Installing Treadle Belts

Putting on a treadle belt is really very easy.

First, unless it broke, you will need to open the staple and remove the old belt. Please, DO NOT use a screwdriver to open the staple. This is an invitation to a whole new concept in body piercing! Use two pairs of pliers.

New treadle belts come too long, and with a metal staple on one end. Feed it on (If you can, carefully observe how the old one fed) and pull the two ends along side each other until the belt is just barely snug. Mark the correct length and cut it off there. (Just thought I'd mention it... don't cut the end with the staple!) Use an ice pick and a block of wood and poke a hole in the cut end to accept the open end of the staple. Put the staple through the hole, roll the belt onto the wheel and try the action. (It is helpful if you don't bend the staple closed for this trial. You may be trying it several times and if you repeatedly open and close the staple, it may break off. Bend it closed when you have achieved a good length.) At this point, the belt may well be too loose, which is way better than too tight. From this point, repeat the process, only with each attempt, cut the end off exactly at the staple hole (which should be about 1/4" in from the end.). You will be surprised at how much difference that tiny adjustment can make.

Anyhow, when the belt turns the machine smoothly and easily, stop. In a week or two of use, the belt may well stretch and you will have to make another fitting adjustment. The key thing is not to get it too tight. It will cause the machine to be sluggish and your foot to get tired. The treadling should be easy and the belt just tight enough to sew, but not to slip. Another little trick... Lots of times old belts get greasy and leave the treadle wheel and hand wheel grooves greasy. Take a rag with alcohol or gasoline on it and clean the grooves by holding the rag down into them while you turn the wheels. When they are nice and clean, dry them. When oiling the machine, try to keep oil out of the grooves and off of the belt. Here is still another trick… go to a music store and buy a violinist's rosin block. These are used to rosin the violin bow. Leave the belt on your treadle a little looser than you probably think it should be. Release the clutch on the hand wheel, as if you were going to wind a bobbin. Pump the machine real fast, and hold the rosin block against the back of the belt. It will pick up some rosin and that will give it a better "grip" on the hand wheel and drive wheel. Using the rosin lets you work with a bit looser belt, which in turn makes the treadling easier.

One of our members sent in this tip, which may also be helpful:

"I just read "how to install a new belt" and wanted to add a tip.. My
friend, who used to repair machines for a living, put my new belt behind
his shoulders and stretched it before he put it on the machine, He
said, by doing that, it would be a longer period of time before I had to
adjust the initial stretch that always happens right after putting a new
belt on a machine. It makes sense...
Anita "


Removing the Treadle Belt to Lower the Machine

If you look at the drive wheel on your treadle, you should see a notch in it. Usually, unless it has been removed, there is also a little lever with a kind or loop or ring on it that moves. The treadle belt goes
through that loop as part of the installation. When you want to release the tension on the belt, you either pull the lever on the loop, which causes it to press the belt to the outside, or if the loop isn't there, you gently press the belt to the outside with your hand. Then turn the wheel slowly, using either the pedal or the handwheel. The drive wheel will rotate, the belt will catch in the notch in the wheel, and as the wheel turn, it will pull the belt out of the groove, releasing the tension. You then can lower the machine with no trouble. When you want to sew again, raise the machine, make sure the belt is in the groove of the hand wheel, then turn the drive wheel until you can see the notch. Catch the belt in the notch, turn the drive wheel and the wheel will pull the belt back into the groove. Study the situation and try it a few times.

Operating a treadle takes a little getting used to . But there is a right way. These machines have big hand-wheels because your hand is used to get it going and because the extra weight makes treadling easier. First, place your right foot or both feet on the (full surface) of the treadle platform. Make sure your sewing is all set. Now, lightly touch the hand-wheel and start rotating it toward you. (NOTE: Most machines operate with the top of the hand-wheel moving toward you… some, notably White and Wheeler and Wilson, are the reverse. If you are not getting a stitch, try going in the opposite direction.) Let your feet do what the treadle wants to do at first, then start using your feet to take over and control the movement at whatever speed you are comfortable with. You can use your hand to brake or slow down and stop the machine's motion. As you gain rhythm, try not to let the wheel turn backwards, this will break the stitching. Also, as you use the machine, your will develop the ability to be aware of the handwheel out of the corner of your eye, and observe which way it wants to start so easily that you can change it's direction with just your feet.

When you take your feet off of the platform, you will find the needle wants to move. The weight of the drive wheel rotates to the bottom, causing the machine to make a stitch. Be sure to clear the treads before you start a new seam or you will get a tangle.

Like anything else, treadling is a skill. The more you do it, the better you'll learn it.

Dick Wightman