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Sewing Machine Serendipity

I don’t know if anyone else has this tendency, but I have a habit of being generally curious and needing to know about random things.  Because of this, I often find myself first asking my husband (because sometimes he knows) and then often turning to the universe (aka “Google search”) for answers.

There have been countless times that I have gone on casual internet searches about one topic, and then ended up following random link trails to learn all kinds of seemingly useless trivia (and yes, I do retain a lot of it – it’s just how my inquisitive mind works).  Sometimes, my husband and I will waste hours randomly searching together and learning about new things.

And the harder it is to find information about something, the more I need to know.  Periodically, some of those tiny bits of trivia will serendipitously* fit together to solve a mystery.

Well, just call me “Sherlock” because I think I’ve managed to piece together some really useful details in my search for information about my recently acquired vintage Wizard brand sewing machine!

So if you have a Wizard yourself or you’re just generally curious (like I am) about the history of old things and how things work, I’ve decided today’s post will share with you what I’ve learned, in hopes that others searching the web for the same information will not have to search quite as hard as I did.

(And if you have any further information to add about Wizard sewing machines, please leave a comment!)

You’ve met him before – this is my Wizard, Gandalf the Green:

Wizard Brand Sewing Machine

He is an “Automatic Zigzag” sewing machine in teal & cream with shiny chrome accents, model number 3KC 8842 made in Japan (probably in the late ’50s or early ’60s).  And he weighs a whoppin’ 37 lbs!

I managed to find the lady I believe owned Gandalf before me because my sewing machine came with an old maintenance receipt.  The owner’s name was listed at the top, and I was aware that she had died right around the time I bought the machine.  So a search for an obituary online produced one that seemed to line up with name, location, and date of death.  I believe Gandalf the Green was previously owned by Linda Kay (Plant) Garrett of Abilene, TX.  Thank you, Linda, for taking good care of your machine!

Wizard brand was a line of tools made by Western Auto which included sewing machines.

Apparently, lots of Western Auto files were shredded and disposed of at some point in history (mentioned in this old thread), so there isn’t much documentation left about Wizard Tools.  But in my message board searching, I got the impression that the sewing machines made under the label “Wizard” were sold to Brother, a company that still makes sewing machines today.  (Too bad Brother doesn’t provide good online records about their vintage machines like Singer and some other brands do!)

When I brought Gandalf home, I knew I wanted to find a manual so I could learn his wonderful vintage tricks.  (Old sewing machines were not overly labeled like modern machines are, even though most operate with similar knobs and dials.  I could probably make do without a manual, but I had a feeling I would miss out on some amazing & hidden features.)  I also knew I wanted to replace the unmarked needle plate that did not appear to be original.

Eventually, I somehow coaxed the internet to give me the link to a website that sells old sewing machine manuals in both hard copy and instant download file form.  On the site, I still had to convince a search to give me the actual results I wanted for anything Wizard brand.  I finally achieved my goal of a being able to buy a manual with this pdf download for a Wizard 3KC 8841, which seemed to be nearly the same as my 8842 model (the “zig-zag width knob” is slightly different because it’s probably for the model just before mine).

Once I had the manual for the 8841, I learned there was a trick to turning the stitch selector (or “Automatic Pattern Selecting Knob”.)  At first, I thought my machine’s knob was just stiff and difficult to turn from years of storage, but it turned very easily once I knew to hold the zig-zag width knob in the neutral position at the same time.  This releases the tension on the cams, and it requires both hands – see photo example below.

How to hold the zig-zag width knob in “neutral” (L)
in order to turn the stitch pattern dial (R).

With the 8841 manual in hand, I took Gandalf to my local service shop for a good cleaning and basic tune-up.  Even the repair guy was unfamiliar with the unusual feature for turning the stitch dial, and after a little convincing, decided he would keep the manual with the machine just in case.

My next step in learning about my Wizard machine was a serious hunt for a new needle plate with measurement marks.

Part numbers and copyright dates seem to be impossible to find in old manuals, which are only about how to use a machine.  So I just started looking at photos of any plates that websites bothered to post.

One service shop in Illinois posted a huge number of random needle plate photos.   I was able to select about 3 by sight from the collage of photos that looked similar to the one on my machine.  Then I discovered that selecting a photo for enlarging also gave me a unique file name.  The picture labeled “B4139.jpg” appeared to be the best match.

I then did a search on ebay including “B4139” hoping it was a part number because I suspected the “B” stood for “Brother”.

Eureka!  I got a handful of exact hits!

I chose to pay a dollar more for the needle plate from a seller who took very clear photos and included one of the underside of the plate – which made it unmistakable that it matched the unmarked plate currently on my Wizard.  (I also discovered that part B4139 is the same as part number NZ3LG.)

Evidently, there are at least four Brother sewing machine models that use the same needle plate because the ebay listing titles included 4 different model numbers.  Out of curiosity, I did a search to find out what the various models looked like.

Three were pretty generic looking vintage machines.

But then I saw the Brother 210 and *may* have squealed with joy.  It was exactly like Gandalf down to every last knob and dial – only in pale pink!

This photo of a pale pink Brother 210 was from an old ebay listing that bizarrely posted the same day I first posted about my Wizard sewing machine. It sold 10 days later.

And I now had another lead!

I began to wonder if my Wizard 3KC 8842 was the very last model to be called a “Wizard” before being sold to Brother and renamed the Brother 210 – even the brand’s name-plaque was the same shape on both machines despite a different inscription.

I decided to purchase a CD copy of the Brother 210 user manual (another “buy it now” on ebay) to continue my quest for more information.  (I have since found a Brother 210 manual available for purchase in both physical and digital form on this webpage – scroll down to number 9 on the list.)

I received my two ebay items a day apart.

The needle plate was perfect.  The B4139 (or NZ3LG) plate fits the Wizard 3KC 8842.

Yay for measurement lines!

And the Brother model 210 manual revealed yet another surprise – “Knob B”.  Knob B (aka “The Switch-Over Knob”) is what the Brother manual calls the zig-zag width knob that you have to hold in neutral to turn the stitch selector.

Knob B has a magical secret befitting a Wizard – it pulls out!  According to page 15 of the Brother manual:

“This is the knob which allows you to switch the operation of your machine from straight to fully automatic zigzag sewing and vice versa.  It also allows you to set you machine for semi-automatic operation.  For fully automatic zigzag sewing or semi-automatic sewing – pull out Knob B.  For manual sewing – push Knob B in.”

“Knob B” is decorated with a fun mid-century style star. It turns AND pulls out!

And I had to chuckle to myself when I first read the “Introduction” in the Brother 210 manual because they just don’t write manuals like this anymore (nowadays the first page of a manual is usually called “Safety Information”):

“You are about to make an exciting discovery!  Sewing machines need not be out-of-date, but can be as modern, as efficient and well-designed as the cars we drive and the homes we live in.

“With experienced know-how and world-famous precision engineering, the Automatic Zigzag Sewing Machine has been created for you – today’s fashion-wise woman…

“…As you become acquainted with your new Automatic Zigzag machine, you will find the expert’s touch in its many exclusive features.  It will often seem to do your thinking for you.  Even the beginner enjoys the AUTOMATIC ZIGZAG sewing, and even the expert is amazed at its ease.”

I am going to have a blast experimenting with stitches on this machine!  My first impression was correct – it truly is a Cadillac of a sewing machine!  And all without a computer brain!  I love vintage machines.  =)

___________________________________

Please let me know if you have a similar Wizard or Brother sewing machine and have anything to add or would like more information about a specific feature.  And if you have the Wizard 3KC 8842 model and are searching for a manual of your own, I would recommend the manual for the Brother 210 over the Wizard 8841, although both manuals are helpful.

UPDATE:  Ryan sent me some photos to share of his recently inherited green Brother 210, complete with original sewing cabinet!  He said the previous owner married a WWII vet after the war, and he’s pretty sure the machine was purchased in Japan and shipped over to the states shortly after.  His wife is looking forward to using it.  =)

(click to enlarge and view as slide-show)

MORE UPDATES:

Mary also has a Wizard 3KC 8842, but her’s is missing the push-reverse button in the middle of the stitch selection dial.

Mary’s Wizard that’s missing the reverse button.

If you have the part or know where she can get a replacement, please email me so I can pass any information on to her. Thanks!

____________________________

* Upon hearing about my discovery of sewing machine information, my husband said my middle name should be “serendipity”, which in turn, spawned another of my searches – this time for the origins of the word serendipity.  It’s actually really interesting – check it out here and here.

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63 responses to “Sewing Machine Serendipity

  1. Leila January 7, 2013 at 1:56 pm

    I do get into stuff like this. I was sort of collecting hand me down sewing machines in Vermont but had to purge two of them in 2012. That was after I bought Max so I don’t feel so bad. But cool stuff.

    • Brooke January 7, 2013 at 2:01 pm

      I love knowing the history of things I own. And I can see how it would be easy to start a collection of sewing machines – simply because the old ones are so interesting looking and come in such cool colors!

      • Leila January 7, 2013 at 2:19 pm

        I totally agree. I love so many of the older machines. I don’t even care if they work…but space and Josh’s comfort level (ahah) I have to consider. I’m always looking at craigslist juuuust in case.

  2. Melissa January 7, 2013 at 2:31 pm

    Great investigation! Love going down those rabbit holes, but they can be so fulfilling!

  3. Karen January 7, 2013 at 8:59 pm

    Don’t you wonder what kinds of things Linda Kay Garrett made on this machine? What a fascinating post – thanks for taking the time to tell this story!

    • Brooke January 7, 2013 at 9:48 pm

      Yes, I have wondered what she might have made! I also wonder if her mother gave her the machine because she seems to be a bit too young to have been the original owner – it seems like a machine that would stay in a family for a while.

      I’m glad you enjoyed hearing about what I learned! =)

  4. Cation Designs January 7, 2013 at 11:23 pm

    I, too, go on Wikipedia trails all the time! This is such a great tale of how the internet can really be a boon for a persistent sewist. Glad to hear that Gandalf’s tricks have been revealed!

    Maybe one day you’ll come across a pattern labeled “Linda Kay Garrett” at a thrift store…

    • Brooke January 8, 2013 at 8:38 am

      Oh, good! I’m so glad I’m not the only one to get sucked in by the random searches. =) Finding one of her patterns – THAT would be really amazing!

  5. Theresa in Mérida January 8, 2013 at 11:44 am

    It was great fun going on your voyage of discovery with you!
    LOL, before the internet, I used to read encyclopedias (Jimminy Cricket taught me how to spell that word and to this day I hear him singing it in my head, but I digress). I would go to look up something and see an interesting word. Hmmm, aardvark? I always wondered what an aardvark looks like…and off I would go.

    The internet just makes it easier, but it’s still just as entertaining. Husband used to read encyclopedias too, I ask him off the wall questions all the time. One time he got annoyed and wanted to know why I even thought that he might know that particular thing, I just shrugged and said that I didn’t know what he knew until I asked.

    I saw the pale pink Brother 210 and found myself wanting one! Such a pretty sewing machine. I am resisting, can you imagine the freight charges?

    regards,
    Theresa

    • Brooke January 8, 2013 at 12:23 pm

      Thanks! I suppose I started with the dictionary and encyclopedia set on my parents’ shelf. (Remember hunting through the card catalogs at the library for a book?) Then once the internet came around, random searching became so much easier. I’m always amazed that some people can’t do successful searches – I guess I just got lots of practice by starting early. lol, I have just been reminded of this video – “it’s good to be curious!”

      Yeah, it would be a HUGE shipping charge for a 37 lb machine (not to mention how roughly it might be handled in the mail)! I was really lucky my teal version (the color I probably would have picked from all the options) was within driving distance for pick up!

  6. Dustin January 9, 2013 at 6:27 pm

    Hi Brooke, I’ve never used a machine that old, I’m curious to know if ‘Gandalf’ would have enough power to sew through heavy fabrics? By the way, I also end up on web search trails, too, particularly regarding film trivia on IMDB and wikipaedia. One film/actor/director etc. always leads to another!

    • Brooke January 9, 2013 at 6:58 pm

      The old machines can crash through pretty much anything. The older they are, the more metal parts they have. Industrial machines are still metal, but domestics have become more and more plastic to meet the demand for women who want something light-weight (and often pack up their machines to keep in the back of a closet until they decide to pull them out for a project).

      I worked in a mascot shop for a while, and they used old metal domestic machines – with all the foam and unusual fabrics we sewed on those machines, it was amazing how little they needed a repair. And there is actually a vintage domestic at the Dallas Opera shop that has been converted to run on an industrial (meaning “more powerful”) motor.

      I decided to buy both an old and a new machine because my modern Singer died due to cracked parts. Now, I’m more worried about breaking my new Baby Lock than the Wizard.

      IMDB is great for info on A-listers and big name producers and directors. Just know that it is full of lots of missing info for crew because most of us don’t want to pay IMDB or an agent to make sure our credits are complete & accurate. I like to see how many of the extras I work with have good agents – they often get their names near the top of the cast list with funny made-up titles, hehe.

  7. Jay March 21, 2013 at 1:54 pm

    My wife returns from deployment in about two weeks. Last August we were flooded out of our home and lost the sewing machine we had (we’re in the SCA and make all our own garb). We have a non-functioning 3KC 8844 in the garage that she’s had since before we got married. I’ve never seen a Wizard before, but I do know one thing, old is usually better than new any day, because things were made to last. Now my quest is to get this thing running before she gets back. I’ve really enjoyed reading your post! Wish me luck.

    • Brooke March 21, 2013 at 7:05 pm

      Oh, I hope you are able to get it working again – best of luck! I’m sure your wife will love it! =) Is yours a cool retro color, too?

      • Jay March 24, 2013 at 8:09 pm

        Thanks! I’ve since found out that it does actually run, but needs a tune up, and the stand it’s in is loose and falling apart. I can fix the stand, but I’ll have to take it to a shop down town for the rest. I’d post a picture if I could but it’s a sort of turquoise and cream color.

  8. Jay March 24, 2013 at 8:13 pm

    Well not turquoise, more like a pale china blue and off white but without the wonderful big retro knobs.

  9. Cari April 1, 2013 at 10:38 pm

    I found your post while looking for a 210 manual. I’m sort of a vintage Brother sewing machine geek, I have 11 of them. Wizard machines are just one of many brands that were were built by Brother. In the ’50s and ’60s they were the best Japanese sewing machines you could buy.

    • Brooke April 1, 2013 at 10:51 pm

      Wow! 11?? Are they all wonderfully fun colors?

      • Cari April 1, 2013 at 11:33 pm

        Lol, yes, most of them. Metallic blue, baby blue and white, light minty blue, turquoise and white, tan and cocoa, white and red, and my favorite- metallic pink and cream. I love, love that dark green one you showed, I don’t think they sold that color in the US. I still want a light pink one and a bright pink one. Atlas machines were also built by Brother and they were pink.

  10. heartEdu April 17, 2013 at 2:33 am

    Lovely! I have the Brother 280 (which has interchangeable parts with your 210). I am very obsessed with learning as much about it as I can :)

    • Brooke April 17, 2013 at 8:49 am

      Interesting to know that the Brother 210 and 280 models have some of the same parts! Thanks for the comment! =)

      • Cari April 17, 2013 at 12:55 pm

        Brooke, Brother machines and their badged counterparts were so alike and so similar for so many years that many of the same parts were used. The Brother 110, 190, 210, 270, 280 and 281 that I have, and probably many more models, are all very much alike in mechanics. The major differences are how they’re dressed(colors) and whether the bobbin winder is in front or on the top, or whether they will take cams or not.

      • Brooke April 17, 2013 at 1:14 pm

        Great information – thanks, Cari!

  11. sewmaris April 29, 2013 at 9:38 am

    Brooke – amazing story about your Wizard! I have to admit I am pretty sold on my Bernina 710 with a “brain” for lots of things, but I do love playing with my vintage Singer Rocketeer. Who wouldn’t love a machine named “Rocketeer” or “Wizard”? Soooo much more fun than “710″, right? ;-) Keep asking the universe for information, AND sharing!

    • Brooke April 29, 2013 at 9:45 am

      Thanks so much for the comment! Glad you enjoyed the post! =)

      The Rocketeer was actually one of the machines that my repair/service guy recommended when I asked about vintage machines. They are cool looking machines! Apparently, you can’t beat a machine with a cam system.

  12. Mombi May 6, 2013 at 5:50 pm

    God Bless You!; you just helped me figure out the model of my Brother! I’ve had it for about 30 years (it’s the same as Ryan’s). I lovingly passed it on to my daughter, and purchased a Singer Slant o Matic Rocketeer on EBAY. Right after doing that, my daughter returned my machine, saying she’s just not a seamstress (surprise (not). I also have a carnation pink Barbie (I think) machine that I inherited from my grandmother, and an old green ELNA (minus cord and knee bar) from my husband’s mother. I shop vintage machines on EBAY and just drool over cabinets and promotional products.
    Anyway, I wanted to say “thanks”. I will now be able to use my Brother to the fullest, and I’m looking forward to it. It really is like a Cadillac machine

    • Brooke May 6, 2013 at 5:57 pm

      Oh, I’m so glad my post helped! Thanks for letting me know! =)

      It sounds like you have a great collection of wonderful vintage machines, and I’m glad you enjoy using them. Happy sewing!

  13. yukinoaoshima May 20, 2013 at 2:37 am

    How wonderful to see all the information I need in one place!! Thank you!! I just purchased Brother 210 this morning. I couldn’t find a model number on the body so I started to simply compare with pictures came up on Google search under ‘Brother vintage sewing machine’. Ding! The first picture I clicked took me here. Now I know where to find a manual and some parts for this lovely machine! One major issue I have with my Brother 210 is that this came without a power cord…. so you can easily imagine this has no extra foots, no extra bobbins or nothing basic i need. Until I figure out where to find the power cord, i do not even know this machine is in a working condition or not… could you please snap a picture of your lovely machine and show me what the root of the power code look like? That way I will have some idea what I have to look for. I will bring this machine to a local repair store first thing in the morning tomorrow to see if they can help me or not.
    Thanks again for all the information you put together in above! Cheers to your serendipity!!

    • Brooke May 20, 2013 at 10:25 pm

      I found this power cord on ebay that looks like mine, but you will still need a foot pedal to go with it. (I have sunk my machine in the surface of a desk, so it’s a little hard for me to get a photo of the connections without pulling everything out.) Your repair shop should be able to wire it all for you – you just need to make sure you get a cord with two outlets (one for the motor and one for the light).

      Thanks for your comment! I hope you get your machine working and enjoy using it! =)

  14. yukinoaoshima May 20, 2013 at 10:59 pm

    Thank you for the link to eBay! The local repair shop had the exact cord in stock so they are putting it on to my machine now. I will get the machine back this weekend! When we hook it on to the outlet using that black code we found no issue on the machine. It just needs some touch up, clean up and some maintenance. I would love to share pictures with you when it’s all cleaned up!

  15. Paula May 27, 2013 at 9:55 pm

    I have a Wizard JA5 S18800 that my sister just found me. Where can I get a manual for it and more info about this one. Thanks Paula in KY

    • Brooke May 27, 2013 at 10:08 pm

      I’m no expert (I’ve just done a lot of hunting for information about my specific model and Wizard brand in general), but that looks more like a motor serial number to me. Is there another identification number elsewhere on your machine? Model numbers are usually a little shorter.

      • Cari May 28, 2013 at 12:56 am

        Brooke,
        Ja and JC numbers are manufacturer casting numbers, and the S18800 is probably the serial number which means nothing on these old girls since there are no records to check them against. The model will be a name and/or a number( for example a 190 Flairmatic by Brother) either on the front of the machine or somewhere around the pillar at the bottom of it. It’s possible the model label was a sticker that’s been removed sometime over the years. For a manual try Linda Wilkens at Relics. Look for Wizard, and look at the Brother manuals too because every Brother badged machine usually has a Brother branded twin.
        Cari

  16. yukinoaoshima May 28, 2013 at 3:18 am

    My machine came back from the repair/maintenance service. It was up and running for few yards of strips of sewing. …. then I started to smell something burnt. I saw sparks and smoke coming out from the motor. I have to take it back to the shop. I am guessing that the motor has to be replaced. It’s a good looking machine so I do not want to give up. Sad but that’s What’s happening right now. :(

  17. Kristen Miller June 3, 2013 at 8:31 pm

    Thank you thank you thank you! I have the exact same machine as you in its original case. I inherited it from my mom in 1993 but haven’t been able to thread the bobbin. That problem will be solved shortly, thanks to you! Your links and advice made me feel that dragging this thing around for 20 years was actually worth it! Mine is in perfect condition but sadly lacks the manual (and you’re right: most of the buttons and knobs have been an unsolvable mystery without the manual). Thanks again!!

    • Brooke June 3, 2013 at 9:06 pm

      You are very welcome! I’m so glad I was able to help you solve the knob mystery! (I knew I couldn’t be the only one who would be looking for that information.) Very cool that you kept it all these years! =)

  18. Steven June 9, 2013 at 8:47 pm

    I also just picked up the same setup as Ryan. Same machine to the tee!! Cabinet and all. It runs just needs a bobbin. Any idea what these machines are worth. I know you said it might have been shipped from Japan but can’t find really any information on it since the cabinet is brother as well.

    • Brooke June 9, 2013 at 10:03 pm

      Oh, nice! The cabinet is a really cool thing to have with an old machine like this!

      I’m not sure these machines are worth much money, but to me, an old machine is priceless because I actually use it. Most people are willing to pay $200-$350 for a basic new machine, so I would guess the price of a vintage machine like this would be less. The vintage machines that sell for top dollar (that I know of) are all Singers (one of them happens to be the 221 model I inherited), and it is only because the demand is really high since lots of people still use them. I got my Wizard for $65 and paid another $90 for a professional cleaning & tune-up and feel I got a good deal.

      I know there are no physical records left about the Wizard machines, but maybe an email to the Brother sewing machine company could answer a few questions like exact year and where it was manufactured according to your serial number. I don’t know what kind of records Brother still has on it’s vintage machines, but Singer has amazing information on theirs (maybe part of the reason old Singers are still in demand).

  19. Christy Jo July 31, 2013 at 3:54 pm

    I have the same machine as you, my grandmother in law just gave to me. I have a problem with the belt, it’s not right enough turn the wheel. Any ideas on how to tighten it up? I see a screw that looks like I could loosen it and pull the motor and pulley down a bit, but I can’t get the screw loose.

    • Brooke July 31, 2013 at 7:26 pm

      My manual doesn’t show anything about adjusting the belt and I’m no machine repair expert. Personally, I would have it looked at by a repair shop and have a general tuneup if it hasn’t been used in a while. The screw may need a little grease to loosen and a repair shop would have the tool to help with something like that.

      Make sure that where ever you decide to take it is familiar with lots of vintage sewing machines and take your manual with you. Even my repair guys had never seen a Wizard and had never seen a machine that has such an unusual way to change the stitch selection dial.

      I hope you are able to get it working and enjoy it! =)

      • Christy Jo September 12, 2013 at 1:42 pm

        Thanks for the input! I am normally a do it yourselfer, and I’m going to oil it up really good before I use it. I got the screw loose with the help of my awesome hubby, but the belt is too old an stretched to turn anything. Anyone know how I could go about ordering a new belt that would fit it?

      • Brooke September 12, 2013 at 5:16 pm

        You may be able to order a belt through a repair place even if you aren’t having them put it on. But it may also be less expensive than you think to pay them to do it for you – I was able to have a new power cord put on one of my other machines for only $20.

  20. ffride September 27, 2013 at 4:04 am

    I *think* you’ll find that Brothers were re-badged (for example, in Australia they are often found as the brand name Lemair), instead of the company ‘Wizard’ being sold. – There’s a very brief mention of that sort of thing happening here: http://www.quiltingboard.com/vintage-antique-machine-enthusiasts-f22/printfriendly-vintage-sewing-machine-shop-come-sit-spell-t43881-3734.html
    (I suspect I learned how to sew on a similar model to your Wizard, only mine was an unappealing beige colour and a Lemair.)

    • Brooke September 27, 2013 at 6:55 pm

      The Wizard brand was originally a line of tools (including sewing machines) owned by Western Auto. When Western Auto went out of business it seems the sewing machines they made were acquired by the Brother company, as I wrote about above. Brother still exists as a company and sells many things (like office equipment) besides sewing machines. I don’t think it was so much of a “re-badging” as it was a buy-out and renaming.

      A lot of old machines had motors made in Japan, so many of the competing companies made similar machines. Beige is rather boring considering how many other colors machines were being sold in back then! I bet you loved that machine even if it wasn’t a fun color though! =)

      • Cari September 27, 2013 at 9:30 pm

        Brooke, Wizard was Western Autos’ “house brand”, just like Kenmore is Sears’ house brand. Western Auto contracted with several manufacturers to put the Wizard name on the merchandise they sold, they did not make their own products. They got their sewing machines from Brother. Back in the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s this was a very common practice for Dept. stores, hardware stores and other companies. Think of Montgomery Wards Signature line of products, J.C. Penney had their Penncrest line, etc… Brother didn’t make those sewing machines but I know of at least 20 sewing machine brands(badges) that were built by Brother.

      • Brooke September 27, 2013 at 9:43 pm

        Then why is it so difficult to find any records? Even if it’s true that Western Auto files where all shredded when they went out of business, why doesn’t Brother have good records – or at least records that can be found a little more easily? (The Brother website is a a joke when you try to find anything that they made in the past.)

    • Cari September 27, 2013 at 9:16 pm

      Yes, Lemair sewing machines were built by Brother at one time. Two other brands by Brother sold in Australia were Empisal and St. James. Possibly more, these are just the three brands I’m sure of. One of the sure fire ways to tell is the big round reverse button inside the stitch length knob. No other manufacturer made it quite like that.

      • Cari September 27, 2013 at 10:29 pm

        Who knows? There could be any number of reasons why. For all I know there could well be an old warehouse somewhere in Japan full of Brothers old records that have just never been accessed. Or they could have been destroyed over the years as the company grew. Or lost in a fire. Nobody knows. There just are no available records for any older Japanese sewing machines. There are no older Necchi records because of a factory fire. Even some of Singers old records are gone. Yes, I agree that the Brother website doesn’t keep track of older stuff, just the absolute most current things. They used to have tons of the old manuals on the site but took them down a few years ago. There is still a master directory list of old manuals from Brother floating around but I can’t get into it any more..Calling them with questions about their vintage machines is no better, no one who works there now knows anything.

  21. Angel October 29, 2013 at 8:22 pm

    I own one of these same machines… looking to sell it, anyone interested?

  22. Katie N. November 12, 2013 at 12:58 am

    I’ve been on mission to find a new needle plate for my Brother 281 and there is virtually no information out there on the web about this model. And then I found this blog, very helpful! Another helpful thing was discovering a little paper in the back of my machine manual called the “Interchangeable Parts Catalogue” for Brother Models 110, 190, 210, 230, 270, 280, 290, 370, 380, 390. All of these Brother models take the same needle plate, part # B4139! Many other parts are interchangeable, but not all. I plan on posting a picture of the document on my website (skunkmountainsewing.com) so others can find the part #’s they need, but feel free to contact me if you have a question. katie@skunkmountainsewing.com

    • Brooke November 12, 2013 at 7:44 am

      I’m so glad you found my blog post helpful! Please send me a direct link to the picture/blog post once you scan your manual and I’ll update my post to include it. =)

  23. Ignatius Reilly November 22, 2013 at 7:34 pm

    You write as well as you sew (and that’s a compliment)! Thanks for an endearing and witty blog entry. I found you having purchased a Brother 210, nearly identical to Ryan’s (pictured above). Your Wizard strikes me as the purer version of Mid-Century gee-whiz-ness, its teal body evocative of casseroles, the unlimited potential of suburbia, and an optimism that is sadly out-of-fashion. Who knew that Gandalf had a Brother? (Well, I didn’t.)

    As for lineage, there are several other Brother machines who are ancestors. I have an Atlas and a Select-o-matic whose frothy parts bins were apparently a mere saunter for Wizard engineers. I also have a Streamliner and a later Atlas in straight-stitch versions that must be close relatives of our siblings.

    Thanks again, Brooke — you’re a pleasure read.

    • Brooke November 22, 2013 at 7:58 pm

      Thank you so much! Your comment made my day! =)

      It sounds like you have some really great (and beautiful!) old sewing machines – I bet you have fun using them!

  24. Melissa December 16, 2013 at 12:46 pm

    Hi, Brooke,

    I found a Brother 210 at a thrift shop yesterday. I appreciate your blog telling how to change the stitch pattern selector. I was able to test out some stitches; however, my straight stitch is not exactly perfectly straight. I pushed the Button B in after turning the stitch width as close to 0 as possible. Is there a specific stitch to choose on the stitch pattern selector that yields a straighter straight stitch? I don’t have the manual yet, and have figured out the rest except that one point.

    Thank you,
    Melissa

    • Brooke December 16, 2013 at 1:35 pm

      Melissa – I’m so glad I could help you understand your machine a little better! =)

      Not all machines have a perfectly perfect straight stitch. (That’s one reason quilters covet some of the old Singer machines – they sew such a pretty straight stitch.) I haven’t noticed my Wizard being all that imperfect compared to other machines I’ve used, and it sounds like you have the settings on yours correct. I find that a lot of modern cheapy machines have the worst straight stitches, especially when set to a long “basting” length. Try shortening the stitch length to see if it improves some visually, but your machine may just need a good professional oil & tuneup.

      • Melissa December 16, 2013 at 4:56 pm

        It’s almost as if it is still trying to follow the shape of the cam pattern it’s set on anyway, despite being at 0 stitch width. I would take off the top cover plate, but I can’t figure out how to get it off with the big shiny button on the top right in the way. Normally I get the dust out and check out the cams when I take off that top cover plate. It’s a mysterious machine!

  25. Diane March 16, 2014 at 8:50 am

    You have really made my day-week-decade, perhaps! I have been shuffling aimlessly on the internet trying to find info about Mom’s Brother. After pouring over hundreds of pictures on the internet of vintage seafoam green Brother sewing machines I had come up with nothing at all that closely resembled my machine, then I saw your wizard and nearly squealed out loud with excitement! It is virtually identical to the brother… except it’s a wizard (you can imagine my immediate disappointment when I saw that -but the nameplate was the same and that was too suspicious. After reading your whole story the pieces are finally coming together and I am so grateful to know more about this fantastic machine’s history -especially about the B knob to switch stitch width (I, too, thought the machine was broken)!

    I am virtually positive i have the Brother/Wizard. Can you tell me where I might find the model #? I’ve found a few numbers but none seem to match any model numbbers I’ve seen (eg 210). BZ 797855 is stamped under the base and 505168 L RO on the metal plate (but I think that is ser #). I am really looking forward to searching some of the manuals you discuss. I won’t say that I lost the manual and original tin box of accessories which Mom gave me with her lovely sewing machine (a college graduation present from her mother when she was at Berkeley), because I know I put it in one of those “safe places” that I’m always losing track of. Meanwhile, until i find it, maybe one if your manuals will give me some direction. Mom said she was able to wind a second bobbin while sewing with the machine. Do you know how to do that?

    I’m so excited to learn how to sew (that’s right, I’m a beginner) on my Mom’s sewing machine. I simply can’t thank you enough!!!

    Diane
    Austin, TX

    • Brooke March 16, 2014 at 12:23 pm

      I’m so glad I was able to help you with some of your questions! =)

      The model number is on the main column of my Wizard (the side that faces the needle) and is very obvious. Most machines have it somewhere around the main column but it can be on the back, front, or other side depending on the machine design. Sometimes it’s on an attached plate, but my Wizard has it etched into the metal. There are numbers elsewhere on my machine labeling some of the parts (but those are usually hidden under or inside, so not as obvious) and there is a plate with a model number for the motor as well (it is actually on the motor housing).

      And yes, you can wind a second bobbin while you sew – that was one of the features I was excited about when I first saw my machine. (It works the same way an industrial bobbin winder does.) Put a spool of thread on the pin down in the front of the base and an empty bobbin on the winder near the hand wheel & belt. Thread the spool up through the tension disk to the right of the thread spool and up to the bobbin (push the winder toward the belt so it will wind). Once you have started winding the bobbin, you can thread your machine with a second spool on top and thread everything as normal for sewing. Your bobbin will wind as you stitch, because as the belt moves around the hand wheel, the bobbin turns with it and it will automatically pop back out when it is full. Hope this makes since! Maybe I need to do a video of this on my blog at some point…

      I hope you love learning to sew on your mom’s old machine! Happy sewing!

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