Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Let's Talk Singer Touch & Sew 603e

Singer Touch & Sew 603

As I've pointed out before, in discussing the Singer 600e, all Touch & Sew machines are NOT created equal. They are roughly divided into early 600s, which have metal gears and are comparable to the Slant-O-Matics, and the 700s which have nylon gears and are of much lower quality.*

This machine looks similar to the one above, but pass on this one unless you are willing to put in the time and effort to replace the gears.  It may be worth it, but I'll leave that up to you! 

But here is where I want to differentiate the 600/603/604.**  Just like the 400 and 500 Slant-O-Matics, they are as follows:

600/401/500:  Fully Automatic.  These machines have built-in cam stacks to make a full range of stitch patterns without insertable cams.  But they also accept the black top hat cams to make additional stitches.  

603/403/503:  Semi Automatic.  These machines can only make a zigzag stitches with a cam - and the #0 cam MUST be in the machine when you're not using another cam stitch.  You can get all the same stitches as the fully automatic machines, you just have to use cams for them.

604/404:  Straight stitch machines.

Among those who love Slant-O-Matics are those who actually prefer the 403/503, and the same reasons would apply to the 603.
Singer 403 Slant-O-Matic - "semi-automatic" machine

Just as the 600 can be compared to a 401,  the 403 and 603 are similar, and here are the advantages of the semi-automatic machines:

1.  Because these machines don't have built-in cam stacks, they have less complicated stitch mechanisms.  Less complicated = Less that can go wrong/get seized up/cause aggravations.  Theoretically, you might also get smoother stitching.

2.  This is kind of complicated to explain, so you'll just have to take my word for it, but with the fully automatics you can't get the full range of stitch widths on all the built-in stitches.  Combination stitch patterns are limited to needle position 3 which is ALSO stitch width 3, so that is the widest you can get on these stitches.

On the other hand, with the semi-automatic machines, since you are using cams for all the stitches, you can use ANY WIDTH YOU WANT!  On a 401, for example, you sometimes find yourself inserting a cam for a stitch that is already built in because you want to make it with a wider stitch width.  This kind of defeats the purpose of having it built-in to begin with.

The disadvantages to the semi-automatic, of course, is that you must have all the cams to get all the stitches.

So, if you had to choose between a 600 or 603 Touch & Sew, just know they are both very fine machines, and you can't go wrong either way.  My personal preference is for the 603, since I do have all the cams, and I am happy not to have the extra convoluted stitch pattern levers to deal with.  I think the machine looks nicer without it.  
Pattern selection levers on 600e.  I'd rather just use the cams.

* Somewhere in the 620s is where this change took place, and with these machines the best thing is to look and see for yourself whether it has metal gears.  

** The 600 "e" versions are identical except for the placement of the bobbin winder button.


  1. I almost bought a 600, but I already have enough vintage Singers. I have a 403 and I agree with you about the advantage of not having an internal cam stack. Although, I’ve heard people say that the 401 is the best Singer machine. When it came to the 500 series, I went with the 500 over the 503 because I love the look of the 500 so much. Thank you for sharing your knowledge.

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