Modifying a Solid Hand Wheel to Accept a Hand Crank

For years, we have been converting electric Singers to hand crank by changing the usual solid hand wheel to a spoked wheel, then adding a modern reproduction hand crank. The two parts usually run around $30 when purchased from a TO supplier. The spoked wheel was necessary as the "flip finger" on the hand crank fitted between the spokes, giving it the purchase required to turn the wheel. Now, Singer did actually manufacture some Model 185's that were hand cranks but had solid hand wheels. The hand wheel was cast with a notch in it to accept the flip finger from the crank. Here is a picture of one:


Unfortuanately, when I took this picture some years ago, I was after an image of the machine rather than how they had treated the crank, but you can see that the hand wheel is solid, not spoked. the flip finger is resting in its notch at the back of the wheel, what would be 3 o'clock..


Obviously, if there were a relatively easy way to modify an existing solid hand wheel so that a repro hand crank could be used on it, the cost of buying the spoked wheel would be saved. also, there have been occassional problems with the repro spoked wheels coming through with slightly undersized holes, necessitating lapping the hole out a bit.

Fortunately, two systems have been worked out to manage this conversion without the spoked wheel. One simply involves indenting the existing hand wheel. The other involves simply adding a finger to the existing (or an alternate) clutch nut. Both will be shown on this page.

Susan Bentley and her husband came up with a very simple approach to modifying hand wheels so that the available repro cranks will work on them. Here is a complete set of pictures of the process, with Sue's comments:


Equipment lined up, ready to start: clamp, board, drill, file and wheel



Place the board (a piece of scrap wood) over the wheel and clamp it well to the table


Eyeball and mark the edge of the wheel


Drill all the way through. Note: drill bit is 1/2"



Showing the initial hole, which is, of course, more or less round. Looks like about half of the drill diameter, maybe a bit more, cut into the wheel.


File the "hole" (really more of a notch) smooth, enlarging as needed to fit the crank's "finger"



Here you have the finished "notch", nicely squared and the raw edges painted black.


Wheel installed on machine.


Wheel and crank on machine.


Here is a closeup of the fit of the flip finger into the notch. Enlarging lost a little resolution but I think it shows how things have to go.


Here are some more comments from Sue:

Please note that there are two types of hand cranks, a small light version and a heavier larger version with gold filigree on the casing. The "finger" that fits in the handwheel is a different size on each version and the drilled notch will need to be adjusted to fit the "finger". We have done this many times on many models and always end up with a usable solid handwheel that cranks perfectly. Give it a try and good luck.

I asked Susan about the two hand crank versions. At a recent TOGA I had occassion to install both types, and it was my impression that the smaller version that did not have the rather gaudy decal on it was better made, more solid and smoother working. I asked Sue for her impressiions:

Dick: Sud, one more question... I know that recently I had occasion to handle both of the types of repro hand cranks, the smaller one and the larger one with the gaudy decals.. It seems to me that the smaller one was heavier and more tightly built, and I felt was the better choice. Does this coincide with your experience? If so, I can guide Onions to contact their supplier and see which one they will be getting.

Susan: I have both, but the smaller one is the one I keep going back to. I just seem to like the way it feels and turns. It also fits the best with DH's drill bit. The other one is quite a bit larger and we have to hand file for a long time to make it fit as we can't find a larger bit for his Black and Decker. I save the larger crank to use with the spoked wheels. I am glad the pictures were good enough to use. It really is simple. Terry has not done any bodily damage to himself while doing this, still has all his fingers. It only takes a few minutes to drill and file. We have done the aluminum ones with a definite edge that come on the more modern E-Singers like the Fashion Mates, the skinny rimmed wheels of a 99/66 and the ones with a bit of a lip. We have found that there is a difference in the type of metal used which you can't always tell because they are painted but the process still works the same. Sometimes it just takes a little more effort because the metal is harder. After you try drilling one, let me know what you think. I gain so much information from TO, glad to be able to offer something useful.
Take care, Susan

Several had asked about the size of the bit.  It is a 1/2" bit.  Take care, Susan

That way works quite well. However, some time after posting that material, I came up with an alternate method that avoided modifying a hand wheel. To me, it seems less work, though if you're not equipped to drill and tap a screw hole, you might not think that's true. I didn't take a detailed set of pix, but here's the finished product and an explanation:

What you are looking at here is a modified Singer clutch nut. It's easy enough to come up with a spare one of those in this group, so I used an old, not too pretty one. I cut a finger out of 3/4" wide x 1/8" or 1/4" aluminum strap. This is available from Lowe's or Home Depot. Unfortunately, usually in a 6' length. I cut it to length... long enough to reach the outside edge of the hand wheel, then drilled two holes in it. I drilled and then tapped two holes in the clutch nut. Obviously, you want these two holes in a line with the center. The holes in the finger piece are not tapped and are just large enough for the two screws to fit through. Use is simple. Install this clutch nut in place of the your original. Install the hand crank and flip the crank's finger down. It should reach inward enough to engage the finger on the clutch nut. When you turn the crank, it will turn the hand wheel. The only drawback here is that unlike a spoked hand wheel, there is no "opposite" finger to prevent the hand wheel from running on when you stop. This is easily corrected by the highly technical addition of a rubber band around the end of the crank's flipper finger and the clutch wheel finger. I don't have a machine handy with a solid wheel on it or I'd take a picture of it installe, but hopefully it's simple enough that you get the idea.

Captain Dick

OK... there you have it... two relatively easy ways to make hand cranks out of all those electric Singers, without having to add a spoked hand wheel.

Captain Dick