So you have a project or cottage industry and you need a heavy duty sewing machine. You've heard you should get a Singer 401, but can't find one that fits your budget. Then you see a 403 and wonder...what's the difference?
Good question. The simple answer is that 401 was top-of-the-line and 403 the next step down. But what does that really mean?
401 Slant-o-Matic Fully Automatic
Features: Slant needle Rotary hook Steel Gears .72 Amp direct drive motor Double-thread capacity tensioner Double capacity needle clamp Special Disc compartment 25+ stitch patterns built in
403 Slant-o-Matic Special Semi-Automatic
Features: Slant needle Double thread capacity tensioner Double capacity needle clamp Rotary hook Steel Gears .72 Amp direct drive motor Special Disc compartment No built-in stitch patterns
Inside the 401:
Note the stack of steel cams at center right. These are the "built-in" stitch patterns. Special Discs are not required for zig-zag and over 25 other patterns. However, Special Discs 1-5 are additional designs not built-in on the 401 and can also be used in conjunction with built-in stitches to produced additional "Combination" stitches, such as scalloped zig-zag.
Inside the 403:
Note the absence of steel cams. Unless a Special Disc is inserted the machine will only produce straight stitch.
So which machine is better?
The bottom line is: it all depends on what kind of sewing you will do. Both models have the same motor, the same steel-gears, and the same basic design.
If all you need is heavy duty straight or zig-zag stitches, go with 403. It is simpler to operate and a little less noisy because it has fewer moving metal parts. And you can still do decorative stitching with a set of Special Discs.
If you need maximum artistic freedom, go with the 401. It's harder to use at first, but once you get familiar with the controls, you will enjoy the variety and flexibility of built-in stitches. And you get the prestige of owning "top-of-the-line" if that matters to you.
Happy Sewing! Barbara OldSewinGear...dedicated to helping you get the most out of your old sewing gear.
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.