It Looks Just Like an Old Singer.. Sort of... Review of The HA-1, Class 15 “Clone”

There are many machines that look just like an old Singer that are often mistakenly referred to as Singer sewing machines. These "mystery machines"  are interesting, under appreciated and often misunderstood. They come in a range of colors and an even broader range of “brands“. So, what’s the scoop with these machines? This article will explore some of the technical information about these classic sewing machines, and well as some interesting, historical background. I’ll also share my first hand experience and impressions, and try to clear up some myths along the way.  (free manual download at the bottom of the page)

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Above- three, Japanese HA-1 Class 15 "clones"
Below- Singer 15-91 and 15-88

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No, even though it looks just like an old Singer, it wasn’t made by Singer. No, it isn’t an exact copy of any Singer model. So, the “clone” designation is a little misleading, but that is the "nick nmae" they have been given by some folks.  This type of machine does share the same hook design and other features of several different Singer models. The hook is very similar to the earlier Singer 15 class machines (15-80, 15-86, 15-87). It is not the same as the 15-88, 15-89, 15-90 or 15-91. In fact, on these HA-1, 15 class “clones” the needle is threaded left to right, and on the later Singer 15’s (15-88, 15-89, 15-90, 15-91, etc…) the needle is threaded right to left. But all of these machines have a side loading, class 15 bobbin and an oscillating hook, so they are similar to one another.

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When you visually compare the bobbin and hook area from one of these “clones” and the Singer 15-91, you can see several obvious differences. First of all the bobbin case finger on the Japanese machine points to the 1 o’clock position, and the Singer 15-91 (15-125, 15-88, 15-90, etc..) is at the 11 o’clock spot. Also, the Japanese machine is set up with two spring loaded clips that hold on the hook retaining ring. There are no tools required to get at the hook for cleaning, etc.. The Singer 15-91 has a screw that holds the part in place.

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Another similarity between the Singers 15’s and the “clones” is the tension assembly location on the far left side of the machine. Although, there are some Japanese made machines that are class 15, side loading, straight stitch only machines that have the tension assembly on the side of the machine facing the operator. Personally, I still consider these in the same general category as the other clones because they are so mechanically similar other than the tension assembly location.  

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The castings on the Japanese machines often have more reinforcing ribs on the under side base in the casting itself. These provide additional strength and stability.  

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Another common “upgrade” that the clones have over the similar Singers is the location and adjustability of the feed dog drop mechanism. On the vintage Singers, the thumb screw to disengage the feed dogs is located on the underside of the bed. On the Japanese machines, this control is usually found right on the top of the bed and frequently has multiple settings for the feed dogs - down, up and “delicate” or “silk” (sort of an in between setting).    

Also, notice the badge on the front with the word "Precision Deluxe" on it. These types of badges were very common.
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The 15 class Japanese machines usually come with a 1.0 amp motor, where the Singers were equipped with a 0.6 or 0.7 amp motor. Now, I must also point out that the gear ratio is often different as well. Usually, the Japanese “clones” have a smaller diameter hand wheel belt grove than the Singers. The ratio of the diameter of the motor pulley to the diameter of the hand wheel belt grove will affect torque and speed. In the end, I find that the Japanese “clones” usually have as good or better piercing ability than the domestic, class 15 Singers.

  Here are the general specifications for these machines:

  • Straight stitch only
  • Low shank feet and attachments
  • Full reverse capabilities
  • Cast iron head weight about 30 to 35 pounds
  • All metal innards
  • Belt Driven, external motor
  • Adjustable presser foot pressure
  • Feed dogs drop
  • Class 15 bobbin, side loading, oscillating hook
  • Uses standard home sewing machine needles (HA-1, 15x1, 130/705H, etc..)

These Japanese class 15 machines come badged with a staggering range of “labels” or “brands”. Often, the “brand name” on the machine has more to do with who imported or sold the machine than who actually made it. There aren't the same dating and historical records available for the Japanese class 15 “clones” like there are for most of the vintage Singers. Sometimes a little research can determine the manufacturer, sometimes not. I generally rely on direct evaluation of the machine sitting in front of me to determine the overall quality of the machine. This direct method has provided much more pertinent information that anything else.

Most of these machnes made their way into the US after WWII.  The story is that Singer's patent on one of their earlier class 15 machines expired, and the Japaneese sewing machine industry jumped on this situation to use that design as the basis for the developement of these so called "clones".

While these are high quality, sturdy, machines capable of a wide variety of sewing applications, they are, by no means, industrial or "industrial strength". In fact, "Industrial Strength" is nothing more than a clever marketing term with no factual definition or meaning when it comes to sewing machines. An industrial machine is made for high volume production settings like a factory, and not all of them are even designed to sew heavy materials. Besides, no well informed, honest seller would use the word industrial to describe a domestic sewing machine. For more information about industrial machines see the Industrial, Commercial Grade, Professional, Industrial Strength & More- Sewing Machine Buying Guide.

They are designed to handle a wider range of materials than most industrial machines, weigh much less and offer more versatility than a true industrial. However, a constant “diet “ of heavy duty projects will certainly takes it’s toll on such a machine eventually, and they are not suited to extremely high production applications at all.

The bottom line is that these “clones” are often sturdy, simple, straightforward and dependable sewing machines. Since they lack the name recognition and collectiblity that the vintage Singers enjoy, they are often a very good value as well.

“Attic fresh”, Japanese class 15 straight stitchers can be purchased for less than $50 at most thrift stores, garage sales, tag sales, etc.. Often, they can be found for even less. In their “found” state, these attic fresh machine may or may not require significant repair. You can almost always count on having to give them a good clean and oil, new belt and bobbin winder tire. The aqua color Brother shown in the photos in this article actually looked nearly pristine when I found it. I gave it a good clean, replaced the belt, spool cushions, inspected the wires and cleaned the motor. However, I also had to replace a worn/broken pin on the silver knob on the tension assembly. The tension was simply non-functional without this repair, and the machine was not capable of sewing in that state. Moral of the tale- looks can be deceiving. Just because it “looks” like new, doesn’t mean it will sew without repairs.  The only way to be certain that your vintage machine doesn’t require repairs, parts or servicing to function properly is to buy it from a reputable source that guarantees the machine or fully test and inspect it yourself before you fork over any money.

My husband (who usually ignores most of the sewing machine stuff going on around our home) actually noticed this machine and seemed rather impressed. He even asked if I was keeping it! Honestly, I’m really tempted.

HA-1 Class 15 Clone Sewing Machine Manual Free PDF download
More info on an INSTANT marked needle plate for any vintage machine!

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  • Monday, February 02. 2009 BB wrote:
    In the event these machines need new motors, do you know of a good source?
    1. Monday, February 02. 2009 Sew-Classic wrote:
      In all honesty, I never had one with a motor that was beyond repair.  But, if I did, I'd probably just use one of the parts motors in my stash.   I do know that any decent sewing machine shop can order one, and there are plenty on eBay as well.
  • Friday, February 27. 2009 Heather wrote:
    Thank-you for posting the instruction manual for the generic HA-1 sewing machines.

    1. Friday, February 27. 2009 Sew-Classic wrote:
      You're welcome.
  • Saturday, February 28. 2009 jennylou wrote:
    I just saw one on Craigslist that looks like a Singer but it says Sewmasters,  Is this a "clone"?
    1. Saturday, February 28. 2009 Sew-Classic wrote:
      It could be.
  • Thursday, April 02. 2009 Jaimie wrote:
    I just purchased one of these clone machines myself. It has the word "Life" on the side. Do you know where I can order a replacement belt? Does it take the same size replacement belt of the Singer 15? Or does it vary and I'll need to get it fitted? Thanks.
    1. Friday, April 03. 2009 Sew-Classic wrote:
      Any sewing machine shop will have replacement belts.

      Is it the same size as the Singer 15?- umm ... which Singer 15?  Some models have a hand wheel with a smaller or larger OD for the belt groove area.  So, even among Singer 15's the belt size can vary from sub-model to submodel.

      Just take the old belt into your local shop to match up with a new one. If you want to order on-line measure your old one and use that as a guide.
  • Monday, April 06. 2009 Joe wrote:
    I have one of the clones called Electro Grand D-2 very nice machine, Question: what is the best way to go about servicing the upper tension unit.
    I keep nesting and it all points back to the upper unit, when the nesting occurs the thread seems to be catch in the tension unit and requires me to pull it back out, I have adjusted and re-adjusted the tension and it keeps nesting, Any advice would be greatly appreciated! Thank you, Joe
  • Tuesday, April 28. 2009 Geoff wrote:
    I now have two of these HA-1 type machines and they are real gems in the rough. I have converted a "Remington Model 30 DeLuxe" to hand-crank as my no-power-required, light duty repairs machine. For small repairs and light stitching, it's hard to beat a hand crank machine. The other is a "Pan American DeLuxe Precision" and is electric. I just picked it up and haven't tried a project on it yet.

    Beware the cases on these machines! The handles are NOT designed to support the full weight of the machine for any length of time and most are very old to boot. Unless you want broken toes -- and a broken machine -- carry from the bottom of the case only.

    Thanks for the article! Great information.

  • Wednesday, July 15. 2009 Gwen wrote:
    Thanks so much for the copy of the manual, I have searched for days. Have two grandaughter's, one has a Universal and the other a Challenge, so you have just killed two birds with one stone! I sure appreciate people like you! YOU ROCK!
    Gwen in Fort Wayne, IN
  • Friday, July 17. 2009 Bev wrote:
    As always, so very helpful. I ran into a blue Brother 15 clone at a yardsale this morning, and now I know what it was. Thanks!
  • Sunday, September 06. 2009 Rohmell wrote:
    Thank you for posting the instruction manual for the imported type-15 machines.
  • Friday, November 06. 2009 Trina Robbins wrote:
    Thanks so much for this blog and for the information book which I was able to download and print up! I actually found my "Eversew" on the street, in its carrying case, and it works perfectly! I love it, but just wanted to know about it, since I had never heard of that brand name before. Now I know where it was made and even roughly the year.
  • Sunday, March 07. 2010 Sharon wrote:
    Thanks so much for the above information....i've been trawling the net for the past couple of hours looking for information on my Sovereign HA1. I would never have known it was a clone. I love the machine it runs sooooo smooth! Thanks for the manual to its a really good bonus.
  • Saturday, March 20. 2010 Hyaena wrote:
    Hi! I have a Precision Sovereign machine that I picked up for almost nothing at a yard sale. Unfortunately, I also have a hard time getting out due to transportation issues. I can order a belt, but the machine came without one and I have no idea what size it needs. This machine is in pristine condition otherwise, truly beautiful. If I need to, I can take some pictures of it and send them to you if you think it would help to identify the correct belt.
    1. Saturday, March 20. 2010 Sharon wrote:
      Hi Hyaena, do you have any belt at all? could you measure the one thats on the machine if there is on? i've just ordered one for my sovereign machine, i got 10-11" belt for mine and its working brill! I would love to see some pictures of yours as your the first person that i've come across with a sovereign!!
    2. Saturday, March 20. 2010 Sew-Classic wrote:

      I can order a belt, but the machine came without one and I have no idea what size it needs."

      No Problem.  Just adjust the motor bracket so that it is midway in the slot and then use a piece of non-stretchy string or twine to measure around the hand wheel and motor pulley (just like a belt would be installed).  

      I actually find that most (not all ) of these HA-1 type machines use a 13 3/4" belt.  I have these in stock on my parts site.  


  • Saturday, March 20. 2010 Hyaena wrote:
    No, unfortunately, it didn't come with one. I'll go ahead and photograph her, and see if I can get a 10-11" belt and try her out! This machine is gorgeous. I don't know if the woman that owned it ever even used it! Other than the missing belt, it seems to be in mint condition!
  • Saturday, March 20. 2010 Sharon wrote:
    I hope this ok to do but here's my email, if you can send me on some pics and i'll give you any help i can.
    My machine is the same i found her at a car boot sale... she's a gem. i'll send you on a few pics tom.
  • Sunday, March 21. 2010 Hyaena wrote:
    Wow! Thank you! I'll definitely follow the instructions and grab a couple to keep on hand. I am very excited!
  • Monday, April 12. 2010 Jul wrote:
    Thanks so much for the manual. Just acquired a Kingston Deluxe aqua unit. It is beautiful andI am planning to use as an ornamental piece - after reading this, I may restore and sew with it.
  • Tuesday, April 13. 2010 Basil wrote:
    Jul, my own HA-1 machine is every bit as pleasant to use as my genuine Singer 15-91. Only the motor sound is different (which makes sense since the former uses a belt, and the latter is gear driven). These HA-1 units are the sleeper machines of the vintage world, if you want the machine for actual use rather than collectability.
    1. Tuesday, April 13. 2010 Jul wrote:
      I had no idea these clone machines existed and now know I will be looking for them just because I am enamored with the colors of the bodies. I have several Singers but black is black is black.......even though my Red Eye is quite ornate.
  • Monday, May 03. 2010 Jacki wrote:
    Hi I also have 2 of this type of 15 clone lonly mine were sold by the hudsons bay co. here in canada they called it a peidmont. It is marvalous the blet i have on it does not seem to fit and she can't wind a bobbin. I love this thing the paint and finish is immacuate and i almost prefer it to my 15-91. I am a shameless collector of these vinatage machines and usually pay under 20 bucks for any i buy. No kidding the plastic sewers do not know what they are missing. any advice or help on the belt issue would be aprreciated.
  • Wednesday, May 05. 2010 Ana12345678910 wrote:
    I have an "Universal" sewing machine, it has a gold emblem with the "the luxe" brand... I want to know if I can put it a zig zagger attachment for the singer class 15... someone told me that it's not possible in a Straight stitch only, but I have been reading some manuals of the singer 15 and it's possible for them.... what do you can recommend me? thank you for all the information that you provide us!
  • Tuesday, July 20. 2010 Ci wrote:
    Does anyone know the value of a Sovereign Deluxe Precision Built sewing machine Model 22?
    1. Tuesday, July 20. 2010 Sew-Classic wrote:
      Read this:
  • Tuesday, September 21. 2010 Sandra wrote:
    I am so happy I found your website, I had been looking for ages for the manual or some info in my sewing machine. I was clueless as it was a a present and the only info I had was that it was very old IDEAL De Luxe brand (original owner got it as a wedding present in the 60s? in Ireland). I live in Ireland and there are no many places where to find info in old sewing machines. Thanks, again for all the info and the manual. My machine looks exactly as the Brother picture here only with a English manufactured motor.
    1. Tuesday, October 05. 2010 Sandra wrote:
      Also, I have being having problems with my IDEAL De LUXE and decided to just replace motor and pedal. Looks easy enough, it seems like I only need to dismount old motor and place new one. What motor in your shop will suit this king of clone? original motor says: Parvalux, 1/15HP.
      Thanks a lot!
      1. Tuesday, October 05. 2010 Sew-Classic wrote:
        Without seeing you machine, I can only guess that this motor would work.
  • Saturday, October 16. 2010 Laura wrote:
    Wow, thanks for sharing the manual! I have been looking at ebay to buy one, and fortunately haven't yet, except the one on attachments for the Singer 15 class sewing machine. Got my clone 'Merritt' sewing machine (and didn't know it was a clone until now) for a mere US$7.50. Someone wanted to throw it away! After general cleaning, getting a new tension spring and winder tyre, it sewed like a dream, although a little lighter than I expected of a vintage machine, still your manual was a gem!

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