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Thread: Bel Air Imperial Sewing Machine - 1952

  1. #1
    Senior Member DawnFurlong's Avatar
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    Bel Air Imperial Sewing Machine - 1952

    Does anyone know about this machine? At first I thought it was a Class 15 clone - but the bobbin is horizontal (no case, just drops in). I found it at this small antique shop that is 5 minutes from my house (didn't even realize this place was there!). I had forgotten my phone, so couldn't snap pictures. It is a belted machine. I found this picture online, which is what the machine looks like (except it has a gold oval under the stitch size selector - which indicates it was made in Los Angeles. It was made in 1952.

    Feet, set up, it looks like a singer. I found this picture online, which is what it looked (except it had the gold oval I mentioned above).

    I am going to take another look after work.

    TIA. :-)


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    Last edited by DawnFurlong; 02-06-2012 at 11:46 AM.

  2. #2
    Senior Member DawnFurlong's Avatar
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    Bel Air 600 - picture heavy

    Well - went back and ended up buying her! It is actually a Bel Air 600 model. I think it is like a Singer 99. It is a belted machine. Actually the plate on it indicates it was made in occupied Japan - which intrigued me more than anything! It came with a bunch of feet, extra bobbins, and the original manual. It is in a cabinet, which I think will be very nice refinished.

    She actually works, but will need a bit of work. The spool pin is missing. I think that if I intend to keep her electric, then I would definitely replace the power and foot pedal cords (and I would replace the light). And she will need a bit of cleaning up, some oil/grease - and I am sure someone to fine-tune her tension (probably replace the tension disk assembly).

    I have attached pictures.

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    Last edited by DawnFurlong; 02-06-2012 at 05:11 PM.

  3. #3
    Super Member Charlee's Avatar
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    Nice!! With the curved faceplate, it looks like a 66! First one I've heard of actually marked "Occupied Japan"...that's way cool!
    Pretty decals too.... you did good!
    One day, you'll only be a memory for some people. Do your best to be a good one.

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  4. #4
    Power Poster miriam's Avatar
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    Is it 3/4 size? or full size? Belaire was branded machine - I've seen one like it called Wizard. The Belaire name and Wizard name also were used in Japanese 15 or clones of all body styles. This is not a 15 clone - looks more like a Singer 66 unless it is 3/4 size. But then the 66 is just like the 99 only bigger. Looks like a gentle cleaning will get that one up and running - be a great machine.

  5. #5
    Senior Member Bennett's Avatar
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    That's interesting with the "occupied Japan" label. At least it narrows the date range of when it could be made down to sometime between 1945-1952.

    The bed decals make me think of a quilting design.
    I have a screw driver and YouTube--I can fix it!

  6. #6
    Senior Member DawnFurlong's Avatar
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    Oh thank you for the encouragement! It was a total impulse buy. I got home and did some gentle scrubbing on the face plate and the round circular plate where the light attaches (very light rust or maybe just oxidation...lots of little dots - but they clean off with a little elbow grease and baking soda - love baking soda and vinegar for various cleaning jobs!). And then I stood back looking at it wondering - what do I do with it now?!!! And felt overwhelmed and again wondered - why again did I buy this?

    I did a quick measurement of the bed (it is down in the cabinet right now). About 8 to 8.5 inches. So am now thinking a 66 clone?

    I managed to snap off the bobbin cover. :-( It was hinged, was just fine - until I forgot to close it when I decided to put the machine back down in the cabinet. Can I replace that? I can't even tell how it was hinged on.

    Today - I decided that I will pull Bennett's cleaning tutorial (thank you Bennett!). But I do have a quick question. I see many posts that mention soaking pieces in an oil bath. What kind of oil? I can see some rust or corrosion on the bobbin winder (though the bobbin tire looks relatively new, as does the belt). I also want to disassemble the tension disk thing at some point (will take a picture of every step so I can get it back together). I think I will just study these various video/picture tutorials on cleaning this up. And keep reminding myself - if you ladies can do this - surely I can learn to do this! I'll also remember I am not in a race - so can take my time so I don't get too overwhelmed.

    At this same shop another machine caught my eye. It is a British Sewing Machine, hand crank. Actually in nice shape (should have snapped some pictures). Missing one of the bobbin slide plates (has the plates like a 27/127 - those rectangular ones). It is a vibrating shuttle machine - and it has the shuttle in it and a bobbin (very shiny shuttle - like a silver bullet!). I have already decided that I don't know that I want to sew on a hand crank (I actually want to use all the machines I buy ). But she is so pretty and I like the sound she made when I turned the crank. $39 for her. I'll probably check back periodically and see if she is still there. Oh, she is still in a base, that is in pretty good condition as compared to most bases I see with a Bentwood (or coffin??) top. That rounded wood top that is in the shape of a mailbox. That was in excellent condition. And I am thinking - this is madness - I have to stop looking! I cannot house this many sewing machines!! But you know, if I offered $20 or $25 for her and they said yes - she'd probably come home with me. At least I could hide her in my closet until I get my husband on board with collecting vsm's!

  7. #7
    Power Poster miriam's Avatar
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    "Today - I decided that I will pull Bennett's cleaning tutorial (thank you Bennett!). But I do have a quick question. I see many posts that mention soaking pieces in an oil bath. What kind of oil? I can see some rust or corrosion on the bobbin winder (though the bobbin tire looks relatively new, as does the belt). I also want to disassemble the tension disk thing at some point (will take a picture of every step so I can get it back together). I think I will just study these various video/picture tutorials on cleaning this up. And keep reminding myself - if you ladies can do this - surely I can learn to do this! I'll also remember I am not in a race - so can take my time so I don't get too overwhelmed."

    You are right this is not a contest or a race. We will answer any questions you might have.
    Yes there is a post on here about soaking your machine in kerosene - I highly doubt if they do that at a shop. I think maybe you need to dis-assemble a machine if you want to pay someone to repaint it, then re-assemble it for you. Most machines just do NOT need that much to make them work again. Removing too much oil patina will loose the protective coat and could cause it to rust. Some dried on oil is ok. Dried on oil in the moving parts is not ok. It is pretty easy to fix though. There is plenty of good information on QB other wise. Here's one I cleaned up minimally. It went from frozen to working without harsh chemicals. http://www.quiltingboard.com/vintage...r-t169127.html My helper was pregnant so we just oiled it with Triflow. I think heat and regular sewing machine oil would do the same.

  8. #8
    Super Member chris_quilts's Avatar
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    I have a Bel Air also that was made in Occupied Japan. I do not believe mine has the Los Angeles badge part but I could also be mistaken. She sews beautifully and cleaned up nicely. Someone on the VSMS thought she might be a White clone because of the tension assembly placement and the bobbin is horizontal and not vertical like a Singer 15. I will post pics if I can find one.

    FYI: I'll post pics later when I get home from work. I appear not to have any on this computer.
    Last edited by chris_quilts; 02-07-2012 at 06:13 AM.
    I meant to behave......but there were too many other options

  9. #9
    Power Poster Jingle's Avatar
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    Being made in Occupied Japan should make it worth more than ones not made then. I have a boy and girl statues made in Occupied Japen and they were worth 45.00 years ago, probably sold for 1.00 or less at the time.

    Your machine looks great and I would not be sorry for buying it.
    Another Phyllis
    This life is the only one you get - enjoy it before you lose it.

  10. #10
    Senior Member DawnFurlong's Avatar
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    Oh Miriam - love that turquoise-blue!!! So pretty!

    Chris - would love to see pictures of yours.

    I am relieved to think it might not be such a task to clean up. I am thinking - I can do this! I can get the parts I need from Sew Classic - love that site!! Really, the machine seems to be in pretty good shape, feeling a bit more excited today about taking apart sections to clean. Will be buying some kerosene!!

    Jingle - sadly, it doesn't seem to be the case that this machine would be worth more due to the Occupied in Japan label. I found this interesting little blog yesterday (it is very hard to find info on these machines!!). http://sewing-machines.blogspot.com/...s-and-60s.html

    If what this gentleman says is true, there isn't much interest in these machines. There seem to be a lot of "orphans" out there with very little info. While I have the original manual to this machine (it is falling apart, so I am going to scan it into a PDF and then I think laminate the pages) - it is a very generic manual. It does not even reference how to thread the machine!!! But I am thinking that is because it is basically a Singer clone - and those instructions are easy enough to find. But I thought it was very cool with that stamped on the plate on the front!!

  11. #11
    Super Member Charlee's Avatar
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    Dawn, it's the one word "Occupied" that makes the machine worth a bit more... the guy is right, "Made in Japan" isn't much to crow about and certainly doesn't make them worth more....but "Occupied Japan" carries a bit more value in most collector's eyes.

    Now...go get that handcrank!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I'll bet it's a28K, and they're FUN to sew on! The slide plate is an easy replacement!
    One day, you'll only be a memory for some people. Do your best to be a good one.

    http://charleeturner.blogspot.com

  12. #12
    Senior Member DawnFurlong's Avatar
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    Thanks Charlee! Hand-crank machine is floating around in the back of my mind. It was really a pretty machine. I was amazed that the shuttle looked like a polished, shiny silver bullet!

    Found a picture online - this was about what she looked like. I did like the way she sounded. Also, I was thinking I could keep her downstairs and do some piecing (without isolating myself from the family). She is not loud - so think I could do that and not interfere sound-wise with what others are doing. I think my husband is starting to feel like a quilt widow!

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    Thanks ,Miriam great help.

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    Super Member jljack's Avatar
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    What a lovely little machine. I like the decals a lot. These little Japanese 15 clones are just wonderful, and I think you will really enjoy it. I know I enjoy mine!

  15. #15
    Super Member chris_quilts's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DawnFurlong View Post
    Chris - would love to see pictures of yours.

    Jingle - sadly, it doesn't seem to be the case that this machine would be worth more due to the Occupied in Japan label. I found this interesting little blog yesterday (it is very hard to find info on these machines!!). http://sewing-machines.blogspot.com/...s-and-60s.html
    Dawn, I will post pictures later this afternoon or evening. "Made in Occupied Japan" does make the machine more valuable and more desirable for collectors. I have an antique dealer friend who looked at my machine and he did say it was the "Occupied Japan" words that made her valuable to collectors. he did say just made in Japan did not make it valuable and, in fact, might lower its resale value because they are so commonly found. He does not carry sewing machines, except parlour type cabinet ones but has done his research in this area. I do believe him to be truthful in this area as he had no horse in the race. _ Chris
    I meant to behave......but there were too many other options

  16. #16
    Super Member chris_quilts's Avatar
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    As promise, here are pictures of Hotaru (firefly). Her serial # is B517288. Have never found JA # or JC # b- perhaps before that badging began. The front badge is exactly the same as Dawn's. I paid $50 for her approximately 1 1/2 years ago. The top picture is the machine; the middle picture is her badge; and the bottom is her green faux crocodile covered case.
    Attached Images Attached Images


    I meant to behave......but there were too many other options

  17. #17
    Senior Member DawnFurlong's Avatar
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    Chris - she cleans up nice - pretty! Love the green crocodile case too! I'll have to start ordering the parts I need for her (power cord, foot controller cord - actually, think it could use a whole new foot pedal, new light and new tension assembly). And - I'll have to come up with a name. :-)

  18. #18
    Super Member chris_quilts's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DawnFurlong View Post
    Chris - she cleans up nice - pretty! Love the green crocodile case too! I'll have to start ordering the parts I need for her (power cord, foot controller cord - actually, think it could use a whole new foot pedal, new light and new tension assembly). And - I'll have to come up with a name. :-)
    For names, I just googled Japanese names and there are loads of sites with them. I did briefly consider Eri which means blessed prize but liked the quirkiness of Hotaru for firefly. My other Japanese machine that's upstairs is names Kazumi - harmonious beauty. There are a bunch of unisex namnes as well on the site I used so there's always that option. What is the serial # for your machine? Just curious if it is lower or higher than mine.
    I meant to behave......but there were too many other options

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    Your machine is just like the one I bought, also 600. My case is brown though. And serial number starts with 54. I was wondering, if you have a manual?
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  20. #20
    Super Member Rodney's Avatar
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    Peacefirst it's good to see you're doing the research trying to find answers on your own. You might find you get better results by posting your questions all in one thread though. It will be easier for you to track responses that way at the very least.
    The machine strongly resembles a Singer 201. A look at the underside will prove it one way or the other. Singer 201s had a fairly unique gear driven fully rotary hook assembly. If you don't see a gear drive then the underside is based on something else, most likely a 66. It will probably be a long while before you find an exact original manual. Singerco.com has manuals for 66s and 201s available as free downloads. The 201 manual is probably closest. It will at least show you how to thread the machine and how to adjust your tensions.
    Rodney
    "Neglect to oil the machine will shorten its life and cause you

    trouble and annoyance" Quote from Singer Model 99 Manual

  21. #21
    Senior Member Pat M.'s Avatar
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    Your power foot looks like my 1947 Kenmore foot.

  22. #22
    Senior Member sews's Avatar
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    Threading: The location of the last thread guide near the needle is usually a clear give away about right to left or left to right needle threading. I believe the 201 is quite unique in how it threads the needle.

    PS. Bel Air Bantam in my avatar :-)
    Sabine

  23. #23
    Super Member Rodney's Avatar
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    How do you like your Bantam? One has been on my want list since I learned about them. They look like a good alternative to a Featherweight to me.
    Rodney
    "Neglect to oil the machine will shorten its life and cause you

    trouble and annoyance" Quote from Singer Model 99 Manual

  24. #24
    Super Member SteveH's Avatar
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    I just posted pics of a rescued Bel Air Imperial here

  25. #25
    Senior Member sews's Avatar
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    Rodney, I responded to your question in the wrong Bel Air thread
    Sabine

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