your step-by-step. I got my machine and cabinet for eighty buck so I don't think I got hurt to bad on that. Plan on refinishing the cabinet in the next few days. In the meantime, if you could point me in the direction of where to find instructions on how to rewire the light that would be awesome….also, taking the internals apart so I can clean it top to bottom or links where I can download manuals. Thanks in advance and awesome blog!!!

    October 8, 2014 at 2:01 pm
  • Reply Janet Kosloski

    are you still selling rewiring kits for Singer 201? I have a cabinet model that has both a foot and knee pedal.

    February 14, 2016 at 5:20 pm
  • Reply Dani

    Yes, here they are:


    February 14, 2016 at 5:24 pm
  • Reply Denny R

    Love your site….your boys are lucky to have such a handy mom!

    May 10, 2016 at 11:39 am
  • Reply Dani

    Thank you!!

    May 10, 2016 at 11:39 am
  • Reply Emly

    nice post

    August 25, 2017 at 8:31 am
  • Reply Dani

    Thank you!

    August 25, 2017 at 8:33 am
  • Reply Jaime Christine

    Hi Dani, Tomorrow I'm going to be venturing into the world of vintage Singer Machines. I found a Singer 201-?, in a cabinet(that doesn't have any legs). I am nervous as hell. I've been going back and forth to the thrift store for the past 2 days deciding if it should invest in this task of restoration or leave it for someone else, but because of your post, I'm going to accept the challenge of restoring this beautiful machine.

    Your post has me excited, nervous and very anxious(hence the 3am post). The machine is in really bad shape, but the light turns on and once I found the foot pedal/knee bar, it hummed. I believe – well want to believe – it's just gunked up with rust/old oil and grease, and needs to be brought back to life. I'll probably be on your site over and over rereading your process. Thank you again for sharing with great detail!

    I do have one question…I've never wired anything before in my life, as a kid, I had an erector set that came with a motor, but other than that, I'm really afraid of electricity. Question: Is it possible to short out the motor by re-wiring and make a mistake? I see you mentioned soldering, is that absolutely necessary? Also, is it possible to do all of the rust removal then take it to a repair person and have them rewire, or do you suggest I just have them do everything?

    Thank you!!

    September 30, 2017 at 8:29 am
  • Reply Dani

    Hi Jaime!

    I know how nervous it can be doing something for the first time. My heart was pounding and I remember holding my breath the first time I was doing a motor re-wire for the first time. It can be totally scary, I know, but when you're done you'll realize it was way easier than you expected and there wasn't anything to worry so much about. I had no idea what I was doing the first time and the second time I had so much more confidence. Now I've done it dozens of times and each time the motors have worked smoothly and beautifully no matter how bad they looked inside.

    I've had several machines that were stalled because of built up/hardened oil. Some people use the wrong oil and it really binds the machines after years of sitting around. If you're not up to soaking the whole machine in Kerosene I totally understand that… get a little dropper and put a few drops of Kerosene on all the metal-to-metal parts to loosen up and disolve old oil. Let it sit over night and you can go around with q-tips to clean up the areas. Oil all the points afterwards and turn the handwheel to work the oil into the joints. After a few hours turn the machine on and get the oil worked in even more.

    My local machine shop said he could do a re-wire but it would be $115 and that he really didn't want to do it. I didn't want to pay $115 so I set out to do it myself 🙂 The soldering is the trickiest part! I would get the motor to the point of soldering and have someone come over and do it for you if you don't have an iron… or take it to a friend/relatives house? It takes just a few minutes to do the soldering.

    I'm not an expert when it comes to electrical but I imagine you COULD do damage by putting the wrong color wires on but that would be avoided if you follow the pictures/directions on the Vintage Singer Sewing Machine's blog about re-wiring.

    I offer mail-in motor repair and can do the re-wire for you! See the drop-down menu at the top for more details/information.

    Feel free to e-mail me anytime at for other questions – I'm happy to help!

    YOU CAN DO THIS!! So glad you're taking the plunge into helping a 201! 🙂

    September 30, 2017 at 8:39 am
  • Reply Kimarie Marsolek

    Where can I buy the wicks for redoing my potted motors? I have several machines to restore?

    October 27, 2020 at 10:37 pm
    • Reply danicarby

      Hey! I have some extras. If you want to email me at I can give you my Paypal account – I can send you some for $2 a pair plus $2 shipping.

      November 5, 2020 at 8:09 am

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