This is a Singer 401. There are many like it, but this one is mine.

Full Metal Jacket analogies aside, the 401 is an excellent machine. It has all-metal internals, comes with many stitches pre-programmed by the virtue of having an internal cam stack. It can also accept an array of swappable cams for even more stitches.

But it has some drawbacks. Despite being manufactured in the 1950's, the foot pedal (technically called the 'motor controller') is the same model that Singer used since the 1920's. It's a graduated resistor, that lowers resistance until a simple circuit is achieved at full pedal depression. The side effect of this is that when you aren't using the machine, the pedal tends to heat up. Since its resistance is blocking the current flow. Additionally, since carbon tends to build up on the disks in the resistor, older pedals tend to make the machine leap into action with not a lot of control at slower speeds.

Which is a problem.

There's a later series of machines called Touch & Sew, called Touch & Throw or Touch & Swear by afficionados. They have a more powerful two speed motor with an electronic motor controller. By a quirk of manufacture, the motor in the T & S machine is the same physical size as the one in a 401. So, with some simple mechanical skill, a bit of soldering a little fabrication and a whole lot of creative cursing, you can upgrade a 401.

8/16 '20 2 Comments
The "DO NOT ADJUST TENSION!" makes me want to adjust the tension. It also makes me want to taunt Happy Fun Ball.
Ray Conrad 8/21 '20

Well, the addiction to classic Singers continues.

I picked up this well-loved beauty along with a knackered treadle base for the princely sum of $8. It's a Singer 66 'redeye'.

The unit below was purchased for $50. During cleaning I discovered that someone had been inside without knowing what was going on. The foot controller was disassembled, and stuffed back into the housing any old which-way. The machine internals were misassembled in such a way that one of the critical washers was bent. It is made from hard steel. I'm impressed and a little torqued off. Anyway, I scavenged parts to get it running. It's a Singer 99, a 3/4 version of the 66. It was made in 1955, electric from the factory, with a mechanical reverse and capable for making 30 stitches to an inch. It's got pristine decals and nearly flawless paint. I'm sorely tempted to keep it. But it's likely going to be a candidate for some horse-trading.

Below you can see it as purchased and after about four hours of cleaning.

8/9 '20 2 Comments
I'm really loving all the before/after photos.

And I have to wonder if beautiful, interesting design work will ever come back into the making of appliances (without driving the cost beyond reach, of course).
Anne Mollo 8/9 '20
If you think the black iron singers were well-decorated you should see the prior generation machines. Called fiddleback or fiddlebase, they had mother-of-pearl inlays in the working surface of their bases. Their gilt decorations were hand-painted. Because, they didn't do things by half measures in the late 19th century.

These machines were lifetime investments. And I think that they wanted them to be beautiful as well as functional. Given that people were commonly buying them on installment plans that stretched out as long as twenty years, you can understand the interest in keeping the customer pleased. They also had an active, customer-oriented dealer network, that would sell, service and maintain the machines. Interesting factoid, Singer was the largest furniture manufacturer at the turn of the century, and the 7th largest company in the world.
Ray Conrad 8/9 '20edited

This base weighs 80 pounds. I moved it three times today, each time by myself. Once out of the home of the elderly couple that was selling it and into my truck. The second time out of my truck and into my living room. The third time up a flight of stairs into my office/workshop/den of geekery. 

I have died. Or I think I want to die.

I did survive long enough to mount my period-correct 127 into the treadle base. I have a belt on the way from Amazon. Sometime Monday evening I'll give it a live test run.

The treadle base also came with a gorgeous Singer model 66. Unchipped  base, fuly intact decals, 1925 build date. It's missing a few parts, but those are all easily obtainable. It's gummed up from sitting. So, a few hours of cleaning will be invested in solving that problem. Then, I don't know? Get rid of it? It's really nice. But I can't keep them all.

As a bonus I was given a Singer 237. A nice, all metal, electric. It's going to get cleaned and probably recycled to market.

8/1 '20 4 Comments
Wow that model 66 is BEAUTIFUL.

I often wonder if I should've kept my mom's old Brother machine. It was from, I don't know, 1955ish maybe? All metal work horse of a machine, but I've got a less-ancient Elna that has always met my needs.
Anne Mollo 8/1 '20
Wow! We had a Singer base that looks to my ignorant eyes like it was identical to that one in the house when I was growing up. It wasn't in as nice shape, but very very similiar design. There was no machine in it, and Mom just used it as a table, but I always thought it was pretty awesome and enjoyed working the pedal.
My godmother, Stella, had a treadle base sewing machine in her kitchen when my sisters and I were growing up. We'd sit under the machine and run the treadle while she sewed.
Ray Conrad 8/2 '20
That's awesome.

I've decided to expand my creative frontiers. Being practical, I figured I'd start small. I'd recently acquired a sewing machine to repair jeans. Since I don't believe in buyinng cheap tools that need replacing, I of course, bought a Singer made in 1950 without plastic gears. 

When I decided to try my hand at small leather goods, I hit the internet to see if my sewing machine would sew leather. It will, but it is not recommended for a steady diet. Or thicker leathers in any quantity. But I did find a recommendation for an affordable machine that will sew any leather that will fit under the presser foot.

As purchased for a whopping $60.

It's a Singer 127, made in 1923. I spent 3 1/2 hours bathing it in mineral oil to remove the accumulated petroleum oil (Bad owner! Bad! No cookie! Sewing machines are oiled with mineral oil, only)  I was pulling dust bunny mummies out of the insides. Bits of lint that had soaked in the oil and then hardened into nightmarish tar balls.

7/18 '20 7 Comments
Ray Conrad 7/18 '20
OMG! My great-grandma had that same machine, and it had lived in our house for a long time, until one day it was gone. but it was so beautiful-- I won't ever forget the gorgeous lines of that machine. I wish I knew where it ended up.

she also had one with a foot pedal-- like you had to pedal it to spin the wheel. we didn't inherit that one.

Thank you for the stroll down memory lane, and congrats on your purchase, your hobby, and your new dopp kit!

Ray Conrad 7/18 '20
The prototype dopp kit this all led to.
Ray Conrad 7/18 '20
My first thought was how beautiful it is. So that's not the style nowadays, but do we not want beautiful, or are we embarrassed by it, or what?
Brian Rapp 7/18 '20
That machine was made during the Arts & Crafts, Art Nouveau, Art Deco and later eras. The decals applied to the machine over the years changed with the times. Ultimately it wound up with minimal decals and a crinkle finish called "Godzilla" by collectors. Guess which ones have the highest collector value? The quality of the machines never changed, but the earliest machines in the best shape have the highest value. Mine really is not in good shape, but I purchased it for its functional value. It works, so it is beautiful.
Ray Conrad 7/19 '20
Ray Conrad 7/18 '20

Have you ever wondered where your industry got its start? Since a lot of us are in IT, I bet you're thinking WW2 and the codebreakers at Bletchley Park, Alan Turing and all the rest.

Would you be surprised if I told you it was the loom? Or even further back, the water wheel?

In the 1970's the BBC produced an absolutely brilliant documentary series call Connections, hosted by James Burke. It had a wonderful way of showing technology advancing, not by a solitary inventor, but by taking the work of someone else, often in a completely different field and applying it to the problem they were working on. It's absolutely mind blowing.

Fortunately the internet archive has all three series available to stream, for free. Each episode is about 45 minutes long. There's a lot of anachronisms, the World Trade Center towers make a frequent appearance, for those touched by the events of 9-11, be warned. But, if you have the time, I promise that it will not be wasted.

And if you want to see the origin of IT.

7/8 '20 2 Comments
Right, the punch cards for patterns in the loom. I had forgotten that, thank you!

We saw a punch card loom in ... the Smithsonian, I think.
Thank you for that - I'll definitely be checking it out!

I seem capable of running out of worthwhile streaming content despite its seeming endlessness....