Comparisons and overviews · Jones · Mason · Vibrating shuttle · White

White, Mason, Jones

I have three machines of the White vibrating shuttle design. One is made by White (model VS2-b), one is by Jones (Medium CS) and one by A.G. Mason (Defender). They were all made some time between 1889 and 1911, they all have a long arm vibrating shuttle design, but other details vary. So how do they compare?

White VS2-b

That’s a bit of a weird model name. White did not actually assign their machines a particular model, they were all VS machines in different variants. If you like, the model name is “VS”. However, modern collectors and enthusiasts would like to tell the variants apart, and so they started assigning labels to what they’ve found, see Wikipedia. Model 2-b was an in-betweener, it was discovered after labels 2 and 3 were already assigned, so it became 2-b.

There should be a better, a more formal identification system for White models, and in fact I know that one lady is working very hard putting together a book on this matter. But until this book is published, label “2-b” is likely to stick around. Wikipedia puts the year of manufacture to 1889-1892.

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It is coming up to two years since I rescued this beauty, and she’s still in the rough… Life does like to interfere with people’s sewing machine restoration plans. ๐Ÿ™‚ She’s stiff and rusty, so I cannot test her sewing abilities, I can only look at the structure at this stage. I cannot even read the serial number because it is engraved on the slide plate. Her time is yet to come.

Jones Medium CS

This beauty was made after 1901 as we can surmise from the decal mentioning Queen Alexandra, the wife of King Edward. The serial number is 53076 and I estimate that it puts it to 1908, based on data from fiddlebase.com.

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This is my heavy duty machine – she has a tremendous punching power. She does a good job on finer fabrics too, but so do others as well, but none other can sew through a 1mm steel bone! Ok, that was not what I intended, but she did it anyway!

A.G. Mason’s Defender

This is the latest addition and a bit of a rarity, at least for us Europeans.

According to the “Encyclopedia of antique sewing machines” by Charles Law, A.G. Mason Sewing Machine Company was a small manufacturer from Ohio, USA. It appears that Mr. Mason bought Florence Sewing Machine Company when it went bankrupt in late 1870s, then started up his own business in 1880s and continued manufacturing machines until 1916 when A.G. Mason company was bought by Domestic Sewing Machines which in turn merged into the White company in 1920. So A.G. Mason was not a mere distributor as you might read elsewhere on the Internet, but was an actual manufacturer, albeit a small one. This explains why they mostly produced badged machines for various retailers and department stores.

However, there is some controversy about this. Apparently someone discovered that there was a law suit in late 1920s well after the deaths of both A.G. Mason and Thomas White, which accused Mr. Mason of being a fraud and only selling machines made by others while claiming that his company manufactured them. But I could not find any evidence of this law suit or of any other document proving that Mr. Mason was not a manufacturer, and neither have I found any proof to the contrary. Charles Law’s book is the only published reference that I was able to access with any information on A.G. Mason, and he didn’t provide any documents either. Choose what you prefer to believe. ๐Ÿ™‚

My machine hasn’t got a badge of any kind, not on the arm and not on the case, but I’ve seen them with the model name there – Defender. I’ll be putting that on. (I’ve also seen any number of other names – those must be the retailers for whom the machines were made.)

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I have found a trade mark registration by one Albert G. Mason for the name “New Defender” on 17 April, 1906 and subsequent renewal by the White Sewing Machine Corporation 40 years later, as published in the Official Gazette of the United States Patent Office, volume 588, July 1946, page 220, entry 51,531. In fact, if the White Corporation hadn’t renewed it in 1946, we would have probably never known about the original registration either. I can only assume that the name “Defender” was registered earlier because I’ve seen a photo of a treadle machine with serial number 5129891 that was badged “Defender” on the arm with a subscript “Registered in US Patent Office”. But then again I’ve seen another photo of a machine badged “New Defender” with the same subscript and serial number 5084298, which is earlier. Have they gone from “New Defender” to “Defender”? Or has the word “New” gone out of fashion? Who knows… Both these machines have the serial number stamped on the slide plate, just like White machines. But my machine has it on a raised plaque behind the main column.

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The serial number of my machine is 6303142. I’ve seen another machine with a serial number behind the column, and it was later than mine: 8108180. It had very different decals and was badged “New Defender”. Back to “New”? Evidently.

None of it helps me to date my machine though because nobody knows exactly when theirs were made. Ah! But here I’ve seen a rotary machine by A.G. Mason with serial number FR 7118511 where the slide plate was stamped 1912. Now we’re getting somewhere! The business was booming at the time, so let’s assume mine was made a year or two earlier – in 1910-1911. Yes, I think I can go with that.

The shuttle arm

This is the heart of a vibrating shuttle mechanism – the shuttle arm. Different arrangements of the centre of rotation is what separates various VS designs into distinct groups: short arm (after Singer), medium arm (after New Home) and long arm (after White). See this separate post comparing these designs. All three machines in this post follow the White design with a long shuttle arm, so their underbellies look similar.

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White VS2-b, arm length 17.6cm
A.G. Mason Defender, arm length 17.6cm
Jones Medium CS, arm length 19.4cm

The difference with respect to the shuttle arm is in the way it is driven and in the type of mechanism in the “ramp” of the machine where the movement is transferred from the balance wheel to the lower and upper mechanism.

White VS machines have a universal joint in the “ramp” of the machine to transfer movement from the balance wheel to an intermediate joint inside the main column and then to the rod that moves the shuttle arm. The intermediate joint also connects to the feed driver ensuring synchronous movement. The balance wheel rotates anti-clockwise (towards you) and there is a joint where the driver rod connects to the shuttle arm.

A.G. Mason’s Defender follows the same design and action.

White VS schematic
From the manual for White VS

Jones CS machines also have a universal joint in the “ramp” of their machines, but further construction is simpler. The universal joint drives the shuttle arm directly. The feed is rocking on the same central joint in the underbelly that is also the centre of rotation for the shuttle arm. The balance wheel rotates anti-clockwise.

cylindrical-shuttle-jones-sewing-machine
From the manual for Jones CS

The feed

White VS and Mason’s Defender have the same kind of feed, albeit with a different stitch length adjuster. White VS has a roller while the Defender has a slider. The mechanism underneath is essentially the same though. It is a bar with the feed dogs attached in the middle, the bar is being rocked by a shaft at the back of the machine through the intermediate joint inside the main column.

Jones CS feed is rocking on the central joint of the shuttle arm similar to the feed mechanism in Singer VS.

The head

Mason’s Defender is very similar to my version of White VS – the “2b” model – it’s got a tension assembly at the bottom front. The head screws a920re not on the face but on the side of the arm of the machine, and the head comes away in your hand not unlike a transverse shuttle machine, except that the White head stays together.

This is actually very practical for cleaning!

The take-up lever rides on the same disk that drives the needle up and down with the V-drive (see this separate post on head arrangements). The cut out part on the disk corresponds to the lever dropping down, with a spring pulling on the lever to make sure it stays with the disk.

The knob on the disk that rides in the V-groove is not just a knob, it is a rotating disk which makes for a smoother motion of the needle bar.

The presser foot lifter points to the right when the foot is up. There is also a tension release mechanism which is being pressed by the foot lifter lever when the foot is raised.

The head of a Jones CS machine follows a Singer design however.

The head is self-contained and is covered by a face plate. The take-up lever is also driven by the main disk, but it rides a groove in its side. The knob sliding in the V-groove is just a fixed knob. Otherwise the mechanism is in essence similar to the White design. My Jones CS doesn’t have an automatic tension release mechanism, but it was added in later models.

The shuttle

White VS and Mason’s Defender have the same kind of shuttle with a pin inside. The bobbin has a hollow centre to fit around it. These bobbins are very rare! Jones CS shuttle has no pin, so it takes Singer-style VS bobbins. These bobbins are common and there are now even modern replicas that work well enough. A big plus for Jones for sustained usability.

However, apart from the pin, the Jones shuttle is very similar to the White/Mason shuttle. So similar in fact, that they are interchangeable!

The White/Mason cradle and shuttles, from left to right: Mason, Jones Medium CS, Singer 27, Singer 127

The key is in the notch on the head of the shuttle that has to match the holder in the cradle. White/Mason and Jones shuttles have the same notch, but Singer shuttles don’t. The notch on the old style Singer 27 shuttle is too low while the new style Singer 127 shuttle doesn’t have a notch at all.

I have inserted Jones Medium CS shuttle into Mason’s Defender and it has sewn just as nicely as with its own shuttle. The shuttle arm on Jones Medium CS is longer, so the race curvature is slightly flatter than on the Defender, however the difference was too small to cause any issues. A shuttle from Jones Family CS would have been an even better match. The only thing to note is that the Jones shuttle was a little noisier because it is slightly shorter than the original and was rattling a little more in the cradle. But this is a small price to pay for a shuttle with an abundance of bobbins!

The needle

All of these machines have a thing about their needles, that is only Jones Family CS from late 1930s or later uses our common 15×1 needle, all the rest of them use obscure needles that are either no longer made or are difficult to find.

White VS and Mason’s Defender

My White VS came with a 15×1 needle, but as the machine is still in the rough, I don’t know whether it would sew.

Mason’s Defender came with a needle which I identified as something very similar to 127×1: flat shank 1.75mm in diameter, 39mm butt to eye, 43.6mm overall length. It was sewing fine but brushing against the needle hole on the left.

At a closer inspection both White and Mason had the same problem: the needle was brushing against the needle hole on the left, the needle plate could not be adjusted, and actually in both cases the needle wasn’t strictly vertical – it was slanted to the left!

I find it very hard to believe that this could be right. I rather think it points to a common fault with the needle clamp which is the same on both machines.

There is a flat groove in the needle bar that is 3mm wide (wow!) and a round hole in the needle clamp of the same diameter, with a narrow round groove opposite the flat groove. So this indicates that the clamp would take a needle with a thick flat shank.

But what about the slant of the needle? Looking closer at the needle bar, I notice that when I hold a needle with its shank flat against the groove, it is already coming out slanted! How very bizarre! If it was just on one machine, I would have put it down to a faulty something, but it’s on both the original White and the Mason copy, so this must be intentional. But what on earth for? And anyhow, if I am to sew with the Mason, I’ll have to make the needle vertical because as it is, nothing fits – every needle apart from the one it came with, hits the needle plate well to the left of the needle hole.

The answer to that was in the head. The lower screw that fixes the head to the body got a build-up of dirt and grime in it, so it was tilting the head to the left a little. I cleaned it and things improved somewhat but not enough to actually work. I took decisive action and converted this machine to 15×1 needles: I lowered the needle bar and dremeled the bottom of the needle bar groove a little until the needle was straight. Job done! ๐Ÿ˜ƒ

Jones CS

Jones CS machines use Jones CS needles, but god forbid that they should be the same for their Family and Medium machines. Jones Family CS machines use round shank needles, and the closest match available today is type 128×1. These are industrial needles used in some rather old Singer machines, and they are on their way out, but are still being made. Alternatively, many Family CS machines work with Schmetz DBx1 needles, but beware that it must be Schmetz because the shank thickness is not fully standardised among different manufacturers. These needles are a bit too thin, and Schmetz has the thickest shank which just about works, while others don’t.

Jones Medium CS machines take Jones Manufacturing needles with a flat shank, not to be confused with Jones Manufacturing needles with a round shank. Huh? I know. But the good news is that in many cases 15×1 needles actually work, so try that. I have never seen a flat shanked Jones Manufacturing needle, so can’t give a better comparison. I think here too Jones Medium CS wins in sustained usability.

Foot fitting

Both White VS and Mason’s Defender use White foot fittings which are quite common in the USA, although they are no longer considered standard. But it is not too hard to find feet for them.

Jones CS machines use what looks like a Singer low shank foot fitting, but looks are deceiving. This is in fact a Jones low shank foot fitting, naturally. It is about 2mm shorter than the Singer foot fitting, so if you try using “standard” feet on Jones CS machines, you’ll find they give you an incredibly high foot pressure. That’s because they are much too high. Use Jones feet instead, but not from any of the post-WWII machines – you need original Jones feet from before the war.

The power source

How is the machine driven? Both White VS and Jones Medium CS were meant to be treadles, so they have no boss for a hand-crank or a motor. My Jones machine had been updated professionally back in 1980s (I found a receipt from a Singer service centre), and at the time they’ve added a boss and mounted a motor. Not too big a job, I’ve done it myself with another machine. But my White hadn’t been converted. Jones Family CS machines came with a hand-crank or later also with a motor already mounted.

Mason’s Defender is a large machine, yet it came with a hand-crank mounted on a boss. Hurray! The boss is not central on the column but is displaced towards the back, so you’d need a very short bracket to mount a motor. However, it’s present, and that makes all the difference. Most brackets for Sew-Tric motors have a slider, so that the motor can be placed quite close to the mount point, if required.

The sewing

Ah, yes, the important bit.

Again, I can’t say anything about White VS because mine is not in working order. But because Mason’s Defender is so similar to White VS, I think we can surmise that it has similar sewing properties. Jones Medium CS, on the other hand, is significantly different from the White/Mason design, what with the way the shuttle arm is driven, the construction of the feed, the head, and of course the size, so I think it is fair to compare Jones and Mason, while taking Mason to be a representative of White.

Mason sews much smoother than Jones. This goes both for Medium and Family models. Medium is larger than Mason while Family is slightly smaller. The smoothness of Mason comes from the extra joints inside the main column and at its exit, while Jones just uses one single curved arm to drive the shuttle directly from the universal joint of the main shaft.

In fact, when White says in their manual that theirs is the best vibrating shuttle machine in the world, I tend to agree with them. ๐Ÿ˜ฒ

Mason’s Defender is not only smooth, it produces significantly less vibrations than Jones, Singer or Mundlos (New Home design). It is also the only machine with those extra joints in the main column.

Vibrations aside, however, the quality of sewing across all my VS machines is the same – it is superb. Even stitches without skipping, flexible stitch up to 40% stretch on fine jersey (more on thicker jersey), steady performance on any kind of fabric. I can’t fault them, really. ๐Ÿ˜

23 thoughts on “White, Mason, Jones

  1. Hi Elena, I have a friend who has made some of the White bobbins with tubes for his own machine. He timed and I think it was 45 minutes start to finished product. So which one do you like the most from a functional aspect? Is it the White? Looks like the Jones has more punch from the pictures in your post and measurements. I’ve considered recently to buy a model 27 just because the generic availability of replacement shuttles but it looks like I might be able to use a model 27 shuttle in a White VS? If so that is a game changer. As always your work is helping so many learn and understand the machines so I’m very grateful as surely so many others are for your work and sleuthing on these machines. Best regards, Mike

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    1. Hi Mike, no, Singer shuttles do NOT fit the White – see photo with the four shuttles. The notch is in the wrong place. But Jones shuttles do fit, which is what I intend to use in order to avoid those fancy hollow bobbins. The Jones shuttle is a bit noisier but works fine!

      The functional aspect depends on what you’re sewing! ๐Ÿ˜€ Jones Medium CS has the craziest punch, I’m sure none other can go through a 1mm steel bone. But I don’t usually sew steel. ๐Ÿ˜‰ I do sew corsets however, and that’s when I use Jones CS because she works very well when you have something very thick on one side of the needle and something very thin on the other. Singer is not so good there, Singer VS is a fine worker. Mundlos (New Home) and Mason (White) I have not tested on that task yet. I know they both have much more punch than Singer but I don’t know about uneven thicknesses. I’ll test them when I get to the appropriate project. ๐Ÿ™‚

      However by feeling I think I like Mason/White, then shared second place to Mundlos/New Home and Stoewer/Singer. The other machines share the third place, so everyone gets a medal! ๐Ÿ˜‚

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    1. We don’t get to see a lot of these designs here in the UK, which is why I had to have that Mason machine when I saw it. ๐Ÿ˜‰ I always find it amusing when Americans can’t believe that their White, Domestic, National and what-have-you is not all that well known outside of USA. So for me this Mason machine is a real rarity while the Americans think it’s a “bog-standard” White. But on the flip side, they’ve never seen a Jones! ๐Ÿ™‚

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      1. Oh, you have completely different makes in Canada! I think it is only Singer that is universally known because they had factories all over the world. Here in the UK we get British-made machines of course (including Singer) and a lot of German machines, but nothing from France, for example. Trade links between countries are not always obvious. ๐Ÿ™‚

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  2. How weird seeing the opening for cleaning – it so funny seeing the needle and foot backwards. Novel idea though. It would be very interesting to read that lady’s book when it comes out. 2b or not 2-b . . . sorry, it was hard to resist!
    Fascinating mechanisms. Thankies muchly. xx

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      1. Oh good grief! ๐Ÿ˜ณ I didn’t even notice! What an eejit! I guess I was seeing one thing and the pea brain was taking in something else – I think because the foot wasn’t on it in the photo, it didn’t jump out as being odd! ๐Ÿ˜‚ Mine is still in waiting for my new room. The longer it takes to get the building done, I might just get everything out and grab the screwdrivers and oil can!

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    1. If you sew leather, it might work for you – Jones Medium CS has a tremendous punching power. However, punching power alone is not enough for sewing tough leather – you also need a suitable transport mechanism such as dual wheel feed. These Jones machines are NOT designed for sewing leather, and I found the feed to be insufficient when trying to go over thick seams. This goes for all machines designed for sewing cloth – they don’t have a leather feed.

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      1. Thanks Elena. I sew mostly vinyl and webbing and with Tex 135 thread with a Singer 201k and 237. Also for them the main problem is feed, but the hook may also got problems pulling the thread down with high friction at needle. I found the the feed of the 201k was significantly improved by a thread notch in the foot, so the the thread tension works less against the feed.

        What worked very well for me was DIY speed reducer. It improves the slow speed control significantly. I guess you would like it too on some of your machines, because you got small pulleys on the handwheels. I do not know if you like links here, but this is what speed control looks like: https://youtu.be/uTB8DnyYAlA

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      2. Hi, sorry but this video does not actually show the device. I use a simple voltage transformer – reduced voltage makes the motor spin slower. Most of the time however my foot is good enough at controlling the speed.

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  3. Hi Elena.
    The video above show the result in behavior of the speed control. I got other videos on the channel showing the speed reducer, and it causes the most significant improvement on this issue.

    I am a bit like you in trying to express some findings on vintage sewing machines. But I use Youtube. However you got much more experience, knowledge and skill than I will ever get. My small corner is how to make domestic vintage sewing machines sew heavy thread and fabrics with a few modifications. This is a link to the channel, and from there you find an overview of all the videos and some playlists: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCtdxanz878434pFr2dMhwXw

    As you, I do not sell anything. I just like to do it, and I like to see that some of the good old machines can be useful in the world of today. Sometimes I also make a video about some sewing machine issue, when I do not find adequate or easy information elsewhere on internet.

    You find the video about the speed reducer on a vintage sewing machine here:https://youtu.be/oNsLv1BByN0

    I got a video about electronics too. It do help, but not as much as the speed reducer: https://youtu.be/075OH2rgel0

    I have seen some experienced sewing machine users as you have developed skills to control the speed of a sewing machine with electric motor despite how bad the pedal and control system is designed from an engineering point of view. So perhaps I just need to say, that the control of speed can be made significantly better and in particular for beginners on sewing machines. What I do not like on many new machines is, that the machine jump-starts to a not so low speed of about 1 stitch/second. With a vintage machine the motor will start to hum before it moves, so you can hear and be prepared on what is going to happen and you can listen to what happens too โ€“ it is not only visual feedback.

    Perhaps you have tried one of the vintage Husqvarna machines produced in Sweden from about 1950 to 1980. They got an additional low gear, that provides some of the low speed control I like.

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    1. Yes, I know the low speed control, Necchi also have it, and a few other brands here and there. With respect to modern motors taking off at breakneck speeds, that’s true for those motors that come with electronic pedals. Old motors require rheostat-based pedals, so what I do is just buy a new pedal, so that it works smoothly. I found out from experience that electronic pedals tend to burn old motors – I even had fire once. Indeed, I am already used to rheostat-based pedals for speed control, and when they are not too stiff, I can get all the finesse that I need. But it does take practice, of course! But tell me what doesn’t. ๐Ÿ˜‰

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    2. It seems we have somewhat different sewing interests – I am mainly struggling with adequate sewing of fine and extra fine materials. For your application (vynil and webbing) I would suggest Necchi Supernova. Built like a tank and with very good feed – too strong for fine stuff, but good for heavy duty. In fact, the project book that came with the machine, recommended embroidering shoes and handbags to match your dress. However, beware of electrical faults as well as some mechanical pitfalls – see my posts.

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  4. You actually got two kind of electronic pedals. The newer ones just deliver a signal to the electronics in the machine, that control the motor. It is often made by a small variable resistor and perhaps a switch too. The older electronic pedals are made like a light dimmer with an electronic component called a triac. They control an universal motor directly and they can be used as the older rheostats. But as you point out, it can be harder for the old universal motors, because their insulation material was not that good. The main thing that had happen with electric motors over many years is, that the insulation material got better, and newer materials are able to withstand higher temperatures and voltages without damage. The triac control do create some transient voltages in the windings, that can damage the insulation. But over the years the insulation got better and the later motors will normally cope with the triac control too. In general I do not recommend to keep the very old motors from before 1935, because the safety requirements (shock and fire) back were not yet well developed.

    I have not seen a vintage Necchi with a speed reducer. But I know, that they used good rheostats. Perhaps I missed some Necchi machines? I know that Elna started to use a speed reducer as part of their design with the Grasshopper. And then later Bernina and Husqvarna did the same, but you cannot see it from the outside. Later on almost all the machines got it and with better timing belts too.

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    1. I generally use external motors from 1960s, so not that old. They work well with rheostat-based pedals, but I burned 3 motors with a modern electronic pedal until I figured out what was going on. I don’t know exactly why they burned out, but I stay away from modern pedals marked “electronic”.

      If you want to see “brilliant” electronics of Necchi Supernova, see a series of posts I did on that model. Speed reducer switch included.

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  5. I am sorry, that I did not explain, what I meant by speed reducer. It has nothing to do with electrical switches, the pedal or some slider on the machine, and I think your interpretation is that. What I mean by speed reducer is an extra shaft with a large and small pulley. So you got two belts in the drive chain from the motor to the main shaft of the sewing machine. In this way you provide another mechanical gearing. All the vintage Necchis including the Supernovas got no extra pulleys. They got only one belt from the motor to the main shaft.
    With only one belt, you typically will have the motor turn 4 times for each stitch. But with the speed reducer, the motor will turn perhaps 10 or 15 times for each stitch. It is this kind of change, that makes much better slow speed control. And the motor likes it much more too, because it gets better cooling and less heating power loss. These universal motors used “hates” low speed. So I think this may also be a reason for your burned motors.
    In most cases the changed gearing do not cause the sewing machine to sew slower, because the motor provides significant power when it turns fast.
    This is an internal speed reducer on a Kenmore machine:
    https://youtu.be/gm8G6mWbec4
    This an external DIY speed reducer on a Singer 201k:
    https://youtu.be/oNsLv1BByN0
    This is the speed reducer in the Husqvarna and also the extra low gear:
    https://youtu.be/f9J584aGvJo
    This is the only one belt used by the Necchi Lydia Supernova (no speed reducer):
    https://youtu.be/Qf-HfXecszA?t=609

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    1. Oh I see. Yes, I thought you meant a switch. I did have a Husqvarna some time ago, but I never looked how speed reduction was implemented.

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