Just the way you want it - A Pfaff 30 (and a historical footnote)

A project log for Vintage sewing machines

Fixing up vintage sewing machines for hobby use.

joseph-eoffJoseph Eoff 07/13/2022 at 18:210 Comments

I had a chance a few weeks ago to clean up a Pfaff 30.

Polished machine 1

The Pfaff 30 is pretty much the ideal vintage machine.  It (and the Pfaff 31) are related to the massively popular and long lived Singer 15.  Their similarity with the more common Singer means that it is relatively easy to find bobbins, bobbin cases, and needles for the two machines. Old Pfaff sewing machines have a (well deserved) reputation for good manufacturing and reliability.

This particular Pfaff 30 is an example of what you want to find when you are looking for a vintage sewing machine.  Besides being a common machine (there were literally millions of them made,) this one was in good shape and had many of the original accessories still with it in the drawers of the cabinet.

A quick test the day I picked it up using a spool of thread and a threaded bobbin that were already on the machine (and who knows how many decades old) showed that the machine was mechanically OK.

First seamDespite the generally good condition of the Pfaff 30, it did need a few things done.

  1. Cleanup - It had been collecting dust for a very long time.  Along with the dust, many generations of spiders had left their traces on the machine and the cabinet.
  2. Oiling - The oil the previous owner had used was good and hadn't dried up or gotten gummy, but you should always oil a sewing machine according to the directions in the user's guide before using it.
  3. Replace the drive belt and the winder tire - These parts tend to dry up and crack when not used.  The drive belt is made of leather.  The winder tires are made of rubber.  Both go bad over the years.

You can count on doing those three things for any vintage sewing machine you buy.  The drive belt and the winder tire are common parts.  You can buy a length of leather drive belt for a few dollars from Amazon (or your local sewing machine store.)  The winder tires are just rubber O-rings.  If you can't find someone selling one explicitly for your machine, just measure the diameter of the winder wheel and the width of the groove and order an O-ring.  They are usually pretty cheap.

The user's guide is important.  The original was gone from this machine, but Pfaff still makes them available for download. The scanned copy is something of a mess.  I cut and resized the pages in the PDF to make them a little easier to read.  You can get the improved copy of the Pfaff 30 instruction book here.

The cabinet on this Pfaff had been refinished with polyurethane varnish at some point, so I used soapy water to clean the dust (and the spider poop) off.

Since this machine was made some time after Pfaff switched from japanning and shellac to plain black paint, I simply stripped the oily surface of the machine with ethyl alcohol.

A bit of oil based furniture polish gave the cabinet a nice shine, and a little car polish and some rubbing brought the machine itself back to its original glory.

Older Pfaff sewing machines were in nicely made cabinets.  The 30 and the 31 that I've had here were both made of walnut stained oak.

Finished Pfaff 30 - 4
Finished Pfaff 30 - 2

Polished machine 2If you've been following my sewing machine adventures, you may have seen the Pfaff 31 I cleaned up for my daughter.  The 31 has a more typical sewing machine look, with lots of chrome.

Pfaff model 31 - 3The Pfaff 30 has a lot of parts that are black rather than chromed.

Black instead of chrome1That's not a general thing - many if not most Pfaff 30 machines are chromed as well.

This black Pfaff 30 is something of a historical footnote.

According to  this list of serial numbers, this particular machine was manufactured some time in 1940.

That date of manufacture explains the unusual appearance of this Pfaff 30.  Germany was heavily involved in World War II at that time, and experiencing a shortage of non-ferrous metals - chrome and brass were in short supply since they were needed for the war effort.

The lack of chrome and brass is reflected in the blued steel trim in place of chrome on the machine and the blued steel hardware in place of brass parts on the cabinet.

There were some one hundred thousand Pfaff sewing machines manufactured during the war.  That's less than one percent of all the machines Pfaff ever manufactured.  If you run across a black Pfaff, it will be a war time model.

I didn't keep the Pfaff 30.  It belonged to a church group that distributes clothing and small appliances to needy families.

I cleaned it up for them and gave it back so that it could go to someone who needs a sewing machine but can't afford one.

I do hope the tree spirits on the back of the cabinet don't freak out the new owners.

Two tree spirits