Tuesday, February 19, 2013

HMTATM? Davis New Vertical Feed

...continuing to explore the question "How Many Treadles Are Too Many?"  In the last post I justified my latest (and cheapest) purchase, now living in the studio as a student treadle easily converted back and forth from people power to electric power.

I joined treadleon shortly after being bitten by the vintage sewing machine bug.  Started hearing about all kinds of machines I never knew existed.  As soon as I discovered that there was a machine named
Davis, I knew I had to have one.  My maiden name was Davis.  The more I read about them the better they sounded.

Every morning with my coffee I read the digests from various sewing machine bulletin boards, and look at CraigsList sewing machines both near and far in North Carolina.  Ah, retirement.  I spotted a Davis in a town far away.  The listing was up for months, then disappeared.  Six months later the same photos showed up in a CL ad in a town nearby.  The people had moved and brought it into my orbit.  The luck of the Davises, no doubt. 

It had the worst finish of any machine head I have worked on---like sandpaper, and it would have been impossible to sew on.  The wood cabinet was in similar shape.  My usual policy is to do the least I can, but this time I stripped the finish off the cabinet with denatured alcohol, then put a tung oil finish on.  I know NOTHING about wood and woodworking, but ignorance has never stopped me.  Tung oil is super easy and looks age-appropriate in my opinion. The finish on the wood is now smooth as glass.

Now it looks terrific, better than this photo. 

This is now my go-to treadle, and I love it for many reasons.  First, it is just more comfortable than the Singer treadles.  I haven't taken any measurements or tried to figure out why, and it would not matter to any one else if I had.  Certain brands of shoes fit me, other brands the same size just don't.  I think you have to try on machines the same way you try on shoes.

Next, you don't have to haul the machine up and down.  It has a chain system and opening the lid raises the machine automatically.  Closing the lid lowers it.  I really, really love this feature.  Easy peasy, or facile facile if you speak French.  You learn the most interesting things on sewing machine bulletin boards.

It has an amusing drawer lined with a VERY thick felt.  The bottom lifts out, allowing you to hide something beneath it.

I assume this drawer is meant to protect the attachments, and it came with a bunch.  I love having them, fondling them, and reading about them.  But all I do on this machine is piece quilt blocks.  No attachments necessary.

All of these things are terrific, but none of them are unique.  Here's what makes a Davis vertical feed special---why, it's the vertical feed.

Look closely at the photo for the feed dogs.  Look again.  Still don't see them?  That's because there are none.

The needle hole is a slot rather than a hole.  Can you see it right under the presser foot?   The needle plate can be turned around for different weights of thread, so the slot you can easily see on the right hand side of  the needle plate is also a needle slot.  The needle descends at the front of the slot, pierces the fabric, the needle slides to the back of the slot and then rises and goes back to the front.

Better than a walking foot.  WAY better.  Treadling quilters love these machines.  It is just not possible for layers to shift.  You still have to prepare carefully and baste, and basting is not my thing, so I haven't tried it for quilting yet.  Next baby quilt, though.  I do love it for piecing. 

Bobbin winder engaged.  Fold it up to disengage.

I took the many of the photos before this belt was installed:  3/16" clear plastic tubing, connected with a little plastic connector.  The advantage of this is that it won't stretch over time the way that leather will.  It's cheaper and quieter than the coil spring belt.

This tubing is also available in black, which would be great, but it will take me a bit longer use up the 30 feet of the clear that I bought.  McMaster Carr has tubing in several more colors also.  Do you fancy red, green, or yellow?

As always, there is no advertising on this site.  If I tell you about a product, it is only to help you find something that I know from experience will work.  For all I know there are thousands of places to buy this.  I have heard that aquarium tubing works.

The finish on the head of the machine was sandpaper rough.  It looked like the varnish had hundreds of tiny bubbles that had burst, leaving jagged edges.  I had to attack the finish more vigorously than I usually do, at least on the bed.

Cleaning the gunk began to reveal the decals, although going too far begins to strip off the colored layer of the decals, revealing the silver beneath.

I made a radical decision on the back of the machine--I deliberately stripped it down to the silver.  It was even gunkier back here than on the front.  I just wanted to be able to see the letters and the designs.  I don't regret it.

And if you feel the need to tell me how I have sinned, send all comments to
Cheryl Warren
c/o Michael Garibaldi
Babylon 5
Epsilon Eridani

best I could do on the front

The decals on the machine look much worse in person than they do in the photographs.  The remaining gunk obscuring the decals is still dimensional--it has thickness.  It's ugly.  It's horrible.  If you saw it you would NOT blame me for stripping the back!  At least I think you wouldn't.

And although I do dearly love a beautiful machine and would swap this head out for a prettier one in a heartbeat, in the end what REALLY matters is how well it sews.  And, like most of my vintage and antique sewing machines, it sews very sweetly.  It is a pleasure to sit at this machine.

It has an interesting bed decal that reads "Made in US America".  Doug from the Davis board suggested that the number of stars on the flag would be a clue to its age, but they are just too worn away to count.

The luck of the Davises held all the way through, btw.  I did not know this before I bought it, but apparently this model (the NEW vertical feed) is the only one that takes regular sewing machine needles, rather than some obscure and hard to find vintage needle. 

Here's the thing about a nice friendly treadle, one that works well and fits your body:  it's just fun to sew on.  Not really much different from other smoothly working vintage machines, once you find the rhythm of the treadle.

Buy a treadle (or revive your grannie's with some oil and a nice new belt) and you, too, can joke about being ready for the fall of civilization.

(and, in honor of my Baltimore roots)
How 'bout them asteroids, hon?


  1. I am getting discouraged with my treadle and have not been able to get it to work, I'm about ready to try to find a different one and sell this one!

    1. Do you have a Davis or something else? I do hope you find a good one!

  2. Cheryl,
    I am impressed with the way it came out... I will be going to get the one I found a couple of weeks ago near Charlotte NC. I am hoping you can give me some pointers on how to redo the veneer on top of the cabinet... and anything elses you can tell me I would greatly appreait.. Myra Davis

    1. Myra,
      Can't wait to see it, give me a call when you get it home.

  3. You make me laugh. The only reason I bought a treacle was because of conversations my husband and I had about the apocalypse. We all need some trade to keep us valueable when there's no electricity.

    1. Ha ha! They are fun to sew on even when the power is on!
      Thanks for writing

  4. The most important part is being able to sew on these machines. One of these days, I'm going to take my first treadle out to the garage (too cold now) and try to make the top of the wood smooth, so that it doesn't catch the fabric when I sew with it. I use blue tape to tape on template plastic now. I would love to repaint the head on it, since the decals are silvered (what's left of them) and the isn't much paint left on the bed, either. She does sew, tho!

  5. Nice post on a unique machine. I too have a Davis but have yet to get it order enough to use it. At work I use an industrial walking foot machine and hope these operate in a similar way. The back of your machine looks quite nice with the silvered decals.

  6. Congrats on your Davis NVF! Excellent post on the Davis. They are wonderful machines for quilting, binding work, and piecing curves. Enjoy!

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  8. How did you join the ends of the tubing that you use for a belt? Thanks!

  9. I am going to work on restoring my Grandmother's New Vertical Feed at a VSM workshop in March 2017, done by Ray Elkins of Sew Purty Workshops. I'm very excited about it.

  10. I'm curious about the extra presser foot in your attachment set. Does it serve a different purpose than the one on the machine, or is it just a spare?

  11. I have a cabinet like this one. The front wood piece does not come up and hook into the groove like it is supposed to in order to lift the machine. I wonder if you have any reference as to the inside of the cabinet without the machine in it so I could see if I am missing a piece or what it is supposed to look like? Thank you, Shari


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