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Treadle Sewing Machine: A Granddaughter's Treasure

Written By petite karinne on Sunday, December 28, 2014 | 10:08 AM

When her father passed away, my son's fiancee had the painful task of going through his belongings. When she found this sewing machine that belonged to her grandmother in the attic, she asked me if I could fix it for her. 

We both agreed,  being a family owned piece, it should remain antique looking for memory purposes. 

It was missing the front drawer. (By looking inside of the structure, I could tell it was a single drawer.) It very well may have been a flip open as most were. The space allowed is narrow, because of the way the sewing machine lays when inside the cabinet.

It was also missing the two side drawers and its framework on the right.

The top cover had a lot of veneer damage, right down to the under wood. It was also age stained.

Despite the dust, I could see the beauty of the sewing machine too. Isn't this a lovely treasure????

To begin, I removed the veneer off the top/lid.

I was concerned the cracks in the under wood might be too much to leave natural, so I sanded quite a bit to smooth it the best I could. With the cracks still there, it gave the top a super used and old look, so there it stayed.

Intentionally leaving a tiny bit of the old finish in the crevices, I stopped sanding, with fingers crossed, the antique appearance would be there when I finish off the entire project.

Moving on to repairs:

Luckily, I had some parts from a previous treadle machine upcycle I worked on:

I could utilize the drawer framework and the front from my salvaged project for the missing parts. 

The not so lucky parts:  

I didn't have the extra side drawers. 

I scrounged around everywhere on Ebay and Craigslist for some, thinking I'd buy four to make them all match, or even just two and make them match, but didn't find the right size, nor did I have the time for Ebay bidding, shipping and repairs in time to surprise Emily for Christmas. Thinking she would appreciate having this during her first Christmas without her father, I really wanted to have it done. 

After several crazy drawer ideas swirling in my head, the best one hit me, why not cut into the existing drawer frame to divide the drawers to go on to each side of the cabinet? They would be original, but modified. 

Before moving on to the modifications, I decided to clean and paint the iron while I had access to it.

The blow hose and air compressor removed a lot of the dust build up.

 And a toothbrush with rubbing alcohol removed any stuck on oils and debris.

After cleaning, I sprayed on semi gloss enamel. 

The plan:
Cut into the existing drawer frame and rebuild the opposite side: 

Eeeek! I cut off the bottom drawer frame! I prayed my brain and hands didn't fail me after this brave cut.

I sanded the remaining frame by hand.

The part that was cut off was too short to rebuild on the other side...

but the pieces from my previous upcycle had plenty of length.

Measure twice or three or four times, cut once!

After pulling the nails out of the salvaged side pieces I needed, I measured and cut to size for the framework.

I attached the now new/"old" frame with small nails. Then hand sanded. No failures. (WHEW!)

With both framed sides of the cabinet now secured, the front center could be leveled and finished off. I used more salvaged parts. This swing drawer and two side pieces were perfect to add to the missing front drawer area.

I used the original old screws to attach the parts onto the cabinet top from the underside.

 Then finished hand sanding all areas and drawers.

 Then cleaned and painted the drawer pulls.

I removed the old cloth from under the sewing machine inside the cabinet and replaced it with a new vintage looking fabric. 

I did clean the machine up, but didn't make any mechanical repairs to it. That can be later, if she wants it.

(And I didn't get a photo of it cleaned and sitting up on the cabinet; with three other projects going on, I completely forgot some pictures of each project here and there.)

The wood was very dry, so I conditioned all of it with coconut oil.

 I love this swing drawer.

And the original front.

This was a repair or fixer upper, not a complete restoration. 

So I tried to maintain the "antiqueness" of it; with all of its stains, dings and marks in place. 

That would include the years of wear from the hardware. 

The built on side had the original nail holes exposed. 

It took 3 coconut oil rubbings to get the wood in a healthy looking condition.

When the oil was absorbed, I wiped on a thin rub of polyurethane.

The left drawer: Pull handle on and done.

The right drawer: Pull handle on and done. 

(Meet Max:  My photo bomber. ) 

I really do love that front swing drawer. The insides of all three drawers only got a cleaning. Leaving the color and scratches as they have been for years. 

Back of cabinet. 

 Here you can see the difference in styles of the frames from two different treadle machines. However, the width and the age of the wood worked well for repairs.

Built side. 

Cut off frame side. 

An old ding mark. (Sweet! History left in place.)

Here is a photo of the treasure sitting at its permanent home; delivered on Christmas Eve...

to one very happy Granddaughter. She loved the marks left, as they were her family's and it gave the piece character. 

I was very honored to have been able to make a loved heirloom more special. 

After all, it could very well end up going to my future grandchild someday. How cool is that? A unified family and a unified treasure. 


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