Vintage Singer 99k Sewing Machine: Cleaning, Restoring, and Troubleshooting

Vintage Singer 99k Sewing Machine Cleaning Restoring and Troubleshooting

A few months ago, I found this lovely Singer 99k. The “k” just denotes that it was made in Scotland, and otherwise it’s the same as other Singer 99s, which were made from 1911 to the 1960s. The one I got was from 1958. The Singer 99 was meant to be a smaller, more portable version of the classic Singer 66. It’s made of cast iron, though, so it’s still fairly heavy compared to most modern machines. The nice thing about vintage Singer sewing machines is that they almost always use bobbins and needles that are still in production today. This one uses a class 66 bobbin and a normal 15×1 needle. You can also still find parts for these machines fairly easily.

This was my first vintage sewing machine, so I’ll walk you through the process of cleaning, restoring, and troubleshooting. As a beginner, I knew nothing going into this, and I made lots of mistakes, so I should be able to explain this to someone else who is at the novice level, too. I’ll try to explain all terms and processes thoroughly, and I’m including links to all of the resources I used along the way. See also my post on converting the 99k to a hand crank.

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, which means I may receive a percentage if you make a purchase using these links. I only link to things I like and use!

Resources used:

How to find parts:

It’s not that difficult to find people selling vintage Singer parts (or new parts that fit vintage Singers), but it can be difficult to know exactly what you need. See this Illustrated list of parts for Singer 99k to help you find the right search terms. I bought parts from eBay seller The Treasure Cellar and Sewing Parts Online.

Here’s the process I went through to fix it up:

Cleaning:

First, I opened it up to clean and oil it. I followed these two videos by Lizzie Lenard. She’s not using a Singer 99 as her example, but much of what she says applies across all vintage Singers.

There was quite a bit of build up throughout the machine of dust and lint.
Vintage Singer 99k Sewing Machine: Cleaning, Restoring, and Troubleshooting

The bobbin/feed dog area was particularly bad. Vintage Singer 99k Sewing Machine: Cleaning, Restoring, and Troubleshooting

Don’t forget to check this same area from underneath as well.Vintage Singer 99k Sewing Machine: Cleaning, Restoring, and Troubleshooting

This was the lint ball I collected from all of my cleaning.Vintage Singer 99k Sewing Machine: Cleaning, Restoring, and Troubleshooting

Tension issues:

The tension mechanism (also called a tensioner) had a lot of problems. At first, I thought it was just the take up spring that needed to be replaced, but even after trying a replacement spring and then trying to reshape my initial spring, eventually, I just replaced the entire tension mechanism. This seems to have solved the problem. See this guide on refurbishing the upper tension mechanism.

Replacing the entire tension mechanism was pretty easy. You need to loosen the screw noted with the letter R. The whole tension mechanism should come out when you loosen this screw. You can then put the new one in.

Tension_mechanism

Be careful not to lose the tension pin which sits in the middle of the tension mechanism. Adjust the new tension mechanism carefully so that the the presser foot lifter pushes on the tension pin when it’s in an upward position. When I first put my new tension mechanism in, I pushed it in too far and secured it there, which didn’t allow for the compression/decompression of the tension pin. Tighten screw R to secure the new tension mechanism.

The presser foot lifter is down in this picture. Note that you can see the tension pin.Vintage Singer 99k Sewing Machine: Cleaning, Restoring, and Troubleshooting

The presser foot lifter is up in this picture. Note that the tension pin is now compressed. Vintage Singer 99k Sewing Machine: Cleaning, Restoring, and Troubleshooting

 

Timing and adjusting issues :

Luckily I didn’t have timing issues, but this is another common problem. See this guide for help (it’s for a Singer 66, but as we saw earlier, the 66 is very similar to the 99):

Cases:

Singer 99s can’t really be used without a case/table. As you can see, there are a lot of moving parts on the bottom of the machine, and it doesn’t sit completely flat.

Vintage Singer 99k Sewing Machine: Cleaning, Restoring, and Troubleshooting

The cases are surprisingly expensive, so I just bought the bottom half of a case on ebay. You could also build your own case.

Vintage Singer 99k Sewing Machine: Cleaning, Restoring, and Troubleshooting

Thread cutter:

I replaced the thread cutter, which had become too dull to cut thread. Not absolutely necessary, but it’s nice to be able to cut thread without having to keep scissors nearby. I constantly lose my scissors, so it’s helpful to have something attached to the machine! The thread cutter is noted with the letter S in this image from the Singer 99 and 99k Manual.

Thread_cutter

Face plate:

I replaced the face plate. This wasn’t necessary–I just liked the more ornate face plates that older 99s had. You can find pretty face plates on eBay for about $10-20. Here’s the original faceplate:

Vintage Singer 99k Sewing Machine: Cleaning, Restoring, and Troubleshooting

And the new one. You just have to remove two screws on the front to replace it.

Vintage Singer 99k Sewing Machine: Cleaning, Restoring, and Troubleshooting

Vintage Singer 99k Sewing Machine: Cleaning, Restoring, and Troubleshooting

 

How to thread it:

See this video for an overview of how to use a Singer 99k, including threading. I think it helps to see someone actually go through the process of threading the machine, but the Singer 99 and 99k Manual also shows images of the thread path to follow for the upper thread.

How_to_thread_a_Singer_99

And the bobbin:

Bobbin_12016-06-19_1728

2016-06-19_1732

Where to oil it:

These images are from the Singer 99 and 99k Manual, and all of the little arrows show where you should oil your machine.

How to oil your Singer 99 part 1 How to oil your Singer 99 part 2

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6 comments

  1. […] A few months ago, I found this lovely Singer 99k. This was my first vintage sewing machine project, so I’ll walk you through the process of converting it to a hand crank. I wasn’t sure whether the electrical components on this sewing machine were still sound, and I liked the idea of trying out a hand crank sewing machine, so I decided to convert this. As a beginner, I knew nothing going into this, and I made lots of mistakes, so I should be able to explain this to someone else who is at the novice level, too. I’ll try to explain all terms and processes thoroughly, and I’m including links to all of the resources I used along the way. See also my post on cleaning, restoring, and troubleshooting the 99k. […]

    Reply
  2. Katherine Brennan February 7, 2017, 9:48 pm

    Brimfield is my heaven on earth. I have learned a lot from there. I am a expert needle artist but this past year I have been studying antique machines. I would like to join your group. I have learned a lot just catching you’re reviews. I already have a Pfaff at least 70 years old, it has awaits parts as far as I can tell verified by 2 expert, including discs for all kinds of shapes simplistic but darling during that period and considered very high-end. I have4 standing machines which need parts(2) and an antique leather machine fully working, even the little light. I like parts. I would love to be a part of your conversation, at least. I’m willing to barter. I have many talents and goods which are of high value to me. My problem may not be yours. I hope to hear from you soon. I learn fast fast when it’s something I love!!!

    Kathy

    Reply
    1. Brimfield is a lot of fun, isn’t it? Vintage and antique sewing machines are awesome! I know you can do free motion embroidery on them, which might be interesting for you. Slant shank Singer sewing machines allow a little more visibility because the needle shank is tilted toward you. Not sure what kind of artistry you do, but thought I’d mention it. Your machines sound lovely! I’m sure you’ll have fun fixing up your Pfaff and trying it out. I just post blog entries once a week or so, so I don’t have a group per se, but do keep in touch and let me know what you’re up to! I’m also fairly active on Instagram, if you want to follow me and interact with me there: https://www.instagram.com/themermaidsden/

      There’s a fairly active group of people who post/repair/love vintage sewing machines on Instagram, too.

      Reply

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