Sewing machines · Vertical oscillating hook

Mysterious Zephyr

I got myself another mystery sewing machine. It’s a Zephyr, supplied by Universal from Birmingham. That’s supplied, not made. Going by the motor they put on it, it’s from early 1950s.

It is based on Singer 15, but it has many modifications compared to Singer. I believe it is European, made by one of the old sewing machine manufacturers. Besides, it has no typical JA or JC numbers inside, so I don’t think it’s Japanese. It has a low serial number – only 28158.

The only identifying mark that I could find, is on the hook: a G with a crown over it and number 2515 underneath, which is presumably the part number*.

But then again, it’s on the hook, which is not bolted down and could have potentially come from another machine, although I doubt it because the fit is exceptionally good.

*Discovered what 2515 stands for: a Singer part number for that hook, so this one must be an exact copy. But not made by Singer, nontheless.

The paint appears to be brushed on rather than sprayed on, see for yourself below. It is quite a thin layer that started coming off in a few spots. The decals are applied on top, but they are not just transfers and keep quite well without rubbing off.

Another clue is in the stitch length lever. It is marked “V” for forward and “A” for reverse.

But in which language? In English it would have been “F-R”, in German “V-R”, in French I am not sure because both words begin with an A – Avant, Arrière – but if it were up to me, I would not have picked “V-A” there. The only language I know where “V-A” would work properly, is Dutch (Voor, Achter), so could Zephyr be made in Holland or Belguim? Swiss maker Fridor used to have a factory in Belguim, could that be the one? Hmmm, this is all a bit too much conjecture for my liking.

Stitching

Looking at the features of Zephyr, let me first say that it is without a doubt a suprior quality machine. It is smooth and quiet, steady and responsive. It makes an excellent stitch. It can sew in reverse and drop its feed dogs.

The only problem however is that for some strange reason it is set up to use Jones needles (and it came with one), so the hook assembly is pushed too far out by about 0.3mm. Here is what happens when you use a 15×1 needle:


The hooks comes too close to the needle and rips the thread. In fact, the hook driver even has scratch marks from rubbing against the needle!

It is clear from everything else that the machine was built for standard 15×1 needles, and Jones needles don’t align with the needle plate or with the foot properly. Perhaps it was Universal who set it up like that? It doesn’t look like it was disturbed later (in fact, it is completely stuck in gunk and I have to soak it first in order to reset it**).

**Next day update: got it sorted. Zephyr is now using 15×1 needles as it should, and is much better for it.

Interesting features

There are a number of features that make Zephyr different from Singer 15. The manufacturer clearly put some engineering effort into it.

The most obvious thing is perhaps the head. It’s differently shaped because the tension assembly is forward-facing.

This also necessitated a redesign of the take-up lever assembly to match.​

Even the tension disks are different: they have a flattened raised profile instead of being just rounded.​

Next, it’s the feed dogs. They are symmetrical, with finer teeth. Symmetrical feed dogs allow to use symmetrical feet without pulling the fabric in a circle to the left. Try using a zig-zag foot on one-sided feed dogs, you’ll see!​

The other interesting features are in the underbelly. Here we have a hook driver without a spring (although I am not convinced it is an improvement).

The joints on the right are also different compared to Singer. The joint that moves the feed dogs (the upper one in the photos below) is no longer a complete fork but only half a fork.​

And finally, another puzzling bit: the bobbin winder. This is the only part on the whole machine that is made of aluminium rather than steel or cast iron, and it’s not painted. I wonder whether it is a later replacement.​

Conclusion

All in all, Zephyr is a nice machine, a really nice machine, especially once its hook assembly is re-aligned. It seems also that the previous owner cared for it well, and used it quite a lot, with Jones needles.

I would love to know the maker. If anyone out there has an idea, do let us know, please! 🙂

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20 thoughts on “Mysterious Zephyr

  1. When I looked at it I thought – Singer 15 – then I thought no as the tension was on the front! It does look a lovely machine though.
    I’m off to pick up a ‘Little Vesta’ Saxonia on Tuesday, and the best thing is I’m getting it for free, though it does mean a 100 mile round trip!

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      1. Definitely doesn’t count – though it is only small and I am going to rehome a TS Vesta that I just cannot release the stitch length slide knob on. It is stuck on about 2.5cms so is usable and stitches well, but I’ve tried everything over the last 2 years so have decided it has to go!

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      2. I had the same problem with a Stoewer TS. I only solved it when I disassembled everything in the underbelly. There is just too much friction there otherwise.

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    1. I did take all the screws out around it but it’s still stuck solid with ‘gunk’ of some sort. Will try the Tri-Flow and a hairdryer again before I finally give up!

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      1. I had to remove the slide out of its rails completely. It was completely stuck and no oil would shift it, but brute force did. 🙂 I pried it out of the rails with a wedged screw driver and strategic use of a heavy hammer. Took a lot of force! Then it took even more elbow grease to scratch that gunk off the surfaces, but in the end I had a light and fully functional stitch length regulator. Brute force is good sometimes. 🙂

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      2. It’s that slide that is stuck! I’ve tried a screwdriver with a hammer – though it wasn’t that heavy. Might have to get the lump hammer out to wack it! – or bring it over to yours for you to have a go!

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    1. I just can’t resist a mystery when I see a machine on eBay and can’t figure out who made it, or how it works. Besides, this one was sold by a charity (to support a hospice), so I feel like my £10 goes to a good cause too. 😉 Oh, and nobody wanted it because the pedal was gone.

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      1. You said it! 😀 I rehome most of them though because my sewing room, err, living room is not large enough. 😉 Zephyr will also be rehomed, I’ve already fixed it and it works beautifully, ready to sew again.

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      2. That is a seriously cool quilt! But I could never fit a long arm quilting machine into my living room. I tend to quilt individual squares to keep it manageable on a regular machine. 🙂
        Thank you for your kind words about my blog! 🙂

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  2. I don’t know if you’ve already worked it out, but to me, that looks like a rebadged Husqvarna class 12, made in Sweden. Hope that might be some help.

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    1. Thanks, Jake, I had not worked it out yet! What would the A-V abbreviation stand for on the stitch length lever? I haven’t found any suitable words in the Swedish dictionary. 🙂

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  3. My daughter has just picked up zephyr machine in with other bits at an auction. It’s just like your one.
    Was trying to find out something about it’s age or anything else.
    That was how I came across this site.

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    1. Well, as you see someone suggested it was made by Husqvarna, that would certainly explain the quality. I think it’s from 1950s or early 1960s, going by the type of machine and design, but I don’t know for sure. Perhaps you can date it through its serial number, assuming it’s by Husqvarna? Perhaps contact them and ask?

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  4. i think its probably a SIGMA . universal imported another early sigma model which they marketed under the name viceroy ( they were a direct marketing organisation and bought stock off various manufactures) the owner, o c owens went on to buy out the jones sewing machine company and used the brand to market janome machines in the UK before selling out to brother

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    1. Interesting, thanks, Mike! Just had a look – and yes, it seems Sigma made very similar looking machines! Do you know what country they are from? I’m still puzzled by that A-V inscription on the stitch length regulator, can’t quite figure out which language that is.

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