How-To: Oiling a Singer Model 27

   This November, my Singer Model 27 turns 113 years old. Here’s how I’ve been keeping it running smoothly.

   After any restoration work, all a Model 27 really needs is continual oiling. It’s simple enough to oil yourself, and it’s all iron and steel, so you don’t have to worry about the oil reacting with plastic or electronic components. Hypothetically, if you dropped it in a huge vat of oil it would just smile.

   I use gun oil for my machines. I think it’s a good choice, because it’s meant for small machines that get dirty and work up heat. I’ve had no trouble with it. 

   Before you start, take out the needle, the shuttle and bobbin, and the felt disc on the spool pin. I’ve also taken my machine off the table, and removed the belt, one of the plates on the floor of the machine, and the bobbin winder: but you don’t need to do all that. 

When does my Model 27 need oiling?

    It needed oiling yesterday. And today, and tomorrow. And the day before yesterday and the day before that.

    No really. It will take a few drops a day if you’re using it, and more every so often. This machine will work ok without all this attention, but it’ll really work well if it’s been oiled. 

How-to:

   The Model 27 has three oiling holes, all located in the top of the machine. Three or four drops in each hole are all that’s needed on a daily basis, for daily use. Spin the wheel as you’re adding oil. If the oil forms a bubble, poke it with a pin until it drains.

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The first hole is located very close to the join between the machine body and the belt cover.

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The second hole is right next to the spool pin, and should usually be covered by a little disc of felt or wool, to keep the spool from scratching the enamel.

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The third hole is on the arm proper, right up by the head/face.

Other points to oil:

The spot at the top of the head where the foot post and needle post come out (visible in the photo directly above): oil these liberally and flip the foot lever/spin the wheel a few times so the oil gets down into the workings. 

Any adjustment screw or nut: a drop is more than enough, then wipe off the excess. If you can take the screw out without the machine popping apart, do that; oil the threads and put the screw back in. 

For the thread tension contraption, don’t go crazy on the oil. It needs oiling, but it’s difficult to wipe down, and any oil left will get on your sewing thread. 

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The head of the machine with the faceplate removed.

   Inside the head of the machine is a good place to oil, especially if the machine will be sitting for a while. Take out the two screws and pop off the faceplate. All you need for this is a 1/4″ flat-blade screwdriver. This size works for most of the screws on a Model 27, so it’s nice to keep one handy. A 1/2″ flat-blade screwdriver fits the rest of the screws on the Model 27. 

   With the head open, drop the foot and spin the wheel. Whatever moves, oil the joint liberally and spin the wheel some more. Oil the upper part of a joint, then spin the wheel and let the oil work its way down.

   While you have the face plate off, you can take a small, stiff-bristled paintbrush and clean any lint out of the machine. The workings of the Model 27 are pretty enclosed and shouldn’t accumulate too much lint, but it’s nice to check anyway. 

   Notice that the body of the machine isn’t enameled where the faceplate joins the body; this area is bare metal which rusts easily and should be oiled a little before you put the plate back on. Wipe it down, and oil the screw threads too. You’ll be glad you did, next time you take the plate off.

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Inside the body

    Above: the oil holes at the top should direct oil right to most of the hinges inside the body of the machine. To get oil into the rest of the hinge here, you ned to turn the machine on its side, or to use a dropper with a long nose. Again, spin the wheel for a while to get the oil worked in. 

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Inside the head

    Above: this little door opens to show the end of the rotating inner arm, and the shoulder of the small arm that holds the thread. The hole in the top of the machine should direct oil to this spot, so all you really need to do is add a drop or two to the top of the shoulder of the little arm. 

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The undercarriage

    Above: every so often, you’ll need to drop oil on every joint underneath and spin the wheel for a few minutes. 

Storage:

    Now that you’ve oiled it, it’s probably going to seep oil for a little while. You have been warned.

    I wad paper towels up and pack the machine with the pads, and I set the whole thing on a rag or a few paper towels to catch any oil.

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    When you’re ready to sew again, take care to wipe all the oil from the outside of the machine and wherever the thread winds. It’s a nice idea to sew a few lines on a scrap of cloth before starting your actual project, then wipe the machine down again, just in case there’s more oil working its way out.

How much is too much?

     There’s really no such thing as over-oiling. It’s just a little wasteful, and it means that you’ll have more work to do wiping off the extra oil when you want to use the machine again. 

     If I’m not using the machine daily, I give it a good oiling once a month or so, and spin the wheel every few days to keep it from rusting in place. If I’m using it daily it gets a few drops every day, then a thorough oiling when I’m done. 

     And that’s how to keep the Model 27 spinning! Happy sewing! : D

More:

     A facsimile of the original Singer Model 27 manual, with instructions on how to oil the machine. 

     Another link to The Singer Sewing Machine Co. Manual for the Model 27 & 28. This version is newer and shows added motors on the machines. 

     The Wikipedia page on early Singer models.

     More info on Singer vibrating shuttle models.

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About Amanda Goebel

I'm an Anthropology / Fashion History and Material Culture graduate from The University of Delaware, currently working on a Master's in Museum Studies. I'm a living historian interested in costume and culture from years before. I love researching the mundane and the everyday that has changed or disappeared since. I re-enact the 18th century, and I recreate clothing from that time. This blog is where I'll write about my research and projects. View all posts by Amanda Goebel

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