Thursday, 29 August 2013

My Singer 431G Story

You can't see the electrical from this photo.

I did it! I didn't think I should, but I did it! I bought a vintage machine on eBay! After I bid on it I realized the machine would be wired for English voltage. YIKES! It won't work in Canada. With some research I found out I could buy a step up voltage transformer that will change the voltage/wattage up to 220V from our 110V. One person told me that people bought English Featherweights all the time and used the step up transformer. So I went ahead with the purchase.
I was still nervous about using this step up transformer so I talked to a couple of repair guys who have worked on sewing machines for a long time. From one guy we heard the history of Singer and I got to go in the back and see a sewing machine graveyard! There were machines stacked 5 high and 4 deep. There were machines rigged for treadles, like European 401's. It was very cool. The consensus was that transformers can be noisy and they could stress the motor. Being a vintage zig zag machine and a vintage motor it's not like I could go buy a new motor to exchange it if it burnt out. (I now know they stopped making this motor model 10 years ago)

Still can't see the electrical. This is a free arm model. Like a combination Featherweight 222 and a 401.
You can see the compartment in the part that comes off. All the original attachments, including the chain stitch plate.
The silly thing is that now my machine had arrived I couldn't test it to see if the motor worked because I didn't have a transformer. What were my options? So back to the repair guys to ask more questions. Could the English motor be swapped out for a North American one? Where could I get a motor? After talking to a couple of local guys in person and through emails I got 3 reactions 1) Why do you want an old machine? Yes I can probably do it. 2) Bring in the machine so I can see what motor it uses and if I can get one - probably from the first guy and 3) He knew his stuff, he looked right away for a motor and when he wasn't sure he called Singer and got the info he needed. He found out he could use the motor from a 503(?) in my machine and that he had one in his machine cemetery. So I went with Mike, number 3 because I got the best vibe from him. 4) This guy emailed me after I had the work done to tell me it couldn't be done!

Mike is located in Woodstock, a 2 hour drive away from me. He said if we prearranged it, he would work on the machine while I drove around and went shopping/sight seeing. Well since Lens Mills is almost just up the street and there is a 3 story antique barn/shop there too it wasn't hard to use up the time.
This is one row of many!

While Mike worked on my machine, I found a few fabrics (I was good and didn't go crazy) then I headed to the Antique store.

I was in the middle of the 2nd floor when Mike told me the machine was ready. I went and tried it out and we talked about what he had done. Mike works on lots of vintage machines, he converts electric machines to treadles for the Amish in the area and he sells rebuilt vintage machines in his shop. I forgot that he didn't do debit and I had exactly the right amount of cash on me, whew! I packed it in my car and then went back to the store, after all I drove 2 hours to get here I might as well go and finish my looking around. I picked up some vintage tins to hold my binding clips and a vintage sewing attachment tin with a quilting attachment in it to sew straight lines. I picked up a brooch for Sharon since she wasn't able to come with me.

Mike emailed me 2 days later to see if I had tried out the machine and if was I happy with it. He guarantees his work for 2 years. I know who I will take my featherweight to when it needs service. I hope people in the Woodstock area give him a try, small businesses like his are what we need to support, especially if we want to keep quality vintage machines up and running. What I learned from this experience?

In my local  Starbucks!


  1. Thank you for the tip about The Woodstock Sewing Centre.

    Did you try John Garde & Company? My mum swore by them. They always seemed to have the parts she needed. She was a tailoress and had quite a lot of vintage machines as well as some converted English Singers. They mostly deal with industrial sewing machines but will work on Domestic machines a well. When we came to Canada many years ago she brought her old Singer sewing machine as she couldn't part with it. They converted it with no problem at all.

  2. Hello,
    There shouldn't be any Problems for your Sewing Machine while using an Transformer for stepping up your 110V to 220 Ort 240V

    1. I decided I didn't want to carry around a transformer while I was using the machine and was able to find a knowledgable repairman who changed my machine over to North American voltage. Thanks for the info for my next vintage machine. :)

  3. Hello,
    There shouldn't be any Problems for your Sewing Machine while using an Transformer for stepping up your 110V to 220 or 240V AC.
    Make sure that it provides enough Power, 200W should be enough and that it is really an Transformers, not such an modern elektronic device.
    There is nothing in the machine what can go wrong from this.
    Best regards from Germany, Kai

  4. Thanks for the info Kai. I will keep this in mind because I'm sure this won't be my last vintage machine from Europe. LOL

  5. Hello... do you have any contact details for Mike... I'm in the UK so could do with that 220v motor he swapped out...

  6. Mike's info is in the blog post above. He runs the Woodstock Sewing Center. His email is there too. Good Luck!