Singer Model 103 – User Manual


for using



No 103

Click on HERE to download Manual (16MB!!)

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This is a PDF copy of the original manual for my Singer model 103 treadle powered sewing machine.  I have the original purchase receipt for this machine, dated July 1940. The machine is in superb condition and is the most frequently used of all my collection; mostly for sewing vinyl and light leather.

Every collector has their favorite machine and this is mine.  Utterly reliable and trouble-free, it will sew everything from the flimsiest fabric to 3mm chrome-tanned leather.

6 thoughts on “Singer Model 103 – User Manual

  1. Thanks Andrew, you have provided the manuals for both my machines (29k71 and 103). Agree with your opinion of the 103. Just bombproof, really. Do you know the difference (if any) between the 103 and the 103k2? Many thanks, Eo

    • Hi eofolks and thank you for your message and I apologise for my tardy reply. It really is satisfying to know that my efforts have been of use to somebody else. I seem to have acquired a collection of sewing machines over the years, although it was never my intention to do so when I set out. I was just looking for machines that would carry out specific tasks, hoping to be able to make a few pennies from making grocery bags, vinyl and leather goods and doing a bit of repair work. I did make myself a few shirts and had a half-hearted go at a pair of trousers, as well as trying quilting and embroidery. I find myself much more drawn towards producing vinyl and leather goods though. However, I do have my collection and I have manuals for many of my machines. So if there’s anything else you need, it might be worth an ask.

      ISMACS, the International Sewing Machine Collectors Society, makes available a good deal of excellent information on the old Singers, including a serial number database and some information on the various model variants. While I can’t vouch for the accuracy of all their information, it appears from their info that the main difference between the basic 103 and the 103K2 is the distance between the needle and the pillar. The 103K2 appears to be a long bed machine that would be capable of sewing larger items like sails and tents whereas the ‘normal’ machine has a standard bed size. I have never seen a wide bed version but would certainly snap it up, should one ever happen my way. I have two 103’s, one of which I use for all of my vinyl and light leather work. Mine are both treadle powered machines.

      You can view the relevant section of the ISMACS model list here:

      My model 29 machine is a 29K2 from 1902 and it was thoroughly worn out when I got it with the stitch length mechanism being utterly non-functional. They are delightfully simple machines though and it took only a few hours to put mine to rights. It sews a full range of stitch lengths now, through the simple addition a some metal shims cut from a tin can!

      I hope this info is of some use and I do recommend that you have a look at the ISMACS information.

      If there’s anything else I can help you with, please don’t hesitate to ask.

      With kind regards,

      Andrew Caddle.

  2. Thanks for the manual. I have just acquired a 103K which isn’t going. I don’t know why but probably electrical issues. It was such a bargain I couldn’t pass it up! I am looking around for an adjusters manual for this machine as I have never used an industrial sewing machine before and I’d hate to take it apart and not be able to get it together again. Also I will no doubt need to adjust the timing when I finally do get it running. It’s a treadle that was converted to power so I don’t mind if the motor is not resurrectable, but I really need some help with it. Cheers, and thanks for all your help! Janet

    • Hi Janet,

      I do apologise for being so tardy in replying. Like so many, we are in the grip of an awful summer and yesterday was given over to getting our fire plan activated.

      Well done on scoring a 103. It’s my favorite machine and the one I use most. Mine is a treadle only.

      It would be my pleasure to help out in any way that I can. I think my first bit of advice would be to not disassemble anything at all, unless you have a very good reason for doing so. I have a good many machines and there have only been a couple that required anything much more than a clean and oil. Even machines that are seized can almost always be freed up and got into running condition without disassembly.

      If this machine is likely to become your main one, I’d consider ditching the existing motor and either converting to treadle or fitting a modern servo motor. They’re available quite cheaply nowadays and provide far better control than the old fashioned clutch motors do. personally, I favor the treadle setup. I seem to spend a lot of time, operating my machine by hand turning the balance wheel!

      If you do decide to disassemble, take LOTS of photos as you go and make notes. Place small parts in zip-lock bags, grouped together logically and label them. You’ll be amazed at how much grief you can avoid, just by taking a methodical approach. Do not trust to memory!

      I’m afraid I don’t have a service manual for the 103. However, you can download a parts manual from …… Parts manuals are often very helpful in providing a diagram template for reassembly.

      Also, being a basic straight stitcher, the procedures for things like setting up your needle bar height, feed dogs and hook timing are likely to be pretty much the same as other straight stitchers from the same vintage. There is an English charity organisation called ‘Tools For Self Reliance’ which (amongst other things) restores Old Singer sewing machines and sends them to Africa. They produced an excellent manual on refurbishing old Singers and I believe it’s available for purchase as a PDF file, from their website. It used to be free years ago. Have a look at …..

      With the fire prep, I haven’t had much opportunity to search for a 103 service manual yet but I’ll keep digging. If I get lucky and find one, I’ll let you know.

      Meanwhile, if I can be of any other help, please don’t hesitate to ask …..

      With kind regards,

      Andrew Caddle

    • Hello Sandy, The monetary value of any machine is dependent on many different factors, viz; How popular and well known the particular model is, the general condition of the machine and also the style and condition of the table or cabinet it is in, what accessories it comes with and the condition of those and also whether the machine is from a batch that were promoted in a particular way ( e.g Singer’s Red S and Centenary-badged machines fetch a premium). Finally, how rare or common a particular machine is in your part of the world and how many sewing machine enthusiasts there are will impact the value.

      Where I live in Tasmania, Australia, old Singers are commonplace and enthusiasts are few …. so prices tend to be low. I have two 103’s. I purchased one that is quite functional but of aged appearance in a very rough treadle table for $65 AUD. I have a prettier one that sits in a tidied-up treadle table and I use that machine regularly. I paid $90 AUD for that. Right now, there’s one available on Gumtree with an industrial motor being offered for $150 AUD. (One Euro is worth about $1.60 AUD)

      At the end of the day, a machine is worth what somebody is willing to pay for it. I think the 103 is an exceptional model and I will never part with mine. I’m sorry I can’t offer a more definitive answer to your question. All I can suggest is that you research local prices on Gumtree, Craig’s List or Ebay and try to be guided by what you find.

      Kind regards,

      Andrew Caddle

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