Sunday, December 1, 2013

Riccar 888: Rickey

This was my first vintage sewing machine I bought off of Craigslist shortly after I began collecting vintage sewing machines.  By the way, I've had nothing but great experiences with Craigslist dealings. This one, I bought from a very nice young woman who said she found this machine in the attic when she and her husband bought their home. She had no need for this sewing machine as she had a nice Kenmore herself.
I really didn't know what exactly I was looking for back then, but this showed up and it looked good, and the name Riccar made me feel nostalgic. I think one of the sewing machines I used growing up was a Riccar.  Riccar also seemed obscure among vintage sewing machine collectors as most people are interested in Singer, Necchi, Elna, etc., and no one ever mentioned Riccar.

It came in a nice suitcase.
Everything fits nicely inside. The extension table has a little supporting leg. The manual came with it and so did the warranty card. It was originally purchased in 1974. A service receipt indicates that the machine was last repaired and serviced in 1980.

Riccar was established in 1939 in Japan, and began making sewing machines in 1948. Riccar at one point had the largest market share in Japan, offering a unique layaway system to its customers. Riccar established overseas subsidiaries in US, France, UK, and in other European countries in the 60's ~ 70's and was expanding. However, the company eventually went bankrupt in 1994.

This machine is very heavy, with most of outer casing metal. The back side, where it's covering the motor is plastic.  There are some nylon gears inside.

It has this shiny round sliding door where it says RICCAR.
 It opens up like this and that's where a cam goes in.
Isn't that cute?! Fish stitch!
The machine actually didn't come with any cams. It just came with one bobbin and one presser foot on the machine, foot pedal, extension table, manual, and the case. No extra feet, no cams.

To tell you the truth, I had never operated a machine that required cams.  I didn't know what cams were back then!! When I looked inside the manual, I slowly understood that this machine required cams to sew anything other than straight stitch. It didn't come with any cams!

Now, this is when I say there is such thing as 'it was meant to be' when it comes to acquiring vintage sewing machines.  The very night I bought this sewing machine, I went on to ebay to see if I could find cams for this sewing machine -- totally unaware that Riccar wasn't all that popular. Well, what do you know.  Someone must have just parted out a Riccar 888. There was a list of parts from Riccar 888, and a box of cams listed on ebay that day.
So, I got this whole set of 24 cams in a box!

I have, since then, gone on ebay occasionally to see if these would come up, but I never saw them ever again. I think I was meant to acquire this Riccar 888. I found the machine and the cams for it on the same day. That's almost freaky.

When I first took the machine out of the case, cleaned it, and tried to sew on it, it unfortunately began sewing backwards.  I was very disappointed as it didn't respond to correct the problem to anything I did. I just put it away, and completely forgotten about it, many months later, until recently.

I took it out of the case, and gave it a try again.  This time, well, I don't know what the deal was, but it worked perfectly fine.

Look at how much fun I had!

The machine has low speed and high speed setting. When it's set on low speed, however, it makes this weird noise. High speed isn't really too high speed for me anyway, so I just keep it on high speed setting.  There is an option to drop the feed dogs. It sews smoothly, and it is rock solid.

The more I look at the machine, the more I notice it reminds me of the Bernina Sport 801 I have. The slimness of the design, the whole profile. Many Bernina models also have "Made in Switzerland" on the same place of their sewing machines.

Riccar was at one point Bernina's distributor in Japan.  Perhaps Riccar had secretly always admired Berninas and took inspirations from Bernina machines.........
So, that's my Riccar 888. I shall call him (it feels like a boy) Rickey.


  1. Have you removed the top and given it any lubrication? You could also put it in bobbin winding mode and just step on the foot control and run it for awhile at the highest speed you can. That might clean out the brushes and it might go faster. There is probably gummed up oil inside that could be softened. Make sure you don't store it anywhere cold or damp. A friend just told me she has a sewing machine in her dad's garage. I cringed. Moisture equals rust, people....that's what I wanted to tell her. Thanks for showing us your machine. It looks like a nice one!

    1. Thanks, Michelle, for the suggestion. When you say "lubrication", is that other than the usual oiling of all metal-to-metal parts? (I sometimes read others apply "grease" to some sewing machine parts, but I've never used any grease.) I did open up the top and the bottom and thoroughly cleaned and oiled the machine before I began sewing. But I am too intimidated to do anything with the motor itself, so I didn't do anything with the motor. I would say that the current "high" setting is a comfortably "high" speed and the foot pedal responds very well and lets me control the speed well. Because of the noise, I haven't set it "low" to sew much. I don't know how slow the "slow" setting is. I will run it at the high speed setting for a while to attempt to clean out the brushes. I don't necessarily need the machine to run any faster, in fact it is probably running at the speed it's supposed to be, but I am interested in the noise being gone. It is curious (to me) that the noise is only when it's at the low speed setting. Any idea why this may be the case? Oh, yes. Many don't realize how damp garages can be. When I discovered rusted paper clips in a filing box that got stored in the garage for several years, that was the last time I put anything that is prone to moisture/rust in the garage.

  2. That looks like a very nice machine. I had never heard of Riccar until I read your post. It was really meant to be considering how you found all those cams in the nick of time! HA! The machine might just need a good lubrication to stop the noise.

    1. Yes, this is my first machine that takes cams. I'm glad it is sewing well. Since it sews just fine without the noise on high speed setting, I haven't paid much attention to where the noise is coming from when it runs on low speed. (I just immediately stopped the machine, and switched it back to the high speed setting.) I think I will run it at low speed setting to see where the noise is coming from, and see if I can do something about it. The machine has been oiled well. Being an old machine, hadn't been used for years, it may need even more oil. I shall feed it more.

    2. I have the exact same machine in excellent condition, with foot pedal, cams and case though. looking to sell it if you're interested? david in CT