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? 🙂
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.
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!
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!