Tag Archives: Scruits

Rewiring a 185K – and the Bottling of the Rhubarb


Yes indeed, the rhubarb season is upon us once again, but before we get to that, I’ve been asked to do a thing on rewiring a 185K which has the permanently-connected mains leads, as opposed to the plug-in ones used on pretty much every other vintage Singer domestic.  So here we go …

Now, you’ll have to pretend a bit here, because that’s the only 185 motor I can find right now and when it came to us it had already been rewired.  Badly.  If it was still original, those two cut-off black cables on the left wouldn’t be cut off, and they’d be brown, and they’d have a brown plastic thingy round them where they come out of the terminal box under the motor, like the cable on the right does.  I cut off those replacement leads to the mains plug and the foot controller when we bought this one in, but you can still see what a lash-up it was.

(In case you’re wondering, yes, that is a bunch of threads wrapped round the motor pulley, and no, I’ve never worked out how that happens either.)

That single cable going off to the right goes to the Singerlight, and it has its brown bush/sleeve thingy present and correct.  The reason why the corresponding one’s missing from the left hand side is doubtless because whoever did the wiring found that it was, to use a technical term, stuffed.  Those brown bushes harden with age, the lugs on them which keep them secure in the hole tend to come off, and when that happens, they are as much use as a chocolate teapot.

So he put it back together without one on that side, as we see more clearly below …

There’s your plastic bush on the right with the Singerlight lead going through it, and you can see what I mean about those lugs.  It won’t matter greatly if those particular ones come off because the lead to the Singerlight doesn’t generally get waggled about a lot, but the ones to the foot pedal and mains plug certainly do.  That’s why they need one of those bushes round them, and also some proper strain relief.

That light-coloured thing round the Singerlight lead just inside the bush is the original strain relief – a cunning little two-part affair made of fibreboard and a spring clip, which works well on the original flat twin cable but doesn’t work at all on anything else.  It’s also a pig to remove and replace, unless you’re privy to a secret technique handed down across the generations by horny-handed sewing machine repair men.

But what, you ask, are those off-white queerthings?  They, dear reader, are Scruits, unless you’re in the States, in which case I think they’re wirenuts.  But I’m not really sure.  Whatever, they used to be a very common way of joining two or three stranded conductors together, and they work a lot better than you’d think.  Basically all you do is strip half an inch or so of insulation off each conductor that you wish to join, align them alongside each other, and twist the ends together clockwise.  You then screw the Scruit on, remembering to twist it clockwise, and bingo – the metal inner of the Scruit tightens itself onto your wire ends and you have a secure connection.

The Scruits in the picture are the later nylon-bodied type, and these particular ones have been crimped after they were screwed them on, presumably because whoever fitted them had no faith in the Scruit doing its job and no intention of ever undoing the connection.  Earlier Scruits came in a truncated conical form made of hard black plastic, and earlier still they were porcelain.  I like Scruits, I do, but then I was brought up when they were still widely used.

And that picture illustrates why re-wiring a 185K is seldom a straightforward business.  It’s not the Scruits that’s the problem, but the lack of strain relief and of a suitable bush when you can’t re-use the original  one.  Frankly I have no suggestions as to how you might go about making a proper job of it in the absence of a re-usable bush.  All I know for sure is that if we couldn’t rustle up a bush in good condition and also come up with an effective way of providing suitable strain relief for the new cables, we wouldn’t offer the machine for sale.

So there you go.

Moving on now to rhubarb, ours is at least a fortnight late this year because of the horrible cold weather.  We picked a bit last week because we really fancied stewed rhubarb and icecream for pud and while we were at it we made half a dozen jars of jam, but today was the start of the season proper with 21lb picked this morning.  That’s filled thirteen Kilner jars with enough left over to make a gallon of rhubarb wine …

This year we’re trying out the water-bath method of bottling because Elsie’s sure it uses less energy than doing them in the oven, and rhubarb’s a good subject to test the method with because we’ll have an abundance of it for the next few weeks.  If we get any jars which don’t seal properly, we can always put them in the fridge for eating soon then just pick more rhubarb and try again.

Readers who are into this sort of thing may care to note that our rhubarb is a mix of Hammonds Early and Brandy Carr Scarlet, the lifter-outer in the foreground is from Lakeland Plastics and is essential for this method of preserving, those Kilner jars are the 1978-1990’s type which are known as Red Tops irrespective of whether the rings are red, orange or white, and if you’re after spares for your Kilner jars, it’s worth checking out this site

We’ll probably do another dozen or so jars of bottled rhubarb this coming week (each jar makes 2 crumbles), but we’ll also be making a lot of scrummy rhubarb and elderflower jam because judging by the look of the blossom, we’re not going to be making much damson this year.

Finally though, a question for our American and Canadian readers about home preserving terminology.  Where you are, do you guys call this procedure bottling, or is it canning ?

Electrical safety and old Singer sewing machines – part two


DISCLAIMER – This post it not written by a professional electrician.  It’s written by a retired bloke in England who meddles with old Singers, and what follows is nothing more than personal opinion based on experience and, hopefully, a smattering of common sense.

As we said in part one, if any of the wiring looks dodgy it probably is, and it therefore needs attending to.  The question is, though, who’s going to sort it out for you?  If you trot off to your local sewing machine shop, you’re unlikely to find them keen to re-wire your ancient machine at a sensible price.  If you ask that nice young chap who came and put a couple of new sockets in your kitchen last year and fixed your outside light while he was at it, he’ll probably say he’d love to help but it’s not really his territory.  And after that you may well be struggling for ideas, so the question’s bound to arise sooner or later – is it a DIY job?

I can’t really answer that, but I can give you some idea of what’s involved in re-wiring a typical vintage Singer so you can decide for yourself …

Picture of wiring under vintage Singer motor

I very much wanted to show you some of the real horrors we come across, but because they tend to get binned straight away, I can’t find one to photograph!  Instead, here’s a picture of the sort of thing you find under the later type Singer motors, in this case one off a 1940’s 201K, and that wiring’s definitely in a lot better condition than most you’ll see on a vintage machine.  The mains lead going off to the left goes to the Singerlight, and the black, yellow and red wires disappearing into the metalwork on the right go to the back of the motor socket.

On an earlier machine, you’re likely to find that instead of screw terminals, these connections under the motor are made by three Scruits, and if you’ve never met a Scruit before, you’re in for a treat when you do.  There’s a period ad for Scruits here.  Having got a feel for that, let’s move on now to the motor plug and socket connections …

Picture of Vintage Singer motor plug

We’re looking here at the mating face of the plug, and on machines with the usual foot-pedal speed control, the mains lead connects across 1 and 3, and the foot pedal connects across 1 and 2.  On knee-lever machines, it’s still mains lead across 1 and 3, and the fact that in this case there’s no connection to the centre contact does not mean you could use it to earth the machine.  You couldn’t.

Picture of vintage Singer sewing machine motor socket

Now we’re looking at the socket, with its three brass pins pointing straight at us.  Yes dear, I know they look like screws with washers under them, but they’re not – they’re sticky-outy pins.  Pins 2 and 3 are the motor connections, and if a Singerlight is fitted, that connects across 1 and 3.

Now you know what those connections are, have another squint at that top picture.  Is it immediately obvious to you which of those three leads going off to the right goes to which pin of the motor socket?  If not, I’d suggest that perhaps you might think twice about rewiring an old sewing machine – particularly if you haven’t got a multimeter.

Whatever, if you do feel confident about tackling a re-wire, be aware that on a normal foot-pedal machine, the worst bits are replacing the two wires from the motor stator (for which you need a good soldering iron, solder and some heatshrink sleeving) and re-wiring the motor plug (for which you mainly need patience and a sense of humour).  Incidentally, the later type of plug with a cable entry on each side of it is a doddle to do compared to the usual “two mains leads coming out of one big hole” version.  Talking of which …

Picture of vintage Singer motor plug

If your motor plug looks something like that, you will obviously want to re-wire it.  And when you take it apart, you will wonder what happened to whatever provision there was for anchoring the leads.  The answer is that nothing happened, because there wasn’t any provision for anchoring the leads.  It’s entirely up to you what you do about that.  You’re also on your own when it comes to deciding how to make two mains leads coming out of one round hole look neat when you don’t have a suitable cable entry sleeve, but it’s all good fun.  Just don’t lose the very small nuts off those screws …

Another point to note is you’ll find that most motors will still have the suppressor fitted (which may be a three-wire unit screwed onto the bottom of the motor or just a capacitor across the back of the socket).  Obviously you can scrap that unless the machine’s likely to be used next door to somebody who still listens to Radio Four on the Long Wave.  If you’re not sure if they do, take the suppressor off and run the motor under load while The Archers is on.  You’ll find out soon enough.

There’s one final point which is actually more routine maintenance than electrical safety, but we don’t care.  You see the pins pointing at you in that snap of the machine socket?  Well, over time, the contant plugging-in and unplugging of the plug tends to close up the slot down the end of those pins until you get to the point where you have to keep thumping the plug to keep sewing.  The cure is to do what everybody did as a matter of course all the time when most mains plug pins were slotted like that – take a small screwdriver, insert the blade into the slot, and gently push it in a bit so as to widen the gap slightly.  Repeat for all three pins, check the plug now plugs in firmly, and that’s it – job done!