Sparks In Sewing Machine Motor

gardenwolverineNovember 17, 2011

I hope this is just a dumb question and not something serious...

Bit of background - a couple of years ago I came across a Portable Electric White Family Rotary circa 1921 (or earlier...its the exact same machine as the treadle version, but with a motor on the side. Husqvarna-Viking gave me the build date of the wrong machine when I asked them.) in very good shape. It had been used until maybe a year or so before I bought it, and then given to the secondhand store when the old lady either died or became incapacitated. It even still had thread in the bobbin. I downloaded both manual #11 and #12 for it.

So today I was going to try and learn to use it for a silly little project, and in testing it pressed the footbar. The motor was slow in getting going, but it did...but...smoke came out of it. Assuming that this was smoke from any accumulated dust, I tried it a few more times and indeed the smoke did stop and the motor runs smoothly.'s my possibly dumb question. When looking at the motor while its running, from the angle that the picture below is taken, I see sparks inside the motor. Should I be seeing sparks?

This is my machine (I'm working on cleaning and oiling the bobbin case and shuttle/race, that's why the plate is missing):


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I take it back, it hasn't stopped smoking when I depress the foot pedal, its just a thin line of smoke that dissipates. Again, I wonder, is it just dust in the motor that's burning up?

    Bookmark   November 17, 2011 at 6:11PM
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Just tried this and it seems to have helped, but I may have to do some more before its fully ready to work. I was planning on getting a hand crank for it off of eBay, tho, so if the motor turns out to be unusable I can convert it.

Another question, do you know how much oil to put in each 'oil this' spot? The manuals don't tell you how much.


    Bookmark   November 17, 2011 at 7:12PM
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Usually, the smoking is just dust burning off. Can't really say about the sparks.... I would disengage the motor from the machine - tilt its pulley away from the hand wheel and brace it in that position. Then let it run for at least 5-10 minutes, maybe more, and see if its behaviour improves. You might try the website linked below for more repair tips.

You can forget about ever finding a hand crank for this machine. Very few White FRs were made with a crank (I have the only known one in captivity) and the reproduction ones available only fit Singers.

Here is a link that might be useful: Tools for Self Reliance

    Bookmark   November 17, 2011 at 9:28PM
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Jenny at Sew-Classic sells hand cranks, but you might want to check with her to see if it will fit first.

Have you rewired the motor? If you're not up to it, Jenny sells replacements too. I'm not affiliated, but am a very happy repeat customer.

Here is a link that might be useful: Hand Crank

    Bookmark   November 18, 2011 at 1:22AM
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Don't know, but that's a beautiful machine!

    Bookmark   November 18, 2011 at 12:01PM
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As I mentioned in my first post, you will not find a hand crank to fit a White Rotary. The one Jenny sells ONLY fits Singer, or Singer compatible machines. Whites have totally different configurations, and their wheels turn clockwise, while Singers turn counter-clockwise.

I've been participating in many on-line sewing machine collector groups for over 15 years, and folks have been continually, but unsuccessfully, searching for ways to crank White FRs. They are fine machines, but their original target market didn't want hand machines. North Americans always preferred treadles in the pre-electric age, and this model apparently wasn't exported to Europe, where hand cranks dominated the market.

    Bookmark   November 18, 2011 at 11:15PM
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Your machine motor probably needs to have the carbon brushes replaced. That may be one reason why it does not just run when you give it electricity.
Many people do not know about carbon brushes. I found out the hard and expensive way.
Your little doodads are scraping on the motor and making sparks. The carbon brushes are not brushes at all. They are little rectangles of carbon that look like they are made of lead from a pencil. You will also find that the motor is full of black dust. That is the carbon flying around.
You need to have the motor serviced, or it will burn up on you.

    Bookmark   March 10, 2012 at 10:38AM
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How much oil? About 3 drops in each hole.

    Bookmark   March 10, 2012 at 12:51PM
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Hi, I just found this thread. GW...I have just had exactly the same experience as you. I bought a Singer 15K80 in a cabinet. It has an old black motor at the back. No smoke came out of it, but the machine as a whole did smell when I used it. I'm assuming it's just grubby anyway. I cleaned the machine and oiled it...and it ran beautifully. The timing's still bang on and the stitches are great. Also, the motor is far more quiet than I was expecting. However, I did notice small white sparks in exactly the same place as you when looking from exactly the same angle.

My first thought was...never use it again and find a crank, as the machine is so good.

I've since found posts on a few forums where owners of similar machines as these say a few sparks are normal. I'm still not sure what to do, so if you found a solution to your problem or know any more about these sparking motors, please let me know.

Also, if anyone else is watching the thread and can give me any reassurance, that'd be great too.

I already have two Pinnocks and they both have Sew-Tric motors, which also spark as the pedal is first depressed, but do not spark while the machine is running. Any advice on that would also be great.

Thanks all...and that's a lovely machine, by the way. Lots jealous.


    Bookmark   April 5, 2014 at 9:25AM
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Many (probably most) of the old sewing machines need to be rewired to be safe. At the very least you need to take your machine in to someone who is experienced with vintage sewing machines and have it gone over thoroughly for a safety check. Bad wiring and worn motor parts are not uncommon, and are not worth the risk of injury. Having it completely cleaned would not be a bad idea either.

Your machine is beautiful!

    Bookmark   August 16, 2014 at 1:05AM
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