I recently took this sewing machine out of mothballs and decided to put it to work. It's a Davis Model VF-2 machine from around 1900. It originally belonged to my great-grandmother, Martha Ora Tucker Seward and it was passed along to me long ago. I named the machine "Minnie" which was Martha Ora's nickname.
I actually put some mileage on this machine myself. When I was a Boy Scout, I used it to repair my surplus pup tent that had previously been used as a paint tarp. (Very colorful! The troop required me to pitch it in the very back of the campsite!)
When I was active in competition blackpowder shooting and reenactments, I sewed my own clothes on this machine.
I've had it in storage for quite a while, though it now resides in my office. I opened it up not long ago and rebuilt the flip-over lid that covers it. Someone had broken the hinges loose and a wood veneered panel in the center of the lid had peeled away. Just a few days ago I installed a new belt, gave the machine a minor cleaning and oiling, and sewed a bit on it. Still works great!
It takes a slightly longer than standard needle which is no longer made, although I found a very close alternative on eBay and ordered a few. Standard needles can be made to work, with some fudging, but not reliably.
Here's a closer look at the machine.
As you may be able to see from the first picture, two of the drawers on the cabinet are not quite a match. There is a more complete cleaning, oiling, and refinishing in the works when the weather cools off a bit. Not a radical refinish. Just a general re-tightening of the wood joints, cleaning and lemon oiling of the wood and so on. I want to keep as much of the original finish as is left, wherever it has any.
I'll post a follow up when all that is done.
A peek inside the mechanism. The long bullet shape is the shuttle that contains the bobbin, which is a long spool. It's a different design from the newer round bobbin that more modern machines use. The shuttle swings back and forth, sliding through the needle thread to capture the stitches.
A few of the original attachments and extras that came with the machine. Two hemmers, an edge guide, two shuttles, and a wrench.
This item, that looks a bit like a mutated ninja throwing star, is actually a pretty cool multi-tool. The top and right arms were once different sized screwdrivers like the left arm. The bottom part fits the needle clamp nut to help tighten or loosen it.
A page from the Davis VF-2 owner's manual.
While I'm on the subject, here is another possible project for me. This rusty machine was found through Freecycle or Craigslist Freebies. It had sat in the previous owners yard as a piece of yard art for several years before she offered it. I took it and hope to make it operational again. Looks bad, but is really pretty sound. It looks a lot like the Davis and has a similar shuttle bobbin. However, this is a Singer Model 27 also from 1900.
Here's one from the internet in slightly better condition!
What will I do with it if I get it going? I don't know for sure. I only know that I have always been fascinated by machinery in general and sewing machines in particular. My grandmother, Mildred Seward, did a lot of sewing when I was growing up and I helped her often.
Just an old sew-and-sew!