Singer sewing machine treadle conundrum

  • Advertise with us

« back to Designing Woodworking Projects forum

Forum topic by wseand posted 02-03-2017 03:17 AM 3062 views 0 times favorited 22 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View wseand's profile


2796 posts in 3899 days

02-03-2017 03:17 AM

Topic tags/keywords: question singer treadle refurbishing

I have a customers 1908 machine that needs a lot of work. It was refurbished poorly at some time. I need to give the customer an idea if this treadle stand is worth the cost of repairs. It needs a lot of work and most likely I’m going to have to replace some bad wood. I have refinished Singer tables before but never this far in disrepair. I have e some pics to show what shape it is in.
What say you? Is this treadle worth saving?

Tis is a previous machine I restored.



22 replies so far

View canadianchips's profile


2632 posts in 3855 days

#1 posted 02-03-2017 03:50 AM

I would think it is going to cost a lot to restore it !.
They are old…......but there are still lots out there…...the market here for them in decent condition is SOFT.
If the owner has sentimental value then I guess the cost to them wouldnt matter.
Would be a nice challenge !
Best of Luck….

-- "My mission in life - make everyone smile !"

View realcowtown_eric's profile


638 posts in 2794 days

#2 posted 02-03-2017 04:03 AM

I’ve done a couple of them over the years, and it all staarts with the customers motivation.

Why, because of the intracies of the work. The last one I did I had at one point over 40 c-clamps at one time clamping little pieces of loose veneer. ...did that a couple of times, add the veneer, the time spent trimming it (still got the jig I used for that,

UP FRONT I told the last client it would be expensive, but becasue it was her grandmothers she was willing to pay the billl, which was a tad North of 600$ She coulda bought one on the antique market for much less, but that was her decision.

Find out her budget, cause someone may think it might only cost 35 bucks, and you will lose BIG TIME,

Believe me

for example, you may envision only replaceing top veneer but then discover that the cunderlay vemeer is loose too.

To my mind, you gotta get the budget/finances figured out before you even take it on.You’d be foolish not to do so. otherwise let someone else work for free!

Been there/done that

Eric in Calgary

-- Real_cowtown_eric

View wseand's profile


2796 posts in 3899 days

#3 posted 02-03-2017 04:57 AM

Thank you both for your input.

Canadian Chip
It’s not about the value for her it’s a keep sake. I told her she would never recoop the cost. For me it is the challenge so I probably wouldn’t charge her too much. The wood refurbishment isn’t the challenge as much as the treadle parts.

I hear you on the motivation and expense. The motivation is there and the cost I told her around $300. After looking at the piece a bit longer and getting you all opinions I think it might be a bit higher cost. I’ll have to have another discussion with her. The folding top part isn’t original and there are other pieces that have been replaced. There is a lot of parts that either have been or need to be replaced, either unrepairable or not original.

From the last one. I hear ya on the clamps.

View realcowtown_eric's profile


638 posts in 2794 days

#4 posted 02-04-2017 03:26 AM

If yer getting into repairing little pieces of veneer, don’t over look the use of drafting eraser shields to work glue underneath. Less than a few bucks each, and they willl be useful for working glue under the loose edges….they can also be cut with scissors. I generally keep a half dozen around the shop for exactly that purpose.

Good luck.


-- Real_cowtown_eric

View Kazooman's profile


1540 posts in 2810 days

#5 posted 02-04-2017 04:22 AM

Wow! A trip down memory lane for me. My mother had an almost identical table when I was a kid over sixty years ago. It fell into disrepair when I was very young, and was probably tossed shortly thereafter. It is amazing how your mind’s eye can recall small details like the metal frame and the treadle and especially the unique shape of the drawer fronts. I can still recall the pulleys and the round rubber belt that ran on them. Thanks for posting this, it brought back many memories.

I agree that the piece you show would need almost an entire rebuild and it would be a labor of love. Given enough time and money (and your prior experience, of course) it could happen, but my guess is that your estimate is way, way low. The wood on the piece you show in the pictures looks like little more than a template for making a clone, especially if the top is not original. You can reproduce the wooden portion of the table, but would it then be a keepsake?

Your mention of the treadle parts being a challenge for you is a concern. Is there something missing or broken? That might be a tougher challenge than the woodworking. If you can get all the parts required to attach the treadle to the machine (I am supposing that there actually is a sewing machine to go with the table) then you should be able to complete the woodworking to make this look and serve like new again. Will it still be a keepsake? I doubt it. Some of the original parts are already gone. Can you do it for $300? I sincerely doubt it, even in materials alone.

At any rate, it would be an interesting challenge. If you decide to take it on, let us know how it turned out.

View SpindleMaker's profile


37 posts in 2567 days

#6 posted 02-04-2017 03:54 PM

You certainly will lose money on the deal. The only question is how much do you want to lose. My wife and I just retired from our yarn and fabric store where we restored antique spinning wheels, looms, sewing machines, etc. We live in an area where many homes are “off the grid” so treadle machines are greatly appreciated. We probably restored a half a dozen treadle machines per year but only for “favored”, long term customers. We saw this activity as a loss leader to keep them coming into the store.

We would decline to tackle the one in your picture. Hard to tell however without seeing the decals on the machine itself (is it a “red eye”, egyptian, etc.) That determines a great deal of its value once fully restored. For 1908 machines, the shuttle mechanism is also more difficult to come by than the later models.

You are also missing a number of parts on the treadle mechanism and a third drawer on the left hand side. Just about the only way to acquire replacement parts is to buy a second machine that you can cannibalize.

If you decide to proceed, let me know. I can at least share the sources I used for parts.

-- Every man is a damn fool for at least five minutes every day; wisdom consists in not exceeding the limit.

View wseand's profile


2796 posts in 3899 days

#7 posted 02-06-2017 04:06 PM

Great idea of on the shield’s in will look into those.

The entire top is going to be replaced with curly maple. So just some cutting and glue really. I can do that. The problem lies with figuring out how the treadle works and if all the pieces are there. The ones I did before are electric.
I think that she seems OK with the new parts because the machine is what she wants to be able to use. And I don’t think anyone will really know or care she’s not going to sell it as authentic or really have any plans to sell it.

Spindle Maker, I’m a little in the same predicament. The lady is my friends girlfriend and I do a lot of work for him restoring 1900s era homes for him in the Shreveport area. Mainly windows, doors, and trim. So I will make it up on the backside. I took the job on mainly for the experience. For me it’s a learning experience and I don’t like to charge my normal price if it’s new to me. I know I can fix it, but it’s not my customers fault it will take me longer then it should. I didn’t realize the drawer was missing I just figured it only had two.
I would appreciate any info you have to share. It’s all taken apart so I guess I’m on it for the long haul.

Thanks to all your boys help,

View wseand's profile


2796 posts in 3899 days

#8 posted 02-06-2017 04:10 PM

This is the machine. Needs some serious TLC itself.
Who knows I might just go fishing.

View Redoak49's profile


4884 posts in 2846 days

#9 posted 02-06-2017 04:40 PM

Unless the machine has sentimental value, I would not fix it.

There are still a lot of those out there in reasonable shape.

View wseand's profile


2796 posts in 3899 days

#10 posted 02-06-2017 10:17 PM

Red oak,
That’s what I was thinking. Just need to find someone who knows if it is working properly or not. It’s got some rust on it. I guess I was assuming it worked or why start the process.

View Woodknack's profile


13476 posts in 3238 days

#11 posted 02-07-2017 02:02 AM

I’ve seen them as cheap as $50 in decent condition.

-- Rick M,

View wseand's profile


2796 posts in 3899 days

#12 posted 02-07-2017 03:15 PM

Thanks Rick, I’m going to let the owner figure this one out. I don’t know anything about fixing or really anything about the machine. There’s a hundred antique stores around here. I’m sure one of them has one for sale if necessary.

View Robert's profile


3968 posts in 2338 days

#13 posted 02-07-2017 04:24 PM

First off, form what I can see, that machine looks to be in rough shape.

My wife is a avid collector/restorer of treadle machines. I am just beginning to get into some of the cabinets that need repair. I would say cleaned up first (Howard Restor A Finish is amazing stuff followed by Howard Feed N Wax). You may be surprised what can be lived with as far as the finish. You have already restored one so you kind of know what you getting into.

Other repairs such as drawers aren’t difficult. Repairs to the lifting mechanism can be a bit tricky if the parts are missing. Veneer repairs can be time consuming.

If major portions of veneer are loose that is easily fixed. In fact, on one I just did, I just reheated and to my complete surprise >100 yr old glue actually rebonded. (We’ll wait an see on this one)

Bottom line: They have to want THAT cabinet because they could be into >$200 in repair charges. There are other out there in much better shape they could buy.

-- Everything is a prototype thats why its one of a kind!!

View wseand's profile


2796 posts in 3899 days

#14 posted 02-09-2017 04:05 AM

Hey RWE,
I appreciate the input. Restoring stuff is kind of my passion right now. It tends to be a lot more interesting for the moment. I would rather sit on a restored chair then a new one just made. As far as the top, it is beyond repair someone tried to restore it with plywood and some sort plastic stuff nailed on it for some reason. I will definitely look into the finishes you suggested. I just hope when I start getting it back together most of it will work and whatever doesn’t can be repaired.
The lifting mechanism is bent over and missing the spring, definitely going to have to find a new one.


View Robert's profile


3968 posts in 2338 days

#15 posted 02-09-2017 02:14 PM

I agree there is a certain satisfaction in resurrecting an old piece of furniture. I just finished reveneering a top with QSWO (sawed myself) and have repaired several broken drawers, etc.

FYI I found this guy he’s got a YouTube channel. I’ve learned quite a bit from watching. Hope it helps you.

The most difficult part for me is matching finishes. I’m playing around with that right now.

-- Everything is a prototype thats why its one of a kind!!

showing 1 through 15 of 22 replies

Have your say...

You must be signed in to reply.

DISCLAIMER: Any posts on LJ are posted by individuals acting in their own right and do not necessarily reflect the views of LJ. LJ will not be held liable for the actions of any user.

Latest Projects | Latest Blog Entries | Latest Forum Topics