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.

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47 comments:

  1. Hi Tom, nice blog! I have a Brother Select O Matic that is nearly identical to this one. I was hoping you could answer a question for me... I haven't used it in a long time and recently moved so it was in storage for a little while. Recently I took it out and noticed that the spool pin is... not there? It doesn't look as though anything has broken, but there is certainly no where to put the spool. Do you have any idea what could be going on?

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    1. Hello I am sure you have your answer by now, but just in case you don't, the spool pins on some models this being one of them, and some of the Atlas being another have a push down, pop up spool pin. Hope this helps. Your lucky to own this beauty.

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  2. Hi and thanks; I love machines!
    I have a Capital (really a Brother) that has a push down spool pin; once its all the way down you push again and it comes out... could it be like that?

    Tom

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  3. Hello, we just picked up one very similar in blue just like yours. We are having difficulty getting the top thread to catch the bobbin thread. Motor is great, very clean, all fine except the top doesn't catch the bottom. Do you know what to "call" the machine in order to find the correct manual online?
    Scott & Terri

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  4. Hi, sorry for the delayed response.
    Your machine's timing is off. that means that the hook is not passing by the needle at the correct moment. you can research this on the net, it is possible to correct yourself if you are willing to spend several hours for the 1st time. Any service guy would be able to set the needle timing, but by then you are into some money?
    a manual won't help you correct this problem so don't bother buying one until it's running great.
    Good luck! Tom

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  5. Hi, I recently picked up a Brother select-o-matic at a local thrift store. Though it seems to run well (needs a good oiling) it has a bent spool pin and I cant seem to find a replacement. Any help would be greatly appreciated!

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    1. Hi Patrick, they are cool machines arent they?
      Oiling... I spend an hour oiling any old machine I get; take off the top cover oil everything that moves or even looks like it could move, if things are gummy work on them for a while, lay it back so u can see the underside and with the motor turning oil everything that moves.
      as far as the spool pin send me a pic (tboneart at comcast.net) I may have a spare I can sell cheap.

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  6. I believe this is the same sewing machine I have. It was my grandma's and is inside a table. Today my mom & I found all the ORIGINAL paperwork (Manual, Lifetime Guarentee & Pattern Selector)! We also found two vintage, red tin Brother containers. One is a "RUFFLER" complete with the original Instructions and attachment. The other says, "ZIG ZAG ACCESSORIES" & has random sewing accessories in it. Are these items (and the sewing machine/table) worth anything? My grandparents passed away & my family would love for it to go to a good home & be cared for!

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    1. Any chance you still have that manual?

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  7. The accesories and manual too make for the best chance of selling. The price is really what the market will bare; the local market, unless you are willing to ship. I'd start at $100 on CL and drop it $25 per week untill it sells.
    The mechanisms on these machines can get frozen so make sure all the knobs turn.

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  8. I have this same sewing machine in the color scheme like yours. It came with the original manual, pattern selector dial/wheel, 2 red tin boxes with Ruffler and Accessories, including a tin oil can. I cleaned it up, oiled all moving parts, replaced the belt, and she runs like a dream. A nice lady offered it on Craigslist for free and just wanted someone who would really use it. I do; it's great! I note the surface of mine has quite a few dings and pits compared with yours but I think it was just well used. Came in a wooden box with cover but that part is pretty musty so it might not get kept if I can't get rid of the odor. Overall, a real gem!

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    1. Hi there! I'be spent days looking for a manual to this machine. Would you be willing to scan yours and send out any copies? I would really appreciate it. I'm having some trouble with mine. Thank you.

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    2. You can find the manual in the Files of the Facebook group called "Vintage Sewing Machines (non-Singer). Great group by the way.

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  9. i was given the same machine in blue and would really like to see it up and running. the tension looks like it is incomplete. any ideas where i could find replacement parts? i really do not want to take it to a repair place if i can do it myself...

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    1. Hi Heather, a tricky project in that there are probably 100’s of versions of tension mechanisms out there that will work in that machine, however, you have to find one.

      Start by removing it completely from the machine so you can see and measure the size of the parts that mount into the hole in the casting.

      From there you could go to the repair guy and see if he has something used lying around that he would let go.

      Alternatively the sewing parts world online is huge and there should be something out there too but it has to say it will work in your machine because they all look the same in the pictures.

      If you like send me some pics of the area of interest and I’ll see if there is something wrong or I may even have a part.

      Tom

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  10. I found one that I was hoping to purchase. The seller uploaded a video on youtube. It would cost $150. $100 for the machine and $50 for shipping.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=SYaxHRCaLJw

    I am a beginner sewer who have only used newer machines. But always wanted a vintage (esp a blue one). ;) But the "unknown" maintenance / regular "hiccups" during a project worries me. Would you suggest that I stick to learning on a newer machine? Also, can you use regular needles with this model?

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    1. I think this is way too much. Do you have access to a good craigslist area?
      Go cheep 1st $15 - $30 You can buy 5 machines for that price then when you have played with a vintage machine or two you will know which one to keep or get.

      If you really want one Guaranteed to be in perfect running order (also not a bad idea) then find a vintage restorer person in your area and visit them so you can be instructed on the machine, then you can pay top dollar without the risk of shipping a machine and getting a lemon that will need the repairman anyhow.

      Good luck, Tom


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  11. Thank you for your response, Tom! I just wanted to give you an update. I ended up getting a Brother Select o Matic for FREE!! :) YAY... It needed some love though. I purchased cleaning/polishing/oiling supplies, replacement light bulb and needle plate ($30 total). After a 6 hour deep cleaning/oiling (YIKES!), she works like a charm. My husband for a Christmas gift is building a nice wooden base for it. I may take her in for a check up. Just to make sure everything is working properly. Thank you again ! Have a great day.

    Tiffany

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  12. My Grandmother recently moved in with my family and brought a Brother Select-O-Matic, in blue, in great condition with her. The machine came in a Wood Veneered Table and with both a treadle built in and a Brother motor. There are only three problems with the machine. The leather belt got pinched during the move and it is now about to break, and the motor made by brother burned out while she was still at her old house. There is also no belt for hooking together the motor and the machine. I can't seem to find another motor and I do not know where to start looking for a new leather belt and motor belt, because there are so many belts out there to choose from. Do you have any suggestions on where I can purchase these two items?

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    1. Hi Lee, 1st off; any Japanese motor from any 50's, 60's, or 70's machine will work just fine and should with little effort be made to fit to the original bracket. Buy a used machine from Craig's list for $15, they are all the same.
      Place the motor in the mid position on the bracket and measure the belt length per the instructions on any of the major sewing parts sites, get the belt that is cloes to the measured length and you will be fine. The Joann's belts will be fine.
      Don't get a new leather belt, just fix ethe one you have: use the wire from a clothes hanger and bend a connetctor like the one that is aready on it, you will have to drill a hole in the leather, if you have two connectors that will be no big deal.
      Remember: Google knows all, you just have to be prersistant in searching.

      Tom

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    2. I have been lucky enough to inherit a lovely green/blue? model in the lacquer cabinet. Unfortunately in moving it home the foot pedal wiring got disconnected. I am not quite sure where it fastens - it is the bare wire so I really would like to know where it should fasten. I would prefer the knee pedal but have not located one yet.
      When we tested the machine before loading up I feel in love with the machine - what a dream. Even after being stored for some 10 years in a basement it ran like a dream!! I can't wait to clean her up, oil and clean. Then I will be invoking the spirit of her prior owner (a friend's deceased mother) who was a tremendous seamstress!!

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    3. I have been lucky enough to inherit a lovely green/blue? model in the lacquer cabinet. Unfortunately in moving it home the foot pedal wiring got disconnected. I am not quite sure where it fastens - it is the bare wire so I really would like to know where it should fasten. I would prefer the knee pedal but have not located one yet.
      When we tested the machine before loading up I feel in love with the machine - what a dream. Even after being stored for some 10 years in a basement it ran like a dream!! I can't wait to clean her up, oil and clean. Then I will be invoking the spirit of her prior owner (a friend's deceased mother) who was a tremendous seamstress!!

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  13. Hey Tom,

    I have one of these in great condition. It is the teal color. Would you know of anyone who would be interested in purchasing it or would you yourself like to add it to your collection? It still works but does not have the desk it was attached to. I found it in a flip home.

    Thanks,

    Andrew

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  14. I have a machine that looks to have all the same nobs in all the same places except that mine is teal. It is in amazing condition and I love using it, but I feel like I am not using it to its full potential since I don't know what half of the nobs do. I just figured out zig zag today! Do you know where I could find a manual or anything for this machine? It came with tons of accessories, but I don't know what most of those do either. I am a novice seamstress looking to enhance my skills.

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    1. Straight, ZZ, and blind hem are the most important stitches you will need. This little beauty has about 600 stitches! and there is some wheel out there, make a notification search on Ebay.

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  15. For anyone that may be looking for a manual for this machine, I found it! If you go to this website http://pages.sewing-machine-manuals.com/173/PictPage/3924120147.html you can download the manual for $11. It's 60 pages long and SO useful. It teaches basic upkeep as well as how to use the machine and everything it is capable of.

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  16. Here's Frankensew. A beautiful Wizard badged Select-O-Matic Wizard was sold by Western Auto. I would call it the Nikon of sewing machines. One of the first really great Japanese machines designed to compete with the likes of the Necchi Nova and the Pfaff 360.

    Frankensew has a Singer hand wheel and lives in a Singer 27 treadle cabinet. The 27 was missing a lot of decal, but lives on as a hand crank.

    I can't say enough good things about the quality of this machine. I haven't found the hundreds of stitches. My wife has made a full size quilt with it as a treadle, using an all-metal hopper foot and monofilament. Monofilament seems to separate the great machines from the good.

    https://farm4.staticflickr.com/3899/14483263289_6be722b9b0_c.jpg

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    1. Beautiful machine!
      I have a very little time on treadle but the whole body experience is really something great.

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  18. I can't remember where I picked up one of these, but was looking it over and discovered that I am missing the Bobbin Case - gah! I'm currently searching Google for parts of course, but would you happen to know if any generic cases fit? Thanks so much!

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    1. You may be in luck, the case on this should be pretty common although this is an early Japanese machine. The thing that has to work is the little latch; it must engage the center pin. if it doesn't the case will fall out when in use. Take it to your local repair guy, he should have a pile of old ones to try.

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  19. Hello Tom
    I have a Brother select-o-Naticia zh3-b1. Do you know where I can find a manual for it? Also, what should I use to restore the look of the machine

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  20. Replies
    1. Hi, these are a little rare when it comes to manuals but I would just keep a search open on ebay and craig's.
      As far as restoration; take apart anything you feel comfortable you can put back together and use a soft scrub like cleaner, that old grime will come off with any of the good cleaners. Don't soak any of the parts with painted numbers as the paint is very week and will wash away over night.

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  21. Thank you. I was able to contact Brother & they are sending me a manual. ☺️☺️☺️

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  22. I just acquired one of these beautiful little machines, wondering if you could tell me what to clean/polish it with. The only thing I'm missing is the little sliding door that covers the bobbin case area. Any ideas on where I might find one? Thanks for any help you can give me. Cynthia :)

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  23. I just purchased one of these from a woman in town. She is dropping it off to me this week. Getting excited to try it. I am hoping to use it for heavier work instead of abusing my new Pfaff quilting machine.

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  24. I got my machine and love it. Same colour as yours and is near mint condition. I just need to buy a new bobbin wheel. I was surprised at how small the head is but it weighs 39 lbs!

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    1. Yes, not only is it a heavy casting but all that pattern mechanism is made of steel; no plastic here!

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  25. Can you tell me how to remove the stitch width knob on the top so I can take the top off for cleaning and oiling?

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  26. Can you tell me how to remove the stitch width knob on the top so I can take the top off for cleaning and oiling?

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    1. It is a typical RH thread, (lefty loosen)
      Grab it with your hand, with gloves on, or with channel locks. With channel locks you must use a buffer such as leather, or many layers of masking tape. If you scratch it you get to look at the scratches for the rest of your life so take care.

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  27. Do you know if the select-o-matic has a walking foot you can use with it?

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    1. There are a few of those walking foot gizmos and with enough fiddling around you can get them working OK.
      I think your main concern is if the walking foot is made for a low or high shank foot.
      Just plan on an hour of practice so that you are sure its doing what you expect of it.
      What specifically are you using it on?

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  28. For quilting. Also would you know how to find out the date the machine was made?

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    1. The feed dogs do top for Quilting
      These are 1950's machines, they are hard to pin point the year, one way is to look at magazine adds.

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