October 30, 2011

Morse 4400 Fotomatic IV

1967 Morse 4400 Fotomatic IV. This one has been on my list for a while. It took 4 - 5 hours of cleanup and except for the minimal scratches it came out great and really sews well.

It's so crazy looking but is a real testament to the engineering talent / eccentricity at White. It reminds me of those Pachinko machines we heard about.

By the late 60's car styling had become very hard edged and still quite creative inside and out. Fed Reg's had not yet started to homogenize design so things like the 1966 Thunderbird were aggressive and flamboyant.

For some reason I really like the "tail fin" speed form leading up to the hand wheel. 

A little update on sewing with the Fotomatic; it is very sure footed, it starts thru most anything without help. I have no idea why this particular machine is different than the others because let's face it... it is another Japanese machine from the 60's. Regardless it just goes thru my light weight leather without a fault. A strange thing does occur occasionally, the bobbin thread jumps out of the diagonal slot , when this happens the everything goes out of whack but from the top things look OK so you need to catch this early. This may not be a 4400 problem, just a bobbin case problem?


October 19, 2011

Coronado - Brother (1950's)

The Coronado has been a delight, seems to be vary rare on the net; can't find another one like it out there.
It is very likely an early 50's machine. It has the same set-up (mechanisms) as the Singer 15-91 that is the thread take up and thread tension are on the front cover as apposed to facing the operator.

Do you need a color justification?

What a beautiful, simple little machine; a break away from the old styling and into the two-tone world. This little gem is in near new condition; the chrome is perfect, not a single spec of rust. It was used at least once but it is so pristine I found it hard to believe.

Yes I am a fan of the post war Japanese machines. I wonder if there is a following in Japan of vintage machine devotees? So if anyone out there can tell me more I am interested. MSD under a strange logo and model numbers 45-4123 * SM-4123A

And again it has a 1.5 amp motor. It's a straight stitch only machine.

So I have discovered the origin of the Coronado, it's a name badged Brother! There are  also others badged as Wizard.

Now I'm looking for one like this; it has a retro-fit dial and push button; very modern!


October 15, 2011

Brother Select-O-Matic (1950's)

I got a second one because I like this model and its a different color scheme. I have seen three different color schemes out there, including a all metallic blue.

This particular machine does not have right and left of center like the other one. That said they are still some of the smoothest running machines I have ever used. This one may have been later in the product cycle because it doesn't have the enameled logo in the center but it has an improved decorative stitch selector on it.

55 Bel Air... oh-ye

Also: found this interesting little historical tidbit about BIC

This quote from Solomon Adler sums up my personal feelings regarding invention and art perfectly:

 "When an idea is conceived by an inventor, it never leaves him in peace, it possesses him day and night until it is expressed, after which he enjoys a sense of relief and accomplishment."


October 3, 2011

Morse MZZ (1957)

The MZZ is quite a machine. It has many castings in it clearly labeled "Toyota." Found on CL it was in a terrible state... from on abused home and with a few miles on it, but it came back to life and cleaned up really well. The 1.5 amp motor looks original and is date stamped OCT 57.
Stitch length is controlled by the lower right dial, reverse is a push button in the center of the dial. ZZ is up top with the enameled M in the center. I like the dial type stitch length controls much better than the lever type; it is just more intuitive.

A little clunky in the styling department but in person its very appealing. There is a very "Japanese" or at least 50's element in the styling that I would like to highlight, that is in the molding of the off-white, partially translucent control knobs. They have a very subtle milky white swirl to the plastic moldings that to some may look like a mistake but to others makes each machine unique. I think it counters some of the doughy 50's forms and adds an organic element to the final work.

To my surprise during the tear-down & cleaning I discovered an additional light bulb inside the main casting under the top cover! The design team made a tremendous but unfortunatly futile effort to back-light the stitch width indicator :-) It would be so cool if it worked I may try to improve the light path if I can do so without permanently modifying the original machine. 

I am starting to make simple wood frames for my in use machines and I have a secrete way of attaching them to the machine without those ridiculous looking plastic swing nuts that are on every portable case.



September 18, 2011

Kenmore 158.523 (1966)

So my new rule is (except for the coveted) no more than $15 and I have to like the design of course. At the local Church rummage sale this Kenmore (made in 1966) was calling me.

Another outstanding Japanese made machine with a 1.2amp motor, ZZ, and multiple cam options that are loaded thru the top door.

After a couple hours of clean-up it came back to life; the motor could not move it because it was so gummed up and packed with thread dust around the hook. Sometimes it takes a lot of oiling and turning to get it free!

For a test project I decided to make Bertie a blanket with integral pillow.

Bertie has adopted a spot on the floor next to my side of the bed and because he loves to cop a lean on what ever is adjacent I added the pillow. Being a brat however, it may be some time before he will use it.

Update: he loves it... took to it the 1st night!


September 15, 2011

Singer 353 Genie (1973)

The Genie from 1973 is my 1st venture into plastic covered machines. Part of a select group of vintage portables the Genie is a great little machine. Classic 70's styling; straight lines and orange flower motif.

Very cool; the cover slides on from the left.

Here she is naked. She needed needle bar and timing adjustments; that was straight forward but I had never seen a thread tension mechanism like this so it took a little time to figure that out.

When the cover comes off you flip it over; it stores the clam-shell foot pedal and accessories. 

There are some places that a flower pattern just should not be.


September 7, 2011

Brother (Capital)

The Capital is a straight stitch version of the Select - O - Matic. It's called a Super - Streamliner... so 50's. Brother seemed to make many machines for others to market but never hid the fact that it was after all still a Brother.

It cleaned up beautifully and I learned a few new things about timing a machine. strangely enough what appears to be a top cover is actually just a paint line; the designers kept the theme while making a much simpler machine to manufacture. This one has beautiful Art Deco styled decals that the  Select - O - Matic does not. 

The sews as well as expected and stitch length indicator is cool. The reason I wanted a straight stitch machine is as I learned that having the small hole instead of the ZZ slot makes sewing stretchy leather possible since the material does not get stretched down into the hole and mess up the lock stitch.

Nice toupee!


August 28, 2011

White 765 (1965)

The 765 really surprised me when I finished the restoration and began trial sewing; it is a great performer.

Although the same time frame as the 764 (1965) the 765 is from an entirely different design influence.

Rectilinear streamlining! Now were' talking Grand Torino :-)

This is a great machine; heavy as a brick, smooth, quiet, and goes through leather very well.

Although simple the ZZ window is very nice; the bar slides back & forth behind the numbers.

I would like to get the story on the Industrial designers who were at White during the 60s & 70s... I would like to celebrate their contribution and ambition.


August 25, 2011

White 764 (1964)

The 764 introduced during the 1964 New York World's Fair really shows the degree to which the other than Singer makers were willing to go to attract buyers and differentiate them selves from the old generation. White seems to have maintained a very creative streak after the War when they and many others shifted manufacturing to Japan.

The colors are great; a metallic dark pearl upper and a standard beige lower make for a friendly machine. Controls are large and move easily, it's a well engineered machine. A real unique design feature is the integrated handle. The styling however may be argued as a little dated in that the forms and surface treatment are actually from a 1940s automotive vocabulary. This I think was odd; whomever was in charge of styling at the time was caught in a previous decade... it may be that the 765 was a corrrective responce. This design was and still is adventurous however just out of step with what was forward looking or "modern" at that time.

Jeff Bergman
Built like a brick house it sports a 1.3 amp motor, ZZ, button holing, etc. This particular one has had a hard life; I had to rebuild the reverse button from shattered pieces and the main hook shaft was frozen do to a crack in the casting! I am an amateur machinist and was able to realign the main shaft with a few hours of labor.

August 16, 2011

White 793

The White 793 was an ugly looking non working machine but with minimal effort she came back to life and is beautiful.

Good looking, easy to use, has lots of stitches, and a 1.3 amp motor too. The bobbin winder has the unique feature of disengaging a clutch when rotated up to contact the fly wheel... really the best solution compared to loosening the big hand nut on most other machines.

White with a blue hard top is pretty rare in cars

August 15, 2011

Brother Select-O-Matic (1957)

Something drew me to this little beauty even as a non working, varnished mess.
Along with a 1.5amp motor it is the most powerful domestic machine I have come by so far.

It has a mix of old and new design that is really unique. The color scheme alone is very special; the gunmetal blue upper along with the glossy beige is rare. Take note of the subtle curve between the main body and the top cover; no other machine before plastics would have done this, check it out they all have a straight line separating the top cover and the body.
I have the original warranty card... it was purchased in 1957 here in Michigan. It came with a nice white oak veneer cabinet.

This was my greatest restoration project to date; it took over 8 hours to get it clean & running. The incredible level of oil varnish was the easy part, I took virtually every single part off to clean and adjust. I learned a lot about cleaning and adjusting machines; the ZZ was completely locked up. Every mechanism is adjustable in every way so with enough time you can get it perfect.

This machine illustrates an incredible level of engineering, design, and manufacturing skill; clearly a decade or two before the MBA's were hired to cut costs. The Geiger counter style indicator for the Zig-Zag width is so engineering inspired... must have been some WWII design engineer in charge.

There are two beautifully made enamel badges, they cleaned up nicely. The large solid aluminum knob with the enameled badge adjusts the ZZ width. although it retains the old style reverse lever instead of the button (which I prefer) it has 100's of stitch styles with built in cams.

Although not extremely rare there don't seem to be many around. looking forward to hearing from you about yours.

OK I have to go-on about this machine; because of the powerful motor she is really good at low speeds, great for leather. But its the sound (or lack there-of) that is so wonderful; this machine sounds like no other.


July 30, 2011

Singer Sew Handy

I thought I would get this classic Singer when I found it on Craig's list

A children's toy from about 1955, beautiful condition with a fine tan crinkle finish on the casting. Like most collectibles the original box is a plus.


July 28, 2011

Stitch Master 139

Found the Stitch Master on Craig's list too, another Japanese make from the 60's, maybe from the Toyota factory? Its not at all easy to identify these Japanese makes and years because so many were made for retailers and badged over here.

It has that really stiff 70's styling, the dial controls are quite nice and easy to move. It'll need a new bobbin winder casting though. The badging is of the highest quality enameling. It's an interesting mix of quality parts,  engineering and bizarre styling.


New Home 532 & 108

Recently looking over a Craig's list offering I became intrigued by what I saw. Taking a chance I picked up these two... I have been very impressed. They are very well made and and more quiet that any of the Singers. Best of all is the 1amp motor; most home machines are between .5 & .7amps.

 The metallic brown job is a 108, Green one is a 532; they are the same except for the light position and some badging.

From the middle 60's the color and finish are great. The rotary knob moves the stitch width indicator back & forth in the little window; its great. The New Home is a Janome made machine. These are excellent machines.


Singer 15 - 91 (1952)

Another estate sale find, this 1952 15 - 91 is the epitome of workhorse design and construction in its day. This one is in quite nice condition as you can see. The front mounted thread tension dial keeps the side view clean and; narrow.

Singer held on to all of the old designs as long as the market would bare didn't they? The way I see it as the world came out of the Second War Japan, Germany, & Italy (the Axis powers) started making modern looking machines; using Industrial Design (styling) to help market there industrial restart. Now when u look back at the 50s design from these countries you see a wholesale shift away from the past; the past that got them nowhere.

I made the base after removing from the cabinet, one fine cabinet by the way. 75

Singer 503a (1961)

Ahh the 503... pretty cool, the 500 has all the bells & whistles on it; the 503 has just the essentials. The attention to detail is amazing.

Built in the mid 60's it's been nicnamed the "Rocketeer." By the 60's Singer had finally left the old look behind and was trying some way-out stuff like this. As with the White 764 the 60's were a time for wild shapes combined with the old sewing machine design know-how.
From a technical standpoint I love the additional little "flicker" above the thread tension dial, I have not seen that feature on any other machine.

Singer 401a (1972)

A gift from Aunt Doris, these things really were / are engineering marvels. Built in 1972 it has the two tone tan earth tones from the 70's.

It clearly shows its heritage from the 301s and the like. These are prized machines, at 22 lbs. you have all the stiffness of the older 40's machines at half the weight. Known as a "Slant needle" Singer thought it would be better to have the closer to the operator; not a bad idea but maybe not worth the effort.
The 400s are not stylistically impressive and do have a balanced, no-nonsence, and therefore a more enduring appeal.

Singer 338 (1965)

Got the 338 at a garage sale, the case was trashed but the machine works fine.
Has the very familiar baby blue color from the 60's

Also has a unique bobbin winding mechanism that is completely hidden, very modern!

I recently took it to play with and it really is a nice little sewer.