Sunday, January 27, 2008

Change / Replace The Belt on a Treadle (pedal) Sewing Machine

Although it may initially look complicated to change the long leather belt on a treadle (pedal) sewing machine, it's actually very simple, and can easily be done by the average person using tools that are common around most households. My directions will seem more complicated than the procedure actually is.

Tools needed; a sharp knife or large scissors, an ink pen or Sharpie marker, a 4d-6d finish nail or a sharp ice pick or punch about the diameter of a pencil lead. A pair of pliers.

Clip the old belt in two (if it's still present) These belts generally last a long, long time under the right conditions. I have seen 100 year old treadle belts that still worked! However, they eventually dry-rot or just break.

The machine should be in the up (working) position.

Fold the new belt in the middle, and place it over the top of the handwheel of the machine. There will be two holes on most machine's cabinets directly under the handwheel, and immediately to the right of the machine base. Half the new belt goes in the front hole, and half in the back hole. Push it all the way down so that it comes down over the handwheel and lays in the belt groove, which will be to the left of where you grasp the handwheel, and be smaller in diameter. You may have to work the belt around the bobbin winder or belt guard to get it into the right place.

Now get on your knees and peer up underneath the cabinet. You will of course see the two long ends of the belt that you just pushed through from above. The object is to get the back half looped around the large pulley underneath, and pulled up toward the front of that pulley so it can be measured and marked. This takes a little doing, especially the first time. No, no, go ahead and get the belt on and don't stop to clean out all the dust and cobwebs that you see under there!

On some machines there will be metal loops immediately above the front and back of that large pulley that the belt must go through before looping around the pulley for measuring. Most Singer machines only had one hinged loop in front. Be sure the belt gets through the loop(s) Then work the back half of the belt around the back and bottom of the large pulley. To get it all the way around you will have to pull it farther down and give some slack on the front half of the belt.

Being sure the belt is still correctly around the machine handwheel, and that it's looped around the large pulley underneath, and through all the loops and holes it's supposed to go through, then pull it up snug, let the ends lap, and mark the end that does not have the metal staple in it.

Some folks take the belt back off at this point, others just work with it while on their knees. You'll have to at least flip it loose from the large pulley to give yourself some working slack. Cut the excess belt off at your mark. on most machines you'll wind up cutting off about 4"-8" of belt. Note how that metal staple is fastened in to the other (uncut) end, and punch a corresponding hole in the cut end of the belt. Try to get the hole centered in the belt material.

Put the belt back in place, hook the staple through the hole you just punched, then using your pliers pinch the open end of the staple down onto the belt. You've done it!

The goal is to have the belt tight enough so that it doesn't slip much, but not so tight that it makes the machine difficult to pedal. After a few months you may have to clip some more off, as the leather may stretch some. After that, it will be good for decades!

We carry a supply of good quality treadle belts in our online catalog at We also have bobbins and shuttles for a lot of the old machines.


J said...

This is great. One question, one thought. Can you tell me which direction the staple should be facing (open side toward the wheel, or away from the wheel)? Also, given the visual nature of this lesson, a video link to YouTube would be worth more than a thousand words. Thank you.

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phillip said...

The original belt broke. I got a new one and followed the instructions. All went well until I tried to lower the machine back into the housing. The belt made it too tight to lift the machine the 3 inches or so it requires to let the machine back down. What did I do wrong?

Tess said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tess said...

You can slip the belt off the bottom pulley before putting the machine head to sleep at night (lowering it into the cabinet).

When you're ready to use the machine again just lift the machine head out and put it back in the upright position. Slip the belt back onto the lower pulley and you're ready to go. The belt will not fall off completely because it's stapled together.

I used to put the machine head down into the cabinet by stretching the belt to get it down there but by slipping the belt off first you prevent unnecessary stretching.

Hope this helps.

belinda-tang said...

Help please? Can I use a slightly thinner treadle leather belt for my old Singer machine? The existing belt is almost 0.7 cm thick and the replacement available locally is 0.45 cm.

Maria Shannon said...

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Charlene Page said...

The large wheel on the lower part of my treadle machine wabbles some how do I tighten that up so it stops that? It Has a piece of metal that sticks out and hits on the metal frame and clanks with each turn. It is a Household Sewing Machine, Thank You, Char

Francois Lemay said...

I change the belt on my singer sewing machine but the needle wont go up and down , its stuck even after using lubing everything,any tips I should know ?

Francois Lemay said...

after changing the belt on my singer sewing machine serial number G6659950 , the needle wont go up or down its stuck solid , any suggestion?

Nicole said...

Hello! I have a Singer 66, and am trying to get it in working order. I replaced the belt, but am having a lot of trouble with slipping. If the belt is too tight, will the machine refuse to sew? The treadle is very difficult to move when the belt is on, but very very easy when it is off. I tried taking the machine apart and oiling it, but that doesn't seem to have fixed anything. Any advice would be appreciated! Thanks!

lady boywonder said...

HELP !!! I just read your whole entire article which was very good but I have one crucial to question which isTENSION how much – how little? The existing leather band was sliding over the pulley

Jeanette Castle said...

Thanks for explaining each and every step to replacing a belt. I went to other websites that gave half of the details. Needless to say I encountered a problem. Your clear cut directions helped me to resolve my problem. Thanks so much.
I'm so excited to be able to sew on a machine that my great-grandmother used. Jeanette

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d8c845ec-6472-11e5-9923-8715d3140908 said...

For people having problems with the belt slipping, I discovered this on my 66k:

There is a semi circular metal cover over the belt on the sewing machine end, that has one retaining screw on the top - this part is connected to the bobbin winder. Most of the Singer models I have seen also have this part.

If your belt is slipping, take off this piece. Completely remove it by taking out the retaining screw. Now, try operating the machine by the treadle again. If it now works, as was the case for me, this semi circular metal piece was fouling against the moving part of the wheel - put it back on making sure it is flush with the left hand side, and not fouling any moving part on the right. Fixed :)

Hope that helps somebody :)

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