Vintage All Metal Sewing Machines – How Good are They?

Well, today we got a “new” Singer model 15… serial number 12175753.

From the serial number she was born in 1873… that makes her 146 years old. The decals are worn but mostly there… very pretty ornamentation for her age. She began her life as a treadle machine. She was converted from a treadle machine by drilling a hole in the rear of the pillar and bolting on an electric motor. Similarly, the rear cover was replaced with a retrofit cover and light.

The ornamentation decal set is called the “Owl”… I see why.

The machine was tight and the mechanism was stiff. The balance wheel turned with some resistance but the needle went up and down and the feed dogs worked.

A little bit of sewing machine oil and the machine was cleaned of years dust and dirt accumulated from years of not being used. A few drops of oil at each of the oiling points and the machine freed up and she turned smoothly.

Now get this… my Wife threaded the machine, we plugged her in, and she began to sew… a little tension adjustment and she sewed well… and she was quiet! Look at the stitch!

Keep in mind, the machine has not been cleaned, she has not been adjusted, the tension mechanism has not been cleaned, the shuttle hook has not been cleaned, it is the same needle that she came with, and except for the sewing bed and arm, all of the dust and lint that was on/in her is still on/in her… so why did she sew at all, much less so wonderfully?

The answer is these vintage all metal sewing machines were made to sew even if they are neglected, not maintained, and ultimately abused. When this machine was manufactured, she changed people’s lives. She had to be tough and versatile. She is “heavy duty” by necessity, but she was never touted as such (unlike the phrase tossed around loosely as it is today). It was taken for granted that she would sew, and sew well. It is clear from the condition that this machine has been well used and no doubt given some maintenance. The quality of the materials and manufacture are excellent. By today’s standards, it is phenomenal quality. The precision and reliability of the mechanism is unchanged even after 146 years. She is one tough sewing machine.

How good are they? well, I know that she will only improve after she is fully serviced and cleaned. I’ve been thinking about what else I own that will be working as it was designed to do after 146 years. The only thing that came to mind is a cast iron pan, and maybe one or two pieces of furniture. I would wager she will still sew after another 146 years and probably outlast the pan.

Oh, did I mention I paid $12.00 for her?

Tell me what you think!

Published by pungoliving

First and foremost, I decided to share some of my experiences with vintage all metal sewing machines. It is a natural progression of my life experience exercising my hands and my mind. My background is a simple story... graduating High school, I wanted a trade. I landed an apprenticeship at Norfolk Naval Shipyard in welding. 5 years later after earning certification and working in many different environments, I decided to enroll in College and earn an Engineering. At the same time, I married a wonderful girl and started a new life. Graduating College with a degree in Structural Engineering, I began a 35 year career in the Federal Government. Along the way, we were blessed with 3 beautiful children. Earning a Masters degree in Engineering and registration as a Professional Engineer I worked for the benefit of my family and my Country. Over the years, I have pursued many different hobbies... woodworking, car mechanics, astronomy, and taking apart and putting together all sorts of things. Pretty much anything I could put my mind and my hands into. So now, many years later, I am retired and finally able to wile away my days at home with the love of my life. Her interests have always been in sync with mine, but spending so much free time with her, I realized how broad her talents are! One interest she is particularly fond of is sewing. It didn't take me long to put 2+2 together and realize that I could do something with this. So, acquiring, adjusting, servicing, and restoring sewing machines was a win-win. I have a hobby that is detailed, involves tinkering with precision engineered high quality manufactured machines, while she has an opportunity to sew on various different makes and models of sewing machines. While there are many that have information on line, and what I have to say more than likely has already been said, I wanted to contribute to that conversation and learning gleaned from my experience and research.

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