Part 2 of the timing series. How to check your sewing machine’s hook timing. This is a simple check that I have heard of shops charging money for. Once you’ve done it a couple of times, it can be done in 30 seconds or less. Hopefully, after reading this, you’ll never pay for someone to check your timing again.
On a properly timed machine, when the needle is down, the hook is just about behind the eye of the needle, but not quite. To be timed right, the needle will be on its upswing as the hook ends up behind the eye to catch the needle thread.
This goes back to what I talked about in the last post: Excuse me, do you have the time? When the needle is on the down swing, the thread is tight against the needle. As it begins to swing up, the thread bows away from the needle, forming a loop.
This is when the hook needs to come along and grab the thread. At any other time, the hook will not grab the thread, and worse, more than likely the needle is going to collide with the hook assembly.
This is going to cause a smashed needle, and possibly as the needle collides with the hook assembly, it may damage the hook or the hook gears. This is usually in the form of a dent or a scrape (deep or shallow) and a burr. The dent or scrape isn’t a huge deal, but it’s undesirable. The burr however, will likely catch the thread, and break it or weaken it.
Think of it like a tiny version of someone cutting a rope. Even if the knife (burr) doesn’t get through it on the first cut, it’s still weakened it, and it may break somewhere else at another time. If the needle makes a burr, it needs to be filed off, so there’s no protrusion at all that can break or abrade the thread anymore.
The hook gears are also a bad thing to damage. They control the timing and your machine’s ability to sew. It’s very rare to damage the gears on a machine that has metal gears. In more recent years, roughly the 1970s and newer, we started to see “plastic” and “rubber” gears show up. These gears can smash or tear when the machine comes to a sudden stop due to some sort of mechanical problem. Once these gears are damaged, the timing is off, and the gears must be replaced before the timing can be set again. To have a shop do this can be very costly.
On some machines, Singers especially, there are “timing lines” on the needlebar to help you time it. If you remove the faceplate on the machine, and turn the handwheel so that the needlebar is in the fully down position, you’ll see 2 lines on the needlebar somewhere. In the photo below, you can see the lines I’m talking about.
On the model above, if you turn the handwheel further, top line has just about disappeared up into the body of the sewing machine like in the photo below, the needle should be at its very lowest point.
Notice that there’s a little space above the timing line? That shouldn’t technically happen if the needle is bottomed, right? In a perfect world, that would be true. The timing lines are a guideline. Sometimes they’re a little off, but they will help you get the timing right enough to sew every time in my experience.
The second timing line is the one we’re most interested in now. When you turn the handwheel so that the second line is in line with the bottom of the body, like so:
When you look at where the hook is, it should be behind the needle’s eye and a little past it. You’ll notice in these photos that the machine is threaded. This makes it easier to check that the hook and needle are timed correctly. When the second timing line is at the body of the machine, the hook will have picked up the thread, like in the photo below. See the point of the hook between the two pieces of thread?
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. We will address the timing of this machine in the next installment in this series.
If we look at the timing on a 201, this is a little clearer. I have removed the bobbin retainer, and the feed dogs for illustration only:
Note that the tip of the hook (red arrow) is directly in front of (or behind in relation to the front of the needle) and the eye of the needle (blue arrow) is a little below the hook. This is “perfect timing”.
If it’s further ahead or behind than that, this means the timing is off, and you may find that it starts to stitch weird – skipped stitches that can’t be fixed with tension changes, it won’t pick up the bobbin thread, etc.
If it’s a lot further off than that, the needle may start to hit the hook and break. At some point in between the two scenarios, it may just deflect, and you’ll hear a weird sliding or scraping noise every time the needle goes down or more likely when it’s coming back up, and there’s a good chance that your thread may break as well.
If you’ve done this check, and it looks like the timing is a problem, please check in with me in the next couple of days and I’ll show you how to adjust the timing on your machine so that it will sew again.
Edit: March 18, 2014 I’ve just made a video that may make this process a little easier to understand. As you can see in the video, even with explaining the how and the why, it takes less than 5 minutes to check timing.
In the next few months, as I get more machines with timing issues, I will post pictures of how to fix those machines specifically, because while the principles are the same, the way the parts look can be different from machine to machine which makes the method differ slightly from machine to machine.
This post has become longer than I intended, I will address things that look like timing problems, or things that timing is often blamed for, and feed dog timing in another post.
How about it? Is this something you’d take a machine to a shop for? Have you? Let’s hear about it below.