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Any expert in vintage Singer sewing machines?

Discussion in 'Skills and Smarts' started by shadowrider, Jan 14, 2017.

  1. shadowrider

    shadowrider One of the Regulars

    Messages:
    253
    Location:
    Italy
    Hey folks,
    I have always liked old cast-iron sewing machines, and now that I will soon be moving into a new apartment I decided I'll to get myself one, both for display and the occasional sewing job.
    I am drawn towards the Singer "hand crank" ones, as the totally manual mechanism appeals to me, and also I heard they can handle thick material better than the ones with a motor. My only concern is that moving the fabric around the needle with one hand only might be a bit difficult, if not dangerous.
    Has anyone handled one of those hand crank machines, and has any tips to share?
    Thanks in advance!
     
  2. GHT

    GHT I'll Lock Up

    Messages:
    4,358
    Location:
    New Forest
    Those old Singer sewing machines are something of a collectors item these days. Just so you know, the difference between a Singer 66 and a Singer 66K is the same as the difference between a 99 and a 99K, or indeed a 201 and a 201K i.e. nothing.
    There is no difference at all. All that “K” suffix does is tell you that the machine was made in Singer’s Kilbowie factory at Clydebank, Scotland.
    At one time, Singer had factories all over the planet making basically the same models, so depending on where it was made, your Singer Model 15, for example, could be a 15K (Kilbowie), or a 15E (New Jersey), a 15A (South Carolina), a 15SJ (Quebec) or perhaps even a 15P (Podolsk, Russia). And even if you had one of each of those, you still wouldn’t have a full set.
    What there is, is a difference between machines with different numbers after that suffix. Those numbers tell you what the variant is, for example a 201K1 is a natural-born treadle machine, whereas a 201K3 is a portable (or more accurately where the 201 is concerned “portable” electric.
    So there you go. The “K” just means it’s a Scottish built Singer.

    The real collectables are those machines with a shuttle that oscillate back and forth, later models had what is known as a race. The race housed the bobbin. Initially the bobbin also oscillated but Singer soon made machines where the bobbin rotated. It's easy to tell the difference just by listening. Oscillation, being stop start, makes a noise, I mean, a real racket.

    Old Singer's are indestructable, whatever you choose, it will give you good service. Talking of service, about the only thing to go wrong is the timing. Timing is the moment that the point of the needle enters the fabric. There's a hook mechanism on the bobbin race, or the shuttle in older models, that hook must be in perfect time to collect the thread that the needle delivers. Get it wrong and your stitches go awry. You also have thread tensions, one somewhere on the machine facing you, one somewhere on the bobbin case. I know all that sounds a tad complex but it's not that difficult, and knowing what's what, you won't let some so called expert bamboozle you with a lot of nonsensical gibberish in an attempt to charge you a lot more.

    Good models to look for? Well the 15K was made in the tens of thousands it's probably the ubiquitous machine that's instantly recognisable as a Singer. If you get a hand crank and find it difficult sewing one handed, it's easy to convert it to electric. The bracket and screw holes are all in place, you just need to buy a motor and drive belt. I would show you my wife's collection, but it would be a tad boastful to do so.
     
    shadowrider likes this.
  3. rocketeer

    rocketeer Call Me a Cab

    Messages:
    2,403
    Location:
    England
    I have a 29k, an industrial boot patcher. Are the needle shanks the same as an ordinary household machine. Got the machine but no needles and my dealer won't get me less than 50. Booooooo! Be good if ordinary needles fit :)
     
  4. Shangas

    Shangas I'll Lock Up

    Messages:
    6,068
    Location:
    Melbourne, Australia
    My regular sewing machine is a 1936 hand-crank Singer 128 vibrating-shuttle model. I've used it for years and it works great. Those old Singers are indestructible. I promise you, it'll last a lot longer than you ever will!!
     
  5. robrinay

    robrinay One Too Many

    Messages:
    1,078
    Location:
    Sheffield UK
    I've had several but have continuously upgraded after research until I finally managed to buy a 201k electric (outside motor) portable cheaply. This model was the pinnacle of Singer domestics and is often referred to on sale sites as a semi-industrial because it will sew practically any material from silk up to quite thick leather. They were the most expensive Singer domestic and when production ceased cost a significant amount of cash so they were often bought on hire purchase It takes modern flat sided needles and standard circular spools so these spares are easy to buy. From eBay I bought a new modern replacement motor and foot pedal to replace the old one with dubious wiring a very simple conversion, (one bolt). I would recommend that you seek out a 201, they came in four versions, with either treadle, hand crank, potted motor or external motor. Treadles are big heavy and bulky, potted motors are hard to fix if the motor breaks and so hand cranks and external motor versions are the best in my opinion. You can also convert a hand crank to an external motor version relatively easily and cheaply. Later models are beige with aluminium bodies so are a bit lighter in weight. Whichever Singer model you choose make sure it's a model with reverse so you can start and finish seams securely and neatly without having to hand finish or turn your project through 180 degrees to secure the seam. There are plenty of websites with good information but check out
    http://ismacs.net/singer_sewing_mac...er-sewing-machine-serial-number-database.html
    for a database of Singer serial numbers - it will enable you to identify the model and it's main features.
    This site and others offer free downloads of the instruction manuals so don't get suckered into paying for one.
     
    Last edited: Jan 29, 2017
    shadowrider likes this.
  6. Rodney

    Rodney Familiar Face

    Messages:
    61
    Location:
    Centralia, WA
    The 201 was one of Singer's best machines. The ones with the potted (built in) motors are most common here in the US from what I've seen. The Singer 15 is another great machine. The 15-91 has a potted motor as well and tends to be more common than ones that had outside power sources. The Singer 66 is a good solid performer as is it's smaller sibling the 99. A Singer 99 with a hand crank is a great machine for kids to sew with.

    I like hand crank machines. They're a little slower than electric but you have fantastic control with them. Guiding the fabric with one hand is actually pretty easy once you've done it a little bit, certainly nothing to be intimidated by.
    Original Singer hand cranks tend to be a bit expensive these days. There are Chinese made reproductions available, you will also need a spoked hand wheel or will need to notch the existing wheel if it's solid. It's better to find a machine that already has an original spoked wheel. Sometimes the bobbin winder won't work on machines with the wrong hand wheel. Any of these machines with a motor boss under the wheel can be set up with a hand crank easily.
    These are all straight stitch machines. They also all use standard needles and bobbins are easily available new for them. They're also all pretty common. Singer made literally millions of them. Other than a few select variations (commemorative machines, etc) none of them are rare. The Japanese made millions of Singer 15 clones after WWII. They also tend to be solid machines and can be set up with hand cranks easily as well.

    If you're sewing knits you will seriously want to consider a zigzag capable machine.
    The Singer 401 is a great zigzag machine with a lot of stitch options and was built pretty much at Singer's peak. Not an easy machine to set up with a hand crank though.
    Rodney
     
  7. 59Lark

    59Lark A-List Customer

    Messages:
    369
    Location:
    Ontario, Canada
    Seems I found this thread kinda of late, this is 59 Lark and this is my trade, I am a singer mechanic for the last 35 plus years and I have 300 machines in my cellar going back to the 1890s for parts. I rebuild 201k for customers and 221k featherweights and 301a slant needle , I have a set of silver 301 cufflinks from singer for selling 20 301 a month, no I am not that old my late master gave them to me. if you like 401 slant matic but want them in a treadle the german version the 411g , made in wittenberg can convert to treadle easily and has extra counter balance weights so to treadle easily, am the only new treadle dealer in Canada sell JANOME 712t treadle to the amish families all over Canada doing mail order .
     
    Michael A likes this.
  8. 59Lark

    59Lark A-List Customer

    Messages:
    369
    Location:
    Ontario, Canada
    this new computer is driving me crazy , I am always touching something and sending the letter before I am done, unlike computers which I do not play well with others , sewing machines especially old ones are my forte. I live breath and exhale sewing machines usually putting in a 10 hour day fixing them during the week. Bullet shuttles 27 to the later version 127 the model T ford of sewing machines, they made millions of them, the 128 was the 3/4 size of the 127 vs,
    the egyh decals on the 127vs of the sphinx , was called memphasis decals cause the capital city in E. was memphasis no Elvis.

    Even the different decals they used before ww1 were cool, peacocks and pheasants, tiffany , gingerbread, bear, horntail owl, scotch thistle, red eye. The early red eye 66 some had back lash attachments which are hard as hens teeth to get today. The 101 the first singer to use a potted motor and alum. metal precedsor to the 201 but brought out in time for the dirty 30s so didn't sell well. THE 115 Which was the top treadle pre war 1 with its rotary hook, I have downstairs a 16 which is like a 15-30 on steroids, double the size of a 15 and the treadle wheel is about double a normal one, the pure power that baby can roll. anyone has a question fire away, I will put artie shaw grab a cuppa and sit down and type the answer . yours 59lark. ps its not a dying trade I am teaching my 24 yr old daughter the trade,
     
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  9. 59Lark

    59Lark A-List Customer

    Messages:
    369
    Location:
    Ontario, Canada
    I see no one has added to this, now this last I had two really different orders, I literally had a Winnipeg supplier order a handcrank sewing machine to go way up north for a trapper. they didn't want a Chinese copy so we are refurbishing a 1957 singer 201k alum,in a wooden case and full spares and parts for the duration.also a order for four machines for hospital in uba, again no parts there , send fully equipped with Spanish manual, parts and service and put any thing that might break with it. this is one job enjoy 59lark
     
    Michael A likes this.
  10. Michael A

    Michael A My Mail is Forwarded Here

    Messages:
    3,853
    Good to hear from someone doing the good work of maintaining these antique machines. Seems to be getting harder to find such a person today.

    I have a few old machines that I sew on and tinker with. For Singers, I have a Spartan, a 201K-3, 201-2, 501 and a Featherweight whose number escapes me. I also have a Pfaff 130. And Necchi BU, BU Nova and BU Supernova. And an old Japan made Kenmore (Jaguar) and a Janome that is maybe 20 years old. I think that last is the pup of the bunch. I might be forgetting a few too. Ha ha. I think the Necchi BU are probably the nicest ones to sew on, but that being said it's the 201-2 that I've been mostly using for the last year or so. And speaking of which, I need to start doing some more sewing again.

    Michael
     
  11. GHT

    GHT I'll Lock Up

    Messages:
    4,358
    Location:
    New Forest
    I appreciate that you are in Canada, but with your wealth of knowledge you can probably answer this query.
    Just as today, when you shop at your local supermarket, you can buy the supermarket's "own brand" usually at a cheaper price than branded items, so too, could you back in yesteryear. The practice is nothing new.
    Back in 1890, the UK mail order company, Kay & Co, offered their customers a range of items with the Kay & Co brand on them. These goods were obviously supplied by manufacturers who discounted their product in return for a guaranteed production number. One of those items that Kay & Co sold was the sewing machine. My question is, can you identify the manufacturer?
    kays.jpg sewing machines 003.JPG
     
  12. 59Lark

    59Lark A-List Customer

    Messages:
    369
    Location:
    Ontario, Canada
    my first guess would be a fister and rossman , made in Germany 59lark
     
  13. GHT

    GHT I'll Lock Up

    Messages:
    4,358
    Location:
    New Forest
    That's a good speculative guess, you're probably right. Many thanks.
     
  14. 59Lark

    59Lark A-List Customer

    Messages:
    369
    Location:
    Ontario, Canada
    I was out antique shopping last sunday and came across , a 3/4 size long bobbin head in fairly poor condition but with a complete handcrank and it had the porclean knob german especially fister ahond rossman are known for , and was $25. dollars complete with bullet shuttle, that one went into the boot. Have left it soaking with release all, to loosen the rust, at the same market was a 5 foot by 4 foot porclean sign in green and with the famous red S, with a lady sitting at a style 40 cabinet with a potted motor machine perhaps a 201k, price in fair shape was $750. dollars, good thing my visa very poor. In my 36 yrs have never seen a sign like this . any thoughts about the price 59lark. my opinion is the sign is 40s.
     
    Michael A likes this.
  15. Just Jim

    Just Jim One of the Regulars

    59Lark, could you be persuaded to put together a "buyer's guide" for checking out a vintage machine? I'm in the market for a Singer 66, and for the first time I won't know the former owner. I won't get the "buyer's introduction" to the individual machine's quirks, and find I'm a bit cautious about making a purchase.
     
  16. 59Lark

    59Lark A-List Customer

    Messages:
    369
    Location:
    Ontario, Canada
    jim; the 66 was introduced something like nineteen oh three, first machine to use sixty six class bobbin thusly named after the machne and some of these had really nice decals like the scotch thistle and the red eye and some had weird back lash attachments which are hard too find after a hundred years. but remember its a osiclating hook not as strong as rotary , so it wont do really heavy work, it was a cheaper drop in bobbin machine to sell to the masses , it basically a full size ninety nine k, it did have a lot of improvents and was called something like the century of progress machine fifty nine lark
     
  17. 59Lark

    59Lark A-List Customer

    Messages:
    369
    Location:
    Ontario, Canada
    JIM; Made until the 40s , no plastic parts and the later ones had reverse, really depends what you want to do with this machine, some would buy a earlier example simply for the look as the early decals are some of the best, I thought of a another decal while sleeping, lotus decal , the pretty decals where around till the end of ww1, and then singer used only the gold mostly . if you want a workhorse capable of sewing leather and denim and shirts the next day, look up the model 201k, k is for kilbowie the plant in Scotland, Now you being a US customer they also made them in NJ, I describe the usa ones as 201 E wonderfully made with built in cast lamp in front art deco look and with direct drive, worm drive motor, same 66 class bobbin but full rotary hook so much smoother and so much stronger and so much better stitch quality and so well made, yours 59lark
     
  18. Just Jim

    Just Jim One of the Regulars

    Thanks 59Lark. I'll have to do some digging around and check out a 201. Any preference between the cast iron and aluminum frames? I'm not likely to ever use it as a portable.
     
  19. 59Lark

    59Lark A-List Customer

    Messages:
    369
    Location:
    Ontario, Canada
    jim; as far as the operation of sewing the cast difference is none its the fact the cast is so dam heavy to move, if you want a portable machine you don't go cast iron. I just refurbished a light cast one , as a handcrank, put it in large bentwood case and sent it to the Yukon. of course I shipped them separately , they are literally going to put in trailer behind a skido and take it wherever so lighter is better . if you are living in the usa, I would go a elizabethport nj one with direct drive should be easier for you to find and you can plop in any standard cabinet and have a workhorse, we sell the 201k in my shop for approx. $200. ca funds. but that is refurbished and ready to go with a warranty and the most common thing wrong is wiring , its has a tendency to rot after 60yrs and need replacing. still think you will enjoy that model there is a thingy on the net from a fellow repairman in England , alex ......... and he has stories of rolls Royce using them on leather door panels in the 1940s , just google 201k singer sewing machine your 59 lark.
     
  20. Just Jim

    Just Jim One of the Regulars

    Thanks 59Lark! I've looked at a couple so far, unfortunately both looked like they'd spent time in a barn with a leaky roof. I'll keep looking.
     

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