Removing and Replacing the White FR Faceplate


Folks get pretty accustomed to removing and replacing the face plate on Singer type machines... after all, there is an obvious screw to undo and it just lifts of. White face plates are somehow more intimidating, but really come on and off fairly easily, if you know the trick... well, actually, hree tricks. The first trick is to understand that the tension assembly on the White FR is quite different in design from the Singer, so let's talk about that for a moment.

Any thread tension system depends on the principle of having the thread run between two surfaces with some means of applying variable pressure provided. On many early and/or less expensive machines, the plate or top tension system was used. In this system, two flat metal spring are attached to the top of the machine with a screw holding them together. The thread is routed between the metal plates and pressure is increased or decreased by tightening or loosening the screw. The weakiness of this systsem is that the thread pretty easily scores a groove in the metal plates. When this happens, the plates can no longer apply tension, since the thread is essentially running through a tunnel. These plates were a standard item of maintenance or replacement. Since all the different brands of machines that used this system used different plates, and since stores do not stock this as a part any more, this can be a problem in restoring and using one of these old machines. There are ways to resurface the plates, but that's a story for another time.

The top, or leaf tension system lost out to the disk tension system, used by all of the later Singer machines and the upper quality level machines of other manufacturers. Instead of flat springs on top of the machine, two disks are mounted on the machine, with a coil spring and a nut on a screw shaft holding the disks in place. The thread is routed between the two disks and tension is increased or decreased by means of the nut, which, when screwed in inreases the pressure on the coils spring, said pressure then being transferred to the disks. Unscrewing the nut obviously reduces the pressure. This was an improvement in that the disks can rotate, thus making thread scoring less likely.

White went a somewhat different direction. There is an obvious tension assembly on main surface of the faceplate, though which the thread must be routed, and another part of the assembly on the side of the faceplate unit that faces the person sitting at the machine... the tension dial asembly. There is a leaf spring inside the faceplate. The is tension dial rotates a cam inside the face plate. This cam applies pressure through the leaf spring to a plate in the assembly on the faceplate. Thus, the White FR tension assembly, actually has two units, which connect inside the face plate.


Exterior face plate tension assembly...



Exterior tension dial assembly


OK... now, hopefully, you understand a bit more about tension assemblies than you used to. That clears the way for me to reveal the second trick: Don't disasseble the White tension system! There are eleven parts to it and they have to be assembled in a certain order. People often comment on how hard it is to get the White face plate back on when they've taken it off. Usually, this is because they took part of the tension assembly off. Servicing the tension assembly can be done... I've done it. However, it is rarely a problem so should be the last thing you worry about. Even the White service man's repair manual advised that this assembly rarely gives trouble and shouldn't be messed with. Above all, the manual cautions that reassembly and calibration requires a tool you don't have... because you have to make it yourself. Now, I may get ambitious and do another White service page on that topic in the future, but then again, maybe not. Right now, my concern is the face plate itself... so, now let's move on to that...



Unlike on Singers, the faceplate is a heavy casting. It's held on with two screws, from the inside of the machine structure. Here you see the top screw and a screwdriver in the bottom screw. Before starting, rotate the hand wheel halfway, so that the thread lifter arm will clear its slot when the faceplate comes off. Remove the needle or it will hang up the faceplate. Raise the presser foot. Back out the two screws and set them aside, gently lift and work off the faceplate.


Okay... let's study this a bit... the face plate for inside. At the left, outside, you see the dial knob. On its inner end you see a projection, which is resting on a blued metal leaf spring. You can also see the lifter foot shaft and the needle shaft. Note that there is a mechanism on the needle shaft that is resting against the bottom of the face plate. This is important. Because the needle shaft is free moving, i.e. will both rotate and raise and lower, this mechanism falls out of its proper relationship with the main machine the minute you take off the face plate. We'll come back to that....


Here is another view... in the center you are looking at the inside end of the tension dial, which shows as a round shaft about the size of a pen, with a smaller shaft going further in. This smaller shaft is NOT centered in teh larger surface, but rather is at one side, giving it a cam action when the dial is rotated and causing it to increase or decrease pressure on the leaf spring, which in turn transfers that pressure to a disk inside the end plate tension unit, across with the thread runs.


OK... forget the cam for the moment and look at the mechanism on the needle shaft. Note that it is no longer at the bottom, and that it has rotated, so that what looked like a projection to the left in the picture above now faces you directly. This projection has the screw head in it. Note also that there is a smaller projection now facing to the right. That one is not important, but the one with the screw head is... it has to fit into the eccentric drive wheel in the machine in order to make the stitch.

Don't loosen these screws! They have to do with the timing of the machine and should virtually never give a problem.


Here is what the machine end looks like with the face plate off. That projection on the needle shaft has to fit into the hole at the end of the dangling arm... The problem is that everything wants to keep moving, and must be in proper alignment for the face plate to fit on.




While you have things apart, dust, brush out lint, and oil anything that looks like a good candidate for lubrication. As long as you stay away from the tension assembly itself (you don't want oil in there to get on the thread) you won't get in trouble. Sudy things and get more comfortable with the nice piece of engineering that is a White.

When you're satisfied, you can move on to putting the face plate back on.


Rotate the wheel so that the arm is at roughtly 1 o'clock... this is approximately the plane in which the needle shaft is when things are together. Holding the face plate in your left hand, carefully bring the parts togethe, sliding the lifter arm through its slot and the projection on the needle bar into the hole at the end of the drive arm shown above.


When everything lines up, it will slip back into position and you can put the screws back in.


That's it, folks. The White FR faceplate is not that difficult, as you've seen. As long as you remember not to mess with the tension and to put the drive arm in proper position to receive the needle shaft unit, it's a piece of cake. I had to run up and down to the basement several times to get photos in the right sequence, taking the face plate on and off of my test machine each time. The last time down, I had it off, checked the particular relationship I wanted, and put it back on in about 30 seconds!


I really will see if i can do a similar page on the tension assembly itself sometime in the next week or two.

Captain Dick