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Message Board > Sewing Machines > Old (vintage?) sewing machine ( Moderated by Sharon1952, EleanorSews)

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Old (vintage?) sewing machine
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GwenC
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GwenC  Friend of PR
Intermediate
FL USA
Member since 4/22/07
Posts: 115
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thumbsup 1 member likes this.
Date: 5/17/07 9:02 PM

Hi! My grandmother just gave me her old electric sewing machine. I've been googling like crazy and can't find out anything about it. It says that it is manufactured by "The Elite Sewing Machine Corp" and "Made in US Occupied Japan" - leading me to believe that it is from the late 1940s or early 1950s.

The only company that I can find on the internet with that name was established in 1979 in Taiwan (by a Japanese company named Aisin, which WAS making sewing machines in the late 40's and early 50's and seems to maybe be related to Toyota). So I don't know if this is related or not.

The serial number begins with the letter Z, which doesn't appear in any of the lists of serial numbers for Singer machines...

I've also checked these websites:
http://www.ismacs.net/
http://www.tias.com/stores/relics/ (or sewing-machine-manuals.com)

Does anybody have any ideas? Thanks!
--Gwen

------
May your needle stay sharp and your grainline run true!

Jennifer Hill
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Jennifer Hill
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AB CANADA
Member since 4/11/02
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Date: 5/17/07 9:30 PM

Hi Gwen, is this machine a straight stitcher? In the years following WWII, the Japanese recieved lots of help from the West, mainly America, to re-establish their industrial base. Sewing machine manufacture was a big deal then, and to kick-start the business, they were GIVEN the plans for the Singer 15 class machines (Singer was beginning their "hard times" then, and didn't seem to object to the handover of a 60yr old design). There were many many (dozens? hundreds?) of Japanese companies producing machines of this design, often erroneously referred to as class 15 "clones". These were badged with thousands of different western-sounding names and were distributed widely in North America and Europe. They rarely ever bore any indication of their true manufacturer, as "made in Japan" had a negative connotation in those days. As a result is is almost impossible to determine who made any particular unit.

So, "Elite" may have only been a name fixed on the machine by its North American distributor, or retailer. Regardless, its operating manual would be quite similar to that of a Singer 15-30, although it likely has a true reverse feature, and its feed dogs likely lower for darning or FM work.

Despite the percieved inferiorities of Japanese products of that era, these machines are of uniform high quality (some even think they are better than REAL Singers), and will last several lifetimes. Because they are by no means rare, they don't seem to be considered "collectible" and have little $$ value. But as useful sewing machines, they provide great value.

Jennifer in Calgary



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In reply to GwenC


Date: 5/17/07 9:35 PM

It definately has nothing to do with Singer, in that Singer didn't make any machine in Japan at that time.

I have a word documnet about the history of the sewing machine industry in Japan if you are interested.

What do you need to know about it? How to thread it or ???

ETA: Jennifer Hill already gave you the history!
-- Edited on 5/17/07 9:40 PM --

GwenC
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GwenC  Friend of PR
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FL USA
Member since 4/22/07
Posts: 115
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In reply to Jennifer Hill


Date: 5/17/07 10:20 PM

Jennifer,

Thanks SO much for this history! It sounds like there is little hope of learning the specifics about where this machine came from, but I'll invest in the operating manual for the Singer 15-30 to help me figure out how to operate it.

I'm afraid I don't know if it's a straight stitcher or not. Truthfully, I'm not even sure what the alternative is, or how to tell the difference.

At the moment it doesn't run, but I'm hoping that I can get it fixed (plan A: husband; plan B: professional).

I don't really care about the dollar value - I have a lot of respect for any machine that was built to last forever, and I like having the connection to history - both of my family and more generally... :)

Thanks again!
Take care,
Gwen

------
May your needle stay sharp and your grainline run true!

GwenC
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GwenC  Friend of PR
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FL USA
Member since 4/22/07
Posts: 115
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Date: 5/17/07 10:27 PM

Got2bjennyg,

Thanks so much for the information! I'd love to see the word document about the history of the sewing machine industry in Japan, if it's not too much trouble. What is the best way for you to get it to me? I could send you a private message with my email address, if that would be easiest. Just let me know.

As for what I would like to know about it - really, anything and everything. Hopefully I can figure out how to thread it once I get the Singer manual that Jennifer Hill recommended. I guess suggestions about where I might find replacement parts would be really helpful - the needle looks slightly curved to me but I'm not sure if that is on purpose or it was bent at some point in time.

Anyways, I didn't intend for anyone to go to a lot of trouble. This has already been a big help! :)

Thanks so much!
Take care,
Gwen

------
May your needle stay sharp and your grainline run true!

Lady_Mame
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Lady_Mame
Intermediate
WA USA
Member since 3/11/07
Posts: 2074
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Date: 5/17/07 11:59 PM

I love your solutions. I hope (a) husband works.

I think that the folks that made Elite also made my 'Universal" as per the rebadging that was already covered. They are similar, in my opinion, to Kenmore's of the same time period/little later.

I found that replacing the iffy wiring on my machine and using liberal cleaners after 'cracking the case' seemed to jolt it back into working condition. However, if the machine is siezed, if will most likely need a professional.

They have very universal parts, most are made to this day, so I don't think fixing it will be an issue at all. I don't know about the wisdom of this, but I just used basic, no-corrosive household cleaners in quantity followed up by wd40 and then real sewing machine oil.

Best of luck, old machines are great fun. If you can post pics, we might have better advice for you! (Okay, i just want to drool over some prime vintage machine pics, but it's all good, right?)

------
Needle Needle Straight and Slim, Dust and Sweep the House for Him! --Grimm Fairy Tales



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In reply to Lady_Mame


Date: 5/18/07 6:57 AM

Quote: Lady_Mame
I love your solutions. I hope (a) husband works.



I think that the folks that made Elite also made my 'Universal" as per the rebadging that was already covered. They are similar, in my opinion, to Kenmore's of the same time period/little later.



I found that replacing the iffy wiring on my machine and using liberal cleaners after 'cracking the case' seemed to jolt it back into working condition. However, if the machine is siezed, if will most likely need a professional.



They have very universal parts, most are made to this day, so I don't think fixing it will be an issue at all. I don't know about the wisdom of this, but I just used basic, no-corrosive household cleaners in quantity followed up by wd40 and then real sewing machine oil.



Best of luck, old machines are great fun. If you can post pics, we might have better advice for you! (Okay, i just want to drool over some prime vintage machine pics, but it's all good, right?)

I have freed up numerous frozen and seized machines. In fact, many of the old manuals actually cover this issue and recommend using kerosene to bathe the parts. Liquid wrench is mostly kerosene, so that works well. A penetrating oil of any sort will be more effective than WD-40. I stick them in a box, spray everything down and let them sit in my garage for a day or so. Multiple treatments may be necessary. I usually remove the motor before doing this.

I then follow up with a good cleaning and "spa treatment" application of sewing machine oil and lubricant as needed. Rewire as needed and they are happy little sewing machines again!

I avoid any household cleaners on old sewing machines, at least for the painted surfaces. Many of them can silver the decals or ruin the finish. I will use denatured alcohol on metal parts to remove old grease & oil. Simple green works well on the metal bits as well, but take care to keep these products off of the painted areas.


Member since 12/31/69
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In reply to GwenC


Date: 5/18/07 7:11 AM

Gwen,

Send me a PM with your email address and I will send you a manual (PDF) that will get you on your way and the word doc about the history.

Here is a thread diagram that should get you started.

Replace the needle. Any, standard, household sewing machine needle will do the trick (avoid the "stretch needles and yellow band Singer needles on these older machines- they have an offset scarf design that can cause problems on these oldies).

If you are so inclined to rehab this machine yourself, Consider joining some of the yahoo groups. (wefixit and vintagejapansewing).

GwenC
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GwenC  Friend of PR
Intermediate
FL USA
Member since 4/22/07
Posts: 115
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In reply to Lady_Mame


Date: 5/18/07 8:28 AM

Hi Lady_Mame!

Thanks for the advice - it's especially good to know that finding parts shouldn't be a problem. :)

And kind of amazing - can you think of anything being manufactured today that, in 50 or 60 years, someone will be able to say "Oh, don't worry about finding parts - most are still being made..." ?

I'll try to post some pictures later today. This is my first vintage sewing machine, so I'm not sure if it's truly drool-worthy, but I sure think it's beautiful! ;)

Take care,
Gwen

------
May your needle stay sharp and your grainline run true!

GwenC
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GwenC  Friend of PR
Intermediate
FL USA
Member since 4/22/07
Posts: 115
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Date: 5/18/07 8:36 AM

Hi JennyG! :)

I've sent you my email address, printed both your advice re. freeing seized machines (I'm pretty sure mine IS seized) and the diagram for threading the machine, and will look into those yahoo groups you recommended. I think that trying to fix it myself would be a lot of fun!

I know I shouldn't be surprised by anything on the internet anymore, but it cracks me up that there is actually a group as specific as "vintagejapansewing". ;)

It sounds like you have a lot of experience - how long have you been restoring old machines? About how many have you done? Do you have a favorite or least favorite brand? How did you get started? If you have time and are so inclined, I'd love to hear some of your stories... :)

Thanks again for everything!
Take care,
Gwen

------
May your needle stay sharp and your grainline run true!

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