Author Topic: Any tips for using a Singer 401A?  (Read 4200 times)

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Offline J Miller

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Any tips for using a Singer 401A?
« on: February 26, 2012, 02:23:40 PM »
We just got a nice 401A and it's up and running after a good cleaning and oiling.   I have the manual printed as well.
Just wanted to know if there was any suggestions from those who've used this machine that would make it easier or better.

Joe
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Offline lydia

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Re: Any tips for using a Singer 401A?
« Reply #1 on: February 27, 2012, 05:48:56 PM »
I just posted about my recent acquisition of a 401-A.  Will let you know how mine works - give me a day or so........Lydia
"I'll cross that bridge when I get to it."

Offline button

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Re: Any tips for using a Singer 401A?
« Reply #2 on: February 28, 2012, 03:12:43 AM »
Great thread,I have a 401 a too.Will be interested in this thread. I have her oiled and it is just waiting for me.Found her at a estate sell last summer in mint condition.

Offline karent

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Re: Any tips for using a Singer 401A?
« Reply #3 on: February 28, 2012, 04:33:52 AM »
The 401 is very much like the 403, both are slant shank Singer machines that are still out there working well.  If they are in good shape, they should not need anything special other than the correct feet and attachments.  Slant shank attachments are pretty readily available, you just need to make sure you know what you are looking for.  There have been a number of threads here about those machines, and there are quite a few YouTube videos about them as well, re: running and threading and oiling and all that.  Good luck!  I have a 403, and I don't really sew with it but rather have it as a fun toy, but it works great.  K

Offline scott_n_decatur

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Re: Any tips for using a Singer 401A?
« Reply #4 on: April 05, 2012, 07:40:41 PM »
I have my grandmother's 401A that she purchased new in 1958. It is a fantastic machine and it is my first choice for most everything I sew. The only real negative that I have noticed on this machine (as well as the 600E that I had) is that he stitch selector knobs have a tendency to become "stuck" when not used frequently.  The old oils become like varnish/glue and once the selectors and followers are stuck, it can be a real beast to unstick them. If she wasn't going to use the machine for an extended amount of time (pretty much after all of my aunts and uncles had moved out), my grandmother would frequently turn each of the stitch knobs through their full range of positions and pick a stitch setting at random and stitch out a few yards on scrap fabric. I do this as well, and it keeps the selectors nice and smooth.

Oh, and another quirk, at least on mine. My 401 does NOT like the modern plastic class 66 bobbins. Those things gave me so much grief until I discovered they were the problem and not my machine. Also, be careful buying new metal class 66 bobbins - some are machined very poorly and the center metal piece has a habit of 'catching' the needle thread and causing a mess. I was lucky and found about 30 vintage class 66 bobbins (which were machined differently) on the auction site. With those classic bobbins, my 401 has handled every thread I've tried.

Enjoy your 401, I love and treasure mine!
Scott

Offline Kuby

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Re: Any tips for using a Singer 401A?
« Reply #5 on: April 05, 2012, 08:32:01 PM »
When my son's girlfriend grew tired of her plastic machine from amazon, she asked me to suggest a machine. I suggested the 401A if she could find one. People have argued they are the best machines ever made. She was able to find one from a great man in the St Petersburg, Fl area who operated out of his garage. She spent less the $100 and absolutely loves this machine. 


Offline Kuby

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Re: Any tips for using a Singer 401A?
« Reply #6 on: April 05, 2012, 09:26:03 PM »
and one more thing... Today, I used the Rocketeer to reinforce all of the buttons on a favorite shirt of my husbands.

I checked in a 403 manual and there is a button foot that I believe also comes with the 401. Look in the manual and try to practice to sew on buttons.

One of the things that have always helped me when I get a new machine is to go through the manual and all of the feet and do every page of applications. There are times I've been shocked and amazed at what these machines can do with the feet. Play and practice to get the most benefit from your machine

Offline Pina

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Re: Any tips for using a Singer 401A?
« Reply #7 on: April 06, 2012, 12:46:11 AM »
The only real negative that I have noticed on this machine (as well as the 600E that I had) is that he stitch selector knobs have a tendency to become "stuck" when not used frequently.  The old oils become like varnish/glue and once the selectors and followers are stuck, it can be a real beast to unstick them. If she wasn't going to use the machine for an extended amount of time (pretty much after all of my aunts and uncles had moved out), my grandmother would frequently turn each of the stitch knobs through their full range of positions and pick a stitch setting at random and stitch out a few yards on scrap fabric. I do this as well, and it keeps the selectors nice and smooth.

Scott

Scott,have you ever heard of liquid Tri-Flow with Teflon,here ? It's my favorite lubricant,as well as grease with Teflon.I use it on all my vintage sewing machines.Except on the wicks on my Elna Grasshopper,I use sewing machine oil on those.Tri-Flow doesn't gum up sewing machines.One drop on every moving part will last a long time.As a matter of fact,I have one old Bernina I haven't used in a year or even longer.None of the knobs or anything else was "frozen",stuck or gummed up when I used it the other day.Unlike when I bought the machine some years ago,after standing idle for a year,as I was told.I couldn't get the decorative stitches to work until I used a heat gun on low to melt the crystallized old sewing machine oil,or whatever oil someone else used to oil the sewing machine.

Offline scott_n_decatur

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Re: Any tips for using a Singer 401A?
« Reply #8 on: April 06, 2012, 03:48:14 AM »
Pina,
Yes, I discovered Triflow about a year ago and I do use it. It is an excellent lubricant and works well on all of my machines (401, 301, 27 treadle, 128k handcrank). In the case of my 401, the old oil had varnished and hardened long before my discovery of Triflow. And though I am very confident in my ability to put her back together again, I am very hesitant about dismantling her and soaking her in varsol/kerosene to dissolve 50+ years of old oil. If this had been a Craigslist or eBay machine, I wouldn't think twice about doing that. But as my 401 was my Nana's machine, and she sews perfectly, I won't consider it unless the machine becomes unusable. Other than cleaning, oiling,etc...the only real maintenance I've had to do was to replace wiring and replace the brushes in the motor. I have no doubt she'll keep on sewing for another 50+ years.

Scott

Offline J Miller

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Re: Any tips for using a Singer 401A?
« Reply #9 on: April 07, 2012, 01:26:47 PM »
The one thing I'm having  trouble with on this machine is it wants to sew crooked.   I have the devil of a time keeping the material straight as it feeds under the feet.    I've tried several feet and it does it with all of them.
The worst is quilted material.   
I was making  a machine cover.   My material wasn't wide enough so I put a strip down the middle and it is all messed up.   The two outer pieces started as the same length.   When finished one had grown an inch and all three pieces are curved.     
My wife says it's the material.    I'm not so sure.   I've used this material on other machines and haven't had this problem.

Any ideas?

Joe
Love the old iron and wood machines.  They're solid and reliable.   
Founder of IAAA - I Am An Anachronism .

Offline Pina

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Re: Any tips for using a Singer 401A?
« Reply #10 on: April 07, 2012, 07:51:04 PM »
Joe,is the presser foot sitting straight on the feed dogs ?

Offline CyndyKitt

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Re: Any tips for using a Singer 401A?
« Reply #11 on: April 08, 2012, 04:54:47 AM »
The feed dogs could be damaged . . .

Offline J Miller

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Re: Any tips for using a Singer 401A?
« Reply #12 on: April 08, 2012, 02:04:27 PM »
Joe,is the presser foot sitting straight on the feed dogs ?
I have not checked that yet.   I will today. 
We have a variety of slant shank feet.  Many of them snap ons.   I'm growing a real dislike for the snap on ones because the feet wobble on the clip part.   We have one that looks pigeon toed because of the crappy loose fit.

The feed dogs could be damaged . . .
Cyndy,
I will check that at the same time I check the alignment of the pressor foot.

Joe
Love the old iron and wood machines.  They're solid and reliable.   
Founder of IAAA - I Am An Anachronism .

Offline Merl

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Re: Any tips for using a Singer 401A?
« Reply #13 on: April 09, 2012, 02:18:24 AM »
Joe, I would suspect the feed dogs.
It's hard to imagine them getting damaged but, it does happen.
I have a couple of machines that have rather "wonky" feed one being my White Family Rotary that is supposed to be known for excellent straight stitching and feeding.
Mine's OK but, I really have to help keep the work going straight through it.
Just a feed dog that is worn more on one side of the needle than the other and it makes everything veer off to the left a little.
Still one of my favorite machines but just requires a bit more attention from me.
You might check the underside of the presser foot as well.
If one side is worn more that the other then it would likely give you the same effect of arcing the work one way or another.

Offline J Miller

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Re: Any tips for using a Singer 401A?
« Reply #14 on: April 09, 2012, 04:31:49 PM »
I checked the alinement of the presser foot, it looked square with the feed dogs.
The feed dogs looked good and sharp, nothing out of the ordinary.

As for the bottom of the foot it is worn enough to be showing through the plating.   But not enough to be unequal.
When I was having trouble I had a different foot on it.    Tried several and had the same results.

After my project came out crooked and bent my wife took it apart and resewed it.   No problems for her at all.   Looks like the problems are more operator error than anything else.

Joe
Love the old iron and wood machines.  They're solid and reliable.   
Founder of IAAA - I Am An Anachronism .

Offline Pina

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Re: Any tips for using a Singer 401A?
« Reply #15 on: July 04, 2012, 04:29:59 AM »
Joe,re your PM,here is a Singer service and repair manual.Singer Class 401 information on how to set the presser foot at the correct height is on pages 125 - 162.Maybe it will help you with your Singer 401 A.  ;)

Offline J Miller

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Re: Any tips for using a Singer 401A?
« Reply #16 on: July 06, 2012, 02:14:22 AM »
Pina,

Thanks.  I've got it downloading now.  Will study it after it's safely saved.

Joe
Love the old iron and wood machines.  They're solid and reliable.   
Founder of IAAA - I Am An Anachronism .

Offline J Miller

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Re: Any tips for using a Singer 401A?
« Reply #17 on: July 14, 2012, 02:18:10 PM »
Pina,

I got the manual downloaded but not printed ... yet.   I did reset the presser foot height on our machine.  It has more clearance now, but I don't think it makes any difference in the way it sews.

I have another question about manuals.  Do you know of one just like the you gave me that would work for the Singer 413s?  I now have 2 of them things to work on.

Thanks,

Joe
Love the old iron and wood machines.  They're solid and reliable.   
Founder of IAAA - I Am An Anachronism .

Offline Pina

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Re: Any tips for using a Singer 401A?
« Reply #18 on: July 15, 2012, 03:34:51 AM »
Joe,I will look for a Singer 413 repair manual for you,but it may not be free and may take a bit of time.

By the way,I bought some Singer 206x13 sewing machine needles at my favorite Pfaff dealer.I figured they might still have a few,they used to sell Singer sewing machines too. At 60 cents each,plus my 10% off ,the price wasn't bad,I think.  ;) The end tip of the needle shaft looks quite different than any of the other sewing machine needles I have. ;)

Edited to add,Joe,please check out TNT Repair for Singer 400 - 500 series info here,a free Singer 413 pdf schematic is here;)
« Last Edit: July 15, 2012, 04:01:41 AM by Pina »

Offline J Miller

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Re: Any tips for using a Singer 401A?
« Reply #19 on: July 15, 2012, 01:31:51 PM »
Pina,

I have that 413 schematic and it doesn't help much at all.   What I need is info on settings and adjustments on these things.   I've looked through Singers manuals and can't find the one for the 413s.    If I have to pay for one I guess I'll break down and do it.  :)

The 206-13 needles are available at All Brands on line.  That's where we got ours.   I told my wife we needed to lay in a lifetime supply for just because.

And you are right, they have a short, abrupt point rather than a nice slim tapered point like most needles.

Joe
Love the old iron and wood machines.  They're solid and reliable.   
Founder of IAAA - I Am An Anachronism .

 

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