Friday, August 19, 2016

My Singer 403a, the Slant-O-Matic

This isn't a 403a, but a cool ad for Slant-O-Matic machines.

I love my 403, it has quickly turned into one of my main default machines.  I love treadle machines, I have some cute vintage 3/4 size machines - but when I just want to get a sewing project done, especially clothing, I hop on the Slant-O-Matic.

What is the name about?  
Singer came up the slant shank idea to make your work in the needle area more visible.  The shank holding the presser foot is slanted, putting the stitching area further in front of the machine rather than straight below the machine.  I do think it makes it a bit more visible, but it isn't what I love about the machine, I just like how well it sews, the stitches it is capable of, all of the accessories available.  It goes fast when needed, has a zig-zag stitch and with some extra goodies can do even more.

Here is the first slant needle machine but I have only had the 403 and 404.  The 401 is the top of the line, here is a comparison
I am plenty happy with my 403a.  

The cabinet it is in held a 404, shown below which I sold and replaced it with the one above. 

The 404 is a straight stitch only machine, a real workhorse and great for quilting, but I have several other straight stitch machines I love so it needed to find a new home.

My 403a takes cams to make fancy stitches, Singer calls them Fashion Discs.  These are often called Top Hat cams, because of the shape.  

These are the cams that come with the machine

And here is a list of additional ones available at the time it was made.

It goes up to number 21, but later on cams were made for the 500 series (Rocketeers) and the 600 series, the Touch and Sews and these top hat cams also fit.  So if you see this box, it will go with your 403a also

I usually try to have one in my etsy shop.  

The really cool fashion disc to look for is #22, because it can be combined with an overedge foot to make a great stretch stitch.  Singer even packaged this combination:

It is great to use for finishing seams on the inside of garments, especially knits.  Instead of using my serger, which is usually threaded with white, I can switch to this combo and finish the raw edges with the same thread that I used for the project.  Very cool.

Here's another picture of the combo

It's cam #22 and overedge foot 163374 is the original part number, but there are modern ones available also.  And here is a link to a youtube video using this set up:

And because I just found it, here is another cam list:

Another cool accessory is the buttonholer

Other Fashion Aids listed include darning and embroidery attachment, edge stitcher, gathering foot and the tucker.  I have to make some time to play with these one of these days.

An upgrade I made to my machine was to get an LED lightbulb, it is cooler to the touch and gives a nice light.  I meant to polish it up for a glamour shot, I recently discovered that Blue Magic TR-3 Resin Glaze, an automotive cleaner and polish, works great on these painted mid-century machines to shine them up.  Of course try it in a hidden spot first.  This is an automotive product, and it really makes them shine! I used it on the 404 shown above, see that showroom gleam?

I'm not sure if I have really said clearly what I love about the 403a, so here's a list.
  • Ease of use
  • Zig zag and other stitch capability
  • Needle can be positioned left, right and center
  • Stitches strong, lovely stitch and goes fast when needed
  • Many accessories available
  • Nostalgia, I am pretty sure I sewed on a Slant-o-matic in school and home
  • Easy to clean and maintain
  • top loading type 66 bobbin, right in front
  • easy to thread
  • Just not a picky machine, will deal with thick or thin fabrics with no complaints.

Happy stitching!