Thursday, June 26, 2014

Singer Rocketeer Spool Pins

Anyone who has a Singer 500 or 503, aka "Rocketeer" knows of the unique spool pin arrangement.  There are no spool pins on the outside of the machine, you lift the top lid and two spool pins pop up ready for thread.

I hate this arrangement, I don't like sewing with the lid up and the pins are often slanted so the thread doesn't unwind properly.  The alternative is to plug a plastic spool pin into the hole in the lid.

When sewing on a Rocketeer, I leave the lid closed and use a thread stand. Actually, I use a thread stand most of the time because I use the large cones of thread instead of the little spools you buy at the fabric store.

We went to Lancaster, Pennsylvania a year ago and one of the fabric shops up there had a large bin of cones for $4 each.  I bought a half dozen and, when we returned this year, and I bought seven more.  I really like not running out of thread in the middle of a project. I just wish they had more neutral and light colors in the bin.

I digress - back to the spool pins. The Rocketeer spool pins are thin plastic with a couple of little pieces sticking out acting as pivot points. Needless to say, they break off often, so I picked up some to stock in the Etsy Old Sewing Machines Shop.

Replacing the pins is not difficult, you remove the upper lid and turn it over; release the spring from the broken pin,

back on the top, remove the one screw from the hold-down plate and lift out the spool pin.  Insert the new pin in the hole, reinstall the hold-down plate, and reattach the spring.

Now, if the spring is missing, stretched out, or broken, you have another problem.  While the spool pins retail for 80 cents apiece, the springs retail for $4.80 each!  This got my creative genes stirring to find a cheaper option. I got out the piano wire left over from my bobbin winder spring episode and wound a spring around a nail.

Unfortunately, the piano wire is considerably thicker than the original spring wire and the spring didn't have enough "spring".  Then, I thought that the spring looks similar to the one in a retractable ballpoint pen.  I disassembled a cheap pen, bent the ends of the spring and installed it.

Works well for now but I'm not sure if it will get stretched out or how long it will last. I will continue to look for a substitute or order some lighter spring wire.

The next problem is the spool felts that help keep the thread unwinding smoothly and prevent the spool from rattling as you sew.  The standard spool pin felts don't work because you need a slot for the pin to fold down into.

 Cutting a slot in a standard spool pin isn't the best option because the spool felt can rotate and the slot won't be where it needs to be when you lower the lid.  My parts supplier doesn't carry the 500 spool pin felts, what I do is buy a sheet of adhesive felt from the craft store, cut out a circle, punch a hole in the center,

cut a slot for the pin to fold into

and adhere the homemade felt to the lid.  Not original looking, but it does the job.

Ed's Vintage Sewing Machine Shop


Diane Hughes said...

My Rocketeer has a spool pin on the lid. There is a hole for one!

Ed Lamoureux said...

Yep, just like I showed in the third photo above however, once you install that dorsal fin in the middle of the back, it's no longer a Rocketeer, it's a killer whale! Ed

Anonymous said...

Ed - do you know of a source for the auxiliary spool pin that will fit into the storage spot under the lid? Sew Classic has them but says that you can't close the lid when the pin is in the interior storage slot. I might as well continue using the one I got in an anonymous lot of Singer parts, it's the same result, I store it in the (GASP) Crown Royal bag that I put the foot controller in. Tks, Pamela kuniecki

Ed Lamoureux said...

Pam, I will look through my boxes of attachments to see if I have one of those to spare. In the meantime, I placed an auxiliary spool pin for a Singer 600 in my cart at my supplier, we'll see if that fits or not when it arrives. -Ed

Anonymous said...

You ROCK Ed! Tks.

Ben said...

I just bought one of these machines today for $15 with a Sears desk-style cabinet. Amazingly it still had an external spool pin with it. It was on the outside stuck on it still. I had to attach the lid back on as someone had half dislodged it then I completely did at first, but then I got it to go back on. It seems to work fine except for needing a new light bulb. Pics here:

Anonymous said...

Ed, does that 600 Singer spool pin work for your Rocketeer? I was thinking about getting one for my 500A as the external one is missing. I picked up my 500A in practically museum condition a couple months ago in what looks like its original walnut cabinet for $4.99 at the local 2nd hand store here in Indiana. It works great, is in beautiful clean condition and I also picked up a 1954 Kenmore Rotary in beautiful condition and original wood cabinet for an extra $4.99! I was flabbergasted!!! God Bless, Carole

Anonymous said...

The 600 spool pin will fit on top, but it is too large in diameter to fit inside the machine in it's spot...I have looked for a spool pin for so long :(

Doreen said...

HI, Great info. Just picked up an old Singer Slant-o-Matic 503 Special in a table. I'm following your directions on replacing the underneath spool and spring. However, I can't budge the screw loose to loosed the plate. Any suggestions?