Last week, we looked at the Elna Carina, a fully featured cam ready machine that sits at the cusp of what I consider vintage. Today we'll step back in time to look at the Star Series flatbed Elna Super 64C--a far less common variant of one of the most famous and ubiquitous Elnas of all, the Elna 62C SU.
There is quite a bit of confusion surrounding the Star Series since they have gone through both mechanical and cosmetic revisions over the span of about 15 years. Originally conceived in 1964, the Elna 62C and 64C were direct descendants of Supermatics and hence were dubbed ElnaSuper. Unlike the green and tan bullet shaped Supermatics of yore, these machines added 6 built in stitches to the already robust cam system. Elna was the first manufacturer that pioneered the usage of removable cams and remained a leader in cam development. The Supermatics were double cam capable when Singer was just getting onto the cam bandwagon!
By the early 70s, an update was made to the Star Series and they became known as Elna SUs. The SUs feature a gray stitch length and upper tension knobs as well as a square stitch width lever head. Other than that and the badge change, they are cosmetically very similar.
My apologies, I had snapped a bunch of pics of a 62C SU but seem to have misplaced them. Unfortunately, the machine is no longer in my possession. Here's a pic of the Elna 72C TSP which is essentially the same machine but without the removable cams. Notice how the stitch dials are gray and silver. Personally, I prefer the older, more unified look, but to each her own.
So just what can this bad boy do?
The Elna 74C Super is a top loading, rotary hook machine that clocks in at about 1100 stitches per minute. The machine feels extremely solid, and there are no plastic parts to be seen*.
*Seen is the operative word. Technically, some of these have a nylon escapement drive cam and cam stack gear.
Like all Elnas, this machine features a bobbin case with a marked tension dial that can be easily adjusted as well as an extension spring mounted bobbin extractor. More about the bobbin case in my Stella review. The hook is ultra smooth and very quiet. I've said this before and I'll continue to say this over and over again, the Elnas use a 4 piece feed dog that, in my opinion, feeds much better than just about any other configuration out there. I suspect this is the case with Elnas because they developed the double cam system very early on and stretch stitches require an equally good stitch in both forward and reverse. In contrast, the Bernina Records--fantastic machines in their own right--omit the front feed dog, but don't necessarily need it as they aren't capable of stretch stitches given the built in single cam, cam stack.
Presser foot lift is a little wanting on this machine but is on par with what you'd expect to see in the vintage Elna line. Upper tension is adjusted via a gargantuan plastic knob that is regretfully lined with a gold paint. On more than one occasion, I've mistaken the chipping gold paint on these vintage machines for lint and tried to scrape it off. I feel this is the only component that cheapens the look of these vintage beauties. That being said, I still prefer this knob style over the anachronistic gray knobs found on the newer SUs.
As aforementioned, there are 6 built in stitches which are accessed by popping up the cam lid and turning a 7 point dial. This includes a zigzag, serpentine, blind hem, stretch blind hem and two decorative patterns. The final setting on the dial is A which is used to activate automatic cam stitches..
While I feel this is a slightly inconvenient place to put the stitch selection, I can see why the machine was designed this way and it certainly does help keep the machine more streamlined. Like other Elnas, it's best to set the stitch width to zero before changing stitch types. Cams are popped in and out by depressing the central tower which ejects the cam from the ElnaGraph. Here I've shown a single cam and double cam side by side.
The stitch width mechanism is unique in that it has 3 different functions accessed by rotating the lever head. In the default position, there is a single line which locks the stitch width adjustment to increments of 1 mm. Pulling the knob out and rotating it so that the knob head is parallel to the machine bed will release a locking pin and allow the user a full range of stitch width control. My guess is that this was intended to be used when adjusting stitch width on the fly for embroidery. The final setting is used for buttonholes.
This Elna also has LCR needle positioning located on a dial to the left of the stitch width lever. The needle positioning is not slotted, so you have a full range of adjustment from left to center to right.
Reverse on this machine can be accomplished in two ways. There's a convenient spring loaded metal lever seated between the machine body and lid that activates reverse. Alternately, you can dial in a specific reverse length via the gold trimmed stitch length knob. Unfortunately, the 64C does not feature matching forward and reverse stitch lengths while using the quick reverse. Sure, you can dial in a matching reverse with the knob, but it isn't exactly convenient or accurate. This in my mind is the Achilles Heel of the vintage Elna line. The A setting on the stitch length knob is used to control length for special cams and also the buttonhole function.
The zippy 64C features a powerful 1 amp motor that drives a cleated nylon belt. The flywheel itself is pretty hefty too which contributes to its smooth operation. Unlike the free arm 62C, the bottom of the 64C is completely exposed and is intended to sit in either a table or case. Even without a case, the machine is extremely stable and will not bounce around the table even when topping out the motor.
Two telescoping spool pins and an automatic bobbin winder round out its features.
- High speed rotary hook
- Flat bed
- Powerful 1 amp motor
- Smooth LCR needle positions
- Takes Single and Double Elna Discs
- Non-matching reverse
- Buttonhole feature
- 6 practical stitches
- 4 grippy feed dogs
- Accepts low shank feet
In my opinion, the Star Series sits at the epitome of Elna engineering. Unlike the Carina, there are no circuit boards or electronics to go bad. This is an all mechanical work horse of the highest build quality and sports arguably one of the richest vintage feature sets available thanks to the extensive ElnaGraph cam system.
While I personally prefer the 64C over the 62C due to its flat bed, most single machine owners would rather have the option of a freearm . The 62C's come with a nifty but impractical metal case that resembles an ammo box which doubles up as a flat bed sewing table. It's very cool but a pain to use. It makes sense, as Elna's roots are from Tavaro, which started as a munitions manufacturer. More on that when I dive into the older Supermatics.
Free arm or flat bed? Do you have a preference?