Tag Archives: Singer cabinet #46

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 Enclosed Cabinet No.51


Before we get to the nitty-gritty about this cabinet, I must apologise for these less than wonderful snaps of it and get the excuses out the way.  The Sewing Room measures 7ft x 9ft, it has a small window in the narrow end opposite the door, and right now there is this cabinet plus two treadle machines in it.  There’s also baskets of fabric, a large bean bag (I have no idea why), Stoner’s bean bag (awaiting repair) and six other sewing machines in their cases.  So there is not a lot of room.  Hence these very wide angle shots …

Picture of Vintage Singer cabinet no.46

Picture of Singer Cabinet no.46 with Singer 201K Mk2

So OK, that is Elsie’s 201K21 (that is to say, 201K Mk2, treadle version) in her fairly dark Cabinet No.51, and yes Hawkeye I do know there isn’t a drive belt on it.  There will be when I get round to it.  It’s on The List.

This thing measures 21 inches wide by 17 inches front to back, and it’s the Singer standard 31 inches tall.  To go from closed to ready to rock, you open the front doors first because the left-hand one supports that flap, which you then simply swing over from its closed position.  And as I’m sure you’ve already worked out, that adds 21 inches to the left of the base, so if you’re going to put one of these in an alcove, you need a minimum width of 42 inches.

Having opened the doors and turned the flap over, you’re left looking at this …

Picture of top of Singer Cabinet #46 with machine down

except of course there will be a drive belt in place on yours.  All that’s left to do then is lift up that hinged flap in the foreground, grasp the arm of the machine, swing it upwards away from you on those hinges you can see at the back, drop the front flap back down, and lower the machine into position.  C’est un doddle, as the French say.  There’s even a big spring thing lurking under the cabinet top which takes some of the weight as you raise and lower the machine.

Picture of drawer of Singer Cabinet no.46
That really neat tray with the swing-out drawer (for want of the proper word) under it lives inside the left-hand door, and is well handy.  It’s also a headscratcher if you’ve never seen a picture like this before, because the spring catch which holds it closed is quite strong and it’s not at all obvious how it opens up.

And now to the treadle mechanism, as seen below …

Picture of interior of Singer cabinet #46

What we see here is the treadle plate at the bottom with the horrible brown rubber mat on it which is always rock hard from age, and at the top is a nicely varnished bit of curved plywood with a metal edge.  That’s a typical Singer touch, that is – it’s to stop any oil dripping down inside the cabinet (or worse still onto your legs).  It’s even hinged at the front and suspended from the machine base at the back by a bit of chain, so it rises and falls as you raise and lower the machine head.  Neat or what?

The thingy with the small wheel in the top right is the bobbin winder on the folded-down 201, and that rod is what is properly called the pitman rod, the bottom end of which is fixed to the back of the treadle plate by a ball joint.  The top end of the pitman rod is normally connected to the crank of the treadle wheel, which hopefully you can just make out behind all that other ironwork (most of which is the skirt guard).  That’s how the up-and-down motion of the treadle plate is converted into circular motion of the treadle wheel, around the circumference of which the drive belts passes to drive the machine head.  Or would if I’d got round to re-fitting the one on this machine.

However, as you can see, the top of this particular pitman rod is not connected to the treadle wheel.  It’s connected instead to that brown metal box, which is seen more clearly in this snap …

Detail of speed controller in Singer cabinet #46

The brown metal box is the Singer Sewing Motor Controller, and the pitman rod actually connects to the slidy-in-and-outy bit at the bottom of it, by means of which the controller does the controlling of the motor, assuming of course that one is fitted to the machine in the cabinet.  Now, if you’re one step ahead of me here, you’ve already realised that this is very cool indeed.  Yep, the treadle plate either drives the machine, or it acts as a foot pedal to control the speed of a motor attached to it, depending on what you connect the top of that rod to.  And changing it over is no big deal at all.

So that’s the Cabinet No.51.  I’m not sure what the colour choice was in the local Singer shop, but nowadays you see them in anything from a light oak to a very dark oak, and they are certainly very sturdy, well made bits of furniture.  They’re also heavy.  Elsie and I can cart one up the stairs between us if we take our time, but they’re a bit awkward to get in and out of the back of the car.  If you do ever move one by car, don’t forget to take the head out of the cabinet first! And at the risk of stating the obvious, it’s a good idea to fit castors to a No.51 once you’ve got it home and sorted to your liking!

Although they’re at least 50 years old, these cabinets are more common than you might think, and indeed it often seems to me that every second household in south Wales and in the north-west must had one with a 201 in it in the 1940’s.  They do tend to have their share of scratches and scrapes, as well as the almost-inevitable water rings on the top where the plant pot with the aspidistra stood on it, but you’d be surprised what you can do with those wood restorers they sell in B&Q.

Points to watch if buying at auction or particularly on Ebay include check whether all the treadle mechanism is still there and avoid one if it is but it’s rusty.  If a cabinet’s got that damp at some point in its life, odds on there’ll be some veneer lifted somewhere or maybe even rotted.  Also watch for strained hinges on the top flap caused by repeatedly lowering it without the left-hand door open under it, and doors that don’t close properly because one or both of the (very long) hinges is stuffed.  One other thing – when checking out any enclosed cabinet with a view to purchasing it, be prepared for it being really grotty inside and having a strong pong when you open it up …

Singer Cabinet No.51 will take a 15, a 66 or a 201 of either flavour, and we usually have one available at a sensible price which is clean and tidy but perhaps still has scope for improving the surface finish.