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Thread: "Machine works and is in good condition" ,... really? Inspection List

  1. #1
    Super Member ArchaicArcane's Avatar
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    "Machine works and is in good condition" ,... really? Inspection List

    I had a lady contact me about a few machines she wanted to sell. She'd formerly worked at a local SM shop and told me that all the machines she had worked and were in good condition, and if she'd like, she was traveling into town and could drop them off on her way by. I chose 2 that she was selling - a Singer 185J and a Pfaff 362.

    Because she was dropping them off, I felt like I shouldn't refuse regardless of shape, so I didn't inspect them too carefully.

    No way the Pfaff has worked right in years! I'm pretty sure this tensioner hasn't worked in some time. This is what I found under the dial after it came off in my fingers from being assembled incorrectly (note, the loop is supposed to curve the other way based on the replacement spring I saw online, and the service manual and "pretzel" isn't a proper tension spring shape):
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    At least, the two plastic gears were intact.

    So, thanks to the problems I found on this machine, I'm adding the following to my list of things to check when I buy a machine:

    • Is the upper tensioner working /assembled correctly
    • (If Applicable) Is the needle threader there / bent / damaged, etc
    • Does it have the original pedal - doesn't matter with most of the vintage machines, but apparently this one does, and others will too I'm sure.
    • If it's "lumpy" turning, what's the pattern - every half turn, every turn, etc.
    • Do model specific features work? (Stopmatic, etc)


    I also have a new rule - I must go see the machine. Then I won't feel like I have to buy.


    Up until yesterday, my list had things like:

    • How do the wires look?
    • Does the light turn on?
    • Wiggle the power cord, does the light flicker? (Assumes the wiring looked safe enough to do that)
    • Basic timing check - stitches both straight and zigzag stitches (I check the timing first, because I don't like smashing needles in front of people but it's usually not necessary to do that - I've only had 3 that I've saved a needle or bobbin case that way.)
    • Does it look like the machine has been dropped?
    • Pedal works
    • All plates are present
    • All dials move freely
    • belts?
    • how does it sound? Does it labour on startup? While running? Does it sound "loud"?
    • Does it run on its own?
    • Rust? And where is it? Some surface rust is OK because a lot can be "removed", but there's a lot that's not. If the machine will be decorative, in some cases, no big deal but if it's to be used, it's important.
    • Condition of the sewing surface
    • General Cosmetic shape - decals, etc
    • general look of the machine - the appearance can tell you a lot about how the machine was maintained.


    None of these alone rules a machine out. It just let's me know what I may be dealing with, and lets me decide if I want the machine badly enough, or gives me a bargaining position.

    What does everyone else have on their normal "inspection" list?
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    Last edited by ArchaicArcane; 05-23-2013 at 09:57 AM.
    Tammi - I've found that many baby steps tend to get you further than a huge leap in followed by a huge leap out - http://www.archaicarcane.com
    Singer 431G, 411G, 301A, 2x 221 (featherweight), 222k - the holy grail, 99, 115, 15-90 Centennial, 27, VS2, 28 hc, 128 knee bar, 201-2, Pfaff 130-6. Non-Vintage - Pfaff 6122, Kenmore (Janome) 385.81595 serger, Kenmore (Janome) 385.81155, 2013 APQS Lucey

  2. #2
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    It amazes me that people selling items tell deliberate lies, as if you are not going to figure it out. Sorry you felt obligated to buy them. She should have greatly reduced the costs.

  3. #3
    Power Poster
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    That tension spring looks like a rat's nest, appalling!

  4. #4
    Super Member ArchaicArcane's Avatar
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    If it was anyone else, I would have thought it was just that she didn't know. But the shop she worked at is also the one who has a tech there who sold another lady a 99 that was electrically unsafe, and serviced the Bernina I've been fighting with (brushes worn down to nubs, and turns so hard you almost need both hands - She'd taken it in complaining that it ran slow...).

    I should have listened to my "Spidey senses".

    Like that post in the tensioner too? That's supposed to be straight out!
    Tammi - I've found that many baby steps tend to get you further than a huge leap in followed by a huge leap out - http://www.archaicarcane.com
    Singer 431G, 411G, 301A, 2x 221 (featherweight), 222k - the holy grail, 99, 115, 15-90 Centennial, 27, VS2, 28 hc, 128 knee bar, 201-2, Pfaff 130-6. Non-Vintage - Pfaff 6122, Kenmore (Janome) 385.81595 serger, Kenmore (Janome) 385.81155, 2013 APQS Lucey

  5. #5
    Super Member Shelbie's Avatar
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    Sometimes even using a check list like yours, you get surprises with vintage machines. i bought a hand crank Singer in perfect shape stitching really well for $50. After getting it home and checking it out, it seemed almost too good to be true. After checking the serial number and searching on the Internet, I found out that I had bought a much newer machine than I thought. It was actually a Singer reproduction made in India. I can't be mad at the owner as I don't think she realized exactly what she had and I had never seen one before. The machine does stitch and the price wasn't ridiculous. I will look even more carefully next time.
    Shelbie from the High County in Southern Ontario

  6. #6
    Senior Member Mom3's Avatar
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    1. Try to determine the model before you go so if the machine is not threaded up at least you can a.) look up how to thread it, b.) know the needle size and how to properly seat the needle.

    2. Determine, before hand, if there if the bobbin case and at least one bobbin is available for testing.

    3. Take the proper needle with you.

    4. Take thread with you.

    5. Take fabric with you.

    6. If the machine has none of the above (and you didn't bring any of the above with you) , hand rotate it to get a feel if you 'think' it will work.

    7. If the machine has none of the above available (and you didn't bring any of the above with you), use that as a bargaining point if you 'feel lucky'.

  7. #7
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    Hmmmm Wish I had a list like this a few months ago. I'll print this for future reference. Thank you!

  8. #8
    Super Member Daylesewblessed's Avatar
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    And it doesn't hurt to have an extension cord in the car just in case. You may be testing a machine in a garage or driveway.

  9. #9
    Super Member ArchaicArcane's Avatar
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    Shelbie - Definitely true. The reproductions are almost not fair, because you don't expect them until you've seen one first, or heard about them.

    For me, the give aways on those are:

    • The decals are usually "more". The older ones, even la Vencedora, the Lotus, etc are more understated than the new ones.
    • There's a plastic knob on the bed of the machine to drop the feed dogs
    • Often the case or cabinet it's in gives it away. They just don't seem as heavily built as the old ones.


    Mom3 - Great adds!!

    You know, I was driving into the city after I posted this, thinking the same things. "Ugh! I forgot the bobbin case! Ugh! the needle thread fabric!! " I used to take supplies with me, I don't anymore. What I usually do is first turn the machine by hand to make sure the timing isn't scary bad, then if there's thread and a bobbin there, I watch for the "twist" the machine will make when it locks the stitch.

    In a good twist to the story, when I went into the city today, I scored a 1950 201-2 in excellent shape, even the wiring looks good. I was all ready for a bargaining point, and had none.

    I've only had to look up one model as far as threading so far - Elna Supermatic. All of the rest I can usually fumble through.

    Quilt Novice - Wait til the end! as mom3 has already pointed out, my morning rant did miss some things

    Daylesewblessed - Ha!! Good call. I've done this. I looked at a featherweight on top of a table saw in some guy's back yard. Then there was the 201-3 on the sidewalk at about 11pm... I'm sure that didn't look suspicious or anything.

    The other thing I like to have with me are some basic screwdrivers. I have a bad habit of having the car with me, instead of the truck when I find a good machine, and I sometimes have to disassemble things to get them home. Don't ever let anyone tell you that a Mustang has no storage space. Most Singer cabinets will come apart into many pieces with only a blade screwdriver.
    Last edited by ArchaicArcane; 05-23-2013 at 07:55 PM.
    Tammi - I've found that many baby steps tend to get you further than a huge leap in followed by a huge leap out - http://www.archaicarcane.com
    Singer 431G, 411G, 301A, 2x 221 (featherweight), 222k - the holy grail, 99, 115, 15-90 Centennial, 27, VS2, 28 hc, 128 knee bar, 201-2, Pfaff 130-6. Non-Vintage - Pfaff 6122, Kenmore (Janome) 385.81595 serger, Kenmore (Janome) 385.81155, 2013 APQS Lucey

  10. #10
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    A guy that knows my DH wanted to know if I wanted to purchase a machine his sister had. Same words, worked and in good condition. When it comes to any kind of purchase, DH always asks, "Well does it work NOW and what is it's "CONDITION NOW". The guy wanted $500.00 because it was an antique. Right off the bat NO. It was a mess. Not at this time or any other time. We also don't buy anything sight unseen.

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