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Sewing Machine Motors

I have had many inquiries about sewing machine motors and foot controllers from my customers over the years. Below are some commonly asked questions and their answers about these topics. In case you are wondering about the reliability of my answers; I taught Chemistry & Physics for 35 years and collected/restored sewing machines in my spare time for the last 12 of those years (I lost count after 200++ machines). I will keep my answers as simple as possible for the average person so some explanations have been oversimplified and may not sound correct for you engineering pros out there.

(A) 110V vs 220V Motors

Motors are basically a bunch of tiny magnets that are lined up and designed to sometimes repel and sometimes attract. By alternating the repelling/attracting we can force the motor to rotate. The rotation speed is controlled by the electrical voltage (energy). More voltage means more speed. Since sewing machines have a predetermined TOP speed the motor is designed to achieve this TOP speed based on the locally supplied voltage of that country.

CAUTION/REMINDER: You can use a 220V motor on a 110V source and the TOP speed will be HALF of what it should be and there will be NO damage to the motor. BUTÖ..if you use a 110V motor on a 220V source it will run at TWICE the TOP speed and permanently damage the motor (it may even catch fire).

(B) Converting a 220V Motor to Run on 110V

You do NOT necessarily have to buy a new motor unless you want to. To maintain the originality of your machine and have it running properly you should use a transformer. These can be obtained at any electrical supply store.

First thing is to look at the information plate on the motor of your machine. On it should be 2 vital pieces of information: 1. the voltage of 220V and, 2. the current rating of your machine in either Amperes (A) or milliamperes (mA). If your machine has the info in mA (milliamperes) you will have to convert it to A (Amperes) by dividing by 1000.

Next we need to know the Power consumption of your machine (in Watts) which is accomplished by using the formula P = V X I where V=volts and I=current in Amps. Lets say your machine has the following info on the motor plate: 220volts and current of 330mA. Change the mA to A by dividing by 1000. Now the current is 0.33A instead of 330mA. The Power will be 220 X .33 = 72.6 Watts (W).

Now you will need to buy an AC STEP-UP transformer. This steps up the voltage from 110V to 220V and still keeps it as AC voltage. Make sure that the OUTPUT Power rating of the transformer is GREATER than the power you calculated for your machine by approximately 25%. In my example, I would buy a 100 Watt Output, AC Step-up Transformer. The reason for the extra wattage is that there will be some heat loss when the transformer is working and you donít want to run the transformer at its limit. The transformer will get warm as you are using your machine so donít be alarmed.

You may be able to buy such a unit already made for you with a plug socket already there so all you have to do is plug your machine in and sew away! If thatís not the case the wiring is very easy. If you are not electrically savvy get the supply house to show you which 2 wires are the Primary (input) and which are the Secondary (output). These actually should be labelled on the transformer but some of the cheap ones arenít. Now go to a hardware store buy some #14 electrical wire, wall plug (2-prong), and a box to hold the transformer. Use the Primary wires for your 110V and the Secondary wires for your 220V (machine side) and you are ready to sew. 

(C) Converting 110V Motor to run on 220V

The information for converting 110V motors to run on 220V is exactly the same as the info above with the following changes: You need to buy an AC STEP-DOWN transformer and the Primary wires must go to the 220V and the Secondary wires to the machine side (110V).

DISCLAIMER: !! Know what your are doing!! This is meant as I guide and we are not responsible if you injure yourself. If you have NEVER worked with electricity or wiring then get someone to help you that does know! Better still, BUY A PRE-MADE CONVERTER!!

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Last Revised: March 24, 2014