Model 99 and 66 bobbin case and feed dog cleaning

Also applies to the 185, 192 (Spartan), 285 and 292 models.

Singer 99k bobbin case installed

Probably one of the most neglected areas of a sewing machine is the bobbin area.

We stick a bobbin in, sew, replace the bobbin, sew some more.

It’s often not until one day when we’re sewing and suddenly there’s a nest underneath the needle plate (throat plate) that we have to cut out, or worse, the needle breaks and now we have to dig the shrapnel out.

You remove the slide plate, and the needle plate and horror of horrors, you find you’ve been knitting felt and birthing thread bunnies underneath there.  Maybe even worse, the bobbin case just won’t come out, no matter how you wiggle it. 

Today I’m going to address how to clean this area on a Class 66 style machine.  I will take photos and post a tutorial on a class 15, Featherweight, and other styles of bobbin cases as opportunity arises.  The basic premise is the same, the execution differs somewhat.

OK,.. let’s start from the beginning.

Tools you’ll require:

  • stubby blade screwdriver or long shank screwdriver
  • tweezers
  • some sort of awl or pointy device
  • cleaning brush
  • sewing machine oil

 

  1. Disconnect the power, or if you’re working on a treadle, throw the belt or keep your feet away from the pedal.
  2. To remove the slide plate the singer 99k owner’s manual says:

    Raise the needle to its highest position by turning the hand wheel over toward you. Draw the slide plate slightly to the left, then lift its right hand end and draw it toward the needle until it is disengaged from the spring in the bed of the machine.

    This assumes that the machine is facing the operator, as if to sew.  I’ll assume this works, neither of my 99s have a slide plate, and the one on order will likely be here next week.

  3. I like to remove the needle and presser foot at this point, for clearance, and because I try to limit my stab wounds to one a day. Make sure you note which way the flat of the needle sits in the needle clamp. Both of my machines are Needle Flat Right.
  4. Next, remove the needle plate.  This is done by removing the 2 screws on the top of it and just lifting it out of the way.  I find that a screwdriver with a really long (8″ plus) shank on it, or a stubby (1-2″ shank) work the best here.  An average length screwdriver sits at an awkward angle, and can cause you to strip the head of the screw.  This is also a good time to inspect the needle plate for burrs or other damage where the needle passes through the plate. Some burrs can be smoothed out with a bit of abrasive cord.
  5. Now if this is the first time you’ve done this, and the machine hasn’t been professionally serviced recently, there’s a good chance you’ll see a bunch of felt between your feed dogs.  No, the machine did not ship from the factory this way.  Remove it with your tweezers or a pointy object of some sort.

Once the feed dog area is clean, it’s time to focus on the bobbin case area.

To remove the bobbin case, the manual says:

Insert the forefinger of the left hand under the latch, raise the latch just high enough to clear the edge and then move the latch toward you.

Under no circumstances must the (bobbin position bracket) screw be loosened. The loosening of this screw will change the clearance for the thread between the bobbin case and the bobbin position bracket.

In practice, I find that the next step tends to read easier than it’s done. It does work, eventually, but it’s worth trying this a different way if you have trouble with their method.

Singer’s method: Hold the bobbin case between the forefinger and the thumb of the left hand. Tilt the bobbin case to the left and at the same time slightly turn the right or forked end toward you so that it is moved out of engagement with the sewing hook. Then tilt the bobbin case toward the right and remove it.

  • My method:
    1. Turn the machine so that the hand wheel faces away from you, this puts the business end toward you, and gives you better leverage.
    2. Put your left finger in the left center of the bobbin case.
    3. Put your right finger in the right side of the bobbin case.
    4. While pulling to the left with your left finger, wiggle a little and pull up with your right finger. Though crowded, you should be able to fit both in here.
    5. The case will come up and out.  While the case is out, take this time if you want to set the tension on the bobbin case, instructions here.

Now that the hook area is exposed, clean everything that you see. Make sure you don’t miss this area, it’s easy to mistake the fuzz for something that belongs there. This is also where you’ll find that errant thread that may be causing your machine to not stitch correctly.  Don’t be afraid to move the positioning finger around to get to everything.

Note: Leave the red felt in the top corner of the hook in place.

Fuzz removal

Put a drop of oil where the bobbin case mates to the hook
Place a drop of oil on the red felt, maybe 2 if it looks really dry
To reinstall the bobbin case:

  • Singer says: Hold the bobbin case between the forefinger and thumb of the left hand. Insert the forked end of the bobbin case under the throat plate so that the fork straddles the end of the bobbin case position bracket. Then, with a slight twisting motion of the bobbin case to the left and to the back, lightly press it downward until the edge of the sewing hook engages in the groove under the rim of the bobbin case.
  • In practice, I find it easier to do this in reverse.  I push the bobbin case to the back, but don’t try to seat it at the positioning pin.  Then I align the left side, so that it’s flush with the hook, meaning that the hook is sitting in between the groove on the bobbin case, then give it a gentle push downward while pulling back, which seats the bobbin case around the finger (currently hidden under the feed dogs.)

Once the bobbin case is seated, move the bobbin case positioning finger (bracket) back into place, and turn the hand wheel a couple of times, to make sure everything works like it should.

Once everything is turning the way it should, reinstall the needle plate and the slide plate (make sure that the two ends of the spring enter the grooves on the underside of the slide plate) by reversing the steps you did to remove them.

That’s it.  Once you’ve done it once, it will seem easy.  No more reasons to avoid it.

Happy Sewing.

55 thoughts on “Model 99 and 66 bobbin case and feed dog cleaning”

  1. So . . . How do you fix a machine that had the EE screw loosened? I admit I did just that before finding the manual. Dumb thing but now I can’t find a service manual to know how to adjust the position.

    1. Ideally, it would be set with a feeler gauge. I have a proper measurement somewhere here but in the absence of that if you set it to the point where it’s just wider than a 50wt thread so that it “checks” the thread on the way by but doesn’t add resistance or noise but it also doesn’t flop around all over the place, that’s usually close enough.

  2. This morning I picked up my second Singer 99K (EM142249 ,
    1957) at an estate sale. Screw EE was untouched and it has the red felt intact. It is one owner, and missing the needle and bobbin, no problem. Inside it is as dry as a desert. There is no trace of oil anywhere and underneath the case is oil drop free.I don’t think it has ever been oiled. But the motor runs. I should be just fine after a good oiling and cleaning.
    Robin

  3. This is very helpful! I was wondering hoever: is it correct that the bobbin case itself is a bit loose as in: it can wiggle a bit? So not the bobbin itself insde the case, but the bobbin case itself? And if it’s not supposed to be loose, what is can the problem be?
    Mine is a 99K-13 from 1928

    1. It’s normal for the bobbin case to have a little bit of wiggle. It needs to do that so that the needle thread can pass where it needs to. It’s true – thread the machine up with an easy to see color (and different than the bobbin thread.) and turn the handwheel while watching. 🙂

      1. Oh lovely! Thanks so much for your prompt reply, I am cleaning it (since nobody seems to have done that since 1928), and it is one greasy, dustbunny-riddled jungle there. I thought you weren’t supposed to apply any oil to that area anyway!
        Once she’s good to go and not so greasy anymore I’ll have a look at the bobbin in action. I already know that the machine still sews beautifully, I was just a bit worried about perhaps extra wear and tear. But you put me at ease, thanks!

        1. It’s amazing what these machines will sew with stuck in that area. I am constantly gobsmacked by the grunge. There are a couple of spots in there that do like oil – that’s the purpose of the wick.

          Once you watch that hook and bobbincase do its job, you’ll see why the movement is necessary. I think it was a 99 that taught me how a machine made a stitch. What an aha moment that was. 🙂

          1. Only too late did I realise that this was a blog and the particular post was already 5 years old! Still tremendously helpful though.
            In search of ever more new (general) info on my Singer (virtually nothing to be found in Dutch about maintance or repairs) the lovely people at the VintageSewingMachine facebook group also pointed me to your blog so I started reading from the beginning. If there is a world wide internet medal for helpfull people, it should really go to you. Very interesting things that I will likely be using in the future. Also written with humor, I like it.
            Also, to me it is somewhat reassuring that you also at one point didn’t know how a stitch was formed. I never even considered the necessity of a bobbin before I bought my Singer. The things you learn in life… But, it’s a steep learning curve and you are helping a lot! Thanks.

          2. I’m glad you’re finding the posts helpful.
            As for not knowing how a stitch is formed – everyone starts somewhere. Sometimes, someone can describe it and it doesn’t click. If you watch it happen – especially with separate colored threads – it’s amazing what you can pick up in a split second.

  4. Thanks to your help my 1948 Singer 99 is running like a fine watch. It is even quieter than my 201. The best penetrating oil I have found is 50/50 acetone and tri- flo or sewing machine oil, If that doesn’t work find a steel bar the same diameter as the screw head. Wipe the screw head clean and with a torch heat the end of the bar cherry red then hold the end of the bar on the top of the screw for a minute or so. Let it cool and the screw should spin right out. Not enough heat is transferred to affect the screw hardness. Do this in a well ventilated area away from any combustibles.
    The red felt should be split with part wiping the top. My thick calloused fingers will not go in the bobbin holder to remove it, it is non magnetic so I can’t use a magnet, (stainless steel) but my wife’s plastic tipped jewellery pliers hold it perfectly to remove it. A piece of cardstock as a spacer gives the right clearance for the bobbin case (.015″). The plastic Wall Mart 66 bobbins work but the shutoff arm on the bobbin winder will not go in them. I use my wife’s separate battery operated bobbin winder or a dowel in my drill. Sorry this is so long, thanks again!!!

    1. I’ve never tried the acetone/tri-flow mix. I’ll have to try that.

      I like your bar idea for the stuck screws. I don’t really have the set up for that but I may try it in the garage the next time I have a good stuck one.

  5. Recently I picked up a 1940 Singer 128 EC161542 and a 1948 Singer 99 JC631483. They hardly turned and squeaked. The seller wanted to get rid if them because they didn’t work and had no cord or foot pedal. I didn’t really want them but $5. for both, I couldn’t refuse. Anyhow I am cleaning up the 99 first. I am following your directions.Thank you, great directions and website. While removing the screw for the feed dogs I saw the bottom of the pin that holds the positioning pin. Loosening the set screw on the side a 1/8 inch brass pin and small hammer pushed it out without removing the positioning screw. Too bad I did it already. Everything else looks good except super dirty. Oh, the motor wiring was sound but the knee control wire was bare. Replaced with new. I should have it going in a day. This website has good directions for replacing the felt: https://thestitchsharer.com/2013/05/28/cleaning-my-singer-sewing-machine/
    Thank you

    1. Right, that’s true. If your “EE screw that shall not be touched” hasn’t been touched, you can get away with that. In the case of most of the ones I see here, they’re usually badly molested by the time they’re on my bench.

      I didn’t see much on that page (that links back here. ;)) – in a really brief look – about replacing the felt – just that it shouldn’t be removed – which is true.

      The TFSR.org docs that she mentions though do show how to make a new one. They recently moved their manuals to where they can’t be downloaded by the general public but you can find the originals here: http://web.archive.org/web/20160403015721/http://www.tfsr.org/publications/technical_information/sewing_machine_manual/

    1. Hi Maile,

      Assuming it had one to begin with – it turns out that some of the later models didn’t have them, you can make a new one using the link to the TFSR.org link in the comments further down.

  6. Hi Tammi!
    I’ve been working on my Mother’s (rip) 1910 Singer which I think is a 66. I know the exact date it was made but not 100% sure on the model, yet! I was perusing the internet looking for some bobbin info and came across your images in Google…ya’ got me!

    Things that made me laugh:
    “…I try to limit my stab wounds to one a day…”
    “…this puts the business end toward you, and gives you better leverage…”
    Things that wiped that smile from my face:
    “…Make sure you don’t miss this area, it’s easy to mistake the fuzz for something that belongs there…”
    “…Note: Leave the red felt in the top corner of the hook in place…”

    CRUD, CRUDDY, CRUD, CRUD!!! The rest was a blur, until I got down to your reply to Graham Miller’s post. Thank you Tammi for posting that pdf link! The extra tough to remove red LINT plug (“…Likely someone plucked it out, mistaking it for a large clump of lint…”) is still sitting next to the machine…whew!

    1. LOL! I’m glad you found this post in time! 😉
      Ismacs.net has a comprehensive serial number chart for Singer machines, have you checked that for your serial number? There’s the odd discrepancy but most of them are right.

      I find many machines with that felt missing – as you saw, it’s not the end of the world for it to be missing but not ideal either.

      1. Duh, me! I had looked it up a few years back on that site and got the date of manufacture via serial number as June 2, 1910. Never realized until now that the number 15 in that same line was the model…what a dope I am, Tammi! LOL

        Now I’m trying to remove the bobbin case with my two fingers. I’m SURE that this method is just a wicked joke on your part (kidding)! I’m sure I’m missing some important step/information because I’m getting no where with it. I need to re-read a few more times. Not to mention, WHY am I trying to remove it? It appears that I won’t be able to reinsert that felt but, maybe I will. In any event, it’s a great way to get up close and personal with such a COOL machine. I watched my Mother sew many a wonderful garment on it. <3

        🙂

        1. If the bobbin case looks like this one, it’s not a 15. What’s the serial number? I’m wondering if you might have made a very common mistake with the numbers. Let me look it up and see?

          Try removing it the way Singer describes. My way may work only for me. 😉 You don’t by any chance have the short finger like others describe below, do you?

          You should be able to reinsert the felt. People did it once, it should be doable again. Tweezers may be your best friend….

          1. It’s not a finger issue, Missy! 😉
            G4640829 I wish I could upload a photo. I have an excellent one which you could use. It’s decades and decades of gray lint with a red spot in it, next to the bobbin-mechanism-chamber thingie. I call it “One of These Things Is Not Like The Other”! 😀

          2. LOL! My mistake! Perhaps it was a thumb? 😉

            OK, so what you did was spot the first entry in the list that looked like it fit the serial number which marks it as a model 15 with serial number allocated June 2, 1910. The problem is, that entry only has 6 numbers after it: 459901 to 509900. Your serial number contains 7 numbers after the G so the entry starting with 4613216 is correct which designates the machine as a 66 (Which is why the bobbin case looks like the ones in my photos) with serial number allocated May 3, 1916. This is a very common error that I’ve even caught a career parts man making.

            I do find for cleaning that pipe cleaners and bamboo skewers get a lot out…

            Remember though, we mustn’t play favorites but do turf the lint and keep the felt. 😀

          3. :0 Well, shut my mouth! You are indeed a SingerNinja and know your stuff. That was amazing; Thanks, Tammi!
            :::runs back to rename her Singer ‘1910’ Photo Folders:::

          4. Naw, it’s really just that I’ve seen that happen a lot. Like a LOT a lot.
            I try to explain that when I teach my maintenance class and why I ask for the serial number instead of just taking a model number when people want parts for machines I haven’t seen. 🙂

          5. Good Morning, Tammi!
            After a good night’s sleep, morning coffee and better lighting, I now see why I can’t get the bobbin thing out…I can’t get the position finger to budge. You know WHY? Because I’m in the same boat as “Adeline”; I DO have a finger issue! 🙁 Not my fingers of course but the sturdy, stubby position lever/bracket. I guess I’m one of the lucky ones with an older style set-up, so it appears that I have to remove THAT screw.
            Wish me luck, I’m goin’ in!
            ps…I’m posting this in case it helps someone else. 🙂

          6. Ahh! Well the great part is that you now have a plan of attack. If you have the tools and haven’t done the finger-ectomy yet, grab a set of calipers and get a measurement before you disturb the screw. If not, I will try to get a measurement off the Spartan I still have here for you to set it back after its cleaning. 🙂

          7. SUCCESS, Tammi!!! It took less than 10 minutes to remove the pin screw, put the felt wick back in place (yay, freakin’ yay!!!), oil it and all the other bits, then put everything back together! It’s a different beast this short armed position bracket, because there is only that one pin screw…not 2 screws like yours has with one being verboten. It’s true, you really do need to remove it to get the bobbin case out in this particular machine’s set-up! I hope you’ll get to deal with one of these someday soon, so you can see and feel it for yourself. I wish I could post a pic so you and others can see the difference. In any event, you’ve been a HUGE help! I’ll be around…you’ve got another fan. 😀

    1. Hi Nancy! These days the class 66 bobbins you buy from shops like Joann etc are really not made to the same standard as the older ones. You have a couple of options. I carry them (or can order them – most of mine are vintage now, because I haven’t bought new in some time), Jenny at Sew Classic carries them, a reputable sewing machine shop should also have or be able to order you quality ones or you can find some vintage ones – either on one of the auction sites or at a thrift store. I’ve been known to pick up accessories boxes just for bobbins when I find them. I now have a couple hundred working class 66 bobbins just from machines I’ve bought or accessories boxes, etc.

  7. Thanks for the information! My problem is the latch that secures the bobbin case will not budge…it’s locked in the notch (model 66-18). Any suggestions to troubleshoot before the repair shop?

    1. Hey Rich! Crud. Crud would be my best guess. Oil the daylights out of it with tri-flow, especially where that piece would pivot. Let it marinate overnight and try again.

      Let me know how you make out?

      1. Thanks so very much for all your work and sharing. did you ever hear back from Rich – who said the latch wouldn’t budge? I have a 66/ cleaning.. everything else seems to be going ok but the latch will not move- even after a few marinated overnights.

        1. Hey Leslie,

          No, I didn’t hear from Rich. If the machine is nose to your left as though you’re sewing, and you lift that latch and try to pull it toward you, what happens? Is there any movement at all? Even a micrometer? What are you using for your marinade? 😉

          1. Rich here 🙂 Yeah, I haven’t tackled the frozen latch yet but hopefully soon. Nice forum, good info too!

          2. I have a 66-1. the finger is shorter than in your photo and the book says not to unscrew the screw. mine wont budge even a micrometer either. tri flow, tri flow, tri flow. NADA. any other ideas?

          3. Hi Adeline,

            The only other thing I can think of is a few light taps on the head of the screw with a rubber mallet. Sometimes that budges the gunk holding the screw in place.
            If it’s the latch itself that won’t move, then it’s possible that you’re not lifting high enough before trying to pivot the lever.

          4. Ok. So I did a little more research. I have a 66-1, back clamp machine… Turns out the available service manual is for a later model which has a different bobbin. the bobbin case does in fact need the screw removed to be removed. see: http://mysewingmachineobsession.blogspot.com/2011/12/bobbin-case-on-older-singer-66.html
            that’s what mine looks like… your pics have a longer flexible finger, this one is quite stiff and shorter.

            But we took the screw out, and Holy Moly, was it nasty in there! I had to use a dental pick and Hobbes gun bore cleaner on a stiff paintbrush to get the gunk and packed lint out of there.

            My goal was actually to replace the presser bar with a presser bar side clamp 66-16 model to make for more attachment usage. that was a success.

          5. Adeline! Thanks for the update. I suspect that this is a symptom of my location. I rarely see 66s or 99s here that are of the older vintage. The oldest I’ve had was about a 1924 machine. It did have the longer finger on it, so I’ve actually not had a chance to play with one of the shorter fingered ones. It’s very good to know that it does indeed need to be disassembled differently. That hook style is actually not my favorite for exactly the reason you mention – it gets really nasty in there. Impacted nasty and way worse than any other style I’ve come across. I’m glad your presser bar-ectomy was successful!

          6. yes, swapping out the presser bar from a 66-16 really opens up the possibilities for feet and attachments. it was fairly painless and straightforward as well.

          7. Duh! Yes, presser bar, that’s what I meant. Lol! 2am commenting is not a good idea for me sometimes. 😉 Presser bars are some of the easiest changes to make and what it means as far as feet – as you saw – is totally worth it.

    1. My pleasure, Graham!

      In reality, it won’t harm the machine for it to go missing, IF you oil manually in the spot that the wick lubricates. In fact, a lot of machines are missing that felt by the time we see them.

      If you had taken it out and disposed of it, you could recreate the wick, using a tutorial I found from the TFSR.org site: http://www.tfsr.org/pub/technical_info/sewing_machine_manual/Refurbishing_lower_bobbin_area.pdf

      They talk about it on pages 2 and 3.

  8. You have great information here! I stumbled across it in a desperate attempt to fix an issue with my Singer 99k. I did clean the bobbin case really well but it didn’t fix the issue. My problem seems to be that the bobbin is sitting too high in the machine. This is a bobbin that I had been sewing with right along and then it kept getting caught after I threaded it. I noticed that the there is no room between the bobbin and the thread plate to allow the thread to pass over it. Just stumped and this is my work machine. If you have any ideas, please help.

    1. Hey Heather, I’m glad to hear you’re enjoying what I’m writing. 🙂 I’m not sure what could be causing it without seeing photos. My best guesses would be warped bobbin or the bobbin case not quite sitting in there right (possibly some thread holding it up too high) Does the bobbin seat completely or is there space between it and the case? If the bobbin seats, then it’s most likely “something” with the case, if it doesn’t seat, it’s most likely the bobbin.

  9. Thank you!!! I knew there was something not quite right with my 1962 99K. I carefully removed the bobbin case, cleaned it and after a little wrangling I got it back in. Now She run smooth as silk! Only thing, I never saw any red felt. Does that sound right for this model year?
    Thanks again!
    Colleen

    1. Hi Colleen! I’m glad to help! As far as I know, the red felt was standard on all of the 66 and 99 machines. I haven’t had one that new here though. If it belongs, there will be a weird little cone shaped spring that comes off the right side of the hook. If you look in the last photo of this post, you will see the dot of red, and the spring around it. If you have that spring, but no felt, you can make a felt to replace it. Likely someone plucked it out, mistaking it for a large clump of lint.

      This link will show you how to make one: http://www.tfsr.org/pub/technical_info/sewing_machine_manual/Refurbishing_lower_bobbin_area.pdf

      ETA: At the end of the day, it’s not catastrophic if you don’t replace it right away. Just make sure you oil the hook manually more often.

      1. I checked with a magnifying glass and there is no spring or felt. So I guess that we can deduce that they eliminated them by the time they manufactured the 1962 version of the Singer 99.
        Thank you again for all your wonderful information!
        Colleen

        1. Thanks for letting me know that, Colleen!

          The newest one I’ve had here is mid-50s and it still contains the felt wick. That probably means too that the part number for that hook race is different.

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