We got a query yesterday from Vicky, who asked what the “23” indicates when somebody describes a machine as a 201K23, so I thought I’d answer that here in case it’ll help anybody else.
First off we need to establish that the K stands for Kilbowie, which was the factory in which the machine was made. Next, we need to understand that a 201 is either an early type like this one
or a later type like these two seen here without their bases
The early type is usually referred to as a Mark 1 and the later type as a Mark 2, and that’s good enough for most folks, most of the time. Where it gets interesting is when you take into account that both types were made in several variants, so here we go with the definitive explanation of Singer 201 model numbers …
201-1 is an early type treadle machine
201-2 is an early type electric with the so-called “potted” motor which drives direct rather than by a belt from the motor to the handwheel (rare in the UK)
201-3 is an early type electric with the usual UK-market separate motor and drive belt
201-4 is an early type hand-crank machine
The later type follows the same pattern except there’s a -2 suffix before the type number and it was never made with the potted motor, so for the Mark 2 machines it goes …
201-21 is a later type treadle machine
201-23 is a later type electric machine
201-24 is a later type handcrank machine
Strictly speaking, the “K” doesn’t form part of the model designation but it tends to replace the hyphen in common usage, so we get “201K4” to describe a Mk1 hand-crank, “201K23” to describe the Mk2 electric that Vicky refers to, and so on. And don’t worry if that does your head in – I still check with my Little Black Book if I need to be certain about any of them!