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Thread: Semper Designer mystery machine

  1. #1
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    Semper Designer mystery machine

    Greetings, all!! I'm really quite the noob, but with a sense of humor, so feel free to pick away. On a trip to the antique shop yesterday looking for machines with which to tinker, I came upon a nondescript black and grey box on the floor. Opening it revealed the mystery at hand. I'm sorry, I can't seem to get a photo to upload, but it calls itself Semper Designer. I'll describe it best I can. It is green. Olive green. Very Olive green. The pedestal and arm are squarish, reminding me of perhaps late fifties or sixties. The head cover is polished chrome, I'd say shaped like a singer 15. It has a big, blocky, bright chrome stitch width and position control assembly on the arm. A veritcal stitch regulator is on the pedestal. It has a knob on the base to retract the dogs. The handwheel is chrome-rimmed, with a bobbin winder mounted so as to remind me of a singer 127. It has a motor
    mounted with a bracket on a boss below the handwheel on the pedestal. The only data plate is on the motor. It is English and says Necchi type 211. There are no other data plates to be found. On top of the arm is a decal "Semper designer". It looks to have been overcoated with a yellowish sealer of some sort. The machine is as heavy as it is green, 47pounds! It runs more smoothly and quietly than any I've seen before, and for twenty dollars, how could I not? I have searched every which way I can think of, and I cannot find a shred of information on this pretty thing. Anybody ever even heard of it? I would dearly love to know more about it.

    Sorry for the terrible verbosity. Thanks for reading!!

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    Sew a Little, Love a Lot & Live like you were dying!

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    The handwheel, belt shroud, and chrome footplate look almost, if not, identical. The regulator and bobbin winder look very similar. The color of mine is a bit more vivid. I really wish I could get a photo to upload. It's probably this blasted Android device that I should never have bought. I wonder if it might be some private-labeled Necchi.

  4. #4
    Member Treadle&Gears's Avatar
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    Necchi did make private label (badged) machines, but I have not heard of this particular one. Necchi machines are exceptionally engineered, and have very close tolerances. It will be important to keep your machine oiled regularly. They are the Italian Sports Car of sewing machines (here is mine: https://www.quiltingboard.com/vintag...a-t295306.html)

    Photos have to be really small to upload. There are instructions on the board here: https://www.quiltingboard.com/qb-hel...s-t168819.html
    Household Model 3X | Jones Family CS Hand | The Free No. 5 | Foley & Williams Reliable | Wheeler & Wilson 8 | Singer 66-1 | Singer 99K | Necchi NA Nora | Grumpy DH

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    Name:  IMG_20190113_122651664~2.jpg
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Size:  1.67 MB
    Ok. Let's see if it posts.

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    Name:  IMG_20190113_144455963~2.jpg
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Size:  1.14 MB

    Here is another shot. I learned how to crop images. Woohoo!

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    Name:  IMG_20190113_144440416~2.jpg
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    And one more just for grins.

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    Treadle&gears, I just reviewed the photos of your (very pretty) Nora. The data plate on your motor looks identical to mine, for what that's worth.

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    Semper is a fitting name for a machine that lasts that long!

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    That is a beautiful machine.
    Sew a Little, Love a Lot & Live like you were dying!

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    Thanks, Barb. I've seen some machines that rolled through smoothly, but this, turning it through feels like pulling my hand through softened butter. I looked through some images of BF and BU Nova machines, and although this clearly isn't either of those, it does bear complelling resemblance to parts of them both. I really am anxious to see my daughter put thread and cloth to it.

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    The closest I came were an Alternburg and a Köhler model. The stitch length lever on yours is very close to German machines from 30s to 50s. It needs more research.



    Last edited by Mickey2; 01-13-2019 at 04:06 PM.

  13. #13
    Member Treadle&Gears's Avatar
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    That is a nice-looking machine! It’s not a Necchi, but I won’t discount it may be Italian. Viscontea used that green a lot. The plain chrome faceplate and the flywheel/bobbin winder are spot on some models of their Visnova. Vigorelli is another Italian mfg that loved the vivid green machine. The Vigorelli zz has a chrome plate with two Bakelite teardrop knobs. They both have very squared models that are similar, but none of their machines I’ve seen are an exact match, though. I can’t find anything with a plate on the arm that looks like yours, either.


    Is there anything on the underside of the machine? Also check the foot controller.

    Sorry, don’t know why the font got so big. Tried to shrink it but it won’t.
    Household Model 3X | Jones Family CS Hand | The Free No. 5 | Foley & Williams Reliable | Wheeler & Wilson 8 | Singer 66-1 | Singer 99K | Necchi NA Nora | Grumpy DH

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    And so the plot thickens. The one tiny shred of reference I found was what looks like an ad. There was no image, but the seller described their "total mystery" as a Semper Designer, speculating it may have been a Viscontea rebadged for a department store in Belgium or Holland. Intriguing ...

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    Treadle&gears, I saw something about Viscontea shutting down around 1952. If this thing is rebadged for a retailer, is it possible Necchi took up a production contract? Certain bits look to resemble the Necchi than the Visnova. Please don't take me as argumentative. I've come here to seek those who know more than me. The only marking on it is the number 2529 (I think) stamped on a boss under the operator's side of the plate. I don't know if it's any clue, but I did find interesting the drive from the upper shaft to the hook shaft below. It is two textile strips linked by wire links forming a toothed belt. Then the hook shaft terminates in an enclosed 90 degree gear below the bobbin housing. Looks very nicely built.

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    For $20, I'd be tempted on that one!

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    Name:  Vigorelli front b.jpg
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Size:  367.2 KB My Vigorelli is green, too
    "Sacrifices must be made." Otto Lilienthal

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    This is getting interesting. There is so much resemblance to the Visnova, but in the few "underhood" photos I've seen, the hook/shaft/drive configuration looks so different from what I have in front of me. And then there is the nagging part about the Sewing Circle motor. I suppose the importer could have also imported rebadged Visnovas perhaps. I'd say its been worth the twenty dollars just for the mystery of it!

  19. #19
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    This is definitely a fine mystery! It's not arguing, it's lively, welcome discussion. I often learn new things or find better rabbit holes from it.

    First, do you have a picture of the mechanisms you described in the post ahead of leonf's?

    If Necchi took over a mfg contract, they would have had to build in the Viscontea factory as well, I think. Otherwise they would have to move the tooling, and have the physical space and production capacity to do that. The machines would look like Necchis and be engineered like them if they switched to their own facilities.

    Sewing Circle had a chain of stores similar to Singer's. They originally imported Necchis and added the US current-correct motors to them. Later, Swiss-made Elna machines (also often green!) were made available their network of shops. Part of what sunk them was an over- ambitious plan to sell their own private label, Japanese-made budget Nelco machines. The other suppliers took umbrage and sued over design and trade name issues, and it kind of fell apart from there. I read once that the motors were available from the stores, and could be fitted to other machines by their service department. Also, Sewing Circle was the US distributor. It was less expensive to fit the US motors here than there.

    There are some similar plain-faced, squarish Necchis (BF & BU). My recollection, though, is that the pillars are narrower and the guage slider is more centered.

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    Name:  IMG_20190114_134153130~2.jpg
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    And now for a bit of underhood photography..

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    Name:  IMG_20190114_134142721~2.jpg
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    The hook and bobbin assembly and gearcase.

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    Name:  IMG_20190114_134209080~2.jpg
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    And a bit of a wider view.

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    Yesterday I set out to the thrift stores hoping to find a foot pedal from just about anything that I could use with this machine, as the old carbon pile pedal had stopped doing anything except off and full steam. The lady at Salvation Army brought out two old machine that were "tore up". One was a Brother that contained almost as much metal as a library card, but had an electronic foot pedal. The other was a rather pretty Singer 201 with the geared motor. I bought both for $10.00!! Returning home, I wired the Brother pedal to the original outlet setup on the Semper (travesty, I know) and it worked brilliantly. It has superb range and control. I turned the thing over to my eldest, who, not wanting to go out to the shop in the cold, produced a spool of my grandmother's old thread, deteriorated so that we were barely able to thread the thing. She wound the bobbin, threaded up, and laid in a doubled over piece of what looked like light sack cloth. Even with that old thread, the thing sewed the nicest, prettiest straight stitch, and left my daughter positively beaming.

    Thanks to all for all the help trying to identify this gem. If anyone has any further thoughts, I'd love to hear them!!

  24. #24
    Super Member leonf's Avatar
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    Great success story. thanks for sharing all you have.
    "Sacrifices must be made." Otto Lilienthal

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    Here's an issue I've ecountered, though. I'm trying to learn the craft of seeing machine repair. I've rather a collection of machines here to work on, but after fiddling with this machine and several antique singers we've acquired (28s, 128s, a 201 etc), now I don't want to play with the newer, lighter machines! They just simply don't feel so nice rolling through!

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