Singer Model 27 / 28 / 127 / 128 - timing line

Making Time

Timing series part 4: Why it’s fairly difficult to throw timing off, and how to adjust timing.

Note:  Never run the machine with the pedal if you suspect that the timing is off, while checking or after adjusting the timing until you’ve determined that the setting was correct.  Running it at speed if the timing is off can cause massive damage to the hook, bobbin case and also smash the needle which can lead to shards flying around.

Note: The process I show for adjusting timing doesn’t necessarily work for newer machines that are set up a little differently, but the process of checking it still applies.   And if your machine is on warranty, please just take it in and have it fixed.  Some dealers / manufacturers will void your warranty if you try to change anything.

First, why it’s very hard to throw timing off.

  • A vintage sewing machine has shafts and gears, set screws, locating pins and other things that are meant to keep everything turning at the same rate.
    • The gears mesh together and this is very difficult to compromise.
    • The set screws are often tightened against a flat or “V” shaped portion of the shaft, making it exceedingly difficult  for the screw to “slip”.
    • In the rare case of a locating pin, like on an original Singer model 15, there’s a pin driven straight through the shaft, it’s not even adjustable.   You would literally have to bend or break the shaft to change the timing.  (More often though it’s a weaker part that breaks first)
  • Typically, when “disaster” strikes, and the needle hits something that it shouldn’t, the weakest part is the one that is compromised.  This is supposed to be the needle. Needles are replaceable, in fact are meant to be replaced.  They are the thinnest metal on the machine.

I once received an email from a lady who wanted to trade her machine in on something I was advertising.  Her comment in the email was to the effect of:  The machine’s been sitting a while though, so it will need the timing reset.

I can’t tell you how wrong this is.  A machine that goes out of time while sitting on a shelf is a very broken machine.   I suspect one of three things happened, either the shop that was “fixing” the machine wasn’t telling her what was really wrong, they weren’t addressing an underlying problem – only the symptom, or she may have misunderstood.

Even on a newer machine that uses a belt to time it, short of something slipping from an impact or extreme wear, or the belt breaking, timing cannot adjust itself.

Now on to how to time a machine.

We know from the previous articles Excuse me, do you have the time and Perfect Timing how the timing should look:

Note: This machine’s timing is ever so slightly advanced. Normally, you would want the hook point to be exactly behind the eye of the needle at the point where the second timing line is in place on the needlebar. 

I was planning on timing this machine during this post, until I realised that all 5 of the Slants I have here have the same timing.  I cannot tell you why this is, nor why it differs from the service manual, nor why they’re all identical.   They all stitch though.  This is a good example of why timing is more of a ballpark science than anything.  If it doesn’t stitch at the setting below, try advancing it a touch.

I’m going to focus on timing a machine without timing lines.  I will show you where they are on the Singer machines I have here, but it’s important to realize that a lot machines don’t have timing lines.   If you understand how to time a machine without the lines, you can time almost any machine you ever run across.

You may notice on some machines, primarily the oscillating hook machines that the hook may be in the right spot long before the needle reaches the bottom of its stroke.  Don’t Panic!  🙂  Like Ron White says: “You’ve got another one coming around!”  The oscillating hook (meaning that it rocks back and forth, instead of turning all the way around) and rotating hook (meaning it goes around and round in one direction only) both bring the hook around twice for every full revolution of the needle.  As long as the hook is in the right spot when the needle is down, there’s nothing to worry about with the “interim” arrival of the hook.

A Typical timing procedure:

  1. Unplug the machine, throw the belt, etc.
  2. Remove the bobbin case and bobbin
  3. Turn the handwheel toward you until the needle reaches the very bottom of the stroke.
  4. Still turning the handwheel toward you, turn slowly until the needle has risen 3/32″ or 2.4mm from the very bottom of the stroke.  Measure this at the needle clamp, or any other place that will be consistently accurate.  At this stage, the point of the hook should be right behind the eye of the needle, and about 1/64″ above the needle eye.
  5. Loosen the set screw(s) or the nut or bolt as shown below in the section that applies to your machine
  6. Slide the gear backward from the gear it’s meshed with, if applicable  (the class 66 style machines – 66, 99, 192, 185 and the model 201 — don’t have gears to slide.)
  7. Turn the hook until it lines up to where it should be
  8. Remesh the gears as required
  9. Tighten the set screw(s), nuts, bolts, etc.
  10. Test your timing by hand until you know that it’s correct.  Sometimes the hook will move a little bit as you’re tightening it up, so you may have to make an adjustment the first time or two that you do this.  The singer manual for the slants recommends testing the timing 8 times before calling it good. If the timing is still wrong, go back in and set it correctly.
  11. Test in a real world test (with the pedal, treadle belt attached, etc) At this point, you should be sure that the timing is right, and it’s a test to make sure the machine stitches at operating speed.  There should be no risk by now of the needle striking the hook or the bobbin case.
  12. If the machine is still misbehaving, but you’re sure the timing is correct, see this post to see if you can find a solution.  If that still doesn’t work, please post in the comments below and I will try to help you.

I’ve split out the photos into another post, strictly for the sake of brevity.   Please click here to see the photos and description: Making time – Part two.


I’d love to know how you made out.   Give me a shout in the comments below to let me know. 🙂

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