Thursday, September 18, 2014

The Motherload

Motherload: jackpot, big winnings or big findings. That's how it feels sometimes when I walk out of a store with several much-desired sewing machines. That happened Tuesday night and I felt like pinching myself.

After working at our churches food distribution program on Tuesday evening, I try to stop at a favorite thrift store because 1.) it's on my way home and 2.) I get a senior discount on Tuesday of 40%. With their closing at 9 pm I miss stopping in quite a bit but last night I was there before 8:30 so I stopped and checked out all my usual spots. As I headed to the back of the store I found a tan Singer that made me stop but I wasn't real excited...yet. I bent down and read 301. Wait a minute, a 301? I have never had this model and I've heard nothing but good. It's touted as the big sister of the Singer 221, the Featherweight. Here it was, sitting lonely on the shelf, with power cord and foot control for a mere $19.95. Quick, with discount that makes it...$12! I snatch it up and head over to the outlets so I can plug it in. Yup, starts right up; no accessories but who cares? It's a Singer 301.
Long bed Singer 301-2
As I turn away from the outlets where I tested the sewing machine, I see a familiar sewing machine carrying case. Could it be another Singer? One I crave? Or one everyone else craves?

I flip open the hinges and see that it's a Singer 403 and it looks like its even got the accessories. I don't even plug this one in because I will take it anyway it comes. At the check out I see it's only $14.95 so with discount (never been happier to be old!) it's only $9. I sing all the way home.
Singer 403A with label tape "4-20-60"
Life is full and I don't get to open them up to take a look until  after 10 pm but what do I find? The 403A pops out of its cover and the cover still feels quite heavy so I turn the cover over to find:
Accessory box on right
an elastic strap that is holding in the accessory box and two manuals! When I looked even closer I found a "ticket" with a date stamp and a written note so now I know when this was made and purchased: March 11, 1960.
Script reads "Got machine March 11, 1960"
No great revelations for the Singer 301 but I've never had one before so I needed to read up on this model and find information at Singer 301 website. The flat side of the needle faces left, it takes the same size bobbins as the Featherweight, but unlike the Featherweight it is a slant needle model and operates without a belt but uses gears . As I read I see I have a long-bed model, a Singer 301-2, because the extension table that is hinged on the left is long, more the size of the Featherweight's table. Models in black have the decorative decals but my little number is tan that has turned a bit mottled. The only chips are on the back so it's in very good shape. The serial number, NA168994 dates mine at 1952 and made in Anderson, S.C., even though mine does not have the A on the front medallion. I oiled and greased it, cleaned up the body, ran it for a few minutes the next night and again this morning. I think it sounds a bit off so now I will check out the motor as I suspect it needs those grease points filled. All in all, a very exciting find that keeps me in the game.


Michelle said...

Do not try to oil the motor. The motor stands vertically on both those models of machines. We have found that if you turn the clutch knob and press down on the foot controller like you are winding a bobbin, and hold it down for a minute or so, that helps. As you hold it down, you should hear it go faster and faster. These motors should produce about 1000 stitches a minute. If after holding it down, you don't hear an increase in speed, the motors are very easy to remove. I can help you if you need. Hubby has cleaned the armatures in his lathe, and he burns the oil out of brushes. I think after all the years we have worked on machines, he has only had to buy parts for one motor. The 301 and 401, 403 and 404, 500 and 600 series all have the gear driven motors, although they are slightly different, due to how the bobbin winds, and I have found this method has made each of them run faster. If you can hear a difference in a short time, you can run the motor for a couple minutes and it should run at top speed. This IS after all the moving parts have been oiled though, and everything turns freely. Have fun!

Michelle said...

Hubby says a lot of times, the reason the motors run sluggish is because people have over oiled them, and the brushes get soaked with oil. After a good cleaning, they run like the wind!

Karen said...

Thanks, Michelle, for this good information. I will try what you describe and see how the motor sounds. I wasn't going to oil the motor, just noticed it had those grease cups and they were probably empty. I have the old Singer grease tubes and the grease does look like Vaseline, but no oil on the motor! It did turn with a flick of the wrist so that means it's components are all ready to go but something was "sluggish."

Jane Turner said...

Your excitement over the vintage machines is quite contagious. I find myself strolling by the sewing machines at various thrift stores even though I have no idea what I'm actually looking for.

Karen said...

I tried this tonight and it worked like a charm! At fjrst it sounded like an airplane taking off but then it settled down. It runs and sounds much smoother now. Thanks Michelle!

Karen said...

You have to find one that looks intriguing and then try it out. Just don't pay an arm and a leg for it!