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):
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
- 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?