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Old 10-10-2020, 03:47 PM
Join Date: Sep 2020
Posts: 30
Default My Singer 403A restoration project

I was working on sewing a backpack for myself and was getting close to done when I got the urge to buy an old SM. I've been using my 1985 Kenmore (bought new and seldom used).

I'd heard good things about old, “all-metal” machines on the backpacking forum I frequent. And I already have plans to make another backpack and later a tent. Maybe more gear (see username).

So, I did what I always do—research the heck out of a topic. I decided on a Singer since they’re easier to get parts and attachments for. And then on the 403A to get zigzag but not the metal cam stack of the 401A. And, personally, I don’t care for the looks of the 500 (sorry!) or its top lid.

Being impatient, I bought the first one I found—on eBay, in unknown condition, from a Goodwill store. It was cheap ($31 winning bid) and had a low shipping cost ($15—I don’t know how they do that).

When it arrived I discovered I hadn’t looked at the photos well enough. The outer two parts of the tension assembly were missing. And the main stud (name?) for that assembly was bent. Dang! So, I found a new tension assembly on eBay ($35—more than the SM!).

My inspection showed:

the “rust marks” on the bed were just dirt (after all, aluminum doesn’t rust)
the hand wheel would not turn, just wiggle a little bit
the thread plate lever wouldn’t move to “Up” or “Unlock”
the motor ran very roughly (after I properly plugged it in!) LINK
it came with zigzag needle plate and foot and one design cam: zigzag (yay!)

Having discovered AndyTube on YouTube in my pre-purchase research, I have followed along with his series on “Regina” a 403A he restored almost a year ago.

So, I’ve taken off a lot of parts!

I didn’t have a hair dryer so I bought one. I sprayed WD-40 on the stuck needle plate pin, let it soak overnight, and blasted it with the hair dryer. Success! It came loose. Same with the hand wheel “stop motion screw”. And the presser bar.


Also, I’ve taken the motor apart to gently sand the commutator (a new word for my vocabulary).

I also used the trick I read here (or at Victorian Sweat Shop) of using a couple drops of 30W motor oil on the motor’s top bearing. It’s better but I still suspect the bearing is a bit rough.

I took the motor out, laid the SM on its back, propped the motor up on some books, and reattached the wires. Then I put on the oil and ran the motor for 5 to 10 minutes.

My next step will be to pick up and use the stuff Andy recommends for cleaning, etc.

Krud Kutter Degreaser
Krud Kutter Must for Rust
Tri-flow Clear Synthetic Grease
little paint brushes (to put each of those on with)

I know Rocketeer here has gone though the Andy cleaning process and come out OK, so I figure I can do it too.

I’m surprised how much fun I’m having taking parts off! I’d take off more but don’t dare go beyond what AndyTube shows. (The needle position lever and the stitch width lever and ring would be nice to remove to get better access to clean the worm drive in that area.)

I plan to add more info as I continue to work on this restoration. Thanks for the help I’ve gotten here on the forum already.

Gearandsuch is offline