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SINGER sewing machine surprise

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    Posted 5 months ago

    (1465 items)

    Whether good or bad I don't really know but it was quite the surprise when (after moving to storage, mind you...) I finally actually opened the lid on this lovely old oak SINGER treadle style cabinet (pics 1 & 2) expecting a likewise antique machine to be within -- but that is *not* what I found as pics 3 & 4 show. (ooops...) Guessing (only) that the machine is maybe half the age of the cabinet, somebody did a nice job on the retrofit and the machine has enough extra levers and stuff to maybe suggest it is a much more fully-featured thing than the original would have been, thus a genuine "upgrade". Its patent numbers label is shown here along with the machine itself, but I didn't find any actual date or model/serial number for it anywhere I looked. The six drawers and tilt-open compartment between them still contain assorted machine parts, thread, bobbins, and sewing notions, including an instruction booklet for a "Model 99-24 Electric Sewing Machine" which is not at all what this machine is but looks much more like what I was expecting to find...even that probably wouldn't have been the original machine in this cabinet with its treadle pedal. (or, were the early electric machines also fitted with the treadles too??)

    OH, WELL -- I'm certain somebody here (hello, keramikos! <waving>) will likely speak up with more relevant detail of what I've got here so all of us can learn a little more...any way about it an interesting machine, maybe...??

    UPDATE WAY TOO pic has been exchanged for a new one today showing the serial number of this machine, NB980667.

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    1. keramikos, 5 months ago
      AnythingObscure, Well, well, well. Oh well. };-)

      No, that Singer model 403A was not originally installed in that Cabinet Table No. 5:

      If it was originally installed in any kind of furniture, it probably was in this decidedly less glamorous card table:

      How did I know it was a model 403A? Because, as with most later model Singers, the model number is plainly visible on a plate on the front of the machine. In this case, it's at the top of the stitch length regulator plate.

      The "A" suffix means that the machine was made at Singer's Anderson factory:

      You can see that they only made the model 403 for a rather short period of time (1958-1960).

      If you want to narrow it down further, you'll have to find the serial number, which is probably on a boss on the left-hand side of the underside of the machine:


      the serial number is located on the bottom just under the edge of the big lip on the left side.


      Its location is probably similar to the serial number on this model 301, an inch or two down from the corner:

      Everything you ever wanted to know about the Singer model 403, but was afraid to ask:

      Here's a manual for the model 403 from Singer:

      As to all those patents, I didn't feel like looking up all of them, so I contented myself with looking up the oldest (from 1946):

      And the newest of the non-design patents (the design patents all have a "D" prefix). Unfortunately, the LSD of that newest non-design patent is no longer readable, because the paper label has been damaged.

      However, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that one need only look at ten patents to find it.

      As it happens, four of those ten are sewing machine patents, all from 1960 (another hint as to the year your machine was made).

      Here are the two assigned to Singer:

      Singer Assigned Needle Positioning Devices For Sewing Machines Patent

      Singer Assigned Button Holding Presser-Foot Patent

      You can probably figure out which one pertains to your machine by looking in the manual.

      If you want to look at more patents, here is the interface:

      I feel a bit tired now.
    2. keramikos, 5 months ago
      Now that I'm less tired: I suspect that the answer to the question of which of the two Singer-assigned patents was the pertinent one: the Needle Positioning Devices patent.

      Right in the middle of the horizontal arm is a mechanism labeled "LEFT CENTER RIGHT," and on page 14 of the manual, that is described as the "NEEDLE POSITION SELECTOR."

      As to the cabinet, I don't know why the previous owner decided to put a 1958-1960 electric machine into a much older treadle cabinet, other than that this particular treadle cabinet was pretty much top of the line in its day and beautiful.

      Why was there a manual for a model 99 in one of the drawers? It's tempting to say because the machine head that previously inhabited that cabinet was a model 99, but the truth is that the model 99 is a three-quarter size model 66, so the machine bed would have been too small without the addition of something to fill the gap.

      Another possibility is that the previous machine head was a model 66, and the owner was using the model 99 manual as an operator guide. Mechanically, the model 66 and the model 99 are the same.

      Using the same logic for finding the oldest design patent that I did for the newest non-design patent, this should be it (issued 1957):
    3. keramikos, 5 months ago
      Here's a better picture of the boss with the serial number on the underside of a model 301 (you can actually read the serial number):
    4. keramikos, 5 months ago
      Based on a scrutiny of the patent label on that Singer 403A at the mivintagesewingmachines blog, I think this is the newest design patent, issued August 19, 1958:

      Here's a slightly friendlier copy for smart phones:
    5. keramikos, 5 months ago
      A'ight. I think I'm almost 'done' with this machine.

      Between AnythingObscure's clear photo of the (unfortunately damaged) patent label, and a number of less clear photos of other model 403 and 401 machines on the Internet, I think I've pieced together a complete listing of all 30 patents on the label of this particular machine. I'll be adding them to my collection of vintage sewing machine information.

      The one thing I'd still like to know is the actual serial number of this machine, so:

      AnythingObscure, the next time you are in the vicinity of your Singer model 403A machine, lift the sewing machine from the cabinet, and either take a picture of the entire undercarriage, or jot down the serial number, and add it to your post. Pretty please.

      The serial number should be near the edge on the left-hand side (see here the underside of a Singer 401A):

      It should be a six digit number, probably prefaced by alpha characters "NB."
    6. AnythingObscure AnythingObscure, 5 months ago
      WOW WOW WOW WOW WOW keramikos -- and THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU for all the time and effort you've obviously put into researching this Singer for me!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      I will most certainly get the further info you're asking for, I should be back to my storage locker sometime today, and frankly better open it back up and look before the thing gets completely buried in 'other stuff'...?!!!

      ...and yes, I do feel like somewhat of an idgit "not knowing" the model number when that's really what it is right there on the front <headdesk> and I did also see the numbers on its undercarriage, so they're *there*. I'll look closer at the stuff in the drawers too, just in case there's any other printed literature more relevant to this 403A. BLESS YOU once more keramikos, my dear friend who I've never met!! :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-)
    7. keramikos, 5 months ago
      AnythingObscure, You're welcome. :-)

      You know I was mostly just feeding my own obsessive need for information. };-)

      There is one more piece of information I'd like, that's the dimensions of the sewing machine head's bed. I have a hunch they're the same as the model 301 short bed, but I'd like confirmation, and maddeningly, no source on the Internet has provided them.
    8. AnythingObscure AnythingObscure, 5 months ago
      Will do keramikos -- stay tuned and you'll have that info forthwith!!
      :-) :-) :-) :-) :-)
    9. keramikos, 5 months ago
      It's probably worth noting the verbiage at the top of that patent label:

      "This sewing machine has exclusive features which are manufactured under issued and pending United States patents, including one or more of the following issued patents:"

      What I suspect it means is that all thirty patents don't specifically pertain to the Singer model 403, but rather the Singer 300/400/500 model family.

      Indeed, when you look at some of the design patents, they don't look like the model 403, but rather the model 301, or 401.

      Having said that, here are the USPTO patent listings (sorry, I realize the USPTO database is cumbersome, but it appears that not all of these patents are available in Google Patents, or some other more friendly format):
    10. keramikos, 5 months ago
      AnythingObscure, As it turns out, the dimensions of the Singer model 403 bed were hiding in plain sight all along:


      The Model 403 Sewing Machine

      Slant shank, gear driven, internal motor, internal light, zigzag with cams, reverse, bed is 16.5" wide x 7" deep.


      Who could have imagined that ISMACS would have that information, huh? };-)

      However, now I'm wondering whether that's accurate, because it doesn't quite make sense to me. Here are the bed dimensions of the model 403's ancestor, the 301:


      Length Short Bed: 3 1/4" + 13" = 16 1/4 inches (Fits Vintage Singer Sewing Cabinets & Tables that have approximately 16 3/8" x 7" opening)


      To me, it doesn't make sense to have made such a small change for no real discernible gain. Indeed, it seems like it would be a disadvantage.

      Why increase the dimensions of the chassis by a quarter of an inch, especially if it might reduce the range of existing Singer cabinets into which it would fit?

      Here are all the Singer cabinets into which a model 301 can fit:

      In fact, here is a Singer model 403A that the proud owner claims is in its original cabinet, which sure looks to me like a slight variation on the Queen Anne Cabinet No. 40:


      I went to an estate sale today and took home this vintage
      singer Slant-o-matic 403-A.

      She came in the original cabinet with stool. Book and parts are all inside the stool. Everything is in very good condition.
      She runs like a dream too.
      I have named her Betsy.

    11. keramikos, 5 months ago
      Ya know, I've decided that either ISMACS might be rounding up, or the owner/operator of that Singer 301 site might be rounding down.

      In the course of researching the 403, I've seen way too many photos online of them installed in slight variations of models 40, 42, 56, etc. I refuse to believe that many people took a saw to all those cabinets.

      Now, in the case of your particular installation, somebody definitely took a saw to the cabinet. Cabinet Table No. 5 was made for what was a standard Singer bed size back then: about 14.5 inches:

      Why would they do that? I suspect it was a case of an arranged marriage between a beloved sewing machine, and a highly desirable cabinet.

      You'll find a lot of people out there singing the praises of the Singer 403, and the beauty of the Singer Cabinet Table No. 5 speaks for itself.

      Perhaps the real mystery is why ISMACS doesn't show the same cabinet options for the model 400 and 500 series as they do for the model 301.
    12. keramikos, 5 months ago
      AnythingObscure, I'm going to link the two related posts in their comments sections for ease of reference:
    13. AnythingObscure AnythingObscure, 30 days ago
      Hi keramikos -- I *finally* got back into that storage again today, enough to get to the bottom of the machine anyway...serial # NB980667 it is! ;-)
    14. keramikos, 30 days ago
      AnythingObscure, Woo hoo! Thank you. :-)

      So, NB980667.

      ISMACS won't commit to anything narrower than 1959-1960:


      Letter NB series 1959 1961


      However, the author of that Slant-o-Matic site says 1960:


      403A NB900001 to NB999999 1960 Anderson, SC (End of 403A)


      So, are you going to show your surprise Singer machine to your vintage sewing machine loving neighbors? };-)
    15. keramikos, 30 days ago
      Oh, and can I please add your picture of the serial number to my serial number post?
    16. AnythingObscure AnythingObscure, 29 days ago
      Why of course keramikos -- please feel free to use any of my pics in any way useful for you!! :-) :-) :-) As to my new neighbors I suppose the topic of this machine will probably come up one of these days... (though likely only with pics to share?)
    17. keramikos, 29 days ago
      AnythingObscure, Thank you very much. :-)

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