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Brother select o matic, restored by Stitchified

I love vintage sewing machines. Their all metal construction, brilliant engineering, and retro lines make me swoon. I wish I could bring home every vintage machine I come across, but I’m pretty much at capacity over here. So I’ve tried to be selective and hold out for the perfect vintage zigzag machine. And that is why I pretty much imploded when I came across a craigslist ad for this beauty — my dream vintage zigzag machine, a Brother Super Select-o-matic or Brother HZ3B3 Model 100. It took a week to coordinate the sale, but it was so worth it. Restoring it took a couple of weeks, but I’m so in love with her now that she’s finished!

Before picture from craigslist ad

Before picture from the Craigslist ad. Such a dirty girl <3

The seller was an absolutely lovely woman. If we had had more time I could have spent hours talking to her! She explained that the machine had belonged to her late mother in law and hadn’t been used in years and years. Another fun fact? This beast is H-E-A-V-Y. In its solid 8 drawer cabinet, the machine easily weighs over 100 pounds. I’m sure my husband and I were quite the picture maneuvering this behemoth out of a second floor bedroom, but we succeeded.

Brother select o matic, restored by Stitchified

Action shot: cabinet restoration

I spent two weeks restoring the cabinet, which was definitely showing its age. It took over a dozen coats of Tung Oil and a lot of elbow grease, but it looks a million times better. It is still a little weathered looking, but I love it. It’s the perfect vintage piece to ground an otherwise bright space.

Brother select o matic, restored by Stitchified

The machine itself was really very clean inside, but the outside? Not so much. There was a lot of odd yellow staining. And.it.was.stubbon.  Given its age, I assume that it was nicotine staining? I used a lot of Qtips and barkeeper’s friend to remove the stains and polish the chrome. Unfortunately, I took off a little paint getting rid of the staining. I feel pretty badly about that, but I couldn’t leave it as it was either.

Originally, it had been wired with a knee control, but the lever was very squeaky and the cords felt brittle. So, I picked up a new cord block and switched over to a shiny new foot peddle. Once the machine was thoroughly cleaned I oiled it well — it’s been purring like a kitten ever since.

This machine is seriously fun stuff. It looks like an old vintage car with its powder blue paint job and shiny chrome knobs. But what really puts it over the top is the red “Switch Over Knob” which spins as it does the embroidery stitches. Totally gratuitous and squeal worthy! I’m adding a video because it really is too cool not to share.

A video posted by Jen (@stitchified) on

But she isn’t all looks, no, no. This baby sports a 1.2 amp motor — that’s twice as strong as my Janome Horizon. When you put the pedal to the metal, there is a slight but noticeable breeze — it seriously feels like it might take off and I love it! It goes through leather, vinyl, and canvas like butter. She uses a standard class 15 bobbin, so finding replacement parts (if I ever need them!) will be easy. I also love the way her gib pops open with a “snap-out race hook,” no screwdriver needed. It makes removing stray threads a snap (literally!), instead of a nightmare (ahem, I’m looking at you little Featherweight). I can’t wait to make bags on her! Or you know, maybe sailboat sails. Just because I can.

Linking up with Finish it Up Friday!

Pop out race hook

Genius engineering at work: Snap out race hook on the Brother Super Select-o-matic

As a PSA, I’m going to include some more nitty gritty info about this machine. There is very little info about this model on the internet, and I couldn’t find a manual anywhere online. The manufacturer didn’t even have a manual for this model, though they did provide a manual for an earlier model. So, feel free to stop reading here, though you’re welcome to dork out with me below 🙂

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This machine is a “Brother Super Select-O-Matic” aka “Brother HZ3B3 Model 100,” and was manufactured by Brother in Japan, likely in the 1960s. An earlier version of this machine, “the Select-o-Matic” had a differently shaped Stitch Width Window which was located further to the left. A later version, the “Brother 210” is also similar, but replaced the Stitch Regulator with a reverse button, did away with the separate Stitch Selector Knob, and flipped the bobbin on to the horizontal axis. There is a great blog post about the 210 (and related machines) by Brooke at Custom Style here.

Like other Japanese made machines of the time, these machines were sold as badged machines in the US. That is, the seller’s brand was added on top of or in addition to “Brother” once the machines arrived stateside. As a result, this machine and other “Select-o-matic” models were sold under dozens of brands including Atlas, Wizard, and Coronado just to name a few. Crazy, huh?

As you might imagine, badged machines are notoriously difficult to track. They all have different model names, and even the manufacturer didn’t keep track of serial numbers or production years. I was very fortunate to find the original manual and warranty card in one of the cabinet drawers. I am uploading a copy of the manual (here: Brother Super Select-o-Matic Manual) and created a little diagram below to help explain how this machine works. I also found a Ruffler in the accessories box, complete with instructions. Here’s a copy of the instructions for that, too: Brother Ruffler Attachment – Manual.Diagram Brother Super Select-O-matic, by Stitchified

The machine has three modes: automatic zigzag, semi-automatic, and manual zigzag. The modes are accessed by manipulating the Switch Over Knob (Pull out for automatic and semi-automatic zigzagging, push in for manual zigzagging). The automatic mode is very familiar for modern sewists. In automatic mode you select your settings, and then the machine sews a given stitch (straight or zigzag). But the semi-automatic and manual modes? Whoa, baby. In those modes, the user *manually* swings the Needle Position Knob from left to right in timing with the Stitch Width Window to produce custom embroidery stitches. No, I’m not kidding you. It’s insane.  To quote the manual in all of its vintage glory:

“The variety of zig-zag designs that can be made on this machine by simple manual manipulation is unlimited. It depends entirely on the creative ability of the operator and the skill acquired in timing the movement of [the Switch Over Knob] with the stitch width.”

Well, thank you 1960s for the condescension. I’m not ashamed to admit that this operator has not acquired this skill. I’m seriously awful at it. Haha 🙂

Alright, that’s all the info I have. If you read this far thank you for indulging me and my dork-out session!

Happy sewing!

 

Update June 2017. I’ve created an update with some FAQs here: http://stitchified.com/2017/06/09/brother-select-o-matic-update-and-faqs/

 

{ 23 comments… add one }
  • Laura November 20, 2015, 8:02 am

    What a beauty! Thank you for adding to the world’s collective knowledge of these beautiful machines!

    • Sarah April 20, 2017, 8:24 pm

      Hello, I have enjoyed reading your blog as I’ve searched for a manual similar to the brother you speak of here. Mine is a Brother HZ3-B1
      Could you please advise me to where I could find a manual?
      I’m not having any luck.
      Thanks in advance. Sarah

      • Jen June 10, 2017, 5:00 pm

        Hi Sarah! I believe the HZE-B1 is very similar to mine, so you could probably get away with the manual for my machine (it’s linked in the blog post). Otherwise, you might try joining the “vintage sewing machines” group on Facebook. There are a lot of manuals there – I would search for “Brother” “Wizard” and/or “Atlas” yours was probably a badged machine, too.

  • Mary at Fleur de Lis Quilts November 20, 2015, 5:23 pm

    Hey, it’s not often we get to dork-out and when a dorky seamstress gets to almost write the manual for a vintage machine, the rest of the world can take a deep breath and pause for two seconds. I’m actually sort of jealous. Well, not of the great restoration job, I’d leave that to someone else, but that you get to sew on this little hot-rod? What? Yeah, I’m jealous! There. I’ve admitted it. Now let me get back to the video.

  • Brooke December 15, 2015, 6:42 pm

    It’s amazing what wonderful vintage machines you can find on Craig’s List! Same way I found my Wizard. =)

    Thanks for the link back to my blog – it allowed me to see your beautiful new/old machine! I still haven’t really taken the time to sit down and learn all the semi-automatic and manual secrets of mine yet either. I wish they still made sewing machines like they did in the ’50s and ’60s! You just can’t beat the power and durability of the heavy all-metal ones!

  • Allison January 21, 2016, 1:09 pm

    Hi! I just found a machine that looks almost exactly like this, Brother Selectomatic 100 Series but has Riviera instead of Brother on the front. Its at Goodwill and I’m debating buying it, can you give me any info/tips? It’s so cute.
    It felt like it ran well and looks in good shape, haven’t plugged it in yet, but they hand wheel felt smooth. There isn’t a bobbin or case with it, but it does have a manual.
    I’d love to hear from you! Thanks!

    • Jen January 21, 2016, 9:23 pm

      Hi Allison, I’m so glad you found this post! I’m a bit biased, but I absolutely adore everything about this machine. It runs smoothly and quietly, but it’s crazy strong too. I wasn’t kidding when I said there’s almost a blow-back effect when you put the pedal to the metal. And, like you said, it’s absolutely adorable!

      As for your other question… This machine takes a standard class 15 bobbin, which is easy to find. I can’t say 100% sure, but I strongly suspect that the bobbin case is standard as well (mine sure looks like one!). My best guess is that this replacement bobbin case would likely work (link here: http://shop.sew-classic.com/Bobbin-Case-Class-15-Side-Loading-1-OClock-finger-JO1313.htm), assuming yours is side-loading like mine. FYI- The “super select-o-matic 100s” were the last model before Brother switched to a front-loading bobbin, so best to double check that. Anyway, you might give them a call over at Sew-Classic, they know their stuff, and their replacement parts are really good quality (way better than some of the cheaper imports). They also have a plethora of replacement bobbins.

      Oh, and in the interest of your sanity… these machines were meant to sit in a cabinet, so they have two short cords coming out of the machine (one for the light, and one for the motor) that are supposed to plug into a cord block that is/was mounted to the cabinet. The cord block is what plugs into the wall. Not sure if yours is in a table, but if it’s not, don’t plug either of the short machine cords directly in to the wall. You can easily find replacement cord blocks if yours is missing (I found mine on Amazon because old wiring sort of freaks me out, haha).

      I hope this is at all helpful! Please feel free to ask me any questions you have, and if you do buy the machine, I would love to see some pictures! I’m (clearly) an internet dork, and there’s a shortage of photos of these beautiful machines!

  • Mei May 6, 2016, 12:31 am

    Awesome machine! I have the 210 and love it too. I was wondering if you could help me. I can’t figure out how to remove the knob in order to lift the top. How did you do it?

    • Jen June 10, 2017, 5:07 pm

      Hello Mei! Awesome question. The trick is set the Indexer Knob to zero, and I think it also helps to put the Stitch Selector Knob at #1. Once those knobs are set, it releases the Indexer Knob (i.e. the top knob). Then all you have to do is unscrew the top screws, and twist the top of the Indexer Knob while holding the bottom/flatter part still. It should screw right off 🙂

      **June 2017 update for others. I’ve made an updated post with instructions and photos of this process. Link here http://stitchified.com/2017/06/09/brother-select-o-matic-update-and-faqs/

  • Lindsey May 10, 2016, 4:08 pm

    I just acquired a Select-o-matic HZ3-B1. I want to remove the top for cleaning and oiling but don’t know how to remove the stitch width knob. (Indexer). Have you done this? Would you explain it to me if you have?
    Can’t wait to put my pedal to the metal on mine.

    • Lindsey May 10, 2016, 8:11 pm

      Thanks for the help, Jen. Very much appreciated.

  • darlene November 8, 2016, 8:02 am

    Where did you find a new belt?

  • Garry November 26, 2016, 12:13 pm

    can this machine do upholstery

  • Mychelle December 20, 2016, 10:19 pm

    I have uncovered a Brother HZ3B3 Model 100 in my closet. Do you know how I would go about getting it to someone who would be interested in restoring it? I do not have the time that it would take.

    • Jen June 10, 2017, 5:03 pm

      Congrats on finding such a wonderful machine and in your closet of all places! My Brother HZ3B3 is one of my very favorite machines, it is such a workhorse. Restoring vintage machines isn’t difficult, but I totally understand if it isn’t your thing. 🙂

      Your best bet is to find a repairman locally. If you have a local quilt shop, they might be able to refer you to a sewing machine mechanic. Just be sure that he/she is comfortable working with vintage machines — I’ve heard stories of mechanics trying to upsell you on a plastic machine. You can also check the yellowpages for a “Sew and Vac” shop — it seems to me that a lot of the mechanics repair both vacuums and sewing machines.

      If that fails, there’s a facebook group called “Vintage Sewing Machines” with some 30,000 members. You might join the group and ask if someone would be willing/able to refurbish the machine for you. Good luck!

  • Ashley Wilson March 25, 2017, 7:06 pm

    Quick question I have this model and wondering what it’s worth

    • Jen June 10, 2017, 4:53 pm

      Hello Ashley! I hate to let you down, but very few vintage sewing machines (“VSMs”) are worth much dollar-wise and that’s especially true if they are in un-restored condition. The generally accepted convention for VSMs is somewhere between $10-$75, with flashy colors (especially pink) being on the higher end of the spectrum. The exceptions are a few Singer models which appeal to a larger audience outside of the VSM people – those machines being the Singer 221, 222 and sometimes the 201. I paid $45 for my Brother and it came with all of its accessories and an 8 drawer solid wood cabinet. I didn’t pay more than $30 for my other Japanese clones, and some of them were free.

      Occasionally you might come across the enthusiast willing to spend a bit more. This particular model could be on some collector’s lists, but collectors can be difficult to find. Most of a VSM’s value is in its abilities – so if you are a sewist I highly recommend cleaning it up and putting it work 🙂 Having a VSM professionally restored does increase it’s value, but not much beyond the cost of restoration + that $50 value.

      All the said, if you have any pictures I would love to see them. And if you need any DIY advice restoring it I’m happy to help. Good luck!

  • Erin Luevano May 16, 2017, 5:26 pm

    I inherited a brother selectomatic machine that looks almost identical to the one in your picture. I’m so nervous about restoring the machine. I don’t have much experience. Are there any websites you can direct me to to give me a step by step for cleaning/oiling this type of machine? Also, how can I know that the motor is still in good shape? You’re right about how heavy it is, wow!!

    • Jen June 10, 2017, 4:57 pm

      Hi there! I promise you there’s no need to be nervous about working on your machine — it’s built like a tank and I doubt you could permanently damage it even if you tried 🙂 It can be dirty work and intimidating at first, but it’s not scary once you get in there.

      I’m afraid there isn’t a tutorial for restoring this particular machine, at least not that I’m aware of. But really almost any restoration tutorial will work. The manual (on the blog post) shows you all the oil points, and a drink of oil will go a long way to bringing it back. You could join the “vintage sewing machines” group on facebook — there’s tons of great information there.

      As for the motor, that’s always a little tricky and people deal with it differently. I always use a well grounded surge protector with my old machines. I also replace the cords and sometimes pedals on every machine, which bypasses a lot of potentially problematic wiring. Here’s a link to the cord set for this machine (and this shop has a lot of great reproductions): http://shop.sew-classic.com/Cord-Set-Block-Style-700-143-SCE143.htm?categoryId=-1. My machine came with a knee lift, so I also swapped in a new electric (not analog!) pedal. If the motor wiring looks ok and the machine turns freely I take a leap of faith and turn it on. I haven’t been electrocuted or burned down the house yet! I know other people have them professionally rewired, and in the EU I think you *have* to have it rewired and certified. You should do whatever feels comfortable to you 🙂 Good luck to you!

  • Dobegirl May 17, 2017, 6:53 pm

    Thanks so much for posting the manual!! I just got the same machine as the one you pictured from my sewing machine technician. I have spent the day exploring. Had it not been for the information in the manual I would have NEVER figured out how to get a long stitch out of it! My tech cleaned, oiled, and sewed it off before I got it, but every stitch he made was tight. I have to get an appropriate cabinet, or get one modified by a carpenter to fit. Do you know where I can get accessories? I only have one foot. Thanks for such an excellent blog!

    • Jen June 10, 2017, 5:02 pm

      Hello there! I totally agree that it isn’t the easiest machine to figure out without a manual, but once you get over the learning curve it’s a dream machine. It’s become my go-to machine for everything. I’m so glad that you rescued one and brought it back into service If you have any pictures, I would love to see them! 🙂

      Lucky for you (and me!) this machine is a clone, built off the patents for the super successful Singer 15 — which means everything about it is totally standard. Most full size sewing cabinets from the 1920s-1960s will fit it, and for sure any Singer branded cabinet. Stay away from sears/kenmore cabinets since they were sized a little differently. I would keep an eye on your local craigslist or yard sales. Old sewing machine cabinets come up all the time for dirt cheap. If you’re feeling spendy, there’s a guy on Etsy who makes beautiful new bases for vintage machines too. Link here: https://www.etsy.com/shop/HomeBaseSewing

      As for parts, it’s a low shank machine which is still the standard for today. You can use any low shank foot, but I prefer to get vintage reproductions from Sew Classic here: http://shop.sew-classic.com/Low-Shank-Feet_c5.htm. I’m not a big fan of the clip-on adapter feet, though you can get entire sets of them on the cheap on Amazon. You can pick up a new cord set and pretty much anything else you need for your machine at Sew Classic, too. OH! One more thing! My favorite accessory for this machine is an LED bulb. Seriously an awesome upgrade. I got mine from Brad at Stitch all the things here https://stitchallthethings.com/screw-base-led/ . It takes a 7/16″ base bulb (or at least mine did).

  • Jayne Hemming August 31, 2017, 3:52 pm

    Hi, I was just gifted a sewing machine that looks like the one you have in the photo except that mine has a sticker on the back that says Model 203. I did a google search through images and came across your photos and blog. Thanks so much for the info and the manual. Not sure if mine is exactly the same as I just got it yesterday and haven’t had time to play with it yet. The photo looks pretty much the same though. New to sewing and am excited to start out with such a beauty. Would like to learn all I can so that I can take good care of her.

    • Jen September 1, 2017, 2:14 pm

      That’s wonderful! Good luck and let me know if you need any help!

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