Many vintage sewing machine ads tout the wonders of a "powerful 1.0 amp motor," which sounds impressive.
But the Singer 401 has only a a .72 amp motor. Does that mean it's less powerful than the 1.0 amp machine?
What is an amp? How many do I need? Does it even matter?
An amp (short for ampere) is a measurement of electrical current. The amperage of an electric motor is the amount of electrical current required to run the motor. If a motor draws more current it usually produces more power.
"MORE POWER!" - Tim "The Tool Man" Taylor
Is "more power" always a good thing? Not necessarily. If you ever watched the sitcom "Home Improvement" you've seen what happens when an oversized motor is attached to a home appliance. (Remember the dishwasher?) Not good.
Those episodes were exaggerated for comic effect, but the principle holds true. An electric motor needs to be the right size and right power for the task at hand. Under-amped or over-amped are equally undesirable.
Let's compare the .72 amp motor from a 401 with a 1.0 amp motor from a belt-driven Class 15 "Singer Clone":
.72 amp Singer 401 motor
1.0 amp Class 15 "Clone" motor
The .72 amp motor has a long motor shaft because the motor sits inside the machine and the gear at the end of the motor shaft directly engages the needle-bar and hook mechanism inside the machine. There are no belts.
The 1.0 amp motor has a short shaft with a pulley that connects to the machine via a belt on the handwheel. The handwheel turns the needle-bar and hook mechanism inside the machine. A belt-driven sewing machine typically needs a more powerful motor because power is lost in the transfer from motor to mechanism (via the belt). A higher amp motor compensates for this loss of power. (Note: additional power will be lost if the belt is too tight or loose.)
So when you are shopping for a vintage machine, it's not just the size of the motor that counts, it's the design of the machine that determines how much power is needed to drive the mechanism.
Which means that a .72 amp motor packs the appropriate punch for the Slant-o-Matic family, but a 1.0 amp motor provides the added "oomph" that a belt-driven machine needs.
Whichever machine you choose, make sure the size of the motor is appropriate. It's possible to attach a bigger motor to belt-driven machines, but "more power" can place undue stress on the machinery, which may shorten the machine's life. You need enough power, but not too much power.
My family and I spend a lot of time on eBay and Craigslist looking at sewing machines. Big shock, I know! It's what we do, it's our "thing." Another big thing in my family is words. We LOVE words! Whether written or spoken, we enjoy the intricacies and absurdities of words. We particularly enjoy discovering "new" words or creative spellings of familiar words.
Sewing machine ads on Craigslist and eBay have been a gold mine! Who knew there were so many weird and wonderful ways to spell "Treadle"?
For those of you who may not know, a treadle machine is the old-fashioned kind with a foot pedal that turns the wheel to make the machine sew. The word treadle comes from the Old English word 'tredan' which means 'to tread'. OK, that's your vocabulary lesson for the day, now let's have some fun!
Some of the more creative spellings & variations we've seen lately:
Trudel Truddle Trestle Trundle Treedle
That was fun! And now that I've found the perfect 'trundle' machine, I need to find a 'bake-a-light' accessory box and some sewing 'niddles' to complete the set!
Dad is starting a museum of other online oddities. So far his collection includes:
chomp saw radio alarm saw Swinger sewing machine (not sure yet if it's a trudel, trundel, or trestle)
Have you spotted any of these rare products online? We'd love to hear about them!
OldSewinGear is the collaborative effort of retired repairman Gary and daughter Barbara. We love old sewing gear and enjoy sharing what we've learned in our vintage sewing machine adventures. We are located in Roseburg, Oregon.