Apples and Oranges

If you wanted an entry level machine back in the early 60’s and went to your local Singer dealer, they might have sold you a 328 for around $150.00 which was still a pretty good chunk of change back then.

These were an all metal workhorse that used cams to expand the stitch selection and 60 years later these machines are still working reliably and in our experience, rarely fail despite being abused and neglected. They will sew pretty much anything you can get under the foot.

Singer 328

Fast forward to 2022 and take a walk down to your local sewing shop and they will might sell you a decent quality, entry level machine like a Janome HD series for around $400.00, and while these new machines are a clamshell design they do have an internal metal frame to which everything else is attached. There will be a bunch of internal plastic parts but modern plastics tend to be very good and you should be able to use one of these machines for decades.

A vintage Kenmore from the 1970’s will still be a much better machine at a fraction of the cost… but anyways.

It is when you start looking at some of the economy models that you should really consider if you want to save a few hundred dollars, especially if you knew what was under that plastic clamshell.

This is a Brother CS4000, a computerized model which is very alike to the Brother CS6000i which sells for just under $400.00 in Canada. It came in for a new bobbin winder tyre as the one it had turned to goo.

Note the absence of any metal sub frame and how everything is attached to the external plastic shell… and don’t get me started on how much I hate plastic take up assemblies as these are a stressed part that cycle tens of thousands of times and will often fail.

It sews well but it’s 11 year old owner says it is possessed… I am sure that one day she will be coming to upgrade her machine and maybe we can hook her up with a nice vintage machine for much less that will last a lifetime, or three.

We sold a beautiful Singer 411G yesterday, in a beautiful cabinet for less than one would pay for a better quality entry level machine like the aforementioned Janome 3000 HD… the Singer 411G falls into the category of one of the best machines ever made.

I doubt that this machine will ever require anything beyond regular oiling / lubrication, and might need a new bobbin winder tyre in a few decades, and if you sew enough the brushes in the motor may need to be replaced after 40,000 – 50,000 hours of work. Singer built these with the expectation this machine would last a lifetime, or three.

The Singer 222K

There is often much confusion when people see a 221 “Featherweight” selling for $1200 plus dollars because, at a a glance the Singer 222K looks very similar.

That is until you notice the oval needle plate, and maybe the set screw on the bed that releases the extension to turn this wee machine into a free arm.

The Singer 222K was only made in Scotland and distributed through the Commonwealth and Europe with a total production of just under 109,000 units which is a fraction of a 2.5 million Featherweights that were produced.

As it was never sold in the United States, it tends to be very rare there and command some very high prices, and even here in Canada we may only see one or two a year compared to dozens of the 221 Featherweight.

The case is also a little different but that requires a trained eye to discern the small dimensional differences.

Yet Another Hand Crank

Dazey Butter Churn – 1940’s

And now for something completely different…

The Dazey company made these hand cranked butter churns up to 1945, earlier models had an open gear drive while the later models seem to have copied the Blow butter churn that was made in England.

The covers were in poor shape and the inside of the gearbox looks like spiders had taken up residence at some point. The wooden impellers and handle were in very nice condition and since I plan to make butter with this, that is important.

I touched up the covers and think I will give them another fine sanding and a few more coats of enamel before I put on a final clear coat.

Wood Work

Singer 128-1920

Besides the mechanical and aesthetic restoration work that gets done here in the shop there is also a fair amount of wood restoration that has to be done.

After 100 plus year those wooden crank handles can get to looking pretty worn and quite unlike the highy highly polished handles they started out as.

Some varathane with stain really brings them back to looking original.

Singer 66-1922
Singer 115-1920
Singer 29k-custom made handle

Restoration and Preservation – Singer 221

Singer 221

When this machine was received I first thought it was only good enough to be a parts donor due to the deterioration of the clearcoat, and for a time it did just that, lending a piece here and a piece there to save another one of it’s sisters.

I decided to strip the old clearcoat from the bed, which is a laborious and delicate process as once the clearcoat is gone the decals are exposed and vulnerable but that went well and besides being able to presere the decals found the base paint was in very good condition as well.

After that it has been a process of applying clear polyurethane to build up a protective coat following by fine and finer sanding, more applications of polyurethane, more fine sanding, and you just keep repeating the process to build up the clear layers until the machine starts to shine.

After this, which is still ongoing… it will get a really good buffing.

I also need to touch up a few areas on the top and on the light cover but will do that separate of the bed.

Singer 128 – 1920

Singer 128 – 1920

In looking at thise machine it is hard to believe that it is one hundred and two years old, she has a few wee nicks and the lightest of marks on the slide plates which will polish out nicely.

In my opinion, the La Vencadora decals are among the prettiest ever, (and they were unique to the 128), and so popular they sold in vast numbers, so much so that we see almost as many of these than we do the plainer black and gold models.

People may complain that the vibrating shuttle machines only hold half as much bobbin thread as a round bobbin machine, and the unitiated may find them a little different to use but the stitch quality is simply amazing, and they will sew whatever you can put under the foot as they are virtually indestructible.

We also picked up an 1891 Singer VS2 “fiddle base” this week, a model that preceded and evolved into the 28 and 128 and just like it’s little sister, it still sews beautifully, despite her well worn condition.

Happy sewing.

Deitrich, Kohler, and Winselmann… German Giants.

Vesta – “Sowitch”

In 1869 L.O. Deitrich (Vesta), Hermann Kohler, and Gustav Winselmann (Titan) started a new sewing machine company in Altenburg Germany, known a L.O.D. and they produced Vesta sewing machines, Kohler was primarily in charge of advertising and Kohler machines were primarily sold in the German home market. They had all worked for Muller prior to forming their own company.

The “Sowitch” was a badged Vesta machine made for the English market and bears the older Vesta logo on the pillar, in their day they were considered to be some of the finest machines ever made, with a smoothness of operation that is something one needs to experience first hand.

After some time Winselmann left the partnership to produce his own machines which were also beautifully designed and often extremely ornate like our TS high Arm… this machine was imported into London in 1902 by a G. Lobi and was given a 5 year guarantee.

Pfaff was another major company producing machines in Germany, established in 1885 by Georg Michael Pfaff, a German instrument maker and entrepreneur… they deserve an article of their own due to their massive success.

By 1910 they had produced a million machines and employed a thousand workers.

Deitrich and Kohler continued on after the departure of Winselmann and produced machines for their own domestic market and for export, some British machines like the Harris Model 9 was a badged Vesta machine.

Kohler Model 7
Vesta “Sowitch” VSlll

After World War 2 L.O.D. was absorbed by the communists into a larger cooperative while Winselmann’s factory did not survive the war and was never rebuilt, Pfaff also continued to do extremely well as they were in West Germany and not subjected to Russian rule.

Kilbowie… Birth Of A Sewing Machine.

Singer 28k – 1900

At the turn of the last century, the largest sewing machine factory in the world was Singer’s facility at Kilbowie Clydebank, which was completed in 1885 after a smaller factory in Glasgow (doing mostly assembly work from imported parts) was closed down.

It had a million square feet of space and employed 7000 workers, and even then they could not meet production demands and customers were put on wait lists. This was when they were producing 13,000 machines a week and still unable to meet demands. In 1905 they expanded their buildings to be 6 stories tall to provide more workspace.

By 1943 the factory would have produced thirty six million machines.

This old 28K was made in Kilbowie (that is what the K stands for) and in checking, this rather large run of machines totalled almost 100,000. The models Singer offered in 1900 were not as expansive as they were a few decades later and the 28K was an immensely popular model, accounting for a high percentage of Singer’s sales.

The 28K was the 3/4 sized version of the 27 and was most often offered in a wooden case with a handcrank, while the 27 was most often fitted to a treadle.

I made a new handle for the handcrank on the wood lathe as after 122 years and a good bit of use, it had failed, the machine turns still over as smooth as silk and makes a beautiful stitch.

Not rare, no museum piece by any measure but a solidly made precision tool that has lasted for generations.

Birth of A Sewing machine was filmed at the Kilbowie factory in 1934, it is a wonderful (silent) film.

On the bench… Singer 99k31

What isn’t there to like about the Singer 99K ?

The last of the series came with a more powerful motor (.8 amp) and an improved stitch length control, we usually add a new spool pin with a guide as this works really well with thread stands to maintain a correct thread path.