Not quite a Rocketeer…

My new Baby is a 1954 Singer Slant-o-matic Convertible, model 421G.  I’m calling her “Amber”.  She was “Made in Germany”.  She’s not quite the Rocketeer (the 500 models) I have been looking for, but being in the 400 series, Amber is close!  My sister says Amber’s just a Rocketeen!  🙂  


Amber not only has an extension bed, but she has a free-arm too.  Better yet, the free-arm has a compartment to hold all her bobbins, throat plates and Special Discs (that’s what they are called in the manual, but I prefer the name from the internet “Top Hat cams”).


I have been waiting for a Slant-o-Matic sewing machine for what seems like forever.  I’ve wanted to purchase locally to avoid possible damage from shipping… not to mention the shipping costs!  Luckily enough, I was visiting family out of town and I checked out their local “used/for sale” sites and found Amber.  Within an hour I was arranging a meeting – the local Timmy’s parking lot on the way out of town.  It felt like an “old ladies’ drug deal”.  I’m the one in the blue car – you’re the one in the black car, open the truck, merchandise exchanged for cash, we go our separate ways.  The seller told me that the tension was messed up but Amber ran well, and that the seller’s grandmother could always get Amber to work.  I was lucky – Amber was in good condition and came with all her goodies, especially the coveted manual!

I did not find an abundance of information for the Singer 421G on the internet.  So I’d like to throw out some information I found by comparing my Singer 421G with another similar Singer, the 401.  Amber is almost identical to the Singer 401.  Both have horizontal rotary hooks, 8 built in stitches and come with 5 Top Hat cams.  Their manuals are almost word for word.  Unlike the 401, Amber does not have a throat plate positioning lever on her base in the front right under the Stitch Regulator lever.  Unlike the 401, Amber does come with a darning and embroidery foot.  

Lift the top cover and you can see the built in cam stack.  Like the 401, Amber has 8 primary patterns – “K” through “S” on the right of the bottom Stitch Pattern Selector.  On the left of the top Stitch Pattern Selector, you can chose between “A” through “J”.  “A” moves the needle to the left, “B” to centre needle position and “C” moves the needle to the right.  “D” through “J” are for creating decorative stitches.  The RED lever controls the width of the primary patterns.


Amber even has an “easy” chart diagraming how to do her stitch patterns!  For example, dialing A & K on the Stitch Pattern Selector and selecting 3 on the RED lever (AK3) gives you a straight stitch.  


My son wonders why I have gone back to mechanical dials and levers to make a stitch pattern when a modern computerized machine can do it with the press of a button.  I haven’t given up on technology, but this is not my first VSM, I also have Winnie,  Ilona and Maria.  Taking these VSM’s apart, cleaning & oiling them, and putting them back together has given me an appreciation for the engineering involved in making all sewing machines, whether those made in 1851 or today.  Last time I used my computerized Janome, I smiled at how far such a small thing has come.

I took all Amber’s covers off and cleaned and oiled her the best I could.  Whoo Hoo!  My first cam stack sewing machine!!!  Oops!  I said “first”, didn’t I?   🙂

Pulling and turning the bottom Stitch Pattern Selector moves the cam follower finger to select K through S on the cam stack.
Pushing and turning the top Stitch Pattern Selector moves the cam follower finger to select A to J on the cam stack.

Combining the letters on the left and right of the dials with the other levers and the Top Hat cams can give you numerous possible stitch patterns.

Amber came with lots of goodies:

  • The manual!  
  • Eight presser feet: general purpose, straight stitch, special purpose, button sewing, cording/zipper, narrow hemmer, multi-slotted binder and ruffler.
  • Three throat plates: general purpose, straight stitch and button.
  • Five Top Hat cams.
  •  A seam guide attachment.  

There were also some extra feet and a throat plate in the box, but these feet are low shank and don’t belong to this machine. 


Bobbin winder on top of the Singer 421G.

A faded-with-time model number and logo on the Stitch Regulator plate.


Amber is 100% gear driven, said to be “all metal” gears, except for this one by the hand wheel.  It’s Textolite, according to  Old Sewing Gear Blog, apparently sneaking in this one plastic gear is quite common in “all metal” gear sewing machines.  Textolite is supposed to be more durable than regular plastic though and this one certainly has survived its 62 years!


While I was taking Amber apart and cleaning & oiling, I thought I would tackle that “messed up” tension.  (But really! How much can you expect from an uncooperative Rocketeen-Ager anyway?)  I took the upper tension assembly apart and had to do some internet research to get it back together again!  I took photos as I went along so I’ll post them on here separately, when ready, just in case someone else might be having problems finding the information too.  I’ll also post the helpful YouTube from the blog  The Archaic and the Arcane.


The throat plate screws are slit, and are actually more like springs – something I have never seen before.  The seem fragile… as you can see the head’s broken off on the left screw.  I’ll have to check out the throat plate on the Singer 431G, it’s supposed to be similar … perhaps a source for replacement throat plate screws?  This was the only damage I found on Amber.


Amber only brought TWO Class 66 bobbins with her.  So sad.


Then I remembered when I was emptying out Ilona’s treadle drawers I found about 3 or 4 different kinds of bobbins.  Thank Heavens for a seamstress’ pack-rat habits!amber-17

Test sewing… When I first sewed with Amber, her top thread was so loose (the blue) and the bottom (the white) was so tight that the white thread fell out as soon as I finished sewing a seam.  I managed to get a proper seam after taking Amber apart, cleaning & oiling and getting her, and her upper tension assembly, back together again properly.  Not perfect, but we are getting there!


I could use Amber’s buttonhole setting of AL3 & AL5 with her special purpose foot OR… I could use the Singer Professional slant needle buttonholer that Amber brought along with her!


Did you notice all the Class 15 bobbins in the plastic case – wrong machine again!  

I just want to leave you with one more thing – have you got a Singer?  Have you tried this site:  Find My Singer Story?  It gives you a printable PDF “Birth” certificate for your Singer sewing machine.  It’s so cute!

Happy Sewing! 

32 thoughts on “Not quite a Rocketeer…

  1. Nice find!! I never thought about naming my machines! 😄😄. I also wish my mother would have kept her old machines. However I have two machines of my mother’s. 😊😊

    1. Your mother must have had quite a few. My mother would check second hand stores for old machines just in case she had problems with her’s, she would have a replacement handy. If I had problems with mine she would give me one. Unfortunately if I had more problems with that one it would just go to the dump! Certainly not to s collector, like nowadays. I guess we live and learn!

  2. I love the idea of getting a birth certificate for your Singer. Geez, you’d think you were describing the insides of a car with “cams”. But really, a sewing machine has a little engine in it. Really cool post.

    1. Thank you! I know that Singer keep pretty good track of when it’s serial numbers were used and you can always look a number up in their data base, but it’s so cute to get it in writing in the form of a certificate! These are little engines that I can definitely handle!

  3. Lovely little machine! I don’t collect them but I definitely appreciate them.

    1. Thank you! Now don’t start collecting – sounds like a Public Service Announcement – because it is very difficult to stop!!

  4. Those post pins holdin throad plates really are not screws and they should never be handled with screw driver. They are springs, very fragile and impossible to find. Some owners have had them custom made by skilled technician ore watch maker.

    1. I agree. I certainly can’t see a reason myself for taking a screw driver to them. Perhaps one of the previous owners thought you needed to remove the “screw” to take the throat plate off. But it lifts off rather easily without needing a screwdriver. The manual even shows how. Or perhaps when they were popping off the throat plate they snapped off one of the head pieces? We will never know really. Thanks for the tip on getting a new one made!

  5. What a beautiful machine!

    1. Thank you! She’s a real good looker for an old lady! 😃

  6. Isn’t she lovely! I’m enjoying your obsession vicariously (free!); you have some wonderful machines already, and great names for them all.

    1. Thank you! I suppose my husband wished I had this hobby vicariously too! Although, lack of space is going to keep me limited to a “few”!

  7. Wow! Such a great find!!

    1. Thank you! It’s going to be fun to sew on!

  8. Lovely machine. Once you go back to these ‘ll ladies’ it’s difficult to have an affection for the computerised machines. The same difference as between people and robots perhaps?

    1. I’m sure the insides of Amber are less complicated than my modern “robotic” machine, but they are definitely stronger and more interesting, and hold my interest more!

  9. Oh my goodness, she’s complicated and beautiful. I love her!

    1. Thank you! She is fun… and I haven’t even sewed anything on her yet!

  10. You’re definitely becoming a sewing machine addict! I’m expecting to see display shelves soon! 🙂

    1. I only wish! No room for it all! Unless – like I was telling a collector – I can get one of the kids to live under the stairs like Harry Potter and I take over their room! 😂

      1. Perfect plan!

  11. Beautiful!

    Looks a bit like my recent post (on the 401)! Im not sure but I think the German models are a bit harder to come by… I’ve only seen one once locally but I was too late! You are very lucky!

    1. I’m going to go have a look. Did I miss it? I was talking to a collector in Sweden and she said they were quite common over there. I was very lucky to get it!

      1. It would make sense that they are more common in Europe! Although I think I remember reading about someone saying they came across the german models fairly often in west-coast ads, so maybe there are more german models on the west coast than the east coast?

        1. I don’t know… This is the first one I have ever seen, although I am new to this. I only started looking in August. I was lucky!

  12. I have a 401 but no manual. I love sewing on it and have it set up for straight sewing as it is far superior to my modern machines at this . The top stitching and handling of fine fabrics even chiffon is fantastic ,I also like the geometry of the straight stitch foot . It somehow makes edge stitching so much easier and accurate . I must get mine serviced . I have a problem with the bobbin cover which I have kept in place with some sticky tape. I am not sure what the problem is . You seem to be much more mechanically minded than me

    1. First off I know where you or anyone can get a manual for your machine… they have the 401 manual on there. They have lots of manuals on there, for free. Second I have only started with VSM’s so I’m not an expert. I just take them apart slowly, taking photos along the way so that I know how to put them back together. I haven’t come across a bobbin problem yet, I was lucky. But I have found a FaceBook group that helps too. Everyone posts photos and talks about how to fix their problems. So you can learn lots by following them. They are called Vintage Singer Slant Sewing Machines. I am glad you are happy with your machine!

      1. Also if you need a replacement part just ask on the FaceBook group and they know of sources for parts! YouTube also has lots of videos showing how to service and repair. I am learning so much from them.

  13. Linda! Margaret, over at Crafty Creek (Yorkshire) just mentioned she’s got a Singer fiddle base. I suggested you & she might have something to chat about? Meanwhile, happy Sunday! xx

    1. I’ll go take a look. Thanks and happy Sunday to you too! (The link put you in spam. But I’ll find her anyway!)

      1. Sorry you got sent to spam and thank you for replying!
        Here’s a link that is good. Hopefully!
        I listened to that BBC programme she mentions, and loved it. Very, very interesting!

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