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Thread: Differences between the Singer 500 and the Singer 503 machines

  1. #1
    Power Poster miriam's Avatar
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    I am posting a few pictures of the Singer 500 and the Singer 503. Please note: The differences between these two will be the same differences between the Singer 401 and the Singer 403. This why I like the 403 and the 503 better - always check with your manual to make sure you are setting knobs, levers and disks the right way. I suggest looking at http://blog.sew-classic.com/2008/10/...ne-review.aspx Jenny has a link for a manual. I would print it out so you can feel free to scribble to your heart's content. She also has a chart for the disks vs the knobs on the 401/500 - Thank you Jenny!!!

    in my hot little hand is the cam stack off a Singer 401 - same as a 500 There are 'readers' that slide up and down on 2 little shafts to 'read' how to make the stitches. It is small but heavy.
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    The Guts!!! Singer 500 on left and Singer 503 on right
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    Singer 503 or 403: To make a decorative stitch or zig zag put a disk on and set the lever for any width you like. There are 'readers' in a set position to 'read' the disk as it goes around - make sure you do it right so you don't break or bend a needle
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    Singer 401 or 500 you simply use the stitch selector knobs and choose a combination - then you set the lever to 2, 3 or 4 to get different stitches
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    For the Singer 503 or 403, put a disk in following manual directions - then the width can be set but it can also be set left or right of center if you use small width
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    knobs are set. Lever can be set for 2, 3 or 4 each will make a different stitch. There is no width control without a disk.
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    Last edited by QuiltnNan; 12-14-2017 at 08:45 AM. Reason: shouting

  2. #2
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    wow! thanks...I just acquired a 503 with all the disks...haven't read the manual yet, to figure out how touse it, but my grandma made all kinds of great stitches, so I know it's in there...I just have to figure out how to use it.

  3. #3
    Super Member Candace's Avatar
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    Thanks for the very informative post! I wonder why the Singer didn't make the 401 and 500's with the ability to change stitch width??

  4. #4
    Power Poster miriam's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Candace
    Thanks for the very informative post! I wonder why the Singer didn't make the 401 and 500's with the ability to change stitch width??
    You can change the stitch widths on the 401 and 500 when you are using a disk but not the needle setting. If you are using the cam stack the width lever determines the stitch setting in combination with the knobs on the 401 & 500.

    The 403 and 503 can change widths since they only use the disks/cams but if you use a narrow setting you can put the stitches on the right, the center or the left. The 500 and the 401 do not have that option.

    My sister and I were piecing some denim for some skirts we were making out of jeans using the decorative stitches. One of us had a 401 and the other had a 403. We both decided we liked the 403 better at that time. The 401 does have the advantage of not using disks if you are prone to losing things.

  5. #5
    Super Member Candace's Avatar
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    Oh, I see... so really the only time you can change the width on the 401 or 500 is when you're using a cam that you put into the machine, not a built in one. Interesting. Just out of curiosity, do you know how many cams are available for these? Or is there a list somewhere on the net that has pictures of the cams made and pics of the corresponding stitches they do? Since the 401 and 500 do like 22 stitches, I imagine there has to be at least another 10-20 available as cams?

  6. #6
    Power Poster miriam's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Candace
    Oh, I see... so really the only time you can change the width on the 401 or 500 is when you're using a cam that you put into the machine, not a built in one. Interesting. Just out of curiosity, do you know how many cams are available for these? Or is there a list somewhere on the net that has pictures of the cams made and pics of the corresponding stitches they do? Since the 401 and 500 do like 22 stitches, I imagine there has to be at least another 10-20 available as cams?
    I think there are 22 cams available. Sew Classic has a chart in the above link I posted that shows what cam equals what setting on the machine - it is a little thing on her site you have to hit and you can print it out. Some of the stitch settings just repeat no matter what combination you go for on the dials of the 401 and 500.

  7. #7
    Super Member Candace's Avatar
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    If I'm reading her chart correctly there would still be 10 discs you'd need to buy to be able to do All the stitch outs available for the 401 and 500's?
    Last edited by QuiltnNan; 12-14-2017 at 08:46 AM. Reason: shouting

  8. #8
    Power Poster miriam's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Candace
    If I'm reading her chart correctly there would still be 10 discs you'd need to buy to be able to do All the stitch outs available for the 401 and 500's?
    I believe you are right and they still do not have needle setting L C R
    Last edited by QuiltnNan; 12-14-2017 at 08:46 AM.

  9. #9
    Senior Member Numa's Avatar
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    Love my 503. She's a workhorse and sews beautiful. Love to piece with her. That straight stitch needle hole plate is great.

  10. #10
    Super Member Candace's Avatar
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    I wonder why 401's are up for sale very frequently and I don't see 403's? Maybe many less were sold?

  11. #11
    Power Poster miriam's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Candace
    I wonder why 401's are up for sale very frequently and I don't see 403's? Maybe many less were sold?
    Maybe people just don't let those go - I have a 403 that I will never sell. I'll sell a 401 first. I have a complete set of disks for the 403. You may be right maybe there were less made. It would be interesting to know. The 401s are very fascinating though with being able to change the stitches at the flick of a knob. I just find it kind of confusing to have to know not only the 2 knob letter combos but the lever number too to repeat the stitch at will. With the 403 I just stick in the disk and that is what design I get every time.

  12. #12
    Super Member thepolyparrot's Avatar
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    The 401 is my sentimental favorite, but I like sewing with the 403's and 503's better, too.

    The look at the guts shows the main reason - the 403 and 503 aren't as easily gunked up and frozen as the "top of the line" models. :)

  13. #13
    Power Poster miriam's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by thepolyparrot
    The 401 is my sentimental favorite, but I like sewing with the 403's and 503's better, too.

    The look at the guts shows the main reason - the 403 and 503 aren't as easily gunked up and frozen as the "top of the line" models. :)
    You are right the 403 and the 503 don't gunk and freeze - not at the stitch selector since they don't have one.

  14. #14
    Power Poster miriam's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by miriam View Post
    You are right the 403 and the 503 don't gunk and freeze - not at the stitch selector since they don't have one.
    And now I have to eat those words too. I have a 503 I was going to show someone. While I was waiting for the lady to show up I thought I would make up a swatch. So I was sewing merrily away and the thing would quit after a few stitches. New swatch. It did it again. And again. so I took the lid off. Inside was probably dried 3 in 1 oil. There is a pin like thing the needle bar goes back and forth on - it was gunked up and then if you follow that to the rectangle thing and look under it where it goes under the cam (way at the bottom) - that pin thing was gunked up too. Anyway a bit of clean up especially in that area and she runs slick as ever. Nothing like an embarrassing moment is there?
    Never let a sewing machine know you are in a hurry.

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    Super Member KatFish's Avatar
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    Thanks for the information. I have both the 500 and 503 and I like the 503 much better.

  16. #16
    Power Poster miriam's Avatar
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    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zFE4I..._order&list=UL - real nice video on oiling a Singer 500 it will apply to the 503, the 401 and 403 as well
    Never let a sewing machine know you are in a hurry.

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    Thanks Miriam this blog , you wrote helped me sell a 503. Thanks again. Great information.

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    I just today bought a 503 complete with 19 of the available discs and many extra accessories. It's going to take me a month of Sundays to read through and familiarize with this beautiful new baby!

  19. #19
    Power Poster miriam's Avatar
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    Actually those are pretty easy to use
    Never let a sewing machine know you are in a hurry.

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    Thank you, Miriam - appreciate that 'vote of confidence'. I'm looking forward to sitting down with her today and just familiarize myself with all she has to offer!!
    Quote Originally Posted by miriam View Post
    Actually those are pretty easy to use

  21. #21
    Super Member thepolyparrot's Avatar
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    I just gave away my best 503 recently, with a big Copenhaven cabinet full of all the attachments and doo-dads. It was so much fun to get it working again and to hand it off to a young woman who wants to sew. There's nothing like these old gals for toughing through a newbie seamstress. You're going to have a wonderful time with it and you don't have to worry about breaking it!

    Remember to keep the race clean, clean, clean - that's the only real vulnerability I've found in the 400/500/600 machines - a little tiny blob of lint can really foul things up. Have fun and make beautiful things!

  22. #22
    Power Poster miriam's Avatar
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    I picked up a 401 yesterday - it was on the back porch - argh - the stitch selector is frozen solid. It was the girl's grandma's machine. I asked the girl if she would rather I restored it for her and taught her to sew. She said she didn't have time to mess with an old piece of junk. I told her these were the best machines Singer ever made. It is junk now but I can make it work. Now I have to hope it does. She decided she had more memories with Grandma's record player. sigh.
    Never let a sewing machine know you are in a hurry.

  23. #23
    Super Member SteveH's Avatar
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    Hey folks, ignorant guy here looking to become aware...

    I get that the 403 and 503 are better than the respective 401 and 500, but what are the primary differences between the 403 and the 503?

  24. #24
    Super Member ArchaicArcane's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by SteveH View Post
    Hey folks, ignorant guy here looking to become aware...

    I get that the 403 and 503 are better than the respective 401 and 500, but what are the primary differences between the 403 and the 503?
    Looks. That's about it.

    The presser foot tension is in a different spot, the styling is a little more "futuristic" hence the "rocketeer" nickname,... color.

    Interesting to note is that some of the German made machines (411G =401 with benefits, was there a 403/503 equivalent?) seem like a bridge in the styling. Colors are more like a 400 series,... but not two tone, and a little blockier than a 500 series, but less blocky than the other 400 series machines.
    Last edited by ArchaicArcane; 01-16-2013 at 10:07 AM.

  25. #25
    Power Poster miriam's Avatar
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    The differences are in the threads - read above...

    Mainly the 401 and 500 have a cam stack the 403 and 503 do not. The 401 and 500 can be set to do the same stitches you can do with the 403 or the 503. When the 500 and 401 are set to do the stitches the width is set. The 403 and 503 have width control and you can set the needle left right or center when you use the cams. You can do all that on a 401 or a 500 if you use the cams so what advantage is there to have a 401 or a 500 other than you don't have to have all the cams? The biggest disadvantage to the 401 and 500 is the controls tend to gum up. If you get them ungummed then they have to have lots of TLC or they don't want to move. Those machines like attention. The 403 and 503 seem to be ready to go all the time. I guess I like simpler. I can also predict what stitch my 403 and 503 will make - the 401 and 500 not so much. You can set the dial at E and Q but if you put the lever at 2, 3 or 4 each position will give you some mutation and you would have to make a note so you can find it again. There really aren't all that many real combinations because they tend to repeat somehow. It is fun to play with the stitch selector on the 401 and 500 - gotta admit. But for dependable I like my 403.
    Never let a sewing machine know you are in a hurry.

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