Friday, September 23, 2011

The Davis Vertical Feed Sewing Machine

The Davis Vertical Feed Sewing Machine....oh my. This is a unique machine in that it does not have feed dogs! The fabric is propelled via the needle and the presser foot as seen in this video:


http://youtu.be/1rxpWrP5Wrc


I have watched my sewing machine friends talk about their DVF machines and always felt a little spark of envy. I had only ever seen ONE of these machines in the wild, and it was in terrible condition, with a price tag of over $100! I left it where it sat...somewhat reluctantly, but I seldom pay very much for my sewing machines. There are too many folks that just want to get rid of old machines for me to pay that much for one in terrible shape! I continued to haunt the antique stores and local Craig's List hoping to find any of the several machines that I would like to be a caretaker for. (Can't feel like I "own" it...they have too much personality! It would be like owning a child!) Then, one day last week, it was there!!! A Davis Vertical Feed!!!!!!!!! An EARLY Davis Vertical Feed!! With a coffin top cabinet!!!! I called and asked for more photos of the machine and cabinet, knowing already from the small photos on Craigslist that I was going to have to refinish the cabinet. These are what the gentleman sent to me:
I was in love. Especially when the gentleman told me that it had belonged to his mother in law's mother, and his mother in law was 82 years old. I wrote an email to him and explained that I didn't have the asking price, and the machine and cabinet were going to take some work and money to refurbish....and made an offer of what I thought I could do for a top dollar. He called me a few days later and told me that he had talked to his sig. other and her mother and they had decided that they would rather I had the machine, since I love them so much, than to sell it to someone else who might not appreciate it like I would!! I was FLOORED and totally honored. I made arrangements to pick up the machine from the mom the next day. When that garage door opened and I saw the machine, I was totally enamoured! Mind you, the cabinet, as you can see, is rather crusty, the machine is missing some of the decals and has some cleaning to be done, but it just oozed charm. After a little chat with "Mom" (names withheld for their privacy) I learned that she had sat near her mother as her mother sewed her clothes. Clothes that she said she hated, because they were always too big, so that she'd be able to grow into them. It made me smile. My mom used to do the same thing for me when I was little. "Mom's" mother did it because she was a child of the Great Depression. My mother did it because we didn't have much in the way of money and she had to dress 5 kids! "Mom" told me her mother's name was "Hazel", and then ammended it to add that her name was actually "Bertha Hazel", but she didn't like the name "Bertha" so always went by "Hazel". This machine's name, therefore, is Hazel. :) (And yes, I always name my machines...just like a lot of guys name their cars or motorcycles!)

I came home, and armed with "Mom's" age of 82, looked up the family on the 1930 census to find out when Hazel was born. (The woman, not the machine) I found that she was born in 1896, and because of that could not have been the original owner of this machine. SOMEONE had owned it before Hazel did! I wish I knew who, for sure...I'll bet it was a relative tho. This particular machine was made in Watertown, NY and the Davis Sewing Machine Company moved it's operation to Dayton, Ohio sometime between 1888 and 1890. The machine had to have been made sometime AFTER the last patent date on the shuttle slide which is May 12, 1885, and 1890 when the factory started work in Dayton, Ohio. Hazel the Woman would have been 2 or 3 years old when Hazel the Machine was brand new. History lesson over. ;)

I brought Hazel the Machine into the house and set it down in the dining room. As I looked her over, the task seemed daunting. I've never tackled this much restoration before. The cabinet, as you've seen, was missing much of the finish. The coffin top also needs to be worked on, and has a small hole in the back of it that I'm not even going to TRY to fix. God Bless my husband tho, he immediately sat down and started trying to figure out how to take things apart. He got the wooden top of the cabinet off. He played with the base, trying to figure out how to remove the wood pitman that operates the treadle action between the base and the machine. We gave up on that, for fear of breaking the wood. That's another indication that the machine is pre-1900...most of the big companies, and Davis was a big company, stopped using wood for the pitman arm before 1900.

Thanks to my friend, Skip, I've stripped what's left of the finish from the top of the cabinet. I used denatured alcohol, and it worked like a charm. Skip has also told me how to re-apply shellac so that it'll have a nice finish. This cabinet will always have it's flaws. There's a black water ring on it, and other flaws that give it character. I don't think I'll stain it, I don't think the original was stained. This is what it looks like now. I'm trying to avoid stripping any more of it than I have to, and so will leave the drawers as they are and just apply another coat of shellac to them to "freshen" them up.





















The base for the treadle is another issue. Oh my!!! Look at the first photos. Do you see any decals on that black base? I didn't either, until I started cleaning. Once I did a little bit of a wipe down, I noticed them! Many of the decals are damaged or gone, but it still has quite a few of them left!! I'm tickled pink! After a few hours with a spray bottle, and after going through 3 large terry cloth rags, I broke down and put it into the bathtub, washed it down, and sprayed it off with hot water and the shower head. I'll be touching up missing paint and then using car wax to spiff it up. This is a "before" photo. They had used some kind of glue to glue the machine to the treadle! That's what the white stuff is....


















This is after it's bath. William painted the foot pedal and bar, and as soon as I get done polishing the rest, he'll put it back together for me.























This is the "coffin top" to the cabinet. The hooks that hold it to the cabinet are broken, I'm not sure where I might be able to find them, but I will be looking! I haven't started on cleaning this up yet...
























And of course, this is "Hazel the Machine". She's waiting patiently to get back into her cabinet...and I hope she's VERY patient, cuz this is gonna take some time!!! ;) Please ignore the messy looking table...I tend to pile things on it, and I just pushed them back to make room for the machine.

















Well My Friends, there you have it. The Saga of Hazel, The Davis Vertical Feed Sewing Machine to date. I promise to post more as the process advances. I'm loving the process, and feeling a sense of accomplishment, even tho it's far from done, and most likely won't look perfect....I'm learning, and Hazel is helping me! I like to think that Hazel the Woman is watching and proud to know that her much loved old machine is once again much loved and being cared for!

12 comments:

Candela59 said...

I love it Charlee! It is so "sweet" looking with the little flowers and the decals on the frame. Great find! You know, you're going to have to rent that shop pretty soon if you adopt any more orphans! ~grinning~

Charlee said...

So many of her decals are gone, but I suppose if I was a well used 115 year old "lady" ;) some of my prettier features might be missing too!!

I keep telling myself "NO MORE CABINETS!!".... it's not working!!

rachel whetzel said...

So cool, Charlee!! Love her.

Charlee said...

Rachel! You need to make a trip to Central Oregon! C'mon, I'll let you play with ALL of my machines....you would SO LOVE a treadle, and it would fit in with your personality! :)

UKMUMINUS said...

Love the machine,looking forward to all your progress making it come back to life. I am in the process or trying to finish a cabinet too. I will have to get around to posting my progress on my blog some day soon.

Frankie Thompson said...

You did a great makeover on your machine. I have one that I bought over 35 years ago. It came with the original little books. On my machine the decals are not very good. My husband broke pitman arm he didn't know that it was wood. I'm so happy you found Hazel. Your machine was No.8 and sold for $60.00. That what it says in the book. If you would like I will make copy's of them they are very fragile. Frankie from AZ

Frankie Thompson said...

You did a great makeover on your machine. I have one that I bought over 35 years ago. It came with the original little books. On my machine the decals are not very good. My husband broke pitman arm he didn't know that it was wood. I'm so happy you found Hazel. Your machine was No.8 and sold for $60.00. That what it says in the book. If you would like I will make copy's of them they are very fragile. Frankie from AZ

Charlee said...

Frankie, I would SO appreciate that!! I printed a manual for a higharm off of the web, but am not sure that it's the right one. Thank you so much for the offer!! :)

Frankie Thompson said...

Charlee the manual you printed off the web is the same one I have. I plan on down loading a copy also since mine is not in very good condition.
Frankie

Michelle said...

I love it! I just found a David VF2 machine today. Thank the Lord for the internet, as I have found some information on it. I have the head, and the top of the cabinet, so need to have 'hubby' build a 'skirt' for it so it can sit on the wooden frame and not the machine itself. I have never heard of a VF machine before, and didn't even know what I was buying, but it only took me a 'nanno second' to decide to buy it!

Charlee said...

Michelle, there is an awesome Yahoogroup for the Davis Vertical Feed machines, lots of valuable information there, and they can help you to date your machine. :)
Thanks so much for the compliment!

Anonymous said...

just bought my Davis at an auction for $50, and was told i got the buy of the day. cabinet in good shape-it is a newer one;i was going to use it for a lamp table, but am fascinated with it and want to get that baby to run!