Oil Wicks - Any Thoughts?

Started by spookietoo, December 14, 2018, 02:31:38 AM

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This subject has come up on another forum.

Does anyone here have any information regarding oil wicks on vintage residential machines? It has been determined that the use of Triflow - now quite the standard for lubrication on vintage "gunked up" residential machines due to the fact that it will break down the old build up, should not be used on the wicks due to the fact that the Teflon molecules can build up in the wick and actually prevent the flow of the oils.

As so many people are now restoring 30-60 year old machines it would seem prudent to know how often the wicks shuld be thoroughly cleaned or replaced, but a rather extensive internet search has yielded almost no information an no one's sewing manual addresses the subject as apparently service 3 decades down the road wasn't much of a concern.

Any thoughts?

And - yes - I Triflowed my wick - twice. Not particularly worried, will switch to regular machine oil. But I have another older Morse I'm about to redo and would like to know.


Henry Hall

I can honestly say I've never thought about it and never cleaned the wicks on any old machine I've used. Generally they tended to be either dried out (so I oiled them) or they were oily, so I left them alone.

In general I think it's best to leave most things alone and only worry about the moving parts. I only want to sew with a machine, not stand it on the mantlepiece!
'Being perfectly well-dressed gives one a tranquillity that no religion can bestow.' - Ralph Waldo Emerson.


It should be possible to obtain specs sheets for the machine you are using. That will tell you the kind of oil that the machine was designed to take. This is important because the machine parts are held apart from each other by the viscosity of the oil, so its a mechanical issue as well as a lubrication thing.

I expect the key will be low 'iso' oil. Low iso is the same as low viscosity. You could get a small amount of "Lilywhite" low viscosity, clean oil. This will tend to carry out any gunk and partly polymerised old oil, or even incorrect oil. it is quite likely that lilywhite will actually meet the correct requirements for your machine anyway. but after you think the gunk is gone, put your correct oil back in.

I hesitate to post this link as it contains a lot of cr*p written by folks that don't know what they are talking about, but it shows the kind of discussion taking place on leather-work forums with the same issue.


Really, don't listen to any of that nonsense, but it did show me some of the issues that come to bear on the topic.

Then I found this dialogue:


Much more sensible.

I was then able to find an info sheet on-line https://usermanual.wiki/Manual/LublicatingOilForJuki.1827202616/help that explained things re the Juki, that I am restoring, seems there are two iso's that are used iso 10 and iso 32. Mine needed iso 32, which was good, because that's all that is easy to find in Australia. Its quite likely that these are the two most widely applicable iso types for sewing machines anyway.

Never use olive oil or neatsfoot oil. Apart from Neats are an endangered species, ;p they will wreck your machine.  (Had to write that, sorry)
Schneider sind auch Leute



What is the machine you are working on?
Schneider sind auch Leute


Thanks guys!

In all honesty, I didn't even know I had an oil wick until I started reading forums online a few years ago.  So basically my machine ran with a dry wick for the better part of 20 years. Did make me wonder how important it is afterall. Not saying its not important, but still, ya gotta wonder.....

SF - Its an old Morse I picked up for $12 several years back intending to give to my neice - but my sis bought her a groovy plastic fantastic instead so I never bothered. Its been buried in a cliset ever since (in case mine died) so I don't even know the model number. I thought it  had a zigzag, but from what I remember the housing looking like and looking at photos online, now I'm not sure. Hopefully it will be a nice surprise when I dig it out. Going to start on it after the holidays, so I'll post more on it then. The only other thing I remember is that it is made by Toyota in Japan.  When I discovered that, I remembered my Dad and his friends talking about Toyota and Datsun car engines sounding like sewing machines when I was still a small child.

Quite frankly, as a child I thought those Japanese engines sounded better than their clunky American counterparts and I've driven Japanese cars for most of my life.  Lets hope the sewing machine is as good.

I had also looked briefly at those leather discussions before posting here. Not the info I was hoping for. ;)


Schneider sind auch Leute


SF- The one I picked up is a later model, but this has some good info.

Thank you!

Henry Hall

Going from the shape the Morse is like the Singer 15 and appears to be a Japanese clone of such a machine. The body (especially of the model 60) never really changed from that of the Singer 'improved' machines made from the 1870s, though with a different bobbin system obviously.
'Being perfectly well-dressed gives one a tranquillity that no religion can bestow.' - Ralph Waldo Emerson.


Then presumably, singer machine oil will probably suffice.
Schneider sind auch Leute



You will probably find that the "gunking up" was a characteristic of old mineral oils where modern oils are much cleaner and much less prone to leaving residue. If you can get at it, either clean or replace the wick (they were usually cotton) and use a modern very light machine oil, any decent sewing machine oil will do the job. Old machines REALLY LIKE to be oiled and they run quieter and faster for the effort.

My 1970 era Elna machines are very fussy about being well oiled and I keep one brew of sewing machine oil mixed with a teflon gearbox additive that keeps them smooth and fast. Any lubrication is better than none and the machine runs better and for longer when you look after them.
The magnificent tools of the professional tailor
https://movsd.com/tailors_shears/  ;) ;D

Henry Hall

I'm not too enamoured with newer oils. Lots of oils marketed as sewing machine oil have the consistency of quite thin oil for things like hair clippers or even the oil I've used on my trumpet valves.

The oil Singer still sells is more viscous and I find this easier to apply and control. Would you say the clearer, slightly thinner oil is better? If so, why?
'Being perfectly well-dressed gives one a tranquillity that no religion can bestow.' - Ralph Waldo Emerson.


My friend who is a tool maker by trade says that the metal parts are designed with a specific density of oil in mind. the spaces between the parts are machined for a particular gap. It's always best to find the specifications of any particular machine to be safest.

That said, its likely that wear and tear will increase that gap between the parts, in that case a heavier oil might be better.

The other factor is the clarity of the oil. the whiter/clearer the better.
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"My" mechanic, with 40 plus years experince also in industrial sewing, will only use Zippo lighter fluïd for cleaning... Beware nylon parts; they don't appreciate mineral liquids. But the same goes for mineral oio's of course... this man services my vintage machines and to great results.

Greets, Hendrick