Removing the Handwheel from a White Machine

Removing the Handwheel from a White Machine the Right Way

Some years ago, I wanted to change a hand wheel on a White machine. I had one with no belt groove that i wanted to put into a treadle. i found that changing a hand wheel on a White was one absolute brute of a job. I did it with brute force, a mallet and wooden rods to center on the wheel. it wasn't fun. I posted a set of brief instructions on how I did it. During that job, I came to the conclusion that the shaft and wheel had been joined in a hot/cold shrink process and that, before putting the new wheel on, you should lap the axle center a bit. I now now that isn't so. I set out today to do a documented demo on removing the wheel using a gear puller. In the process, I learned some things i didn't know. (Hmm.. can you learn something you already did know? Let's not think about that...) Meantime, I'm sitting here watching us get snowed in on Christmas Day, meaning our dinner guests may not be able to make it, so I'm going to see how good a job i can do of explaining all of this.

In the several years since posting the original instructions mentioned above, there has developed a considerable interest in the White "embossed machines" (see "Information on White Machines"). These machines were all electric and came with a wheel that had no belt groove. Many of the folks who get them are interested in putting them into a treadle, and are therefor interested in removing the original hand wheel and replacing it with a wheel from the far more common White FR that had the belt groove. There is a "right" and easy method for doing so... herewith demonstrated:

To carry out this conversion you will need the following:

- a "gear puller"... this is an inexpensive tool available at most auto parts stores

- two large flat bladed screwdrivers and one medium sized flat bladed screwdriver

- an adjustable end wrench

- a mill bastard file

- a piece of sandpaper, preferably high quality, about 200 grit

OK... having assembled the tools, you are ready to begin by removing the original wheel. I just finished removing a wheel and photoed the steps. I hadn't messed with a White in a long time and I got one step out of order, so before you start work, reveiw all of the steps below, thereby avoiding making the same mistake I did...



This is a gear puller. I got this one from a local auto parts store for $12. I'm going to assume you know what a screwdriver, a file and a wrench look like...


and here you have a White FR hand wheel... Your first step is going to be to remove the large screw in the center of the axle. This screw is normally really, really tight and hard to start...


Having been unable to hold the wheel by hand and start the screw, I braced the wheel by inserting a large screwdriver thought it and against the pillar... Note that the bobbin winder engage/disengage lever is engaged.


Here I have inserted a large flat bladed screwdriver in the screw and set up an adjustable end wrench to turn it, using the screwdriver inserted through the hand wheel as a brace... It still took a lot of force to start it.



Success! The screw started and can now be removed the rest of the way by hand.


Now, there is where I made a mis-step... After removing the axle center srew, you should find and loosen a set screw from the center wheel... the bobbin winding wheel... The picture below is actually out of sequence with the way I did things, as I started using the gear puller before I remembered about the set screw...

OK.. there's the set screw in the middle wheel... As you can see, I have already put the gear puller in position... Actually, it would be better to remove the screw and middle wheel before doing that. Use a screwdriver and loosen or remove the screw. The middle wheel will come off at this point. Set it aside.


Here is the hand wheel with that middle wheel removed, which is what things should look like at this point if you do it all in the correct order...



Alright... returning to the proper order of things, here is a picture of the gear puller. The principle is simple.. the jaws go behind the gear or pulley or whatever you are removing from an axle, the center screw is tightened against the end of the axle and the force pulls the object from the axle. As noted above, you need to check for any set screw that may be holding the item in place on the axle to prevent unintended totation in use.


Here's the puller set up to begin the job. The jaws have been inserted though the spokes of the wheel and the screw hand tightened to the center of the axle. Again, I want to emphasize that I failed to remove the set screw and middle wheel, as noted above, so you see them still in position here. It didn't really make any difference, except that the set screw being still in position made the initial force required harder than it needed to be.



Wrench in position on puller and I've started to turn it. The hand wheel started to come off, but I either felt the force required was more than it should be or remember the set screw and checked for it at this point...


Ah, yes... there is a set screw... and there it is! So i loosened it, as noted above, and the center, or bobbin winding, wheel came off. If your eyes are sharp, you may note that the puller clamp fingers, or "dogs" are gripping just behind the center of the hand wheel, actually on what would be the outside edge of the belt groove if you were sitting at the treadle. Once the middle wheel was off, I was easily able to reposition the dogs onto the actual back of the hand wheel... much preferable.



Note on the operation of the White FR

I probably should have noted this earlier, but since I'm at the bobbin winder wheel portion of this, I'll do it here. Most everone is familiar with the Singer system of bobbin winding, i.e. there is a clutch wheel in the center of the hand wheel, which, when disengaged by unscrewing it, frees the handwheel and belt pulley to spin independently of the machhine operation. On Whites, this same effect, i.e. freeing the handwheel/pulley to spin, is accomplished by a "flip finger" in on the edge of the middle wheel I've been talking about. It flips up to engage a slot on the hand wheel or down to desengage, freeing the hand wheel/belt pulley to spin without operating the machine. This set screw is pointed on the inner end and, when tightened, the pointed end fits into a groove on the axle. Thus, it is the smaller, inner wheel that actually controls the machine operation. I'll show that groove in the axle later, when we get the wheel off... Just rememeber... it is the middle wheel that actually engages the machine mechanism when sewing. As on the Singer, the hand wheel must have free-wheeling cabability for bobbin winding.




Here is the same picture of the hand wheel with the middle wheel removed again... just to keep us all in step...



Ah... much better, with the midlle wheel removed, I have repositioned the puller dogs fully behind the wheel to continue the process of pulling it off...


OK... now we're cooking... I'm cranking on the screw with the wrench and the hand wheel is coming right off...



Voila! One hand wheel removed.



and here is the axle. This is a really, really important picture. You're going to have to study it with a sharp eye. Note the groove in it. That is the groove the pointed set screw in the middle wheel locks into. Now... REALLY Note that the end is splayed! This shaft is narrower in the section closer to the machine than it is at the end. This is so that the hand wheel can freely spin on it when bobbin winding. This fact is going to be critical to the next steps, which will prepare you to put on the new hand wheel.


Now, this is where I learned things... the axle hand wheel fit on the White was not a hot/cold procedure, as I had thought. I should have realized this years ago when I first worked on one, but I didn't, what can i say. The wheel was a brute to get off, so I "assumed" it was just a tight fit. A little thought would have revealed that it couldn't be a tight fit or it wouldn't be able to free wheel for bobbin winding. It's hard to get off because the axle does not have parallel sides all the way. The end is tapered out to be become larger than the section close to the machine. I figure the workers assembling the machine probably put the middle, or clutch wheel on from the inside end, then the hand wheel and only then inserted the axle into the.machine. Easy for them... not so for us.

So, how make it easier.... My first thought was to turn the machine on (this one is electric) and lap the end of the axle. Oops, no, that won't work, dummy. The only way the axle can turn is with the wheels on it, and then you couldn't work on the axle. OK, let's get more basic. I took a mill bastard file and CAREFULLY did some filing on the end of the axle, basically from a point about 1/5 of the way from the start of the groove to the end. It doesn't take much. Having done the filing, I took a piece of sandpaper torn into a strip and hand buffed the end of the axle to smooth out the file marks a bit. I then oiled in and slipped the hand wheel back on like butter.

I ran into a tiny bit of trouble when reassembling, but I'll cover that as I go...


For the next steps, working on the axle end, you have to prevent the axle from turning. I did so by GENTLY inserting a screwdriver under the lifter arm. It's not jammed in there, just providing a stop to prevent the arm from coming down, which stops the needle motion and prevents the axle from turning while you work on it.


and here is this step's weapon of choice, a mill bastard file, which is relatively fine toothed file. I made a few file passes on the top of the axle, then turned it (take screwdriver prop out, turn axle, reposition screwdriver) until I had filed a bit on the end all the way around. It doesn't take very much at all.


I then took the strip of sandpaper and used it to buff the filed end all the way around, ending by putting a drop of oil on the shaft.


and Eureka! The hand wheel slips on and off as easily as on a Singer. IMPORTANT! Notice the little notch in the inside of the hand wheel, at 2 o'clock.


this is a picture of the bobbin winder/clutch wheel, with the spring loaded detent tooth showing. On this machine, the inside edge had to be down when putting this part back on, because the operation of the detent requires that the outside end be pressed down, so that the inside edge goes up, into a slot on the inside of the hand wheel that I pointed out in the last photo. When instaling it on the axle, it should be in the unegaged position, as shown


Yet Another important notice!

Over the years, White varied the design of the clutch wheel/detent finger. On some machines, you press down on the outside end of the detent to cause the inside of the detent to move up to engage a slot on the inside of the hand wheel. On others, you flip the outside end of the detent up or inward to engage the hand wheel. When you change hand wheels, you will need to be sure either that the clutch detent system is the same on both wheels, or that you keep them together, i.e. if the new hand wheel is different from the old one, take its original clutch wheel to the new machine with it.



OK.. here is the wheel on the machine I'm working on, shown in the unengaged position.



To engage, you push down on the lever, as shown. The slot the lever goes into to engage is on the inside of the wheel, and not visible without disassebly.



Here is a wheel from a different White (an older VS machine), shown here with the lever pushed outward or, nominally, down, and thus disengaged.


and the same machine, shown with the lever up, engaged. Note that on this machine, the slot the lever goes into to engage is visible on the outside edge of the wheel.


OK... back to our operation... Here I've slipped the clutch wheel back on. Now, a caution at this point. To put it on, align the set screw with the axle groove and slip the wheel on. Then just gently hand tighten the set screw to hold the wheel in alignment. Check alignment by rotating the wheel and engaging the detent. Machine needle should now operate as you turn the handwheel. Now, before you do a final tightening on the set screw, re-install the screw in the end of the axle and tighten it. This accomplishes the final seating of the two wheels on the axle, and, if you have overtightened the set screw, won't accomplish its purpose.


and here we're finished. The wheel has been removed, the axle has been altered so tha it will easily accept a replacement White wheel and, in this case, the original wheel has been put back on and the machine is operational. I wish I'd had an embossed White here so that I could actually have switched the wheels, but I didn't, so there you are...


I hope that anyone wanting to "treadle-ize" an embossed White will find these instructions helpful. Merry Christmas...


Captain Dick