Zorba, Male Belly Dancer

Henna Design National Reversew "Rex" (Model RUSA) Henna Design
With notes on the Reversew "A" and Reversew "B"

National Reversew Rex

This one takes a bit of storytelling. The executive summary is this: I'd been interested in the National Reversew "Rex" for some time. Although I had made the mistake of saying that I wasn't particularly interested in Vibrating Shuttle machines, this one just looked so darn cute. Plus, it was partially made from aluminum, quite advanced for its time (Designed at least as early as 1935).

This machine was sold under quite a few names as National both built it for others, as well as badging it with several storied names from National's own past. As a result, this machine is quite common. I'd seen any number of them go by on eBay, but didn't want to pay shipping on a common machine so I was waiting for one to turn up locally on Craigslist or "where ever".

What I wasn't expecting was one to turn up badged "American Beauty"; although I shouldn't have been surprised as American Beauty is a known National badge. So this machine embodies a convergence of two separate sewing machine interests: Its a Reversew "Rex", and its badged "American Beauty" so I went ahead and grabbed it even though my primary interest in American Beauties are the Birginal-Bigsby machines mostly made in Japan.

Zorba has scanned and made freely available a PDF of the manual (15MB). This is a 1936 version for the Reversew "B", but is salient for the "Rex" as well.

As it spans two pages in the manual, you may want to download this separate Machine Diagram to print out on A sized paper (764KB).

A kind reader, "Mary" came forth with a scanned PDF of the 1940 Reversew "A" (Treadled) manual (12.1MB).

As it spans two pages in the manual, you may want to download this separate Machine Diagram to print out on A sized paper (614KB).

From a 1936 advertisement:

REVERSEW. The reversew sewing head has a controlled reverse stitch mechanism enabling the operator to sew in either backward or forward direction. Makes a perfect lock stitch while sew- ing either backward or forward. Chrome finished bright parts, new invisible heatless direct to needle sewing lamp and a hinged pressure [SIC] foot for sewing over heavy seams.

With Dependable Motor and Built-in Electric Light.

Supplied with a walnut finished base and a leather-grained fabricold carrying case that holds all parts.

The streamline styling, attractive decorations, controlled reverse stitch mechanism, concealed sewing lamp and other modern features make this model an outstanding value.

No. 1126 - Complete with all attachments; shipping weight 52 lbs..... $89.85

That was a SERIOUS amount of money in 1936! And that was NOT the rare bentwood cased version, which would have been more money.

National Reversew Rex
Reversew "Rex" badged "American Beauty"

What I've been able to find out so far:

First, there is absolutely NO sense whatsoever in recounting the history of the National Sewing Machine Company here - there are several web resources that tell the story well. Suffice it to say they made a bazillion machines over their long history under a huge number of brand names ("badges"), both for themselves and others. I find their machines very interesting. I now also have a National "Streamliner" and an "Expert B.T." in addition to this one!

As for the machine itself, I first applied WD-40 into the top of the needlebar as the machine was frozen up. It was an "estate find" from a 90 year old woman in Ohio who passed - may the Goddess Athena bless her for keeping the machine in good shape overall. The case you can see behind is also in pretty good shape (It won't need restoring like the Singer 99K case did.), but had an eye watering musty odor that needed sorting out. I love the wooden bases these Reversews came in!

As for its age, I had "Randy", an expert on all things NSMCo, advise me as there are no available serial number records like there are for Singers. He told me when I submitted the machine's serial number (103022081 - stamped under the bed):

The serial number under the bed indicates the machine is later post war and the nine digits indicates it is very late machine. Produced in 1953 or 1954 with a slight possibility of late 1952 as a 1953 machine. I put my money on it being a 1954. My other real late machines also have long serial numbers and most of them are 1954 which is the last year of production as far as ["Damascus"] Annie and I can tell.

["Damascus"] Annie's serial number records are from dates recorded on machine warranties which are sale dates. The possibility of the machines actually being made the previous year [ or two ] is great. But we go by the selling date. I have a Eldredge rotary with a warranty date of 1932 but it may have been made in 1931 or even 1930. So getting close is the best we can do since there are no factory records available. Like automobiles, sewing machines introduced new models in the fall as the next model year machines. And on rare occasions - even earlier in the year if they wanted to.

So there you have it, its one of the last ones made. The presence of molded wiring connectors also bears this out. Although the design is older (from 1935 or before), this particular machine is actually the same age, or slightly newer than my '52 Micro Bell!

Working on the Machine:

I broke the old girl loose, the needlebar, shuttle, etc are all operating. Then I got the presser foot/bar loosened up. Not surprisingly, they both were frozen at the bottom where their respective (steel) bars passed through the aluminum casing. No doubt from being stored for decades in the Ohio humidity!

I removed the bars, buffed them up, oiled everything and reassembled. A box of baking soda dumped in the musty case seems to have removed most of the odor - at least it isn't making my eyes water any more!

National Reversew Rex
Presser bar (lying in foreground) removed.

National Reversew Rex
Needlebar and its crank removed.

National Reversew Rex
All re-assembled. Note the paint problem on the face plate.

After oiling everything in sight, I was able to power her up for the first time. She goes like crazy - but nowhere near as smooth as a more modern machine.

National Reversew Rex
New overall picture.

National Reversew Rex
A replacement faceplate with good paint dresses her up a bit...

National Reversew Rex
Backside overall.

National Reversew Rex
Wheel end with new bobbin winder tire.

National Reversew Rex
Topside view. I don't know if these originally had a spool felt, but I like the look.

National Reversew Rex
Yes, the same people that make the famous blenders...

National Reversew Rex
Cordage plugs neatly into the back of the machine just under the motor.

National Reversew Rex
The replacement "Chicago" connectors.

National Reversew Rex
The molded originals that came with this machine.

Veteran NSMCO collectors told me all about these electrical connectors. Seems that early machines had connectors with screw terminals whereas the later production, such as mine, had the connectors molded onto the ends of the cords. Not good 60+ years later when the cordage becomes intermittent and no-one seems to make these connectors anymore. The replacements shown here, like the new faceplate pictured above, came from a donor machine. Bad for it, good for this one.

Nevertheless, I'll hold onto the molded connectors as they could be re-wired if someone was desperate enough (I came close!) to cut into them, solder new wires onto the pins, then cast a new back shell onto them.

These connectors are apparently called "Chicago" connectors - the molded ones were actually made by well known cable and connector company Belden (No, they don't make them any more - I asked!). Apparently, there is some confusion between "Chicago" connectors and "Manhattan" connectors. I was told:

Sewing machine 2-pin plugs are probably all referred to as "Chicago" connectors by most people, but there's definitely two different types of them. The Manhattan type had rubber boots that slid over the bare electrical connections. The boots looked similar to the boot on an older style automobile coil wire on the distributor. On the "Chicago" connectors, the conductors are attached (wrapped) around the screws in plates, versus inserted into the end of tubes and secured with a screw threaded into the side of the tube as on the Manhattan [I remember working with a 4 pin version of the Manhattan connector. -ed].

Manhattan Connectors
Found a batch of 2 pin Manhattan connectors!

Manhattan Connectors
Pictured with a spare Chicago terminal block (Bottom)

Manhattan Connectors
The Manhattans plug right in! Male Chicago/Female Manhattan (Left); Female Chicago/Male Manhattan (Right).

Manhattan Connectors
Shown plugged into a machine - Female Chicago/Male Manhattan (Left); Male Chicago/Female Manhattan (Right).
Not so fast! There is a problem here - see text.

As seen above, I managed to acquire some Manhattan connectors - and they are plug compatible as best as I can tell. They certainly fit each other as can be seen in the above picture of a shroud-less Chicago wiring block from a NMSCO machine. HOWEVER, plugging a female Manhattan connector into the shrouded wiring block as installed on a machine is a problem - it fits, but the rubber shroud (on the Manhattan connector) interferes with the metal shroud on the machine's wiring block - the connector won't plug in all the way although it would probably work. I don't recommend it unless the connectors can be fully mated, which would mean modifying something. As the rubber shrouds on the batch of Manhattan connectors I received are quite hard and brittle, it might be possible to eliminate them and cast a shroud onto the connector back, using one of the various potting compounds. Since the screws are recessed into the connector side, under where the shroud slides on, insulating this area would probably end up being a separate problem. If you try this, make sure the compound you select is an insulator, rated for line voltage - and DO SO AT YOUR OWN RISK.

However, plugging a male Manhattan connector into the female Chicago connector on the wiring block seems to be just fine - as would any use inline where there is no metal shroud involved. Still, DO SO AT YOUR OWN RISK, and be very careful with the ancient - and probably brittle like mine - rubber on the backs of either gender of Manhattan connector! None of these connectors meet modern wiring standards (Neither do the machines!), and can be quite hazardous to the careless.

National Reversew Rex
Original foot pedal operated in binary mode - here's why...

National Reversew Rex
An identical replacement from the donor machine.

When I ordered the replacement connectors (and faceplate) the guy selling them offered the (untested) foot controller to me for free - so I took it. It turned out to work fine, unlike the original which either ran full blast or not at all. If the freebie hadn't worked, I would have wired in a modern solid state controller. Interestingly, it was possible to purchase a replacement element for the foot controller - back in the day - making it possible to actually repair it, instead of having to replace the whole thing as is the norm today.

National Reversew Rex
The light wiring behind the faceplate. Originally hooked up with bent soldered wire hooked up
under the screws. Too 1950s consumer grade for me, I re-terminated with crimp on spade lugs.

National Reversew Rex
My original faceplate had a burnt out light bulb. Much to my surprise, the replacement faceplate had a good bulb!

Bobbins and Shuttle

National Reversew Rex
The "Vibrating" Shuttle in its carrier...

National Reversew Rex
Removes very easily!

National Reversew Rex
A NOS "Boye" shuttle (top) purchased on eBay. Original on bottom.

National Reversew Rex
The Boye shuttle in place. Despite having a slightly different shape, it sews fine!

National Reversew Rex
After removing 3 colors of thread off of the old bobbin (original shuttle pictured)...

National Reversew Rex
I measured same. 1-1/4" seems to be the most popular size for these...

National Reversew Rex
3/8" diameter.

National Reversew Rex
Original (top) and reproduction bobbins. The reproductions were
being sold for the Singer 127 - but work just fine in the Reversew.

No-one seems to sell bobbins for National "long shuttle" machines, but it turns out that they're pretty much interchangeable as long as the measurements match. Look for Singer 127 bobbins, they work fine.

I don't know how interchangeable the shuttles are either - but the aftermarket NOS Boye brand shuttle I obtained works just fine. Patched up a T-shirt without any complaint!

Get off my case!

The case needs a small amount of work. The worst part of it was the musty smell, which seems to be under control after the above mentioned baking soda treatment - but I'm not sure how long that will last once its closed up again. It needs a few finishing nails to re-attach the back, the hardware is a bit rusty but will probably be retained, there is a minor problem with the covering cloth (NOT paper like the 99K case was!) on the bottom, and I might spray some black paint in the general direction of the inside to seal in the mustiness.

National Reversew Rex
Black painted interior makes refurb a snap!

National Reversew Rex
Outside looks decent.

National Reversew Rex
A close look between this, and the above picture will show minor loose fabric now glued down.

National Reversew Rex
Bottom had this gouge...

National Reversew Rex
Which I patched with some shelving paper with a similar texture - ready for paint!

General Information

The following is a lightly edited post from the Yahoo "National Sewing Machines" group that was made in response to my query about these machines:

National made three different styles of 3/4 size long shuttle sewing machines and they all shared some of the same internal parts. Each was distinct in looks. The Reversew was the second of these to be introduced between the mid and late 1930's. As far as I know the "Rex" name was coined by someone and it just stuck as a nickname designation of the long shuttle Reversew machine. [Turns out, this isn't true. See below. -ed] I am not aware of a correct needle size for the long shuttle Reversew Rex but believe most people use a common 15x1. On my two long shuttle Reversew machines, the feed dogs start to move the fabric before the tip of a 15x1 has exited the fabric. Using a shorter needle, the hook will not catch the upper thread. But they will sew satisfactory with a 15x1. [I verified this on my machine. -ed] The Hamilton Beach made motors were tagged with different names depending on what the contracting distributor or retailer wanted. If there was not a specified or specific name, National or Hamilton Beach was on them.

The Reversew long shuttle bobbins are the same ones used in all the National built 3/4 size long shuttle machines. Many of the older full size National built long shuttle machines use the same bobbins too.

Long shuttle machines are fun and easy to use. The principle is the same as on an oscillating rotary machine except that the hook ( which is the shuttle that holds your long bobbin ) moves in basically a straight line with a slight arc. The major difference is that the needle bar on a long shuttle machine bottoms and the raises a tiny bit and bottoms again. This second downward movement pulls more thread down so that on the following upward stroke there is actually a loop of thread for the hook to catch as it passes toward the front of the machine. Once the point of the hook has caught the thread, the thread then passes completely around/over the round side of the shuttle and grabs the bobbin thread at it's open end. You can watch this happen by threading the machine and rolling the hand wheel slowly - with the front slide plate removed.

The flat side of the shuttle rides along a machined flat surface under the bed which has an oil port. Oil weeps out of the oil port from an oiled wick and keeps the flat side of the shuttle lubricated so it can move without friction. It is important to clean there regularly, both the shuttle and flat surface under the bed as they will get a black coating.

The long shuttle Reversew is a very smooth running machine compared to other long shuttle machines. It is rated to sew up to 1100 stitches per minute but if it is a portable model and sitting on a table it may be walking around at that speed. It is the only National made long shuttle to incorporate the reverse feature and will sew any length stitch in reverse. Not many long shuttle machines had reverse (There is a Free Westinghouse that does).

The long shuttle Reversew takes a special light bulb and I have not been able to find a suitable replacement. The glass globe must be very narrow to fit in the space provided in the face plate.

The term "Vibrating Shuttle" fell out of favor by the 1930's. After all, who wanted to buy a sewing machine with the word "Vibrating" associated to it. "Long Shuttle" was much more suitable and the manufacturers preferred it and used it in their literature [I'm sure this is true - however "Vibrating Shuttle" is used by many collectors to this day. In addition, the same "long" or "boat shaped" shuttle style was used in "Transverse Shuttle", "Reciprocating Shuttle", as well as "Vibrating Shuttle" machines. -ed].

The long shuttle Reversew machine is probably the smoothest and lowest vibration long shuttle machine ever built. National even redesigned several of them to look more modern after WW2 and marketed them as low cost machines in a bid to stay competitive in the marketplace with the massive invasion of the Japanese Singer 15 clones. Unfortunately, the Japanese 15 clones undercut the price of them by as much as 60% and that spelled the end of National as well as a larger percent of other USA sewing machine manufacturers and put thousands of people out of work. The Coronado badged Reversew cost $87.95 in 1950. [I've also heard of a Coronado going for $99.95 in 1953 -ed] Other National made long shuttle machines cost as little as $69.95 new after WW2. The Japanese 15 clones were available for as low as $39.95. USA made rotary machines were rarely available for $90 ( after WW2) and most cost $100+ in the early 1950's.

Quite the font of knowledge about these machines, well worth passing it on here.

Bobbin Winder Tire...

Singer is the 600 lb. gorilla of the Sewing Machine world, collectible or otherwise. Finding parts for a non-Singer, particularly an old non-Singer can be a bit challenging as said parts are lost in "the noise".

I quickly found out that the "standard" bobbin winder tire for a Singer (such as my beloved 99K) was not the correct size for a National. The folks on the NSMCO email list didn't know either - apparently most of them have been stretching a Singer tire to fit.

Ok, so call me "anal", but that's the last resort as far as I'm concerned. I first measured the existing tire, which although cracked, was in far better shape than the one that was originally on my 99K. The results can be seen in the table below. According to the specification, a #314 Buna O-ring was quite close, just slightly narrower which may or may not create traction problems between the tire and the bobbin winder "rim" that the tire is mounted to. The Singer tire is an entire .10" too small, I'm quite sure that it works, but would have a sub-optimal lifespan due to the excessive strain put on the rubber.

I finally found someone who would measure their tires, and found that a pretty standard #2460 - apparently used on many Brothers and other Japanese machines - seems to be the ticket. It may or may not be the exact size the original tire was when it was new, it seems that close. Certainly it fits good, looks correct, and works well:

National Reversew Rex
Brand new #2460 bobbin winder tire.

Parameter Original #314 Buna O-ring #2460 Tire #15287-A Singer Tire
Inner Diameter 0.72" 0.72" 0.68" 0.62"
Cross Section 0.24" 0.21" 0.27" 0.25"

Another factoid about the bobbin winder tire - take a look down this page below at the pictures from a copy of the manual. The bobbin winder tire depicted there looks nothing like what is (and was) on my machine. Apparently these did not originally use "standard" shaped tires at all! So my use of the word "original" can only be construed to mean what was on the machine when I received it - not necessarily the kind that was "originally" supplied.

Lite Bulb

The machine came with, as noted above, a burned out lite bulb. The replacement face plate I obtained, had an identical bulb that was actually good. Apparently, these bulbs are not the correct type, but do fit albeit barely. As I couldn't determine what kind of bulb these were, I went on a quest and found that a common #643 15 watt bulb fits. These are available from many sewing machine parts suppliers.

Lite bulb
Great news! Randy found a bulb which works just GREAT in these machines. Shown
here next to the original. This bulb can be purchased at Home Depot, and is
Feit Electric # BP15T4C/2 - I suspect the "/2" means two to a package.

Consult the Bulb Study on the Resources page for more information about lite bulbs for this machine, including an LED version!

Needle and sewing

After all this work, I was ready to try a test seam. First I wound a bobbin:

National Reversew Rex
Winding bobbin. Cool little cam follower mechanism. If the
winder tire slips, tighten the winder pivot screw a bit.

National Reversew Rex
Threaded up.

National Reversew Rex
Close-up of thread path.

National Reversew Rex
Make sure the thread passes through this little groove,
otherwise it will catch in the faceplate joint to the left.

National Reversew Rex
These needle sizes are no-longer made. The user is cautioned to
"USE ONLY GENUINE NEEDLES". I guess this means I can't use toothpicks?

National Reversew Rex
Test seam on scrap fabric...

National Reversew Rex
Fail - bottom seam. Pass - top seam. See text.

As noted above, the original needles are no longer made - but a standard 15 x 1 needle works just fine - IF you install it correctly. At first, the machine wouldn't lock stitches consistently, only locking about 1 in every 5. The above referenced "Randy" came to the rescue again. The manual tells the user to insert the needle all the way up to the stop - which was correct for the originals. However, the 15 x 1 is slightly shorter, so it must be mounted a bit lower. I lowered mine about 1/16", approximately the diameter of the needle shank - and the machine now locks stitches reliably. I'm also give to understand that the obsolete, but sometimes still available 20 x 1 needle - although not original specification - will also work without any repositioning.

National Reversew Rex
Sewing fringe on a "Turkish" Belly Dance skirt.

My White 690 is a bit persnickety at times. It has an annoying tendency to suck delicate projects through the elongated zig-zag needle hole in the needle plate. I do not have a straight stitch needle plate for it, and I have never seen one although its manual claims one was standard equipment.

So here I am, trying to sew fringe onto an "old skool" Turkish skirt I was making, and the above problem kept happening. So, I figured I'd sew it on my Singer 99K as it has a much smaller needle hole being that its a straight stitch only machine. However, the Singer was in my car because I've been hauling it back and forth to "Stitch & Bitch" costuming sessions. I was going to go out and lug it in, but the Reversew was looking at me accusingly from its case: "put me in, coach!".

So, "What the hey." I threaded up one of the reproduction bobbins I'd acquired from a vendor on eBay, plopped the skirt and fringe up under its presser foot, and sewed away! The ancient mechanism came to life "for real" for the first time in what had probably been decades, and did its designers and builders proud!

There is no way this machine is as smooth as my rotary shuttle White, nor is it as smooth as the old Singer, but this is an excellent demonstration of how "good enough" really is "good enough". I really do love getting old mechanicals working again - this machine has been quite the fun project!

I have since used this old machine for several other sewing tasks - sewing the fringe on the top that matches the above mentioned skirt, sewing up elastics, sewing up some loose seams on an Old Assuit (as opposed to New Assuit) dress that is probably older than the machine, etc. It purrs along merrily!

Storing your Reversew

National Reversew Rex manual
Some people recommend storing any friction drive sewing machine that has a
spring loaded motor with a small wedge of wood behind the motor to give a small
gap between the drive wheel and the hand wheel so a flat spot won't develop.

National Reversew Rex manual
Others recommend a bit of sponge or other soft spacer...

Reversew "A", Reversew "B", and Reversew "Rex"

There were actually THREE separate versions of this machine, although it took Randy and myself some years to figure this out. Randy finally found the answer in some period parts manuals from NSMCo:

1) "Reversew-A" was a "full size" non-electric, treadled machine.
2) "Reversew-B" was a "full size" electric machine, with a "molded in" motor as seen in several pictures lower down.
3) "Reversew Rex", was a "3/4 size" electric machine, with a spring loaded motor. This is by far the most common model encountered in the US.

What made this identification confusing and difficult for quite some time was the fact that its impossible to figure out the 3/4 size vs. full size just from photos or drawings. It wasn't until a kind contributor with an actual Reversew "B" was able to take a base of pillar to needle measurement, which came out at "just a hair under 7-3/4 inches" which I'll extrapolate to 7-11/16, which is far greater than the 6-5/16" measurement of the "Rex", proving the B as "Full Sized". I'll go out on a limb and GUESS that the treadled Reversew "A" was the same size and would share a similar measurement.

Here is a 1936 Reversew "B" manual:

National Reversew Rex manual
Note the "5/36" print date enlarged in the inset.

And check out this diagram from the inside of the same manual:

National Reversew Rex manual
There's something different about the pictured machine...

A sharp eyed reader will notice two things:

1) The location of the spool pin vs. the Reversew "Rex" - the center spool pin in combination with the machine's electrification is a dead give away this is a Reversew "B", NOT a "Rex".

2) It is a black machine with smooth paint, as evidenced by the painted designs on the base and head - and it has the Early face plate that has thus far only appeared on black machines. I'm pretty certain that this faceplate style was on older machines, newer ones would have had the Art Deco style. This theory is supported also by the fact that brown crinkle machines became popular in the late 40s and 50s - probably not so much in the 1930s.

Side note: Crinkle brown was called "Brown Art Metal Finish" when it was introduced by National, right after the WW II when labor costs had risen. It was easier not to spend time smoothing the castings for gloss paint. With the rough paint only large casting imperfections had to be removed.

From Randy:

All post war National made machines were in Art Metal finishes [ excluding the turquoise ones which I have no documentation on ], National introduced the R40 and S40 in the last half of 1941 and they came in Brown Art Metal. National did experiment with the Brown Art Metal finish on a 1938 machine that appears to be short lived. It featured what looks like a large gold decal going up the arm of the machine and large decorative decals did not adhere well to the rough paint and that particular model seems to have been discontinued quickly - I have never seen one like it.

Of the crinkle black and crinkle grey machines:

Those were post war additions to the Brown color Art Metal finishes. The gray and black art metal machines were for other retailers and not sold through National/Eldredge dealers.

Another interesting factoid: An insert in the 1936 manual has the following text:

For your safety an important new feature has been incorporated in this
machine. The light switch provides electric current for the motor as well
as the light.
    In order to operate the machine this switch must be on.

If you are interrupted while sewing and must leave the machine unattended,
just turn off the light switch and the machine can not be started accidently
by pressing on the speed control. This feature also applies when the
machine is in storage.

The speed control is used to vary the machine speed from zero to high.

This feature appears to be peculiar to the "B" version only - I've never encountered reference to this referenced wiring schema in regards to a "Rex".

Check this French language manual out, for a black Davis "Rex" (pictured lower down) originally sold in Montreal:

National Reversew Rex
Printed in 1935!

National Reversew Rex
An obvious "Rex" from the spool pin location.

National Reversew Rex
And look at this! Official reference to the name "Rex",
not found in either of my English language manuals!

A contributor, "Katherine" came forward with this manual - and the black Davis depicted below.

But wait, there's even more!

National Reversew Rex
Here is a diagram from an English language manual,
also referring to this model as the "Rex"!

Now, enters a third English language manual, this one referring to the machine as the "Rex". That's the good news, the bad news is that I haven't a clue what the date, or provenance, of this manual is. It arrived in a batch of presser feet, bobbins, and other miscellany for the Reversew; and was incomplete, missing the first and last several pages including the publication date. It was literally crumbling as I paged through what was left.

I did a quick page-by-page comparison of the three manuals: This unknown one, my 1936 version for the Reversew "B", and the reproduction 1948 version. They were almost identical - the pages where this diagram was located moved about: Unknown was pages 12-13, 1936 was 16-17, and the 1948 was 18-19. All other pages were in the exact same order - only the "interruption" of this diagram moved about. The 1948 manual also included a page on "Shirring" that the other two didn't have. There were also minor differences in some of the line drawings.


Take another look at the above diagram from the unknown manual. There is a switch at the base of the pillar for turning on and off the light! I've never seen a Reversew of any flavor with a switch mounted this way! Verbiage on page 3 of each of the manuals differ in reference to the light switch. 1936 (Reversew "B"): "A convenient switch located on the back side of the sewing head controls the lamp." Unknown manual: "The lamp is controlled by a toggle switch near the base of the arm". Interestingly, the 1948 version omits any mention at all of the light switch on page 3!

The diagrams from the 1936 and the "unknown" manual both mis-label the presser foot as a "pressure foot" (yet correctly refer to the presser bar cap); this oversight was corrected by the time the 1948 manual was printed.

An Update:

I recently acquired yet another manual, this one the newest of all, dated "6-50". As you'd expect, its similar to the 1948 version. In fact, comparing the table of contents of the two, you'd be led to think everything was identical, each section starts on the same page. However, "How to use attachments", pages 13-26 in both; the content of this section is VERY different! Although the above referenced two page "Machine Diagram" is in the same place and identical between '48 and '50, the rest of the attachments section has been totally redone. Although it takes the exact number of pages in the same place as the '48 manual, the '50 manual has several differing attachments, and the ones that are the same between the two have new pictures and have been rewritten!

"Whisky Tango Foxtrot"! Who knows?

Reversews "A" and "B"

Bebarfald Bluebird Sewing Machine
Australian Bebarfald "BlueBird", made by National. Photo courtesy of Australian eBay seller "77stiles".

Reversew A Sewing Machine
Line drawing of a "Reversew A", derived from a picture courtesy of Link opens in new window The Needlebar.

In a manner very similar to America's Gamble's "Coronado" brand, the Australian Bebarfald department store badged their sewing machines as "BlueBird". Like Gamble's, Bebarfald badged sewing machines from several sources. In addition to National, they also imported Vickers from Great Britain, as well as (apparently) "several" German machines. The German machines are always referred to vaguely - I haven't tried to chase the German makes down, and it may not even be possible to find out which Bebarfald imported; if indeed they actually did.

In any event, this is our old friend, the Reversew - but with a different casting as can be seen. Two spool pins, which is the dead giveaway of a treadled Reversew "A". The seller reports that there are 2 sets of tension disks in a thread path that otherwise looks identical to the North American model. One wonders why twin thread capability wasn't available on the "B" and "Rex"; perhaps there were problems with this feature on the (generally) faster electric models.

As can also be seen, this is a treadle powered machine, with the necessary changes to the handwheel. Bebarfald referred to it as a "Model C", and was one of several National models imported by them. Link opens in new window The Needlebar website unequivocally refers to this variant as a "Reversew A" - which supports Randy's parts manual evidence that all treadled Nationals were indeed called an "A".

Reversew "A"

Reversew A Sewing Machine
"Liana" came forward with a second Reversew-A, badged RedWing, also from Australia.
The instruction booklet is stamped on the inside cover with the name & address of the Australian
distributor : G.A. Lightbody Pty Ltd, Wertheim House, Queen St, Brisbane ( in Queensland, Australia).

Reversew manual
From its manual: National didn't print custom manuals for their various badges.

Reversew A Sewing Machine
"Mary", in Canada, came forward with this this "Seamstress" Reversew A. Unlike most
Rexes with this badge, this one doesn't have the goofy "SeamstresS" capitalization.

It turns out that the two spool pins are to allow bobbin winding without dismounting the needle
thread spool. If that was such a great idea, why don't we see a similar feature on the "B" at least?

Reversew "B"

Center Pin Reversew Sewing Machine
"Suzanne" came forward with this actual "in the flesh" Eldredge badged Reversew "B"!

Center Pin Reversew Sewing Machine
Unlike the "Rex", this version has a "cast in" motor housing, similar to the "Streamliner".

Center Pin Reversew Sewing Machine
Very low serial number (14434) would indicate a very early machine...

Center Pin Reversew Sewing Machine
But the manual that came with it is from February 1942!

I had quite the exchange with my acquaintance, "Randy" - who has been collecting National-built SMs for years, and knows far more than I do...

He is flummoxed about this machine - which means so am I...

We agree that the serial number is a pretty old one - BUT that the crinkle brown paint plus the Art Deco style faceplate makes it considerably newer (not to mention the 1942 manual!). After some discussion, we came up with this speculative scenario:

The hull was cast, and serial number assigned in the early to mid 1930s, but for whatever reason, the machine wasn't finished. Sometime later, in the 1940s, it was finished with the then-current paint and face plate. This makes additional sense from the standpoint of wartime metal shortages. Haul out those down-rev hulls and finish them up!


It was fully built in the 1930s, and rebuilt in the 1940s. This is purely speculative - Singer certainly did this, they'd rebuild trade-ins and refinish them with crinkle black paint, then resell them. I have no knowledge of whether or not National did this as well. But this too would make some sense, again from the standpoint of wartime metal shortages. Reuse and recycle!

The further I get into National Sewing Machine Company (NSMCO) history, the less consistency there is and the less sense it makes. They were largely driven by the whims of their customers who did the actual distribution and sale of their machines. Almost every large order resulted in some kind of weird change! This machine certainly is NOT the first one that I've seen that has me scratching my head.

The 1942 manual appears to be very similar, if not identical, to my 1936 copy. The machine diagram in the center is identical, even down to the mis-labeling of the "pressure" foot. Had the manual remained the same from 1936, or was it resurrected for the hypothetical "old hull reuse"?

The '36 and '42 manuals both show a different picture of the motor than either my 1948 version, or the above mentioned "unknown-date" manual did. Here's the '36/42 vs. '48 comparison:

Reversew motor comparison.
1936/1942 (bottom) illustration vs. 1948 (top)

The '48 motor illustration clearly shows a spring loaded motor. The '36/'42 isn't quite so clear about it being a cast-in motor housing, although the housing shape and the higher mounted wiring block are quite accurate (also note no spool pin shown!). The identical text is used for both versions: The motor is fastened to the machine in its working position as shown in Fig. 1. The contact of the motor-driving pulley [sic] against the balance wheel drives the machine. These pix and text appear on page 2 of each manual. Was the '36/'42 manual - or at least this illustration in question - intended to perform "double duty", representing both the "Rex" as well as the "B"?

What bothers me is that the '36/'42 manuals make NO mention about the proper - and rather touchy - adjustment that must be made to the drive wheel to allow enough traction to occur without wearing out bearings from too much side loading. The "Streamliner", with its similar setup, has a fairly detailed description of these considerations. This begs the questions: Since National migrated away from the trouble prone cast-in motor housing on the Reversew "Rex", why did they retain it for the Model 40 rotary and its derivative, the Montgomery Ward #30 ("Streamliner")? Why didn't they revise the 1942 manual to include drive wheel setup instructions? There's about 15 thousand speculative answers to these questions - but like many others, we'll probably never know! If you have one of these machines, you might want to pop over to the "Streamliner" page and download its manual so you'll know how to do the drive wheel setup correctly.

National Reversew B
Another "Reversew-B" with an Art Deco front plate.

National Reversew B
Backside, with the sculpted motor housing.

"John" came forward with this one, mounted in a table almost identical to my wife's Expert B.T. save for the curious hand slot under the left end of the machine. Being this is a black machine with the "classic" graphics not seen on later blacks, its interesting that it has an Art Deco front plate. This one also declares that its a "Reversew B" right on it!

National Reversew B
And here we have an extraordinarily rare Reversew "B" sold by Montgomery Ward!

National Reversew B
The usual "molded" or "sculpted" motor housing.

National Reversew B
Early style faceplate on a brown crinkle machine. These pictures courtesy of eBay seller "Vintage1921".

Reversew-B Sewing machine
"Pat" kindly sent this picture of another "B", called "Queen of the West"! She was also kind enough to perform
a base of pillar to needle measurement, which came out at "just a hair under 7-3/4 inches" which I'll extrapolate
to 7-11/16, which is far greater than the 6-5/16" measurement of the "Rex", proving the B as "Full Sized". I'll go
out on a limb and GUESS that the treadled Reversew "A" was the same size and would share a similar measurement.

Ancestor of the Reversew
Just to add to all the confusion, this machine - kindly provided by Randy - shows both a cast-in
motor housing and a center mounted spool pin. It is the direct ancestor of the Reversew, and is
very similar, but by no means identical, to the Expert B.T.! Of particular note is the "Streamliner"
like tensioner and thread path. Why did same disappear on the Reversew and Expert B.T., yet
reappear on the Rotaries? It has all the hallmarks of the left hand not knowing what the right
hand was doing - i.e. different engineering groups. Who knows? We probably will never find out!

I'll leave the reader with a couple of "inspirational" photos of my own machine:

National Reversew Rex
Love the Art Deco front plate!

National Reversew Rex
Can't resist the nite shot. I like things that glow in the dark...

Stitch and Bitch

A Belly Dance "Stitch and Bitch".
My Pfaff 776 can be seen in the foreground.
Directly behind it can be seen the "American Beauty" Reversew.
The lovely lady to the right is the proud owner of my late Mother's Montgomery Ward machine.
Yes, my White 690 was hard at work this day also - in a different room.
Oh, the machine to the far left? A modern, plastic Singer belonging to another dance sister.
Does quite well, although I don't think it "holds a candle" to my '57 Singer 99k which was not
in use here, but I take it to "away dates" frequently.

An interesting tangent:

Hamilton Beach Home Motor
"Home Motor" by Hamilton Beach.

Hamilton Beach Home Motor
Photos courtesy of eBay seller "Imperialpicker00".

This multi-purpose motor was sold over several decades starting, apparently, in the 19-teens. It was advertised as being able to power sewing machines, mixers, polishers, and fans. It included a foot pedal to control it, later versions of the foot pedal were the same as pictured above for the Reversew sewing machines. Obviously, owing a motor in the home was at one time considered as cutting edge as owning a computer!

I've also seen a seemingly identical motor marketed with Singer's name on it - apparently Singer bought these
from Hamilton Beach and put their name on it. It was advertised to electrify your Singer sewing machine.

Some of the other badges the Reversew "Rex" wore:

Thanx go out to the many gracious people who have granted permission to show their pictures here. Largely eBay sellers
that I found, but also machines found elsewhere and a few whose owners found me and sent pictures. Thank You!

National Reversew Rex
This old warhorse shows that some machines were actually badged "National".
Photo courtesy of eBay seller "Merylwitch".

National Reversew Rex
Another crinkle brown "National". This is one of only two examples I've seen thus far
without the beautiful polished wood base; instead having the usual-for-other-brands
cloth/paper covered base that latches onto a cover. After market? Replacement?
Note the font, which is very different from the "National" in the picture above this one.
See the next two pictures for a possible explanation.

National Reversew Rex
Thanx to "Chad", this example also has the different font, and a late serial number ...

National Reversew Rex
Here's a National badge in black with Deco faceplate. Photo courtesy of
eBay seller "tonianajjar". I've also seen this exact machine with an early style faceplate.

National Reversew Rex
"Younkers" in crinkle brown with Deco faceplate. Photo courtesy of "Maureen" who says
"The Younkers may have been badged for the Younkers Department Store in Des Moines, Iowa."

National Reversew Rex
A Davis in crinkle brown. Photo courtesy of eBay seller "DukeG".

National Reversew Rex
A Davis in Black with Early face plate. Davis Reversew
machines were also produced in black with Art Deco face plates.

National Reversew Rex
In a pretty rare for this model sewing table!

National Reversew Rex
The knee pedal matches. Not all do, some were brown!

National Reversew Rex
A bit out of focus, but shows the same kind of blocked off terminal block as
found on my
"Streamliner". I bet its wired the same way too.

National Reversew Rex
And here is the genesis of the "Rex" name - the MOTOR was called that at some point.
All these black Davis pictures are courtesy of "Katherine", the machine's owner.
Someone scrawled "1940" on the underside of the cabinet - but her manual (above)
is dated from 1935!

National Reversew Rex
Denis from Quebec came forward with this beautiful Davis, also in a rare cabinet.

National Reversew Rex
It has an undated French manual...

National Reversew Rex
But the included English manual is dated 7/41.

National Reversew Rex
Montgomery Ward sold a LOT of them.
Photo courtesy of eBay seller Link opens in new window "Serenity-Prayer".

National Reversew Rex
A "Brunswick", another Montgomery Ward iteration also in a rare cabinet.

National Reversew Rex
Some of the black painted Reversews had a different faceplate design.
These two photos courtesy of eBay seller Link opens in new window "Zangel14".

National Reversew Rex
And another "Brunswick", in crinkle brown. This picture courtesy of eBay seller "1969tenney".

National Reversew Rex
Another Montgomery Ward, the second of only two examples I've seen thus far
without the beautiful polished wood base; instead having the usual-for-other-brands
cloth/paper covered base that latches onto a cover. I suspect this machine was one
of the very last sold by Montgomery Ward and they had to source the base elsewhere.
This picture courtesy of eBay seller "markp4u2c".

National Reversew Rex
Macy's also had them badged for them! Photo courtesy eBay seller "Reddkar"

National Reversew Rex
An "Avalon" with Art Deco faceplate courtesy the craigslist seller, "Sandy".
Interesting "bar" graphics bracketing the name, see inset.

National Reversew Rex
PARAMOUNT X. Unknown faceplate. It seems there were a series of (shiny) black machines
with a capitalized name followed by a capital "X". Why the all caps and the "X" is beyond me!
Some of the Xs were more stylized than others for unknown reasons. Photo courtesy of eBay seller
"michelle_lucas90". Note what looks like an OEM bobbin winder tire!

National Reversew Rex
A black machine with the Art Deco style front plate. Photo courtesy of eBay seller "Centermid".

National Reversew Rex
GRAND X with the Art Deco style front plate. Photo contributed by 'Becca!

National Reversew Rex
As soon as I come to any conclusions whatsoever about anything NSMCO, something comes along to
contradict same. WISCO X - another capitalized name followed by a capital "X" as above - except
this one is crinkle brown! Photograph courtesy of "Frank".

National Reversew Rex
"Darlene" came forward with this picture of her STRATCO X, a second encounter (thus far)
with a crinkle brown machine bearing a capitalized name followed by a capital "X".

National Reversew Rex
And a third, contributed by eBay seller "1012jcomer", a "BARTLETT X" this time.

National Reversew Rex
"BIDDLE X" Picture courtesy of Julie who came forward with it. Just
where did "they" come up with these weird names? The mind boggles!

From an emailed comment: "Biddle" was the name of a prominent Philadelphia family. I
think they owned a store and the Biddle machine would have been badged for them.

National Reversew Rex
"ZENITH X" eBay seller "AmericanBusinessCreators" came forward with this picture. Like
all other "X" series machines thus far, this one is also all capital letters. Unlike any others I've
seen, there is some actual stylization to the name and its in gold paint! Art Deco faceplate.

National Reversew Rex
Normal motor, but a kind of sparse nameplate on it.

National Reversew Rex
No listing of "X" machines would be complete without my own
"American Beauty" which is actually an "AMERICAN BEAUTY X"!

National Reversew Rex
And another; "DELUXE X" this time. Picture courtesy eBay seller "DMS30".

National Reversew Rex
Of course, there's yet another rule breaker. "Emerald X" with real lower
case letters! Early faceplate. Photo courtesy eBay seller "Marv917"

National Reversew Rex
And another, "So Easy X" (Rather than the often seen "Sew Easy"), also with lower case lettering.

National Reversew Rex
"Ashley" sent in this picture of her black with Art Deco faceplate "Springfield". NSMCo
had no connection whatsoever with the well known Springfield Armory of M1 Garand fame!

National Reversew Rex
Gamble's "Coronado" brand. $87.95 in 1950. I thought for the longest time that my
eventual acquisition of this model would be one of these due to their prolificness.
(Photo used with permission from the NSMCO list)

National Reversew Rex
This is the backside of a Coronado that reputedly sold for $99.95 in 1953. Note
the color of the machine vs. the color of the foot pedal. I had noticed that
Coronado machines seemed to be very dark (see picture above this one too) - but you
never know about white balance issues. This picture proves the existence of a 3rd
color - a black or dark grey crinkle! Compare to the Eldredge further below.
Photo courtesy eBay seller "BB6810"

National Reversew Rex
And here we have a Coronado (Early faceplate) that is the usual smooth black! Photo courtesy eBay seller "hoao600"

National Reversew Rex
It has an very interesting friction drive wheel. I've seen pix of other National-built models
with friction drive equipped with similar drive wheels, but this is the first one I've seen on
a "Rex". Also notice the motor that, while black, is crinkle. An interesting combination!

National Reversew Rex
"International" with confirmed Art Deco faceplate. Note brown foot pedal. Not all
machines had brown foot pedals, see below. Courtesy of eBay seller "bigdeals25"

National Reversew Rex
Crinkle Brown "International". Courtesy of eBay seller "danny402011".

National Reversew Rex
"American" with black foot pedal. Photo Courtesy Ron Hyden.
Interesting graphic at base of pillar - this appeared on a number of black machines.

National Reversew Rex
GraybaR in black.

National Reversew Rex
With Early style faceplate. These two photos courtesy of Link opens in new window thayerrags.com.

National Reversew Rex
Another black GraybaR, this one with an Art Deco faceplate.
This photo courtesy of Rick Engel.

National Reversew Rex
A GraybaR in Crinkle Brown. This photo courtesy of Link opens in new window The Needlebar.

National Reversew Rex
Very unusual GraybaR with what appears to be a peel and stick foil badge.
I wonder if there's anything underneath it!
Photos courtesy eBay seller "pharmamarketer730"

National Reversew Rex
Badging on motor matches - not super rare, but not common either.

National Reversew Rex
An Eldredge in what looks like Crinkle Black/Grey...
Photo courtesy of Link opens in new window thayerrags.com.

National Reversew Rex
...and a shiny black Eldredge with Early faceplate.
I've also seen a (shiny) black Eldredge with an Art Deco faceplate.
Photo courtesy eBay seller "dave94066"

National Reversew Rex
Another Eldredge in Crinkle Brown with Art Deco faceplate.
Photo courtesy of eBay seller "acaantiques2009"

Center Pin Reversew Sewing Machine
Reprised from above, this crinkle brown Eldredge, a "Reversew B".

National Reversew Rex
"Janny's Old Homestead". Rather unusual name seems to be an appliqué
rather than the more usual painted badging.
Photo courtesy of eBay seller "bullet61".

National Reversew Rex
This SeamstresS Reversew is in what is apparently a very
rare turquoise paint. My guess is the color was an attempt
to compete with the Japanese machines that were hitting the
market in the 1950s. Photo courtesy of the (non-eBay) seller.

National Reversew Rex
A SeamstresS Reversew in crinkle brown. This photo made possible
through the gracious permission of Link opens in new window OldTymeSewingMachines.com.

National Reversew Rex
Another SeamstresS in black (unknown faceplate). Photo courtesy of Peter Scott, the seller.
Interestingly, all three of these "SeamstresS" machines were found in Canada. Combined with
"SeamstresS" badged Nationals of other models that were also located there, it is my belief that
this badge was peculiar to Canada. I've also seen some evidence connecting the "SeamstresS"
badge with Eaton's department store; whether or not it was exclusive to that store is unknown.

National Reversew Rex
A "SEAMSTRESS X" in the usual black with Art Deco faceplate. Whether or not "SEAMSTRESS X" had
any connection with the apparent Canadian brand "SeamstresS" (other than being identical machines made
by the same maker!) is unknown. This example surfaced in California. Photo courtesy of eBay seller "ktkt55".

National Reversew Rex
These pix courtesy of eBay seller "kneppa". More turquoise paint.

National Reversew Rex
Pretty rare, note riveted on GE badges.

National Reversew Rex
See the National Rotary "D" page for another GE badged National.

National Reversew Rex
"Enterprise" with, much like my "American Beauty", a somewhat worn/faded name (shown larger in inset).
Picture courtesy eBay seller "hartmn2qds". Beam me up Scotty!

National Reversew Rex
"Cromwell" in its carrying case. The Mercury Electric foot pedal is an obvious replacement.
Photo courtesy eBay seller "ditwtexas".

National Reversew Rex
Another "Cromwell" sent in by a contributor. Apparently, its crinkle BLACK paint!

National Reversew Rex
Now here's a curiosity! The paint on the Art Deco ribbing on the faceplate was never sanded off! I can only
assume an accident that got past National's QC. Photo courtesy eBay seller "happyhoarders2011sheri".

Update:I've now seen this "situation" on another "Rex", that one badged "Eldridge".

National Reversew Rex
"Ashley" sent in these pix of a "Free-Westinghouse" Yes, she now knows the proper thread path!

National Reversew Rex
We know NSMCO sold a TON of machines to Free, but this is the first example I've seen with a riveted badge.

National Reversew Rex
"Justus" sent in these excellent photos of a magnificent "Blue Grass"!

National Reversew Rex
Machine and table both appear to be in top condition. Cool looking cat.

National Reversew Rex
Nice black with Art Deco faceplate Blue Grass sent in by a contributor.

National Reversew Rex
A black GraybaR in an apparently pretty rare bentwood case that was supplied prior to WW II.
I cannot be sure which faceplate is on this one (I'd guess the Early).

National Reversew Rex
Unlike some black machines, this one has a black pedal.

National Reversew Rex
Close-up of the bentwood case. Photos courtesy of eBay seller "zip*dealz"

Interestingly enough, my above referenced 1936 manual has an insert - printed on a small, unbound piece of paper - with a diagram of how to pack the machine in the "more typical" non-bentwood case as depicted for my "American Beauty" Reversew. This shows that although likely that bentwood cases were only found on pre-war machines, but also that the (more prevalent) suitcase style case was also supplied at the same time.

Other badges I've seen or heard of for the Reversew "Rex"...

... but was either unable to obtain photos of sufficient quality, or photo permissions:

"Eldredge" in black with Art Deco faceplate, "Bingham" in black with unknown faceplate, "Davis" in black with Art Deco faceplate, "VAUCELLE X" & "SPRINGFIELD X" in black with unknown faceplates (probably Deco), a "SEWRIGHT X" in black with Art Deco faceplate, a "WRIGHT X" in brown crinkle with Art Deco faceplate, a "Muller X" or "Mueller X" (unknown color, unknown faceplate, most likely "MUELLER X" in black with Deco), "MAJESTIC X" (unknown color, unknown face plate, most likely black with Deco), "Younkers" in brown crinkle and unknown faceplate. "Hickory" in brown crinkle and unknown faceplate, Regal in black with apparent "unsanded" Deco faceplate.

ANY version with a light switch by the pillar base!

Picture "donations" with permissions of these, or any other variations of this model would be VERY much appreciated! Contact me.

Sewing Machine

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