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Some newbie questions about vintage Singer machines

Some newbie questions about vintage Singer machines

Old 08-18-2021, 07:52 AM
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Originally Posted by bkay View Post
Most any of the old black Singers would do well for you, as would some early Japanese machines. Maybe I'm a sucker for the 15-91 because I learned to sew on one, but it would be a great machine. It has a potted motor as does the 201-2. It's not quite as quiet as the 201-2, but has the advantage of an oscillating shuttle and the bobbin is vertical, which is really nice if you intend to do Free Motion quilting. It also has a 15 bobbin which is the most common bobbin and available everywhere.

The 201-2 (with the potted motor, built in the machine and no belt) is a wonderful machine. If it's in good condition, it's quieter than most new machines. It's lovely. As Janey mentioned, the 201 mostly came with a potted motor, but also came as a treadle or with a mounted motor and a belt. The 201-2 is referred to as the Cadillac of old Singers.

The potted motors are said to be the strongest motors, as they are direct drive as opposed to the belted motor. I've never looked for a replacement motor, as I've not seen a potted motor that needed replacing. However, Joe is probably right about replacing or repairing a potted motor.

You asked about the dashes If I am understanding you correctly, you are asking about the dashes that are followed by a second set of numbers. The number after the dash represents a difference in that machine. As an example, Singer made the model 15 machine from before 1900 to 1953. As they made improvements, they put a different number after the dash. It might just represent that that particular model of a 15 now has a reverse lever.

So a 15-30 is a model 15 treadle sewing machine. The 15-86 is also a treadle machine, but was made much later. The 15-90 has an external motor and the 15-91 has a potted (direct drive) motor. Over the years, the 15 was made as a treadle, direct drive, external drive and as a hand crank.

I would not buy a machine knowing it needed work or was missing parts. There are too many good ones out there to take a chance on something you can't fix. I bought a pristine 15-91 in a really nice small cabinet (too bad it was mahogany) for $47.00 + 15% buyers premium and sales tax about a month ago. It came with the buttonholer and the box of attachments. It was an online estate sale auction. It runs like a dream - just oiling needed. I've always found the best buys, both price and condition wise, at estate sales.

As Janey said, try to get one in a cabinet. It makes sewing much easier.

bkay
Thanks so much! I definitely want a made in the USA machine, so I'll probably stick with Singer. I'm torn between a potted motor and a belt driven motor.

The dash question was referring to machines that have the model number and just a dash. So for example I have seen quite a few 201 machines that read "201-" on the model tag. Just a dash, no other number
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Old 08-19-2021, 09:21 AM
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FWIW, the "greatest sewing machine ever made" competition, late '40s early 50s, in the UK, declared a tie between the 201 external motor, and a Necchi model. Singer, of course, painted with a broad brush, and in its advertising of the day, declared the 201-2 (potted) was the winner.

​​​​​​I have not yet finished refurbing my 201-2, but I have used a 15-91 potted, and a 15-x (not a -90) external motor, and much prefer the 15-external (RAF decals, 1936). The RAF walks through thick layers easily, and never balks. It was a well used machine, "broken in," as it were.

I have also found it much more likely to find a 15 with good wiring than a 201, but I live in an area where 201s are much less common. I believe 15-s were made much later than 201s, (tho other than the 15-75 and 15-125, I do not know end date of production on the 15-91.)

I have two 66- with back tack, and found they seem to have a vibration at higher speeds. The 99s I have are very sweet to sew with.
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Old 09-23-2021, 03:28 PM
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Originally Posted by comma View Post
Thanks so much! I definitely want a made in the USA machine, so I'll probably stick with Singer. I'm torn between a potted motor and a belt driven motor.

The dash question was referring to machines that have the model number and just a dash. So for example I have seen quite a few 201 machines that read "201-" on the model tag. Just a dash, no other number
I'm pretty sure the 201- denotes the K models made in Kilbowie.

I prefer the direct drive potted motors for simplicity. It's one more thing to service daily, but at least you don't have to track down belts. A good belt will last a long long time, but most of the ones you'll find in shops are utter crap. And I hate ordering online... Both are great. Belted motors are far easier to swap, and deal with wiring issues. Potted motors need to be lubed semi-annually to annually, and worm gear greased before each use.... Belts provide a bit of give to the drive train on the machine if you slam that needle into fabric that's too thick or hit a pin, where as gear drive is going to take the entire shock load through the drivetrain and keep pushing. It's a lot harder on the gears when you make an oopsie. Gear drive gives a bit more consistent power, but really you're splitting hairs at this point.

As for "which machine", you can't really go wrong with any of them to learn on. But if you're sewing denim or canvas almost exclusively, I'd steer toward the Singer 15. The 66 would be my second choice of the 4. The 99 is also a good one, but being a 3/4 machine, it's going to be lacking in harp space for larger projects that comes to mind when I hear "denim and canvas." The 201 has plenty of power for denim, but it's more suited to light and medium weight fabrics. You don't want to hear that "thumping" you hear in the YouTube videos of "201-2 sews leather!" That thumping is sending a shock load through the drive gears. It needs to glide through the fabric, or you're abusing the machine. 201s are unique in that their drive shafts are fitted to the machine at the factory. You tweak those shafts or wallow out those bearings and the machine will never be right again. Those parts can't be swapped out if you trash it. It's a stout machine no doubt, but be aware that they are engineered with crazy tight tolerances to make them operate properly.

Last edited by Victoria Quinn; 09-23-2021 at 03:45 PM.
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Old 09-23-2021, 04:15 PM
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Originally Posted by WIChix View Post
I have also found it much more likely to find a 15 with good wiring than a 201, but I live in an area where 201s are much less common. I believe 15-s were made much later than 201s, (tho other than the 15-75 and 15-125, I do not know end date of production on the 15-91.)

I have two 66- with back tack, and found they seem to have a vibration at higher speeds. The 99s I have are very sweet to sew with.
Truer words were never spoken. The 201s have the worst roached out wiring you're ever going to see. I think its because they aren't as pretty as the rest of the Singer machines. Its fairly plain, and often owned by a serious seamstress that passed and the kids wanted nothing to do with sewing in 70s, 80s etc... who put it in a leaky attic or garage for 30 years and just recently realized that they were worth a bit of money. The 15s are owned by quilters and homemakers that used it daily, and the kids that inherited them used them as "home decor" because they're sexy machines. Then they sell them when they want to redecorate.

I found that all the oscillating hook machines vibrate pretty good after 700 spm. Those 15s clatter like crazy too, and have a noticeable dwell in their feed. That's where I like the rotary hooks. They feed and stitch quite a bit smoother.
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Old 09-23-2021, 06:07 PM
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Originally Posted by Victoria Quinn View Post
I'm pretty sure the 201- denotes the K models made in Kilbowie....
If it was made in Kilbowie, it would have a K after the 201 as seen at https://www.adverts.ie/other-antique...achine/2498366 The use of the K or the hyphen can be found at https://www.sil.si.edu/DigitalCollec...ges/image3.htm for Kilbowie and https://www.sil.si.edu/DigitalCollec...es/image11.htm for the Elizabethport plant. Granted these catalogues are prior to the 201 being made.

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Old 09-24-2021, 04:40 AM
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Originally Posted by OurWorkbench View Post
If it was made in Kilbowie, it would have a K after the 201 as seen at https://www.adverts.ie/other-antique...achine/2498366 The use of the K or the hyphen can be found at https://www.sil.si.edu/DigitalCollec...ges/image3.htm for Kilbowie and https://www.sil.si.edu/DigitalCollec...es/image11.htm for the Elizabethport plant. Granted these catalogues are prior to the 201 being made.

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I have seen the 201K on the 60s style aluminum models, but never on the cast iron machines. However, I had seen the occasional "201-", and usually on a cast iron 201 with belt drive machine common to Canada and Europe. which lead to my conclusion that it must be a foreign model designation.

Last edited by Victoria Quinn; 09-24-2021 at 04:42 AM.
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Old 09-24-2021, 04:47 AM
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I don't think the 201- means anything in particular. I just bought a 15-91 that was labeled 15-.

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Old 09-24-2021, 07:34 AM
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AND, it had a sticker in the cabinet indicating it was purchased locally.
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