Singer 128-13 Vibrating Shuttle Problems

Katie, my Singer 128-13, has been having fits all weekend. Out of nowhere it started making an awful ka-chunking sound while sewing and I was afraid it would break another needle, like it did the first night I had it, so I had to stop sewing and try to assess the problem.

I cleaned it, oiled it, removed the presser foot and needle and replaced them to make sure they hadn’t been put in incorrectly or gotten loose and were connecting. I cleaned the shuttle and the shuttle race oil wick (pulling out decades of icky lint that was truly shudder inducing). I changed the needle to a brand new one, since that it was seemed to fix the problem last time – still no dice. I checked all of the screws and tightened one on the bottom that was loose. Still nothing. I tried to check the timing based on tutorials I had found online, but couldn’t figure out what was off –

Both of those pictures are dark because I took them last night when I was having a go at trying to figure out the issue for the second day in a row. All the pieces are Singer parts, the needle was in the lowest position when the photos were taken, but I couldn’t see a line on any of those parts to judge the timing. Maybe I’m just a total dope and didn’t see it. I didn’t know how to get down into the bottom with the feed dogs to assess them correctly, but the sound seems to come from the feed dog area. I don’t see any “burrs” on the feed dogs, everything technically appears fine, but it still makes that noise and sometimes seizes up, so I’ve decided not to even attempt using it until I can figure out something else to try or some way to fix it.

Not being able to use it has made me sad. I love that machine. Last night I ended up having to use my modern Janome (a Mystyle 100), which was a real drag in some ways after using a vintage machine. For one thing, it just can’t cope with thick materials at all. And trying to work with that tiny harp space is a super drag. Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoy it, but definitely not anywhere near as much as I love using my 128-13. After using a vintage machine, using a modern machine is frankly kind of depressing. But I have a bunch of skirts, other clothing, bags, quilts, etc, that I am in the process of making to donate to my local women’s shelter, so I will press on with the modern world and try to figure out a way to fix poor old Katie. If anyone knows what could be wrong, or what else I could try, please do let me know! I’d appreciate any help I can get at this point.

But Sunday afternoon was finally sunny, so I was finally able to take some better photographs of Zelda after those first gloomy, dark photos! So I thought that I would share them, since I promised last time that I would. Now you should be able to see the gorgeous gold Sphinx decals much better than before.

I wish that using Zelda by turning the hand wheel manually wasn’t quite so slow and so tough on my bird boned wrists, I’d use her to sew with more until I figure out how to fix my other machine.

Wish me luck figuring this all out. I’m a total beginner when it comes to sewing machine servicing and repairs, and this current problem has me completely stumped. I still have a feeling it could be a timing issue, because drawing up the bobbin thread/making the needle thread and bobbin thread form a loop after re-threading the bobbin or the machine is always a matter of trial and error with this machine as well. Plus that first needle that broke and now all of this mess starting up again. I just don’t know what to do at this point. If this is something I can fix on my own, I would much rather do that than have to take it to the shop and get charged an arm and a leg. I’m hoping I can fix it in the end.

19 thoughts on “Singer 128-13 Vibrating Shuttle Problems

  1. Oh no! But I think all it needs is oiling, in a place where you hadn’t oiled yet. You cannot mess up timing on VS machines because it’s in their bones – I found out the hard way! See my post here: https://vintagesewingmachinesblog.wordpress.com/2017/03/19/adjusting-timing-on-a-vibrating-shuttle-machine/.

    In order to get to where the noise is, you need to flip your machine back on its hinges (it’s in a wooden case, right?). There will be a clip of some sort holding it in place. Anyway, once flipped, clean out all the joints in the underbelly, and in particular that big one in the middle. This is also where the feed dogs are driven from, and according to a some old manual, you are advised to oil that feed dog attachment every day before sewing, as you oil the shuttle race (you do oil it every day, don’t you?).

    Check also whether you have an original Singer shuttle. If there are no part numbers on it, it is not from Singer. Or may be the shuttle’s nose got chipped. If unsure, you can buy another vintage shuttle on eBay or even try that new reproduction they are now making – also on eBay. It’s a Singer copy, so hopefully should work.

    Email me if you have questions! ๐Ÿ™‚

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    • Thank you SO MUCH Elena for the help! I’d oiled the underbelly before, but I don’t think I’ve been doing it properly, will have to give it a good thorough oiling and DEFINITELY oil the feed dog attachment – I didn’t even know you could/should! Thank you!! I wasn’t oiling the shuttle race daily, more like every other day, but I will definitely start doing that daily, especially since I use her so often!! The shuttle itself doesn’t have any part numbers on it – at least none that I can see on the outside – DARN! I will have to find a proper Singer one on eBay. Thank you SO MUCH for all the help!!!!

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      • I had a shuttle without numbers in my Singer 127K (just like your Sphinx!), and that shuttle was too short! Bought a Singer shuttle – problem solved. It’s in that post.

        Just to be clear: the feed dog attachment that I mean, is the attachment point, not the actual feed dog. That point is right next to the big joint in the middle. You’ll see it if you turn the balance wheel. You can even oil it from the top through the front sliding plate opening.

        It could also be that a gunk clot got detached from a joint wall and is interfering with the joint, now that you’re using the machine and the joints are moving again. Just give those joints a good flushing, it should be fine. ๐Ÿ™‚

        Good luck!

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      • Thank you so so much again! I’ll oil it ASAP after making sure that everything in the underbelly is clean. And I’ll also start searching for a replacement shuttle immediately! ๐Ÿ™‚ You are a queen among women, Elena!!

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      • Okay, so I completely cleaned it out and oiled it like you said, and it was sewing just fine until it suddenly seized up completely – the lucky thing is, you had mentioned the shuttle itself could be a problem so I slid off the little side plate and had a look – sure enough, it had jumped up and jammed the whole machine. Luckily (again) I was able to remove it. I had a look at it and tried bending the leaf (?) part of it down a bit, since it seemed a bit higher than it should be, put it back in and gave it a go – so far so good. I will run more tests and start looking for a Singer replacement! ๐Ÿ™‚ You are a life saver!

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      • The leaf part is the spring, sounds like the previous owner was grabbing the shuttle by the spring! ๐Ÿ˜ฎ That’s a big no-no, and now you know why! Yes, best get a new shuttle. Have you tried eBay UK? Shipping should only be a fiver or so for such a small item.

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      • I was just thinking: does your Sphinx have a shuttle? May be you can use that one in the meantime? They are the same. You can even use the older model from 27/127 in your 128.

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      • Sadly it didn’t come with one, or I would have swapped them. :/ I’d been swapping the one shuttle back and forth between the two – which explains why they both have the same trouble drawing up the bobbin thread. I’m on the hunt for a proper Singer shuttle though, and I won’t quit until I find one. ๐Ÿ™‚ I’m going to call or visit that sewing centre in town that I mentioned as soon as possible, I’m sure they would either carry them, or have a way of ordering them for customers, since they have such a good reputation for repairing and servicing vintage machines. ๐Ÿ™‚

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  2. That Sphinx is gorgeous. ๐Ÿ™‚ Just buy a motor and pedal set, either new or vintage, they are easy to fit. Make sure it comes with a mounting bracket (new ones usually do). I look for vintage ones that have a lamp attached as well, but I don’t know what you can get over where you are. ๐Ÿ™‚ And if you buy a new one, it’ll probably be white, but you can paint it black with some model paint for plastics. ๐Ÿ˜‰

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    • Thanks for the tips!! I’m going to have to look for a motor and pedal set! ๐Ÿ™‚ She really is gorgeous and I love her, so would love to be able to put her to use more often. I was thinking of buying a motor/pedal set, and you’ve convinced me! ๐Ÿ™‚

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      • Oh! I forgot to ask, what kind of lubricant do you recommend for sewing machine motors? I remember reading somewhere that Singer changed their lubricant and it’s not as good anymore. I’ve read you can use petroleum jelly because it has a similar/the same melting point as the original Singer lubricant – do you think that would be okay? Have you tried it yourself? I want to make sure to take care of my motors as well! ๐Ÿ™‚ You are wonderful, by the way, thank you so much for all of your help!!

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      • I’m all flattered now. ๐Ÿ™‚ You are very welcome! As for lubricant – do NOT lubricate the motor!!!! Unless you’re after a bit of fireworks, that is. I do remember reading about lubricating Singer motors, but personally I find Singer motors a bit anemic, and prefer Sew-Tric or Hillman instead, so I have no experience with motor lubrication. The only thing that needs oiling, is the point where the shaft comes out of the casing. I needs ONE drop of oil ONCE per YEAR, not more! You have to avoid oil getting into the motor itself!!

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      • Sounds good! ๐Ÿ˜€ Thank you so much!! And it’s true, you’re wonderful! ๐Ÿ˜€ I’m looking for a new/replacement shuttle online, so far they are out of my immediate price range, but I’ll keep my eye out and also call up/visit the sewing machine centre in my city that has a good rep for dealing with vintage machines, they may either have a shuttle or be able to get me one. ๐Ÿ™‚

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  3. You’re going to be able to do this. You just got a machine working after you were told it doesn’t/wouldn’t work. Unfortunately I can’t give you any advice because I really don’t know my ass from a hole in the ground when it concerns sewing machines. ๐Ÿ˜€

    that I am in the process of making to donate to my locals womenโ€™s shelter–And this? You really are a very kind and amazing person. ๐Ÿ™‚

    I wish you the best of luck with Katie. And I loved seeing the pics of Zelda! ๐Ÿ™‚

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    • Aww, thank you so much for your comments, Jennifer, you put a huge smile on my face this morning! ๐Ÿ™‚ Katie is back up and running – fingers crossed she stays that way until I can get the proper shuttle she needs! And I’m back to being able to work on the quilts, skirts and stuff that I’m going to be donating! ๐Ÿ™‚

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  4. Pingback: An Orphaned Sewing Machine, by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich Harvard Magazine | The Pretty and The Kitsch

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