One of our readers asked how to reassemble the stitch-length adjustment knob on her 503 Rocketeer. She took hers apart to clean it and then encountered a problem getting the pieces back together. I didn't know the answer either, so I went and asked the resident expert. He explained it to me and I went and tried it out for myself and took some pictures and videos to share.
Without further ado, here's how to reassemble the 500/503 stitch-length adjustment lever knob. First we'll look at taking it apart and then we'll look at putting it back together.
The lever has a knurled knob on the end that tightens up against the face plate to select the desired stitch length.
There are two wings on the lever that slot into the notches at the "fine" selection and the "6" selection to lock those settings into place.
To disassemble the knob, use a standard screwdriver to remove the screw at the end of the shaft. Then pull the whole knob assembly toward you. It will slide off along with the small washer that sits on the end of the shaft between the screw and the knurled knob.
The winged piece screws up inside the knob and will have to be unscrewed for proper cleaning and lubricating.
When you've finished disassembly the knob, you'll have four pieces as shown at left. Next, a light application of lubricant on the inside the knob will aid in reassembly.
Putting the knob back together can be a bit tricky because threading the winged piece back into the knob works opposite from the old "lefty-loosey, righty-tighty" principle.
Start by holding the winged end in your left hand. Then take the knob in your right hand and screw it onto the end of the winged piece, turning it toward you. This is best shown in video:
Next the winged end will be inserted into the slot on the lever and the washer and screw put back in place. Again, this is best demonstrated in video:
As you can see, it only took a little bit of fumbling to get the pieces back together. Believe me, it will be a lot easier if one hand isn't tied up holding a camera!
And there you have it. Make sure everything is firmly tightened and your knob will be good as new.
Happy Sewing! Barbara
OldSewinGear...dedicated to helping you get the most out of your old sewing gear.
First, select the stitch pattern you want to use. There are 24 discs available for the Slant-o-Matic and early Touch & Sew machines. They are numbered 0-23, with 0 being standard zigzag and 23 being basting stitch.
Next, open the lid on the top of your machine:
Check to see if there is already a disc in the machine:
500 disc compartment WITH disc
500 disc compartment WITHOUT disc
Singer 401 stitch selector knob.
If there is already a disc in the machine, you will need to remove it before inserting the disc of your choice.
To remove or insert a disc you may need to adjust the knob or lever settings on your machine.
If you have a 401, 411, 500, or 600 model, make sure the stitch selector is NOT on "Special."
Singer 600 stitch selector levers
Singer 500 stitch selector knob
403 stitch width lever
If your machine is a 403, 503, or 603 model, set the stitch width lever to "S" or "STR".
Grasp the raised center portion of the disc firmly and pull straight up. There's no special trick to this. As my dad always says, "Pull hard and it'll come easy."
Now you're ready to insert your chosen disc. Line up the holes in the disc with the two posts in the disc compartment.
Press disc firmly into place. There should be a slight click when it's fully seated.
Let's look at it in motion:
Next, readjust knobs & levers for Special Disc sewing.
For 401, 411, and 500 machines, set large center knob at "B" on the left and "Special" on the right. For 600 machines, set the upper stitch selector lever at "Special" and the lower stitch selector lever at "B". Then set stitch width lever to desired width.
For 403, 403, and 503 machines, set stitch width lever to desired width.
Finally, adjust the stitch length lever to desired density. Special Disc patterns typically look best when sewn at the shortest stitch length possible.
That's it! You're ready to sew. It's really that easy.
Happy Sewing! Barbara OldSewinGear...dedicated to helping you get the most out of your old sewing gear.
October 1957...Russia launches Sputnik, and the whole world goes into orbit...
America went crazy for "Space Age" style and Singer's response was the redesigned Slant-o-Matic, fondly called "The Rocketeer."
With sleek, futuristic lines, cool knobs, and rocket-motif levers, the 500-series was one small step for Singer, one giant leap for...well, you get the picture!
Launched in 1961, the 500 series introduced features not included on the early 400 series Slant-o-Matics. These included top-mounted enclosed bobbin winder and an additional "thread control" lever. A previous post, "Which is better? Singer 401 vs. 500 Rocketeer" discusses the differences in a side-by-side comparison of the two models.
The new Slant-o-Matic came in two models, 500 and 503. So how do they stack up against each other?
Both machines are heavy duty powerhouses with the ability to sew straight-stitch, zig-zag, & decorative stitches. When properly adjusted and equipped with correct needle and thread, both machines will sew leather, denim, canvas, or vinyl.
As with the 401 and 403, the fundamental difference between the 500 and 503 is in HOW the machine sews zig-zag and decorative stitches. The 500 has decorative stitches built-in. The 503 requires Special Discs to produce any stitch other than straight stitch.
Let's take a look side by side with 500 on the left, 503 on the right:
Slant needle Rotary hook Steel Gears Drop-in Class 66 bobbin .72 Amp direct drive motor Double-thread capacity tensioner Double capacity needle clamp Thread control regulator Special Disc compartment Removable top-mount spool spindle 2 fold-flat spring-loaded spindles --- 25+ stitch patterns built-in
Slant-o-Matic 503A Special
Slant needle Rotary hook Steel Gears Drop-in Class 66 bobbin .72 Amp direct drive motor Double-thread capacity tensioner Double capacity needle clamp Thread control regulator Special Disc compartment Removable top-mount spool spindle 2 fold-flat spring-loaded spindles --- No built-in stitch patterns
Almost immediately you notice that the 500 has a large knob in the front and the 503 does not:
The large knob on the 500 is the selector for built-in stitches. A look inside reveals the cam-stack that produces these stitches on the 500 and the absence of the cam-stack on the 503:
Since the 503 does not have any built-in cams, it relies entirely on Special Discs to produce zigzag and decorative stitches. Once a Special Disc is inserted, the 503 is capable of producing beautiful decorative stitches using single or double needles.
On the other hand, the 500 has the capability of combining built-in stitches with Special Discs to create additional decorative patterns. (For more information on built-in stitches vs. Special Discs, see the article "Do I need Special Discs for my 401 or 500?")
So which Rocketeer is right for you? That depends on your sewing needs. If you want simplicity with the option to occasionally sew decorative stitches, the 503 will suit you perfectly. It is very easy to operate and typically a little quieter than the 500 since it has fewer moving metal parts.
But if you want maximum creative flexibility and don't mind learning how to use the knobs and charts, then the 500 is the better choice.
Whichever model you choose, you'll be 'over the moon' once you own a Rocketeer!
On a lighter note, my family reserves the term "Rocketeer" for the 500. Our nickname for the 503 is "Purtineer." Almost a full-fledged Rocketeer, but not quite!
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.