How a sewing machine works – another video!


I’m indebted to Chris for reminding me of this video, about which I’d completely forgotten.  It’s getting to be a little dated now, but it’s still a goodie …

Right … last night we had the first hard frost of the winter, today is November the last, and it won’t be long now before some shops start annoying their customers by playing that awful 40-year-old Christmas record by Slade every half hour.  So I’m off to the charity shop in a bit to ask the woman behind the counter who wore the Santa hat with “Bah humbug!” on it last Christmas where she got it from.

Have a good weekend, folks.

Another vintage Singer for sale – and musing on modern life …


As regular readers will know, we very rarely have machines for sale nowadays.  However, there’s one of Elsie’s on the “Machines” page now because (a) she’s finally had to thin out her collection to gain some space in The Sewing Room and (b) the lady who took the other two which have just gone was convinced that her husband would divorce her if she went home with three more sewing machines.

This one’s a very nice and very late (1954) Singer 128K and it comes in an equally nice bentwood (“domed”) case, complete with what we think are its original attachments.  But there is, alas, a downside.  Some muppet has vandalised it a bit whilst taking the lid off without a key, as you can see in the above picture.  Now … I’ve replaced the lock and found a key for it and I could touch up that paintwork on the end of the bed, but although the repair to the woodwork’s a DIY job, frankly it needs better eyesight than I have.  And as Elsie says, there’s also the fact that some folk won’t be bothered about the damage, so all things considered, we’re selling it “as is”.

Anyhow.  Seeing as how Elsie was busy playing in the mud with her new raspberry canes this morning, I was persuaded to take a couple of cheques to the bank and pay them in, which is something I’ve been loathe to do ever since the counter staff decided to funk up their spiel and start greeting customers as if we’re even younger than they are and we’re all in America.

Gosh.  The place has long since ceased to be a proper bank branch, at least to my way of thinking.  I mean, I don’t still expect cheque books to have a couple of leaves of blotting paper in them for the convenience of those who still write their cheques with a fountain pen.  And I don’t still expect to be asked if I would mind accepting used notes if they happen to be short of new ones when I want to cash a cheque, as was once the norm.

But honestly, what am I supposed to say when the young woman behind the counter enquires whilst hitting our cheques with her stamp thingy “Got much planned for the rest of the day?” I do realise that “How about you mind your own business?” might perhaps seem a bit churlish and that maybe “Well, I was thinking of calling at the timber yard to get some prices, then I have a prescription to collect from the pharmacy, and then it’ll be time for lunch and it’s my turn to do the washing up.  I might go up to the allotment after I’ve done that, but a lot depends on what my wife fancies doing this afternoon” might be overkill, so I fall back on “No”, with a rising inflection intended to convey my surprise at the question.

And while I’m at it, why do they ask “Is there anything else I can help you with today?”  Why the “today”?  Why on earth do they say that?  I always want to ask but never do …

I did though ask in the supermarket yesterday what the difference was between “pre-order” and “order”, my question being prompted by the A-board outside inviting shoppers to “Pre-order your Christmas food now”.  The woman who sorts out the self-service checkouts when they go wrong confessed that she too was puzzled by that, so she asked her supervisor, who didn’t know either.  Before long, the question was exercising five employees, and in the end the best that one of them could do was suggest that “pre-order is what you do when you order stuff before you need it”, which I thought showed initiative if nothing else.

It’s been one of those days, though.  I just walked back the mile or so from the timber yard with a 4.2 metre (14ft, give or take) length of timber handrail on my shoulder, and I wouldn’t mind a crisp tenner for every strange look I got on the way.  Elsie says that they stare because people just don’t do things like that any more.  Normals don’t walk along the lane carrying timber.  Either they get it delivered or they poke it out of the tailgate or the roof of their car, which of course is fine by me.

But I can’t help feeling smug.  I got myself a bit of exercise in the sunshine, and on the walk home with my 4.2 metres of timber, I saw two robins and heard a third one, saw two wrens and a blackbird, and I heard a green woodpecker do that really loud laughing call that they do.  Whether he was laughing at me or at modern life, I have no idea …


Singer 1933 Catalogue and Price List (UK)


Thanks to Syd McDonald who kindly allowed me to scan his copies of them, I can now present for your delight both the Singer Illustrated Catalogue for 1933 and its accompanying Price List.  There’s links to PDFs of the scans at the bottom of this post, but while you’re here, let’s just take a quick look at some of the contents.

Before we do though, here’s a few comparisons between then and now to help put prices into perspective.  In 1933, the UK average wage was £3 12s 0d (£3.60) a week and a pint of beer cost 6d (2.5p).  Today, the corresponding figures are £504 a week and around £2.90, so wages have risen faster over the last 79 years than the price of beer has. What I find quite remarkable though is that in 1933, a typical 3-bedroom house sold for £360, which was just less than two years’ average earnings.  Now the average 3-bedroom house costs £243,000, which is over nine years’ average earnings.  How come?

Whatever, it seems that life expectancy for women in this country has gone up from 60 in 1933 to 81 now and for men from 53 to 78, so it’s not all bad …

We start with the New Enclosed Cabinet No.46, which should be of particular interest to those who can never remember which cabinet is the 46 and which is the 51.  As you can see here, the 46 is the one with the one-piece door with the rectangular drawer on the back of it.  The later cabinet which is the same size and shape but has the two doors and the D-shaped swing-out drawer thingies on the back of the left-hand one is the 51, which Elsie and I much prefer.  In our opinion, a nice 51 cabinet with modern castors under it and a properly set-up treadle mechanism driving a 201 on top of is a very fine thing to have in the house.

In 1933 you couldn’t yet buy a 201, but a shiny new 66K in a No.46 cabinet could be delivered to your door for a list price of £23 10s 0d (£23.50), which was more than 6 weeks’ average wages before tax.

On page 4, we see that by now the old cast-iron legs of the Cabinet Tables have given way to the new wooden sides.  A 66K in a 5-drawer base like the one on page 4 was £18 5s 9d (£18.29) if paid for at the rate of 10/- (50p) per month, but could be had for just £15 8s 0d (£15.40) cash if you’d come into money.

Those Cabinet Tables are still quite common in England, but the One-Drawer Drop-Leaf Table on page 5 certainly isn’t.  Does anybody know for sure if that’s the one in which the machine sat in the table in the wooden base which has the slot between the two belt holes so you could just lift the whole thing out and use it as a portable?

There’s no mention of either of these Cabinet Tables (or indeed of the 46 Cabinet) being convertible for use with an electric machine by means of the motor controller 194386 on its associated bracket, so I’m still no wiser as to when that was introduced in the UK.

I do love these illustrations of the portables.  It seems that Singer could never come up with a convincing way of including the lid in a picture, so here we have it on a footstool of just the right size and shape on page 6, and on what I’m convinced is a pair of wheelbarrow tyres on page 7.

A nice hand-cranked 128 portable would have set you back £9 17s 6d (£9.87) in 1933, although for just thirty bob (£1.50) more you could have had its full-size sister the 127.  A knee-lever 99K electric, on the other hand, was £14 if paying cash.  That price included a Singerlight, but not a footstool or the tyres to put the lid on.

And now we have a knee-lever 66K electric in The New Model 40 Table which, it says here, is an “elegant article of furniture”.  Be that as it may, have you noticed how the word “article” in this sense seems to be obsolescent nowadays in much the same way that “apparatus” does?  It’s a shame.  They’re both fine words.

Model 40 tables are decidedly uncommon nowadays, and I have to admit that as far as I’m concerned that’s not a bad thing.  £31 12s 6d (£31.62) on Easy Terms, or £25 6s 0d (£25.30) cash to you, Madam.  That was getting on for two months’ average wages …

The all-steel foot controller shown here on page 10 is a rare bird now too, which if you ask me is just as well because they’re a bit on the primitive side – and they do tend to stink when they start getting warm.  Note how the mains lead is supplied with a bayonet connector on the end so that when you’d fitted the motor to your machine, you could plug it into any convenient light fitting once you’d taken the bulb out of it.

Any reader raising an eyebrow at that last observation might care to note that plugging a sewing machine (or a hairdryer come to that) into a table lamp or other light fitting was common practice at one time.  When many rooms had only one mains socket in them (or at best a pair of them side-by-side on the skirting board), table and standard lamps often served as extension leads, and most households were possessed of an assortment of plug adaptors by means of which many light and power problems could be solved.

On page 11 we note that in 1933 the 15K was the “Dressmaker’s Machine”, and that the base shown is the “artisan” one with the bigger-diameter treadle wheel to facilitate higher stitching speeds.

And finally a couple of industrials.  Note the cast-iron legs, which were by now obsolete as far as domestic customers were concerned.  Note also the convention whereby women sew at home on domestic machines and men sew at work on industrials.

I don’t know anything about the 31K15 apart from the fact it’s got a knee-lifter, but that back leaf of the table certainly does look handy!  The 29K53 is a fascinating machine that’s often referred to as The Patcher, and its variants always seem to sell for a decent price on Ebay nowadays.  I love the way you can sew in any direction with it, and alternate between treadle and hand drive.  It’s a very clever bit of engineering.

For scans of both publications as PDFs, click on the links below.  I did them as two separate files so you can, should you wish, have the catalogue and the price list open at the same time for ease of cross-reference …

1933 Singer UK Illustrated Catalogue

1933 Singer UK pricelist

By the way, lest any of our overseas readers be confused by the bayonet connector, I should perhaps point out that not only are we on 220 volt here, but our light bulbs don’t screw into light fittings like yours probably do.  Ours have a bayonet cap, about which everything you could ever wish to know is, as usual, on Wikipedia – see here

You can’t buy those bayonet connectors nowadays, unless of course you turn to this guy on Ebay.  Those things were often used in conjunction with the Y-shaped two-way adaptor (a picture of which I couldn’t find), which plugged into a lampholder so that two bayonet connectors could be plugged into it.  I suppose the theory was that they allowed you to use two light bulbs in one lampholder, but I never saw one used like that.

While I’m on this subject, I should perhaps explain that in England nowadays, you can’t even walk into a shop and buy an ordinary 100 watt incandescent light bulb, the manufacture of which has been banned by the EU in order to save the planet.  We’re therefore hoping the 20 that I bought online last week will see us out, as we only need them for 3 lights in the house which are used intermittently and for which energy-saving fluorescents are neither use nor ornament.

And if making incandescent light bulbs obsolete as a token gesture in the direction of planet-saving seems daft to you, how about the singularly crazy legislation requiring a proportion of the light fittings in all new homes to be 3-pin bayonet lampholders into which neither traditional bulbs nor energy-saving fluorescents can be fitted?  See here

Have a good weekend, folks!

The Singer Swiss Zigzagger 160990, carlessness and seven types of salad crop


If you’ve been hankering after a Singer Swiss Zigzagger 160990, permit me to direct your attention to the one I just listed on our Bits ‘n’ Bobs page.  It works a treat, and cosmetically both the attachment and its case are excellent.  However, the feed cover plate (which is the correct one!) has lost its chrome in a small area as can be seen in the picture to the left of the central slot (the smudge to the right of that slot is a greasy fingermark!), and this one comes without instructions or the cams needed for the fancy stitches.

Having said that, the Swiss zigzagger does a very nice variable-width zigzag stitch with just the built-in cam, the instructions are on the interweb, and this one’s listed now at about half the price it would be with cams and book of words.

If all goes well, the next post should be all about the 1933 Singer Illustrated Catalogue and Price List which Syd was kind enough to leave with me for scanning when he and Carol came to pick up some stuff from us on Thursday.  As they drove off, it occurred to us that in another week or so, we’ll have been carless now for three months – and the only time we’ve really noticed was when I had a hospital appointment which meant a bus trip there and back!

It would probably be interesting to work out how much money that’s saved us so far, but … erm … neither of us can be bothered to do the calculations.  I can though tell you that it looks like by the time we’ve had our electric bikes a year, I’ll have done well over 1500 miles on mine.

And that leaves us with the seven types of home-grown organic salad crop which Elsie announced were on her plate at lunchtime today.  There was lettuce (A foglia di quercia, since you asked – cheap seed from Lidl), American Cress, Mizuna, Green In Snow, Komatsuna, Southern Giant and Winter Purslane, which I personally don’t think is bad going for well into November at this latitude.  That all went with the lovely organic eggs from Clarice and Phyllis, and some halfway-decent inorganic tomatoes from Lidl now that ours are finished.

Being the more conservative member of the household where greens are concerned (he means faddy – E), I stuck to my lettuce as usual.  And seeing as how you’re obviously now anxious to know, that was followed by delicious bread buns made from home-ground organic spelt grain, yeast, water and salt, baked free of charge on top of the woodstove, with, in Elsie’s case, the stinky kipper fillets in something disgusting which she eats from time to time.  Why she eats that stuff when she could eat good wholesome organic cheese like I do, I have no idea.

Having said that though, I’ve no idea why Elsie insists on growing Jerusalem artichokes every year but she does, and she’s just now wandered down the garden in the rain intent upon putting a wheelbarrow full of the things into store.  Horrible things, Jerusalem artichokes.  Artichokes, fartichokes …

The back-clamp Singer 66 mystery …


One of the things which often confuses folks about vintage Singers is this whole back-clamping business, so last week when Elsie was faffing about and deciding which Lotus to keep, we realised that a photo opportunity had presented itself and a blog post was called for…

In the top picture we have your usual, common-or-garden, bog-standard vintage Singer presser foot*, which is of the side-clamping type.  And below that we have the vintage Singer back-clamp presser foot, about which the only thing that might not be immediately obvious is that in the normal course of events, you don’t go messing with that slotted screw head.   The part with the serial number on it and the slanted end stays on the machine.  When you want to change the presser foot on a back-clamper, you use the thumbscrew – just like you do on a side-clamper, except it’s in a different place.

Here’s another comparison …

and one more for luck …

Now you see why none of the usual low-shank vertical needle attachments like buttonholers fit a back-clamping 66, which explains why the back-clamper has its own set of standard attachments like the ruffler, hemmers and whatnot.

Every back-clamping 66 we’ve ever seen has been graced with Lotus decals, which fact is no doubt down to us being in England.  If we were in the States, I’m guessing they’d all have had what are called the “Red Eye” decals, which we’ve never actually seen on a real live machine.  That’s because as far as I know, all the Lotus decal 66s were made in Scotland and all the Red Eye ones in New Jersey, but as with most things relating to Singer production, I’m by no means certain of that.

Be that as it may, in due course the penny dropped and Singer realised that making just one model of machine with a totally different presser foot clamping system made no sense at all, so they did the obvious and standardised.  Exactly when that happened I have no idea, but it’s a fact that all early 66s are back-clampers and all later ones are normal side-clampers.

So how then do we explain the fact that Elsie’s back-clamper 66K is dated 1910 and her side-clamper 66K with the Lotus decals is dated 1909?  Easy – her 1909 one’s had its back-clamp presser bar swapped for the side-clamp one from a later 66K!  I’ve never done that myself because I don’t see what the problem is with back-clampers, but providing you have a donor side-clamping 66 to hand, I can’t see it being a major undertaking.  There’s probably instructions for the conversion on the interweb somewhere, but before you search for those, see if you can find the adaptor which is apparently available by means of which side-clamp attachments can be fitted to a back-clamp Singer.  It’s made by somebody in the US.

* Note for those of a pedantic disposition – I do realise that that presser foot’s hinged, therefore it’s not actually your usual, common-or-garden, bog-standard vintage Singer presser foot.  But its means of attachment is, so there.



A new computer and two tons of manure


That’s why I still haven’t got round to taking the snaps to illustrate the post about bobbin winders which at least two of our regular readers are waiting for me to write.

The new puter came on Thursday.  We were out most of Friday on the bus to the hospital and back for a routine 10-minute scan which turned out to be a disappointment, in that I thought it might be fun to see my innards on the screen but in the event I had to agree with both Elsie and Tracy The Ultrasound Queen that it was actually dead boring.

As soon as we got back, I set to sorting out the puter, and this morning I finally got the email working properly all by myself, which is something that’s never happened before.  What is totally beyond me though is finding the right driver for the laser printer and installing it, so it looks like I’m in for a costly phone call to Canon support tomorrow, which is a real PITA.  Oh, and I can’t find my Photoshop CS5 disc either, although I’ve managed to find the serial number!  Such is life when you get a new puter …

We’ve also been busy spreading the two tons of manure which Elsie got for her birthday around the big allotment, which was quite an undertaking in view of the fact that the paths between the plots are pretty much underwater and consequently very squidgy and slippery.  In case you ever need to know, 2 tons of well-rotted farmyard manure is something over 50 big wheelbarrow loads.

But anyhow, at least you now know why it’ll be a few more days before we finally get to bobbin winders and the adjustment thereof!

How to clean a vintage sewing machine – some thoughts on that


Picture of Singer "Lotus" 66K in treadle base

Q.  “What’s the best way to clean a vintage sewing machine?”

A.  “Carefully.”

We get asked that question quite often, and the simple fact of the matter is that “carefully” really is the best answer!  However, I usually feel obliged to expand upon that a bit, so in the hope that this post will henceforth save me saying the same thing over and over to different people, here goes with a few thoughts.

As with most things, there’s a lot of stuff on the internets about how to clean an old machine, but soon after you start wading your way through it all, two things become apparent.  One of them’s obvious and the other’s maybe not.  The obvious one is that most of the folk explaining how to do the deed are in the US of A, and the other’s that we don’t normally know how many machines their method has worked on.

So, Mavis Fenderbender in Chevrolet KY uploads a wobbly video to You Tube showing at great length how she transformed an old wreck she got at the yard sale last week – and we immediately have two problems.  One is that the product which Mavis used for stripping off the grot of ages is “King Krudbusta”, a tin of which she picked up from a bargain bin in Walmart maybe 10 years ago now.  And the other is that Mavis is keeping quiet about how she managed to take all the decals and some of the paint off the last machine she tried restoring.

A couple of years ago, I kept seeing on the interweb that a certain aerosol cleaner intended for car upholstery was the thing for cleaning up old sewing machines.  All you needed to do was spray it on, let it soak in, then wipe it off with a soft cloth.  It was of course made in the USA, and it took me a long time to track down a UK source.  But I got there in the end, and one day set to with a spray can of it and a really filthy 66K which I’d stripped for spares.  Sprayed the magic stuff on, let it soak, wiped it off and sure enough off came most if not all of the filth.

We were so impressed I immediately used it on a potentially very pretty but at the time disgusting 28K which stank like an ashtray.  On went the spray, we let it soak, wiped it off and oh look – the lovely gold decals are now silver …

That prompted several months of experimenting with different lotions and potions in an attempt to find out what worked reliably and what didn’t, the outcome of which can be summarised thus:-

1  What works on one old sewing machine may or may not work on the next one.  I once soaked a 99K in paraffin (kerosene) overnight with no ill effect whatsoever, but the next time I tried it, it took most of the clear coat off an apparently identical 99K of about the same age.  I still haven’t worked that one out.

2  The usual advice to test whatever you’re thinking of using on an inconspicuous part of the machine first takes no account of the fact that the finish in that inconspicuous area might well react differently to that on the rest of the machine.

3  We know that at least where most old Singers are concerned, there’s a clear coat over the decals and the black enamel.  Personally, I suspect that the type of clear coat used changed over the years, but even if it didn’t, I’m convinced that nowadays the way it will react to any particular solvent or cleaning agent is unpredictable.  And once that clear coat goes, the decals’ days are surely numbered.

4  As far as we’re concerned, the only totally safe cleaning process involves household soap and warm water on a soft cloth in small areas at a time, immediately followed by a “rinse” with a different cloth dampened in warm water before moving on to the next area, then after drying, a polish with a little sewing machine oil on another soft cloth.

5  Whatever you use and however you go about cleaning a vintage Singer, do it good light and keep a careful eye on the area you’ve just worked on.  If you notice any change in the appearance of the surface other than it looks cleaner, stop what you’re doing and work out what’s going on.

6  The general rule of cleaning is if in doubt – don’t!

The chromed parts are easy.  To bring back as much life as possible to them, we always use Solvol Autosol, which is available in the UK at Halfords and most places that sell car polish and suchlike.  And that illustrates the other problem – our many overseas readers are now wondering what their local equivalent of Solvol Autosol is!  Alas, I have no idea, but it’s a very mildly abrasive metal polish which is typically used for polishing the aluminium castings of vintage motorcycle engines.

Finally, just to put what I’ve said above into perspective, I do sometimes wonder why so many people seem to be obsessed with returning a vintage sewing machine to near-enough “as new” condition.  If that’s your thing, fair enough and the best of luck to you in your endeavours.  But it would seem wrong to us if a machine that’s 50 or 100 years old didn’t have its “fingerprint” of cosmetic wear and tear and the usual minor dinks and scratches.

A total restoration would freak us out.  We’d be scared to use it!

Edited to add – when it comes to the woodwork of cases and cabinets, again we don’t aim for perfection.  Any lifted veneer is carefully glued back down, rough edges are lightly sanded, and after that it’s just whatever whatever the wood needs to minimise any significant scratches and scrapes.  We tend to favour Rustins Scratch Cover in the appropriate colour (they do a light and a medium/dark and yes, you can mix them), and Elsie also likes Rustins Finish Reviver now she’s got the hang of using it!

Singer knee lever – how it fits in the bentwood case lid of a 201K


Or the domed lid, as some say.  I’ve even seen it referred to as a doomed lid.  But whatever you call it, Polly was confused by hers.  She’d bought a knee-lever 201K in a bentwood case, and wondered what she was supposed to do with the lever when she’d finished sewing and wanted to pack the machine away.  Somebody had told her it clipped into the lid, but Polly couldn’t see how.

To cut a long story short, it turned out that although Polly’s bentwood lid fitted her base properly, it wasn’t actually the right lid for her machine.  It wasn’t a knee-lever lid, so it didn’t have the appropriate hardware.  We got there in the end, but it would have been a heck of a lot easier if I could have found these pictures that I took ages ago.  But I couldn’t.

However, a minor miracle has occurred and I have now, so just in case it helps anybody else to know, here’s a concise guide to what should be in the bentwood lid of your knee-lever 201K …

In the picture above, we see the lever held in place inside a kosher lid.  The machine end of it’s in the bracket on the case end, and the knee end of it’s clipped to the top of the case.

That’s a clearer picture of the fitting, and it also shows the wire clip for the box of attachments.  And by the way, a Godzilla box does not fit in that clip – it’s meant for the green cardboard box which measures about 6 x 2.5 x 1.5 inches.

Hopefully you can now see clearly how that clip works, and also that it’s held in place by one of the nuts which secure the handle to the lid.

And while we’re at it we might as well do the extension table fittings, because it’s not exactly obvious how they work.  That grey thingy towards back left in the picture above is part of the answer, but the curly black wire at bottom right is nothing to do with it.  That’s the clip for the oil can.

That’s how the extension table fits in one of these cases.  It goes in with the bit of wood with the two screws facing inwards, and the metal tongue thingy which is on that end of it engaged in the grey metal doo-dah on the end of the lid.  With a bit of jiffling and a modest amount of luck, the extension table will then sit close enough to the side of the case for you to be able to swing the metal catch over the corner of it, which should keep it safely in place.

Having said that, bearing in mind all the gubbins in one of these case lids, I often wonder how long some of these machines had been out of the shop before they got a dink or two in the finish – particularly if it hadn’t yet occurred to the proud new owner which way round the lid needed to be before they lowered it down to the base …

Instructions for Singer Automatic Zigzagger 160985 or 161102 or 161157


Well … I’m feeling rather chuffed with myself this fine Autumn afternoon.  Not only did I manage to retrieve the scanner lead from behind a couple of dead 401’s, but I also finally managed to master the technology and produce a reasonably-sized PDF of halfway-decent quality from a bunch of JPGs!

Whether or not I can remember exactly what I did this time when I next want to do something similar remains to be seen, but who cares?  Here, for the convenience and delight of anybody who acquires a Big Black Zigzagger with no instruction book is exactly what the interweb’s been waiting for …

Instruction book for Singer Automatic Zigzagger 160985 or 161102 or 161157

That’s actually the book for the 160985 (and the 160986 if you’ve got the slant-needle version for the 301), but the instructions are exactly the same for the 161102 and 161157.  The detail differences between the models have no bearing at all on how you use them.

So there you go. And if that PDF saves you a few pounds/dollars/rubles or whatever, may I just say that if you’d like to express your appreciation by making a small contribution to The Blog Fund by means of a PayPal gift to sidandelsie at, that would be much appreciated.  As Tesco says, every little helps!

How to fit a handcrank to an early Singer 27K treadle


Here’s a picture of the drive end of Elsie’s old faithful 27K, which was made in 1900 and still resides in the ornate drawing room cabinet* in which it left the shop 112 years ago.

Now, if you’re really into the old Singer stuff, I bet you got as far as “made in 1900” in that sentence and immediately said to yourself “Ahah!  So it hasn’t got a boss for a handcrank!”.  And if you did, I bow down before your awesome knowledge of such arcane stuff.

If you didn’t, and you’re not entirely sure what a “boss” is in this context anyhow, look closely at the right-hand side of the column of this particular 27K, and hopefully you’ll be able to see that there isn’t the usual sticky-outy bit to which a hand crank or indeed a motor can be fitted.  That’s the “boss”, or rather it would be if this machine had one.  Later 27K’s do have one, but only a real vintage Singer geek could tell you when they changed from bossless to bossed.  The best I can do is say that in 1900 at least some 27K’s didn’t have a boss but by 1903 they all did.

So, should you wish to fit a hand-crank to one of these fine old treadle machines, how might that be done when there is no apprarent means of attaching one?  In theory it’s easy – all you need is Hand Attachment 81712, as shown below together with a bobbin winder assembly which wanted to be in the picture too …

Once you have your Hand Attachment 81712 to hand, as it were, it’s simply a case of undoing one screw and removing the belt guard from your early 27K, then fitting the handcrank by clamping its mounting bracket round the collar onto which the belt guard was originally fixed.  It’s a job which requires nothing more than one ordinary screwdriver and five minutes of your time.

The problem is of course that you first need to acquire your Part No. 81712.   Which was only made for the very early 27K.  And then apparently not in any great quantity.  So they’re a bit thin on the ground.   I’ve no idea how many of them Singer actually made, but I do know that the Hand Attachment had been officially declared obsolete by 1906, so it’s perhaps not surprising that 105 years later, most folk have never heard of it.  Certainly this is the only one that Elsie and I have ever actually laid hands on.

Given its rarity, it’s got to be a symptom of something or other that having completely forgotten we had this one, I found it yesterday under a pile of stuff alongside the dead printer which I’d finally decided to take down to the dump recycling centre.  Be that as it may, given that Elsie’s 27K in the drawing room cabinet is in its original state and it’s such a delight to treadle, there’s actually more chance of me mastering the art of knitting than there is of us ever needing to use this particular bit of kit, therefore one complete Hand Attachment 81712 is now listed on our Bits ‘n’ Bobs page!

So now somebody, somewhere is wondering “OK, that takes care of a handcrank, but how do you fit a motor?”.  The answer to that is “with great difficulty”, which as far as I’m concerned is just as well because I really can’t imagine why anybody might want to vandalise a very early 27K by motorising it …

And … just as I was about to publish this post, an email came in from Lulu alerting me to a listing on Ebay UK of a rather unusual treadle machine …

I was interested to see that the drawer pulls on this one are different to those on Elsie’s early drawing room cabinet, and that the mat on the treadle plate is a different design too.  The real surprise though is the 28K.  I’ve never seen a 3/4-size machine of any flavour in a drawing-room cabinet before.   It’s obvious from the other pictures in the listing for this one that it’s a DIY job and an old one at that, but I can’t see why it wouldn’t work just fine.  And I love the way the handcrank’s still on it …

* If you’re in the US of A,  for “drawing room cabinet” read “parlor cabinet”.
Edited 2nd October to add – thanks to Linda and Heather, I now know that Singer did indeed supply the 28K in a Drawing Room Cabinet!