Singer 431G Slant Shank Sewing Machine

The Singer 431G has been on my wish list for quite a few years now.  I patiently waited for one to come within reach and finally managed to secure one for a decent price and at a distance possible for me to collect it in person.  I took a bit of a chance with it as I didn’t manage to find out what accessories and plates were included before hitting the “Buy” button but I was lucky.  The only thing missing is the straight stitch plate but as I have many dedicated straight stitch machines, I don’t mind that.  The general (zig zag) stitch plate will work just as well and I do of course have a LOT of options when it comes to sewing a straight stitch on fabrics that require the smaller needle hole.  Of much more importance to me is that the chain stitch plate is present, which it is, together with the general plate and two cover plates and a full set of feet, cams and bobbins.

feet

I always give new arrivals a thorough clean and service and removing the needle plate I discovered the ‘achilles heel’ of these machines: that is the fragility of the clamping pins over which the plates fit.  These are a mushroom-domed pin, cut vertically down in quarters, which allows the pin to squeeze together a bit when the plate is passing over it. I managed to snap off one quarter when I was lifting the needle plate free.

clamping pins

The complete, unbroken one is shown above left and right.  The broken on is shown at the bottom, together with two views of the broken piece to the right of the photo.

I doubt it can easily be fixed; it is too small to drill and pin and glue would not be sufficiently resilient to the constant strain of having plates squeezed over and prised off it repeatedly.  I shall just have to be careful not to dislodge any more.  It seems to hold absolutely fine with three quarters of the pin and a quick Google search shows me that this is a common problem.  If sufficient sections come free as to make it unusable I shall simply drill out the stumps and tap in a straight pin of correct dimensions to fit the holes in the needle plate or else tap in a threaded insert and use some ordinary needle plate screws.

Researching this machine before bidding, I found very little.  I’m not particularly surprised by this as what I did find out was that they had a very limited production run in the early 1960s.  I can’t find a serial number on her at all…I’ll continue to look but I’ve searched all the usual places.

Those of you who are familiar with my machine reviews will know how much importance I place on facts and figures so here follows some definitive data about the serial numbers of the accessories and plates which came with my machine.  I can’t guarantee that all of them are original but the plates all fit and so do the feet.

  • Chainstitch needle plate:                    Singer 503601
  • General (Zigzag) needle plate:          Singer 503583
  • Straight stitch needle plate cover:     Singer 507753
  • Zigzag needle plate cover:                 Singer 503541
  • Special purpose foot:                          Singer 161167
  • General foot:                                      Singer 172075-001
  • Button foot:                                        Singer 161168
  • Seam guide:                                        Singer 161172
  • Cording (Zipper) foot:                         Singer 161166
  • Narrow hemmer:                                Singer 161195
  • Multi-slot binder:                                Singer 161420
  • Ruffler:                                                Singer 161581
  • Straight stitch foot:                            Singer 170071-001
  • Darning foot:                                       Singer 161596
  • Five black top hat’ cams numbered 1-5.
  • 4 type 66 metal bobbins.
  • 1 small screwdriver
  • Small tube of Singer oil.

This is a composite photo of the chainstitch plate.  Its serial number is 503601.  I show it from three different angles – side, top and bottom, with the bottom photographed twice to show the range of motion in the swivelling piece that forms the chain stitch.

chain stitch plate

This photo shows the chainstitch.  It is beautifully formed and not difficult to do.

chain stitch

The bobbin is removed and the upper thread passed through the extra tension hook that is immediately left of the takeup lever.

chain stitch thread guide

I loosened the tension and used a stitch length of around 8 stitches per inch.  Using a longer stitch length increased the likelihood of dropped stitches, as did a hesitation in pace whilst sewing.

The thread I used was just a cheap polyester but I was nevertheless impressed with the results and look forward to experimenting further with this as it was indeed the primary reason I wanted this machine.

I will scan and publish a full version of the manual when time permits but in the meantime, here follow the pages relating to the chainstitching:

P19

P20

P21

P22

P23P24

The top hat cams are the old style ones with two apertures in the brim.  I am indebted to Barbara at Oldsewingear for her excellent blog post explaining the differences here: http://www.oldsewingear.com/blog/which-disc-is-which.  I can confirm her advice that the 431 takes the ones she describes as Type 1.

primary patterns

These cams supplement the primary stitch patterns which are built into the existing, metal cam stack which sits below the area where the plastic cams may be fitted.  The patterns are shown under the lid but further fine-tuning may be done using the stitch length too.

The manual advises to use the ‘Special Purpose Foot’ for these stitches as the raised area below the foot allows room for the depth of the satin stitches.

special foot

I do not presently have a straight stitch needle plate.  I believe that its serial number may be 503582 but have no way of checking this.  If any of you have one and can check it, please let me know.

I must draw attention to the fact that the lettering “AK3” appears on the top of the chainstitch plate as well as the straight stitch one so if you are seeking one or the other, do check that you are buying the correct one.  The best and easiest way to tell them apart is that the chainstitch plate has a slightly oval needle hole and more notably a pivoting bar underneath that helps form the chainstitch.

Another common confusion that has come forwards in my research is the subject of replacement needle plates and whether the superficially similar T&S plates are compatible.

Instinct is telling me that I can see enough differences to make it unlikely that the T&S ones could be substituted but I can’t say for certain unless one came into my possession so that I could try it.  Helen Howes (my favourite UK supplier) has several on her webpage and I can spot four main differences straight away, some obvious and others less so.

The 431 zigzag plate and the cover plates all have a rectangular area cut away on the underside, with a further two corners cut away further so that the base of the sides flared out at 45 degrees.  Lining it up with the feed and the bobbin case I can’t see any reasons for this but I nevertheless can’t ignore it as possibly relevant for the plate to fit.

This photo shows the zigzag and straight stitch cover plates, both front and back.

zigzag and straight stitch cover plates

This photo shows the area cut away from the underside of the bobbin plate.

bobbin plate underside

Some of the plates for the T&S have measurements scored both sides of the needle hole.  The 431 plates have measurements scored on the right hand side only, as shown here in this photograph of the general (zigzag) plate.

general (zigzag) plate

This photo shows the bobbin and needle plate together, top and bottom, showing how the two plates fit together.  At the bottom of the photo, the underside of the needle plate is juxtaposed with the area which is covered by it.

plate shapes

Where the needle plate meets the bobbin plate, the curved sides of the 431 plates reduce width through a 90 degree turn.  This edge is smooth.  Some of the T&S plates are shaped similarly but have an extra piece of metal running below the edge of the bobbin plate, perhaps to improve the fit.  I would be cautious of assuming that these extra pieces would marry up ok with a bobbin cover not designed to be used with it.

The holes for the clamping pins may be in a slightly different position; it is hard to tell.  The back of the feed dog holes on the 431 plates looks as if it is slightly closer to the back edge of the plate than on the T&S plates.  On the 431, the distance between the rows of feed teeth looks to be the same as between the feed and the back of the plate.  Measuring confirms it – the distance is 2mm in both cases.  These distances don’t look equal on the T&S plate.

plate dimensions

Because it is impossible to accurately gauge size from photos, I have also measured the zigzag plate.  It is 63 x 30mm.  Mine has obviously suffered a bad needle strike in the past and I shall certainly replace it if I ever get the chance but as spares are rare, I’m not holding my breath for that…

The feet and accessories are all generic slant shank ones that I think will be able to be shared between any other slant shank machines.

The machine itself was in excellent cosmetic condition and did not need a great deal of cleaning.  Despite this, I have taken all of her plates off and removed a great deal of fluff and a couple of needles from the base of the free arm.  I was very happy to see how easily this may be cleaned out.  The whole bottom of the free arm casing is a single piece, held in position by one bolt so it is very easy to access this area to clean and service it.  The hook and bobbin case look at though they would benefit from a more thorough cleaning than I have been able to do so far but as I am unfamiliar with this style of bobbin and hook I will wait until I have educated myself a little further before attempting this.

The machine is now clean, oiled and ready to use.  That said, I intend to run her in gently.   It is certainly a good few years since she was last used and she has spent the last six months in a garage.  Once I have properly run her through her paces I will report back with a post relating to performance, its neatness and quietness and how well she compares with my other machines.

I have not weighed her, but she is made from aluminium so whilst solid, is lighter than my cast iron machines and also lighter than my Bernina 830 Record, although similar in size.  The extension bed is much easier to remove than the one on my Featherweight 222k. It is released by pressing a small button on the machine bed, close to the rear of the machine pillar and slides back on again very easily.  The accessories are stored beneath an aluminium lid in the extension bed which opens up to reveal the compartment within, with space for the cams, oil, feet and attachments.  The motor is housed vertically within the pillar and is easily accessed by removing the single bolt which secures the oil pan below.  All in all it is very sturdily made and I am impressed.

 

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