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Vintage elna condenser--how to replace?

I have an Elna #1 sewing machine, the 'grasshopper' model, which runs fine but has a condenser/capacitor which is leaking. I don't think I can get the exact part to replace it with, but I'm wondering if I can replace it with the modern equivalent, and if so, how would I go about finding one?

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I just purchased a fairly tidy Elna 'Grasshopper' sewing machine with the same leaking capacitor problem. I carefully removed the capacitor for examination. It is actually three capacitors in one - no chance of a direct modern replacement, but anyone with those three capacitors, a couple bits of insulated wire, and a small soldering iron should be able to shoehorn them into the same space. There is a circuit diagram printed on the side of the original capacitor, showing one 0,2 micro-Farad capacitor between the two mains power buses (the two wires from the top of the original capacitor which are soldered to the top of the two outer brass bars where all the wires attach), and following on from each of those a 0,0025 micro-Farad capacitor (so, two of those), the other side of both of those joined together and going to the chassis - representing the one cable from bottom of the original capacitor, which is screwed down. Easier than it sounds - I just have to find those capacitors. They must be NON-polarised capacitors, rated for 250 Volts, and I plan to use radial (rather than axial) style, aluminium type ones - very common. From what I can gather, I believe they are needed for that lovely little motor to run properly - to have torque ('oomph') at start-up - never mind the radio interference.

Posted on Jul 28, 2011

  • Paul Howell
    Paul Howell Jul 28, 2011

    I agree with blaiddwyn. A condenser is one thing, a capacitor is another. You need to replace capacitors as blaiddwyn described.

  • Wolf Thandoy
    Wolf Thandoy Jul 29, 2011

    Hi Zenqi - You are too kind. Condensers in the USA (and France, at least, as condensateurs), capacitors in the UK (and Empire, no doubt) - the same thing, in principle, are they not? Having spent a good long while searching for replacement pieces (and taking note of the ridiculously small capacitance ratings), I am today of the opinion that you were correct, and suppression of radio frequency interference (RFI) was the only and true purpose of that goopy old paper can. So I've come back to apologise to you and more importantly correct myself. I still have to prop-start the hand wheel to get the motor off the line, but with no near neighbours, who's to complain if there's a bit of static? Now, if only I can reprogram my muscle memory to think the knee control is a throttle and not a presser foot lift, I might lay some stitches down. I do still intend to cobble together a replacement (to filter the DC from the AC, if I read it rightly), but won't fear using the machine meanwhile - with the leaky one neatly removed, of course. One could simply clip its two top wires close to the solder and pull the cables back a bit, with no soldering iron to hand. And thanks again - you're a star.

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Lots of these old machines had condensers to prevent radio and TV interference (static on the radio when using the sewing machine). Depending on which one it is, you might be able to cut it out and bypass it.

Posted on Jun 19, 2009

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  • Wolf Thandoy
    Wolf Thandoy Jul 28, 2011

    I just purchased a fairly tidy Elna 'Grasshopper' sewing machine with the same leaking capacitor problem. I carefully removed the capacitor for examination. It is actually three capacitors in one - no chance of a direct modern replacement, but anyone with those three capacitors, a couple bits of insulated wire, and a small soldering iron should be able to shoehorn them into the same space. There is a circuit diagram printed on the side of the original capacitor, showing one 0,2 micro-Farad capacitor between the two mains power buses (the two wires from the top of the original capacitor which are soldered to the top of the two outer brass bars where all the wires attach), and following on from each of those a 0,0025 micro-Farad capacitor (so, two of those), the other side of both of those joined together and going to the chassis - representing the one cable from bottom of the original capacitor, which is screwed down. Easier than it sounds - I just have to find those capacitors. They must be NON-polarised capacitors, and I plan to use radial (rather than axial) style, aluminium type ones - very common. From what I can gather, I believe they are needed for that lovely little motor to run properly - to have torque ('oomph') at start-up - never mind the radio interference.

  • Wolf Thandoy
    Wolf Thandoy Jul 28, 2011

    Important: In the case of my machine (built in October of 1951), all those capacitors are 250 Volt. Probably this is true for all those models.

  • shannon
    shannon Dec 08, 2013

    Well, I had the same problem with the condenser, the machine smoked and the motor was sluggish, I removed the condenser and the machine runs without it! No more smoking and the motor is faster too.

  • shannon
    shannon Dec 08, 2013

    My husband did solder the two leads together and the machine kept flipping the breaker, so he unsoldered it, covered the ends in electrical tape and the machine is great!

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