Vintage All Metal Sewing Machines – Expanding the Horizon

So, I have been concentrating on the more well known brand name sewing machines. Some of my favorites are Singer, Kenmore, White, and one of my favorites… New Home. I have had no shortage of opportunities to find and acquire different models in each brand. In every one of these brands, I am impressed with the sewing experience offered by almost (with a few exceptions) all of them.

I have noticed that in every instance, the newer the model, the more the changes in manufacturing techniques become apparent. For example, a Singer machine made in the 30’s and 40’s is noticeably smoother and quieter than a Singer model made in the 60’s. This is, I think, due to the complexity of the sewing mechanisms. Earlier machines were straight stitch only, and the simpler drive mechanisms were manufactured to be buttery smooth. Great for the day, but sewing machine manufacturers had to evolve with the times. The introduction of the zigzag machine changed what I consider to be a basic sewing machine forever.

The consumer quickly realized the potential of a machine that could do more than a straight stitch. Competition between sewing machine manufacturers brought with it innovation and change. New features and stitch options blossomed. The race for more stitches, driven by competition, added a lot of linkages, gears, and cam mechanisms to these later machines. No longer simple, they became quite complex. But complexity also took a toll on the amount of power delivered to the needle. This is not surprising, because turning all that extra hardware takes power, even when they are not engaged in making these added stitches. Not to be deterred, manufacturers set to optimize their designs. The net result was astounding. Motors became more powerful, gear trains were optimized to be more efficient. Bronze worm gears, sprung linkages, and gear reduction schemes were incorporated in more and more machines. The weight of all of this extra steel and metal hardware was offset by the use of aluminum or magnesium frames. With the exception of some machines that retained a cast iron frame (increasing the weight substantially), many machines weighed less!

For example, it was not unusual for a vintage cast iron straight stitch sewing machine to tip the scales somewhere between 35 to 40 pounds. By comparison, aluminum body machines capable of dozens of stitch patterns typically weigh in around 30 pounds. Their cast iron counterparts could top 43 pounds. Still heavy by modern machine standards (I mentioned in another blog that plastic weighs less than steel… no need to mention it here… so on with the story.)

Surprisingly, the quality of manufacture and materials, along with intelligent design, still resulted in a smooth running, reasonably quiet machine. While they may not match the beauty and precision of the straight stitch produced by the wonderful older straight stitch machines, the difference is not worth mentioning in comparison. Those that are concerned with the best straight stitch possible already know this and tend to use the older straight stitch machines for their purpose. For utility and application, these multiple stitch machines produce an impressive straight stitch, and the quality of the added pattern stitches is impressive as well.

Bravo vintage all metal manufacturers of fine quality multiple stitch machines! Three cheers to the feature conscious consumer who pushed the envelope of sewing machine evolution by demanding more features for their hard earned money! Take a bow, you have expanded the average sewing machines capabilities to a new horizon! Sewing machines will never be the same… Still, I’ll never part with my Singer 201-2.

Published by pungoliving

First and foremost, I decided to share some of my experiences with vintage all metal sewing machines. It is a natural progression of my life experience exercising my hands and my mind. My background is a simple story... graduating High school, I wanted a trade. I landed an apprenticeship at Norfolk Naval Shipyard in welding. 5 years later after earning certification and working in many different environments, I decided to enroll in College and earn an Engineering. At the same time, I married a wonderful girl and started a new life. Graduating College with a degree in Structural Engineering, I began a 35 year career in the Federal Government. Along the way, we were blessed with 3 beautiful children. Earning a Masters degree in Engineering and registration as a Professional Engineer I worked for the benefit of my family and my Country. Over the years, I have pursued many different hobbies... woodworking, car mechanics, astronomy, and taking apart and putting together all sorts of things. Pretty much anything I could put my mind and my hands into. So now, many years later, I am retired and finally able to wile away my days at home with the love of my life. Her interests have always been in sync with mine, but spending so much free time with her, I realized how broad her talents are! One interest she is particularly fond of is sewing. It didn't take me long to put 2+2 together and realize that I could do something with this. So, acquiring, adjusting, servicing, and restoring sewing machines was a win-win. I have a hobby that is detailed, involves tinkering with precision engineered high quality manufactured machines, while she has an opportunity to sew on various different makes and models of sewing machines. While there are many that have information on line, and what I have to say more than likely has already been said, I wanted to contribute to that conversation and learning gleaned from my experience and research.

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