This machine was made in the late 50's by the Bell company in Pennsylvania USA. There is a good bit of history on the company on the pages of Needlebar.org, a terrific resource for those who love vintage sewing machines.
Does it Work?
The first question was nearly answered by just opening the case box the sewing machine came in. The attachment set is impressive. The original set is still in the case. High quality low shank accessories that cover just about every thing you could ever need in any size machine. A bit of oil, thread and a new needle all in place for a test start. It does indeed sew but very very slowly. Noisy too! Where is the hand wheel? After a time of trial and error it has improved. Here's how.
This sewing machine is is definitely not your usual set up. I suggest refering to a manual to help operate it properly. Here are a few sources:
Printed and digital formsavailable.
Follow the instructions for the source.
The Bell Portable was originally designed to be lubricated for life. The material apprears to be a graphite type lubricant. Now it has been around 60 years now and I think that is a little past the working life of that stuff. My machine was very very dry and barely turned. Because of this I went against the manual instructions and oiled it all over. Next......it would not work!AAArrgggh. Panic turned to calm when th next day it was fine and worked so much better. I could now see how to turn the hand wheel with my fingers, before it was frozen. Same with the bobbin winder. My suggestion is to go ahead and oil it on every moving part with Tri-Flow synthetic oil or sewing machine oil.
The Bell came with a plastic bobbin but the metal seems fine.
A great dealer for parts like this.
The process of addding the bobbin to the case is a little different. I have done this before with my 29 but for those who have not done it efore it is a little confusing. To help, here are a few images to add ot the manual description.
Set into the hook area. Easy to fit it like a puzzle piece. The manual shows a magnet to remove the case, great idea.
More Technical Information
The Bell is a low shank machine so many modern attachments will fit on this so if you find a machine missing it's set, no worries. It takes a 15x1 needle and uses regular thread so no fuss there either. The tension is a bit tight. To release the fabric from he machine, raise the presser foot and needle then open the tension discs by hand as shown when pullng away. The release of tension is not automatic.
The manual shows the threading but here is a view as well.
1. Under the discs
2. Up and over the spring
3. Through the coil
4. Take up lever
5. Presser bar guide
6. Needle Right to Left.
The little Bell does a great job here. Very slow, with a strang hang time and quite a bit of noise but by golly it makes a good stitch. If it had a hand wheel it would be great. The adjustment lever on this machine is broken but I am able to adjust by gently inserting a screw driver sideways and moving it one way or another. This seems to be a common problem. Be careful to not move the broken mechanism to either end, you may have a bit of trouble getting it back!
The Bell Portable comes with a very cool case. Everything has a place. The power cord wraps perfectly to fit as does the accessories set. There is a box with a mounting bracket for a free arm capability. There is metal base to make a sewing table with the case, the machine sets right into the middle. My machine was missing a rubber type base but I made a small pad with neoprene. The reason is to make it sit high enough in the metal frame. This too seems to be common and easy to fix.
All the parts fit perfectly together for travel. The combined weight with case and machine it weighs about 8 pounds!
The sewing table all set up.
A True Portable.
My verdict. This sewing machine is not easy to use. Probably won't be doing miles of yardage on this baby. Repairs on the road? Yes. Quick sewing not at home, sure. I do some of this for some residents at a care home. Perfect.
It does the one thing so many have tried to do before and since. It is truly portable. It truly sews too. That is really something!