If you like vintage sewing machines, you will fall in love with the brightly-colored vintage Wizard sewing machines! These vibrant vintage models made a splash in the middle of the 20th century. Today, you have to dig deep to learn anything about vintage Wizard sewing machine models, history, value, and parts.
Wizard sewing machines were manufactured by Brother, a Japanese sewing machine company. Brother based several of the Wizard models on the specs for the Singer 15. A company called Western Auto bought the machines from Brother and sold them under the brand name “Wizard.”
In this article, you will learn all there is to know about the history of Wizard sewing machines. You will also find information on several important Wizard models. Finally, you’ll learn how to track down a manual for these colorful machines.
History of Wizard Sewing Machines
Wizard sewing machines had a brief run during the 1950s and 60s. They then disappeared almost magically, leaving very little information behind them! Even if you love vintage sewing machines, you may never have heard of this brand.
That said, you will come to love the fun retro style of these classic machines once you do discover them!
So, why did the Wizard machines appear so briefly on the market? These colorful models formed part of the post-WWII Japanese sewing machine industry boom. That wave of industry eventually receded.
This meant that the demand for domestic sewing machines weakened. On top of this, the company that sold Wizard machines dropped its line of sewing products in the 1960s.
Around this time, the manufacturer moved on to develop its own export brand as well. Today, Brother is known for innovative sewing machine technology under its own name.
Japan in WWII
The end of WWII devastated Japan’s economy. As part of a reconstruction project, the United States provided assistance to help some Japanese industries. These manufacturers transitioned from war-related products to sewing machine manufacturing.
This led to a massive shift in the global sewing machine industry. For a while, Japanese sewing machines dominated the market. This competition put many long-time American companies out of business.
Other American companies jumped on the bandwagon and embraced the idea of overseas manufacturing. They bought sewing machines from the Japanese manufacturers and then “badged” the machines with the American company brand name.
For example, Sears Roebuck sold a sewing machine line under the “Kenmore” brand for more than a hundred years.
Sears did not make these machines. Instead, they purchased machines made by multiple different manufacturers over the years. Sears then applied the “Kenmore” badge as a marketing tool.
After WWII, a Japanese company called Janome provided the Kenmore models for several decades!
Likewise, a Japanese sewing machine company called Brother made the Wizard machines. Brother sold these models to an American company called Western Auto. Western Auto badged the machines with their popular “Wizard” brand.
As an interesting note, Brother has a long and impressive history that precedes WWII. But Brother did not begin exporting machines overseas until the end of the war and the rise in the Japanese sewing machine industry.
The Western Auto Supply Company launched in 1909, selling auto parts and supplies. The company grew to encompass a total of 1200 stores in the American midwest. As part of its growth, it expanded its offerings to include various tools and appliances like washing machines and sewing machines.
If you or your family lived in the midwest during the 1950s, you might have seen the familiar “Wizard” brand name. Western Auto also sold a line of household appliances that boldly displayed the chrome brand name!
Western Auto was bought out in the 1960s, which explains why Wizard sewing machines vanished so completely from the market.
Who Makes Wizard Sewing Machines?
Western Auto contracted with Brother to provide Wizard sewing machine models during the 1950s and 60s. Unfortunately, Western Auto lost a lot of records later in the 20th century. This means that no one knows exactly how many Wizard machines Brother made, or even how many different models!
Understandably, Brother does not seem eager to celebrate this brief period in its history. After all, the company sold its products under another brand name instead of its name. The company doesn’t provide information about these vintage machines to the public.
That said, several of the Wizard models have strong similarities to the popular Singer 15 model. This makes sense. Many Japanese sewing machine manufacturers based their original export models on the Singer 15.
Before you get too excited about any possible sewing machine drama, the Japanese companies did not steal the Singer 15 specs! Instead, the United States Government used a patent loophole to give the plans for this model to several Japanese companies.
This led to what you will often see termed “cloned” sewing machines. Cloned machines vary in quality and originality.
Many Japanese companies, including Brother, used the general Singer blueprint. Some of the Japanese manufacturers worked to improve the original design with their own variations.
If you collect vintage sewing machines, you probably have strong feelings about cloned machines.
You might love them because some models feature innovations and reliable construction. For example, some cloned models have more precise hook assemblies and more compact interiors than the original Singer.
Or you might dislike the clones because they are essentially knockoffs and some of them had shoddy construction.
It boils down to the materials used and the quality of construction. Like any appliance, some of the Japanese clones outshine others.
Can You Buy Wizard Machines Today?
You can pretty easily find vintage Wizard sewing machines for sale today, but Western Auto has not sold these machines since the 1960s. This means you can’t buy a new one on Amazon or at Walmart today!
On the bright side, Brother made at least several thousand Wizard machines because they flooded the midwest market in the 1950s. This means you can still find a good variety of vintage models for sale today.
If you want a brand-new computerized machine, you should check out new Brother models. Of course, these give you fancy computerized bells and whistles. You have to make a trade-off if you want a new machine instead of the solid metal parts and longevity of vintage models.
Though Brother seems to disavow the WIzard models these days, the company has a great reputation in its own right. Brother offers a wide range of reliable, innovative sewing machines that the company now sells under its own venerable brand name!
Vintage Wizard Sewing Machine Models
Brother made several different Wizard models for roughly twenty years. You will find helpful descriptions of three popular Wizard models in this section. These shared traits will help you recognize a Wizard model when you see one.
That said, finding information about many Wizard models will require serious sleuthing skills!
As a quick side note, you will not find any antique Wizard sewing machines. Sewing machines made before the year 1900 often get classified as antique. Machines made between 1900 and 1970 fall into the vintage category.
Wizard models typically display their brand names in flashy chrome. You can find this either engraved in the neck or attached to the body of the machine.
Of course, it’s possible that your machine may have lost this engraved plate over time. If this happens, you can also use a few other common characteristics to identify a Wizard.
All of the machines made in Japan during this period feature a stamp that reads either “made in Japan” or just “JA.” Look for this identifier to help you determine if a vintage model could be a cloned sewing machine.
Finally, almost all of the Wizard models have bright, candy-colored bodies in the shades of the 1950s, like turquoise and mint green.
Brace yourself for the bad news next. The general lack of information about Wizard sewing machines means that you will not find a database you can use to identify a model.
No database of serial numbers exists in the public record. In fact, to date no one has even compiled a comprehensive list of Wizard model numbers!
That said, these descriptions will help you identify a few of the more popular Wizards.
The Wizard 3KC 8842 sewing machine weighs more than 30 lbs and functions as an automatic zigzag machine. Made sometime in the middle of the 20th century, this machine features all of the best characteristics of a cloned model. In fact, most Japanese-made zig-zag machines from this era get excellent reviews!
It has solid metal construction and a simple design that mimics but doesn’t exactly ensemble a Singer 15. It also has balanced cams that enable zigzag stitching.
Plus, this model can share some parts with Brother model 210, which also closely resembles! At least some of these models have a minty green metallic finish as well.
The Wizard 3KC 8844 has a fun two-tone finish, usually in turquoise and cream, with chrome accents. It uses an easy front-loading round bobbin and offers basic stitching options. This model doesn’t have a lot of bells and whistles, but it does have solid metal parts that will last a long time!
That said, this Wizard does operate as a left-homing machine, meaning that the needle moves up and down on the left side of the needle plate. This could take some getting used to for modern sewers.
The Wizard 3KC 8841 probably predates the other models described here. It has a motor and a belt on the outside of its pretty metal body. It seems to typically have a cream or white metal casing.
This model also has an oscillating hook and only does straight stitching. It also features conveniences typical of that era, like a round bobbin and a spool pin for bobbin winding.
As a final note on Wizard model identification, you can also turn to online sewing discussion forums for help. Sewers often post pics of a vintage machine and ask for help identifying its make and model. Anyone who has seen a similar model will share helpful details in the forum!
How Do You Thread a Wizard Sewing Machine?
Often the first challenge you face in using a vintage sewing machine like a Wizard model is learning how to thread it. Correctly threading the machine makes a huge difference in your sewing experience.
When you put the thread in the right place, it activates the tension mechanisms located in the thread path. This keeps the thread taunt as you sew.
Every sewing machine model looks a tiny bit different and can have slight variations in the thread path. That said, these instructions will give you a good idea of the basic steps to follow.
- Check the bobbin area to make sure everything looks clean and is not jammed up with lint.
- Replace the needle, especially if it looks dull, rusty, or bent.
- Set the tension dial or slider to 4. Four often serves as the midpoint, generic tension setting for both vintage and new sewing machines!
- Raise the presser foot. This might seem insignificant, but it shifts the tension discs in the tension assembly a tiny bit.
- Wind the bobbin and insert it correctly.
- Place the thread spool on the spool pin and use a spool cap to hold it there.
- Next, you will need to determine the thread path. On vintage Wizards, this usually looks like small metal hooks placed on the top and front of the machine. You loop the thread around each thread guide to take it from the spool to the needle.
- The final thread guide should place the thread in the tension assembly between two tension discs.
- Put the presser foot down and thread the needle.
- Turn the handwheel to make sure the bobbin thread catches.
Vintage Wizard models all operate on electric motors, so you can do a test run of stitches using the foot pedal once you have the threading done.
Wizard Sewing Machine Parts
Your best shot at finding Wizard sewing machine parts is to ask at a sewing machine repair store or search online or on Etsy. Finding replacement parts for a Wizard isn’t impossible, but it isn’t a piece of cake, either!
If you don’t want to go down the rabbit hole of hunting for old parts yourself, you can ask a certified sewing machine technician. If you’re paying to have your vintage machine tuned up, the technician should already know exactly what part you need. He or she will likely know where to look for vintage parts as well.
If you want to find the part and install it yourself, try Etsy, eBay, or specialized online sewing machine part stores.
Alternatively, you might have better luck trying to match your Wizard model to a similar Brother model. Since Brother made the Wizards as well, sometimes Brother parts will be compatible with your Wizard model.
Wizard Sewing Machine Manual
You may have a hard time finding a Wizard sewing machine manual. Every Wizard model came with a user’s manual. This essential document describes how to thread the machine, how to clean it, and how to perform any specialized functions on it.
Every sewing machine model has slight differences and unique features. This means that sewing machine manuals help you learn how to operate every individual model! Plus, some manuals include other handy information like the production date and serial number.
Since most manuals were printed fifty to seventy years ago now, the hard copies have usually disappeared or fallen apart. Your best chance is probably to search for a digital version of the manual.
First, check out the posts on sewing forums online. Sometimes forums have special vintage sewing machine chats where sewers upload any manuals they can get their hands on. The sewing community loves to help fellow sewers, so take advantage of this kindness and then pass it on someday when you can!
Second, you can sometimes find digital copies for sale from online stores like Sewusa. You do have to pay to purchase these downloads, though.
Finally, you can check eBay and Etsy for hardcopy sales. Sometimes people unearth hard copies of old manuals in thrift stores or attics. They often sell these documents to get them into the hands of fellow sewers.
If the original is still readable, you could buy it and then digitize it to preserve it for future use.
Of course, you can also just Google the model of your Wizard machine and see what you can find! For example, plug in “Wizard citation sewing machine manual” and see if any sellers pop up.
Wizard Sewing Machine Value
You can typically find vintage Wizard sewing machines selling for ten to one hundred dollars.
Vintage Wizard sewing machines do not have a high price tag today. If you search for some common Wizard models, one of the “people also asked” fields that pops up will read “cheap sewing machines!”
This doesn’t necessarily mean that Wizard sewing machines aren’t valuable, though. Many of them feature truly excellent craftsmanship and durable parts. Wizard machines made in the 1950s often still run perfectly today!
Like many vintage sewing machines, their value lies in their functionality, not their resale price. Vintage sewing machines last forever because they have heavy metal parts instead of the cheap plastic used today. In some ways, old sewing machines truly do have new sewing machines beat!
If you want to determine the value of your Wizard machine, analyze its appearance and condition. Vintage models in excellent repair can sell for a little more money. Then search eBay to see if another seller has posted the same model. This will give you a price point for your machine.
Don’t get your hopes up, though. Unlike some vintage brands like Singer, Wizard does not have super-rare, collectible models that will command a high price.
What is the Best Vintage Sewing Machine to Buy?
The best vintage sewing machine for you depends on your interests, such as collecting versus sewing. Unfortunately, Wizard models don’t typically make this cut, as you will see in a moment.
If you want a top-of-the-line vintage sewing machine for actual sewing, look for a Singer 201, Singer 66, or Kenmore 30. Singers pretty much rule the roost when it comes to the most popular vintage models! However, the Kenmore 30 came from a line of machines made by Janome, a Japanese company like Brother.
If you can afford it, you can also sometimes find classy vintage Berninas or Vikings for sale!
Wizard models don’t make any “best of” lists in terms of sewing capabilities. This is not to say that they aren’t great, solid machines! They just didn’t make a giant splash or bring anything new to the table when they first hit the market.
Today, people who own them typically hang onto them forever because they run smoothly and reliably. Wizards do present unique challenges, though, because finding parts and manuals is a lot less easy than for a Singer.
In terms of collectibility, you can find rare, expensive Singer models. For example, some elusive versions of the Singer Featherweight often sell for over two thousand dollars! Bernina and Husqvarna Viking models also have a high price tag because of their rarity and collectibility.
Wizard models do not have a strong collector’s market. When you can purchase a thirty-pound sewing machine for just ten dollars plus shipping, you know it doesn’t have a hot market!
So yes, Wizard sewing machines don’t make the cut when it comes to best in the show. Despite that, they have a fun retro vibe and they run well!
Wizard sewing machines have a shadowy past due to a lot of lost documentation. A Japanese manufacturer called Brother made these machines. Western Auto re-branded the sewing machines under its “Wizard” brand before selling them.
Vintage Wizards today sell for as little as $10 but remain popular for sewing because of their durable metal construction.
Have you ever come across a vintage Wizard model? What did you like best about it? Leave a comment below to let us know!