Breaks in cast iron · Jones · Transverse shuttle · Varley

The transverse shuttle bug

Never mind the coronavirus – this is much more serious! Being stuck in lockdown causes serious spending.

The Cyclops

How can anyone resist a cyclops? Impossible!

This is a late 1880s Varley & Co. transverse shuttle machine known as “The Cyclops” – their trade mark. It is based on Singer 12 but has double-sided feed dogs. And yes, the bed broke in two during transit. โ˜น๏ธ

There – a miracle of photography: the badge, the bed decal and the serial number all in one picture. ๐Ÿ˜‰ The serial number is 66200 M56. There are no real records, but anecdotal evidence (a.k.a. hear-say and wishful thinking) suggests it dates to approximately 1888, give or take a few years.

The first job is to glue the base. I’m using Araldite 2-component epoxy for steel and other metals, notably also cast iron.

Two hours later and it’s set! ๐Ÿ˜ƒ

Although I wouldn’t be shipping it anymore. Looks like this Cyclops got itself a permanent place here. โ˜บ๏ธ

Next step is varnishing to preserve both the lovely decals and the glued bed. And no, I won’t be dropping it in order to test the strength of this bond! ๐Ÿ˜ 

Jones Family TS

This is another machine with double-sided feed dogs. Plus, it is the size of a Medium machine – 13 inch bed length. Family machines were 12 inch. Serial number is 26569 putting her in 1882 according to Wow!

There is also Jones Medium TS out there, it is marginally larger but not in the length of the arm as is usually the case. Instead, it was made to sew leather, so it is slightly wider, has a thicker arm and beefier axes, and a much larger shuttle (and bobbin). The extra length is due to a longer shuttle race. I want one! But they are rare, so I’m happy to start with Family.

This machine was a treadle but the bottom has perished. I’ve got the table top, the draw, the machine and the lid. So no portable base and no hand-crank, and also no boss to mount one. Hmmm. It is temporarily sitting on a base from a VS2 machine – a full size base! That’s because a 3/4 sized base comes up too small!

The first job here is to repair the table top which cracked length-wise. It is a good useful size of 80cm x 40cm, and has a metal tray that screws underneath. It broke because the tray is convex rather than flat, so when they took it off the treadle legs and put it on the table, the top split as it was not lying flat. So I’m boxing in the tray from below and adding padding at the edges of the top, so it would rest on that padding like an oversized base.

Turn it over and I have a useful base, good space for sewing, I’m sure I’ll be able to tuck it away here somewhere… ๐Ÿค”

There’s more…

These are not the only TS machines in my sewing room! There’s the Singer 48K that I’ve been using a lot recently making thin jersey tops; there’s little Vesta Saxonia that I made to sew jersey so that I could sit in the garden; there’s Brothers Nothmann TS with its unique integrated geared hand-crank that allows to use a treadle or attach a regular anti-clockwise motor without dismantling the hand-crank; there’s Hengstenberg/Anker Wittler TS (transverse vibrating shuttle); and of course there’s Wertheim TS that I now decided to sell! It’s on eBay – I have too many machines.

So why did I buy these two? The feed dogs – both double-sided, not just left-sided like the rest of my TS machines. I’ve been finding that left-sided feed dogs tend to pull to the left which is not noticeable with woven cloth but becomes more and more prominent – and annoying – with jersey, in particular with very elastic jersey with lycra.

There exists a variant of Singer 48K with double-sided feed dogs and it is extremely rare. So my plan is three-fold: first investigate these two new machines and see whether those feed dogs really make a difference. I expect they do. Second, see whether Jones can make a flexible stitch with its patented shuttle. Third, see whether it is possible to swap single-sided feed dogs and needle plate from my Singer 48K for either the Varley or the Jones variant. There is also Bradbury TS with double-sided feed dogs out there, but I was very good and didn’t buy it. Yet. ๐Ÿ˜‰

27 thoughts on “The transverse shuttle bug

  1. I audibly gasped when I read that the bed of the Cyclops broke in transit๐Ÿ˜ข Does this happen frequently? I am always amazed by how you are able to bring out the best in the machines in your collection. You are truly an engineer.


    1. Breaks like this are actually quite rare. The machine was well packed, too! But you know how parcels get thrown around… I sent and received hundreds of machines, I’m sure (I don’t like to acknowledge the extent of my obsession ๐Ÿ˜‰) but this is the first time a break of this magnitude happened to me. It is sad, but won’t dissuade me from shipping machines by courier again – this is the risk I always knew was there!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Elena, I have had an industrial Singer 112w-139 with bed broken in half. Got it welded at a shop that repairs cracked cast iron engine heads and job was done well. Very heavy and heavy duty machine needed welding. Our New Home VS also cracked in half. We welded with 2mm stainless rod. We have an 1800’s Wheeler and Wilson that was cracked before I got it and someone drilled then tapped and added a bar stock under bed. Job was done well. It cracked because the wood base had cracked so added stress….so we fixed the wooden base with fiberglass/epoxy and covered with felt so nobody can see it. We had a very very old and very very expensive chain stitch embroidery machine that was so busted up we could not repair it ๐Ÿ˜ฆ I lost really big money on that. We also have been bitten by the TS bug. We are waiting two Vesta (one saxonia) and have a second saxonia that we are trying to figure out how to make payment on as the eBay computer system went “retard” on us again. We are also waiting on a second 48k from 1900. Best regards, Mike


    1. I was considering to drill and tap to add a couple of braces too. I wasn’t sure how well the glue would hold, but it seems to be strong so far. I’ll put it together and hope for the best. If the bond comes apart from the vibrations, I’ll drill and tap then.


  3. Fiddle based machines are on my new want list! Love the Anker – I have yet to set mine up – in the new extension if and when it happens! Mine has the ship and anchor like Sewmuse’s photo. It has lots of seagulls, which I’m guessing belonged to a seafaring family – came from Weston-Super-Mare. Sadly the lock on the case was broken as it had been jemmied. Grrr! I do like your butterflies on it though. Cyclops, Titan – just the names alone make me want them! LOL! How disappointing that it was broken, but amazing you have fixed it! Good job done!


    1. Amazingly, Cyclops was turning over ok even before I glued the base. Was rather rattly though. ๐Ÿ˜‰ The TS mechanism has a lot of anchor points compared to other mechanisms, so this helps, I think. Keeps it together. ๐Ÿ™‚ I have another Anker somewhere in storage (behind other things! Can’t see it), and that one has nice decals and a decent base. But I rather like my butterfly as well, actually. She was so rusty and looked completely foregone, but she polished up pretty well. And no detriment to function.


  4. Elena,
    I like the look of that Jones machine – good looks indeed for 140 year old machine!
    What needles are you using on theses machines? I had skipped stitches with DBx1 on thick fabrics with my Bradbury Family, but a 29×3 needle solved it – I think because the needle tip was physically wider and so closer to the shuttle.

    Dan H


    1. Hi Dan, I haven’t tried them yet! Or rather, they both came with a 12×1 (or 13×1) needle in them, bent and rusty, so I’ll be looking at alternatives ASAP. Just looked up 29×3 needles in the ISMACS spreadsheet: it says they have 1.98mm shank, is that right? Isn’t it too thick? I would rather try either DBx1 or 108×3 first (the same shank thickness of 1.6mm, different length).


    2. Elena,
      Yes, 29×3 have very thick shank, but the design of the Bradbury clamp means they do fit. 29×3 are also a bit too long – high risk they foul the head when fully up. I’m still looking for a better needle solution…….


      1. Thanks, Dan! Then I recommend 108×3 – widely available in sizes 80 and 90.

        I’ve just checked Cyclops and Jones TS – their needle clamps are so tight that neither takes 108×3 (or DBx1) because the shank is too thick. ๐Ÿ˜• I ordered some unknown needles from TreadleLady in California following this blog:, we’ll see how they fare. They are modern, but I could not find any of those industrial needles mentioned in the blog – some types are only available in some countries but not others, and some types are only available to industry.


  5. Could you post some more pictures of the Wertheim TS before it sells, pretty please? I’m trying to thread up my grandmother’s Wertheim TS S6. I’m not sure whether it could be missing a thread guide on the needle bar, and the shuttle looks different to the only manual I have access to. Thanks for the idea of using 108ร—3 needles – I ordered some and they should arrive soon.


  6. Elena,
    I ordered some of those Treadle Lady needles for the Bradbury and was sadly disappointed. The hole to tip distance on the ones I was supplied is a lot longer than the needle the machine came with (assumed to be 12×1 original) and just fouls the feed on anything other than delicate fabric. I hope the ones you’re supplied with are better. I’ve got some 108 x1/3 90 needles on order and will see how they go. Thanks for the suggestion.


    1. I managed to fit a 108×3 needle into Jones TS yesterday! ๐Ÿ˜ƒ It was a tight fit, so the grime must have blocked it at first. The 108×3 sews beautifully – inserted according to the rules for 12×1, and twisted to the right slightly. Perhaps try that with TreadleLady needles? I read somewhere they might be from Groz-Beckert meaning they are not top quality (according to one of the industrial suppliers I talked to). I do find it suspicious that she’s not saying what these needles are, but I’ll wait and see when mine arrive.

      BTW, I found that some machines – like Jones TS and Wertheim TS – were actually made for 13×1 needles. I have some 12×1 and 13×1 needles here for testing, and 12×1 were rather too short – didn’t even go into the needle clam fully. Hence using 108×3 instead of DBx1. (I think 108×1 id regular point and 108×3 is jersey.)


  7. Elena,
    Thanks again for the extra info. Groz Beckert are a good name in industrial needles though surely, they’re widely used by suppliers like College sewing? I think twisting needles is a good tip for trying to maximise the size of the loop to pick up a stitch. My problem with the Treadle Lady supplied needles was the needle tip in the fabric as the feed moved the fabric – since there’s “too much needle tip” below the needle hole.


    1. Groz Beckert is a well known name, yes, but have you noticed that their needles are always less than half price of those from Schmetz or Organ? May be they concentrate on low cost solutions. Good enough in most cases, I’m sure. I see what you mean about those needles from TreadleLady. Let’s see what mine are going to be like.


  8. Elena,
    My 108×1 “90/14” Schmetz needles (also labelled 108×3 and BQx1 and Canu: 30 : 15 EB) arrived from Ebay at super quick speed. They’re light ball point (SES label) which I should have checked before I ordered, but fit my Bradbury really nicely and I sewed a lovely looking, skip free seam in 8 layers of cotton curtain fabric first time, with no special twist from straight forward/back alighment…..

    Thanks again for the steer on these. They’re far and away the best substitute I’ve found for 12×1 needles.

    I confess I haven’t bought Groz Beckert needles and so bow to your superior knowledge!
    Regards, Dan H


    1. Dan, I’m glad those needles worked out! I knew that 108×3 was jersey point (SES) but I wasn’t sure about 108×1. So you’re saying it’s the same thing? Don’t worry about it though because in fact SES point works with just about any fabric, not just jersey. ๐Ÿ™‚

      Regarding Groz-Beckert needles, I remembered now – it was College Sewing people that remarked that they were not superior quality, hence the price! But it seems they make some rare types of needles that Schmetz doesn’t make. They are certainly not bad! I have some DBx1 needles here – wanted to check the shank. Schmetz needles are stronger, smoother and better finished.

      With respect to twisting the needle, I think it may only be necessary when sewing badly behaving fabrics like lycra or foiled materials that cling to the needle. You should be fine with cotton, indeed!


  9. Elena,
    The Schmetz packet describes the same needles as both 108×1 SES and 108×3 SES. I don’t fully understand the Singer needle descriptions. Presumably the first number is the machine it suits and the second number is the type of point. So 15×1 is standard point originally for Singer 15 – and now universal on domestics. 29×4 is leather point for Singer 29 etc. I’m not sure of the subtleties of the second number though. Are 108×1 and 108×3 are similar enough in their tip type for Schmetz describe their light ball point needles to cover both I wonder?


    1. Schmetz would only put both IDs on the packet if they were actually identical. This must be for historical reasons. I think that normally the second number indicates the type of the point, so indeed x1 for regular, x3 for jersey and x4 for leather. But now there are so many other point types, and I’m not sure about the numbering. I remember reading somewhere that 108xX needles only came in SES point, so it seems that 108×1 and 108×3 are the same.

      I got the needles from TreadleLady today but haven’t tried them yet. You are right about them having such a very long point! This should help to identify them though, I’ll do the measurements and write a post comparing some common needle types. I think it is actually naughty to keep identification a secret. She does not make them, so shouldn’t hide what they are.


  10. Elena,
    Thanks for the info. I agree with you about it being a bit shifty not telling folks what machine needles you’re selling – especially if they’re not a good fit. I wish you the best of luck with your test but I think we already know the answer.

    I just found a very long .pdf file about machine needle descriptions on the Schmetz website ….

    and am now more confused than I was about Singer descriptions. I looked up a 108 Singer machine but the recommended needles for that machine are 135×1. The Singer model number therefore doesn’t always match the needle type!


    1. May be there was a Singer model 108 prototype for which these needles were introduced? But you can’t rely on it, I’m sure. At this point it’s just an ID, I think.


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