Friday, July 29, 2011

Singer 401A decorative stitch sewing machine

The Singer 401A was popular in the early 1960's (as far as I know)
and featured an adjustable throat plate, a hinged face plate,
superfine control of stitch length, a built in Light,
a new needle clamp that can hold 2 needles and the "Cam Stack". This machine, also known as the "Slant-O-Matic", was professed to be The Greatest Sewing Machine ever built.
(At least that's what it says on the owners manual)

I probably had the most trouble with this machine trying to get the "needle swing" working correctly. It was gummed up and would stick on the right side. It was driving me nuts! I finally found the service manual and there was a "step by step" on how to free up the needle swing. These old machines can really clean up nice.

The picture below shows the cam stack with the addition of the one "Special" replacable cam.

This machine came with it's own table which was in perfect shape.

And, I had to try sewing with 2 needles. I am not a sewer but I really enjoyed playing with the decorative stitches with 2 needles.

Being new in the sewing machine repair business, I new it would take a while to develop a customer base. I also new that I needed to gain some confidence. I search garage sales, flea markets, antique stores, Craigslist and E-bay for inexpensive machines to work on. What a great learning experience.


  1. Great machine in a beautiful cabinet. I bought a 401 from a woman who lives three hours away after seeing it listed on Craigslist for $30. The seller said it had been recently serviced, but the cam stack was stuck. I spent a day saturating the cams with oil and warming the gears with my hair dryer. The machine stitches beautifully now on all settings.

  2. I have exacly the same one and I really adore it! However, each time I try to create decorative stiches, the motor of the machine goes slower and slower untill it stops workind. Do you perhaps had the same experience?
    Thanks in advance

    1. Hello DIE, Please do not use your machine untill you figure out what is going on. You will burn up that motor. As you can see from my original post and the comment from Anne, these machines can become very sluggish and non functioning due to the old grease and oil turning into glue. I would guess that your motor is working overtime trying to move the needle bar back and forth and turn those cams. Check this by turning the hand wheel by hand when a decorative stitch is engaged. There should be no added resistance compared to a straight stitch setting. I assume you can sew all day using a straight stitch with no motor problems. Please think seriously about having a complete and thorough cleaning of your machine. (How long have you had the machine and has it ever been serviced since you have had it?)

    2. Hello Dano, thank you very much for the quick answer. Actually I got it as a present 6 months ago and I have serviced it once, 3 months ago. Normally I am using it a lot (nearly every day), and I am very very satisfied with it, untill I have tried decorative stitches. Thank you for your advice, I will try to clean again and see if there are any results. I have tried to move hand wheel by hand and it worked with no problems...

    3. Dano, when it is "serviced" most places only add oil to the old oil. In a month or two they gum together and you have the same problem. You need someone experienced to take off the old (50 year old) oils and grease, then oil it and run it, then take that off, and do final oil and adjustments. I'd try to find someone who knows how to do this, but does it as a hobby as it takes me about 25 hours to clean and restore a machine. this machine is worth it. You will love the Singer's fabulous for every day sewing from thin (silks) to heavy (denim and clothing leather).