WHO KNOWS how long it had been since he was really used, let alone oiled and cleaned. So I got out my trusty (free) manual and read the section on cleaning and oiling the machine.
The manual is very clear that you should never apply oil to the gears of the machine. It says to use lubricant on the gears, NOT oil. I had the standard sewing machine oil but I didn't have the lubricant. I did a search online and there are lots of listings on eBay for old lubricant in old metal tubes. Very cool. But I wanted to do it right away. So I did another search and found out that they sell it at JoAnn's. Easy. I ran and picked up a tube for just a couple dollars.
I laid out all my tools: screwdrivers, cotton swabs, cloths, oil, and lubricant. I was terrified. It seems wrong to have all those gears and private parts exposed. I was worried about messing something up. Or hurting him. Or - worst of all - not being able to get him put back together. So I read the manual again, administered general anaesthetic, and went for it.
I gave him the whole spa treatment: a bath, a cleanse, and good moisturize. There was some surface dirt but he polished up beautifully. I opened him up and brushed out his sensitive areas. There were mounds of lint, grime, and even some straight pins in there. I oiled and lubricated him according to the diagrams and closed him back up.
I gave him a test run and he sewed like a dream. So quiet. So smooth.
So I had my new Singer Slant-O-Matic 503A. He was comfortably nestled in his new deluxe cabinet. But now I needed to know more about him.
I could do the basics like threading him and stitching. But I wanted to know more about his settings, what he could do, what year he was born, how to de-lint and oil him, etc.
So I needed the manual.
It took some work but I was able to find a free PDF of the manual for the Singer 503 online. So I printed it out. I decided to make it a small manual (I love tiny things) and printed 4 pages to a sheet and cut them out. The manual is over 90 pages of vintage Singer sewing goodness. It covers all kinds of things: threading, bobbin winding, zigzagging. All the basics. It also has how to make buttonholes, do applique, and all sorts of fancy things. I also gives step by step instructions on cleaning, oiling, and maintaining the machine.
But the part that intrigued me the most were the pages that talked about the available "fashion aids" like the tucker, gathering foot, and darning/embroidery foot. It showed all kinds of delightful things that could be done with the amazing Singer 503.
So I had my "new" 1962 Singer Slant-O-Matic 503A. But it was so awkward sewing on the table. I HAD to have a cabinet for the poor guy.
I had a few requirements. My house is pretty small and there's only one good space to sew so it had to fit in that space. I also wanted it to have drawers for storage like my mom's awesome sewing machine cabinet. I had seen sewing machine cabinets at my local thrift store before so I knew where to look.
And it was Sewing Machine Serendipity.
cabinet was there. It had drawers for storage. It was just the right size - to within AN INCH - of the available space at home. IIt was old but not TOO old. They wanted $30.00 for it and it already had a machine in it. An old
White brand machine. I didn't need the machine so I used my powers of wheeling and dealing and managed to talk the guy
down to $15.00!!!
I brought it home (which was a circus act trying to get it in and out of the car by myself) and, to my dismay, the hole for the machine was too small.
But fortunately for me, my husband is the greatest handyman the world has ever
seen. And in about 30 seconds he had cut off the extra strip of wood on the
cabinet and my machine fit like a glove.
The drawers on the side are great for filling with all kinds of sewing things. At least I imagine they would be; the kids like dumping them and rooting around in them so I just keep their stuff in there for now. But one day.....
The finish is great. Someone named Jane (or Jane's sister who wanted to get Jane in trouble) scratched her name into the rim of the top but it's hardly noticable. There is a mark on the back with the name of the company. Some day I will pull it away from the wall and look at it but it's a solid cabinet and with the weight of Sinclair the sewing machine it's quite a job.
It's a great cabinet. And you can't beat $15.00.
(I know it's lame that I don't have a picture of the cabinet but I promise I will get one up here ASAP).
My sister-in-law had given me a Simplicity
Fashion Pro a few years ago when she outgrew it. It was a fun little machine. Simple. Plastic. Cheap. And
it got A LOT of use from her and A LOT of use from me before finally giving up
the ghost. With it gone, I was in the market for a sewing machine. A lot of the
neighbor ladies had light little plastic machines that they could carry to and
from quilting and sewing classes. And I WANTED one. But they cost $200.00
and it was going to take some time to save up that kind of money. So Mom very
thoughtfully offered to let me borrow an old machine she had.
When I was about 12 we came across the old
machine at a neighbor's yard sale. It was old and HEAVY in a big plastic
case. There was a box with some odd feet and attachments. The neighbor,
Michelle, wanted $30.00 for the lot. Thirty WHOLE DOLLARS. I remember it seeming
very steep but for some reason, Mom went for it. I don't remember much about it.
I used it a few times. My sister used it a few times. It was difficult to use
because it didn't have a cabinet so it didn't see a lot of sewing time. It sat in Mom's
sewing room, alone and forgotten.
I must admit, I was a little disappointed. I
really wanted one of those new machines. But I HAD to have a sewing
machine. (There's no way to live without one). So I brought the machine and the
box of bits home (thinking it was only temporary) and got it out.
A Singer Slant-o-Matic 503. Very retro with its "Rocketeer" design. Very
sturdy with its solid metal construction. It had lots of parts: the original attachments box, 8 fashion disks, spare
lightbulb, a partial buttonholer, zipper foot, general purpose foot, spare spool
pin, multislotted binder, ruffler, rolled hem foot, straight stitch plate, and
case. I didn't know what any of them did or were but I began to see what a treasure it was.
I plugged the poor neglected guy in and he sewed like a dream, right off, without
needing a tune up, even after all those years of not being used. I did a few
test projects and I was hooked. I found a free download of the manual on the
internet and began to learn more about him. Mom very generously said I could
keep the machine and he and I have been best friends ever since.