Singer model 217, ~1960s: Simple and reliable, and always ready for me.
Old Singer sewing machines are well made and built to last. My Singer model 217 was handed down to me and sews very well. I was dismayed that the machine would not turn over as it did before and discovered that the motor needed replacement. These motors are no longer made so getting a replacement was not straight forward. After the motor replacement my Singer hums along like new. Maybe I will sew up some Canadian flags!
The Singer 217 is not a screaming beauty. Mostly metal, the outside top and left covers as well as the two cover plates are ABS plastic. Sturdy enough but I would have appreciated all metal. Still it makes the machine a little lighter. The grey on grey colour scheme is very subdued, with a flare of commercial. This is not a commercial machine and will bog down if sewing heavy leather. For regular laid back sewing where you do not need the heft, torque, noise, speed nor the trigger switch of a commercial machine, the 217 is a good solution. The model number is on the front stitch length plate, above the Singer brand name. The 217 has both straight and zigzag stitches. The straight stitch model is the Singer model 219.
The back of this Singer 237 has a similar motor to the 217. The light is identical to the 217.
I found the serial number of my machine on the front left of the underside of the machine. On the Singerco site you can look up your serial number and find out where your machine was manufactured. My Model 217 serial number starts with “MF” and was made in Monza, Italy, some time after 1934. Interestingly the motor of my 217 is stamped “Made in Canada”.
I knew the motor was going. There were several occasions where a little smoke came out of the motor. I shut it down but believe the damage was already done. Opening up the motor I found the armature cracked. Replacement was required. I got on Singerco.com and found the parts list for the 217/219 was not listed in the “Model Nos. 2-2999” section. Surely something was amiss.
The pedal and motor of this Singer 237 is identical to the Singer 217. The motor is made in Canada. The light is different.
After repeatedly searching the Singerco website I decided to call them at 1-800-474-6437 and reached their US Call Centre. The lady on the other end was knowledgeable, helpful, useful and spoke great English. She also could not find the parts list for my 217. After confirming that the 217 did exist she searched the archives and found out that the 217/219 was near identical to the Singer Fashion Mate Model 237. She said she would recommend adding the 217 to their web site. Once I found the part I needed, which was a replacement motor, how could I purchase a new one? As a Canadian I was to call 1-800-363-1958, their Canadian Call Centre.
Singer Model 306k, circa 1954, has a similar motor to the 217. All metal and heavy.
The parts chart of the Singer Model 237 showed everything but the motor. I was confused. Calling up the Canadian Call Centre and was told that the sewing machine and the motor are separate and parts for the motor are not sold separately. Being an old machine the motor is no longer sold, but there are generic motors available. He warned me that not only is a new motor required but the foot pedal would also need to be replaced. As well, my light would not be accommodated and would have to be wired some other way. I asked for and received the phone number of an authorized Singer distributor near my house. A generic motor and pedal would cost $68CAD and does not include a light.
Singer model 306k motor looks similar to the 217. The pedal, light and power cord are different.
Looking on eBay I found a couple of Singer Model 237s with identical motors, but shipping would be more than $50US from the US. Sewing machines are heavy. There seemed to me a lot of Model 237s in circulation but they are heavy to ship and therefore cost prohibitive for just a motor replacement. I would need to find one for local pickup. No motors were for sale on eBay.
Singer Model 217 with a motor from a Singer Model 306k. The pedal and power cord were changed.
On a whim I decided to visit a local Goodwill, where I found a Singer Model 306k, circa 1954, with lots of parts missing and parts broken. The motor looked very similar to my 217. I plugged it in and the machine came alive. This is one strong and heavy all metal machine, built to last forever. The pedal and light are different and the power cable unplugs from the machine.
Singer 306k motor on a Singer 217 sewing machine. Everything fit perfectly.
Label on Singer 306k motor. Made in Canada.
Thanks to great foresight on Singer’s part all bolts were standardized between these two machines. The bolt that held on the motor to the sewing machine body was the same on both machines. The bolt and metal tab that held on the light was the same on both machines. I disconnected the light for the 306k and attached the light from the 217. The belt from my 217 could have been a little longer but worked. I replaced the 306k motor’s pulley for the metal one off the 217. The screw that held the pulley wheel to the armature was the same on both machines, though the one for the 306k was longer and went straight through the armature axle. The guide that keeps the motor vertical and the groove in the motor arm was the same on both machines. Overall swapping motors took less than 15 minutes and was easily done. All motor mount parts were interchangeable between the machines.
While we live in a disposable society, I am not happy when a machine breaks. Old Singer sewing machines were made of metal and engineered and built to last. Today’s sewing machines are predominantly plastic. With planned obsolescence they break and wear out, and may not be serviceable. While there are advances in technology such as computer based power controllers in pedals, the very fact remains that new technology may improve the ability to sew very little. Sewing machines have been around since 1850. By the early 1900s this technology was reliable. It is with little wonder that I see many old Singer sewing machines still working and providing their owners with reliable service.
-Singer 306k23 user manual, parts list, 306w25 service manual; bobbin case 173058; bobbin 55623; cam disk knob 113122 and washer 105234, cam 276301; also check 306w and 319k/319w
-Singer 237 parts list, 237M23 parts list
-Reference Links: Monty’s Singer Pages
Other Singer models that might have the same motor include:
-319 (exact motor and pedal), 223 (similar motor, verified with photos), 247 (similar motor and light), Fashion Mate 252/257 (250 series, similar motor only),
-227, 258/259, 293 (unverified)