Davis Vertical Feed restoration


I got this Davis Vertical Feed 2 on eBay for $30 (plus shipping). It arrived full of gunk and rust, barely moving, and smelling of smoke.


Getting a bath in the Parts Washer
Submerged in kerosene overnight
Soaked in kerosene and wiped but still full of gunk.
After cleaning what we could with kerosene and brass brushes, we soaked everything the following night in Evapo-Rust.
This morning we retrieved each piece, wiped it off, rinsed in water, wiped, rinsed in acetone, wiped, and revaled beautiful clean shiny parts.
Then we put everything back together, with liberal squirts of sewing machine oil.
Success! Here she is installed in my Minnesota A cabinet. She works great.
Here's the reason I bought and spent 3 days restoring her: the walking foot. I need this "vertical feed" system to sew bindings on quilts. The Minnesota A made too many random pleats and crumples.

Author: Nina Paley

Animator. Director. Artist. Scapegoat.

31 thoughts on “Davis Vertical Feed restoration”

  1. Thanks for the great pictures. Neat tip on rinsing the evaporust with water then acetone .. I have been using sewing machine oil or even WD40 for the “rinse off”.

    Good luck with the machine .. glad it arrived safely.

    Lee in Florida
    (referenced via the Davis Yahoo Group)

  2. Now, I need another parts cleaner. What a great idea! And, the kerosene doesn’t hurt the decals??? Love that walking foot!!! Now, I know what all the hub-bub is about! 😉

  3. For the oil wick, Either scrap felt or a bit of wool yarn will work. Just jam it in and oil. I.ve used both and there’s no difference.

  4. WOW!! what a great job, I have a Famous Treadle make my Davis looks a lot like this one, except a different foot and on top my has a thread guide that has 3 sections looks like a slanted steamboat but it is in good shape no rust, it just needs a needle, and they tell me on Vintage Sewing Machine website, that it takes a style 10 needle could you please tell me what kind your using in yours, maybe one day I will get brave enough to try this I work much harder but do sort of the same stuff but I use navel jelly for the rust. Thanks for the wonderful blog. It will be useful in the future.

  5. wow that is amazing how you cleaned it. Looks super. As far as what needle – mine has a drawing on the front plate ‘do not use a needle longer than this…. my universal sewing machine or Singer needles are working fine. After mine sat for 18 yrs, it just needed the cabinet fixed to lift it up and a treadle belt.

  6. I have a Davis VF that was completely rusted (long story), anyway, in order to restore it, it will need to be repainted, which is fine since I will not be selling it, do you know of anywhere to purchase Davis Decals?

  7. I am having the same problem with needing new decals. My sewing machine is all gummy with I believe oil. I used kerosene, but am leary, it works but needs a lot of scrubbing and I am afraid to work on the decals, but they are dirty also. I had someone work on my sewing machine to get it working but they did not clean any parts. I am now out $$ that I spent and it still needs to be cleaned. It has a gummy looking feel around the whole machine and a lot of yuck on parts. My plan is take it apart (using a lot of pictures) to put back together and clean parts with COKE, I read on another post. But I still need to clean the outside. Help!!! Please if you have any ideas.

  8. Hello…Thank you for the tips on cleaning. It appears someone already tried something….results are as others posted. Is there a place to purchase the decals? Thank you

  9. we have a vertical feed sewing machine in the cabinet in great condition. also have various components and the instruction booklet – the cover is in pieces but the booklet is all there. I have pics to send if you are interested. we’d like to sell it – any advise, suggestions, etc.

  10. I have a covered cabinet Davis Sewing Machine which I purchased 50 years ago from an antique dealer in Maine. I would like to sell it. The cabinet is in fair condition, The drawers of the cabinet contain the original owner’s manual along with the original certificate of warranty which lists the name of the buyer and of the salesman and says that it was purchased on June 24, 1889. The certificate lists Waterbury NY, so this must have been one of the last machines made in Waterbury since the company moved to Dayton in 1889. The certificate has a raised seal of the Davis Sewing Machine Company and serial number 411692. Any suggestions about selling it? Thanks.

  11. I just purchased a Davis Treadle base and it needs a caster and pin. Does anyone know where to find these? Thank you. Kim

  12. Hi, I have a Davis cabinet sewing machine. It’s model no 2441117. Do you know what year it was manufactured?
    It was patented on these dates:
    Oct 17th, 1881
    Nov 29th, 1881
    Jan 29th, 1883
    May 12th, 1885
    Dayton, Ohio

    Thank you,
    Ramonda Rose

  13. We have been looking for a Davis treadle sewing machine to go in a beautiful cabinet we found at an estate sale. We have been looking at lots of machines and cabinets and have found that it held a Davis. Around 1920’s model. If you know of one for sell please contact us. Thank you.

  14. I have a Davis VF model 7 and it is missing the bobbin shuttle case. I have a bobbin but nu case. Where can I purchase one?

  15. I just bought a Minnesota A that is in really rough shape. I used PB Blaster and was able to get most of the pieces off. I soaked them and they are ready for polish. The question, does anyone have a schematic so I can put it back together? I probably should have taken pictures of all those screws and where they came from.
    Thank you!

  16. Does anyone know where to find a threading manual for a VF 763272. I’m a bit confused with the tension part. I found a manual but it is not the exact machine. Any help would be great .

  17. Would you be able to show a pic of the shuttle for this machine? I have an opportunity to buy a machine just like this one but need to show the current owner what a shuttle looks like. Obviously the owner doesn’t know anything about the machine because questions are met with a “duh?”
    Thank you for this post!

  18. Could I please have someones help to find a manual for a Davis sewing machine with the serial D2529424. The patent year’s are:
    Oct 17th 1881
    Nov 29th 1881
    Jan 29th 1883
    May 12th 1885

    P.S. this is a gift to my grandfather who is looking to restore his sewing machine! Please help!

  19. Hi Nina,
    I thoroughly enjoyed your article on the VF restoration, hence I started looking for one too. I recently got lucky and found one to be collected soon.
    Can you please help wit advice and hints on how to successfully restore one of this.
    Kent UK.

  20. Wow! I have just purchased a Davis vf but can’t pick it up until June. I wasn’t sure about the kerosine trick, but it sure worked for you! If you have any good resources where one can look for parts or info on these machines, I would love to know. I have only been restoring old Singer treadles and this will be my first Davis.
    Good rescue!
    From Olympia, WA

  21. I just purchased a Davis VF because it was a sad little remainder in an estate sale, about to be taken to the scrap dealer. It isn’t particularly rusty although the needle isn’t happy about moving. No cabinet, I was hoping for a hand crank but . . . The foot lifter is working, but there is another smaller lever above it on the back that is bent. What does it do?

  22. Hey does anyone know where to find old davis decals? I have a 1900 davis that is in pretty decent shape but belonged to my great grandma and do not want to risk ruining and losing the decals and the ruler decal on the front? Can these be bought?! Thank you!

  23. Was given an old Davis VF in cabinet and found a number
    8722708 or 8722703. We think it’s a serial number. It’s over 100 years old.

  24. Very helpful info here. Just purchased a 1904 vertical feed Davis. Am very excited to refurbish and get in good working order. Would very much like info on where to get parts and decals. This machine came with all the attachments, keys and user’s Manuel. I am thrilled with my purchased.

  25. You did an outstanding restoration!????
    I just acquired one with a serial number of 790 767 . It’s complete with extra parts for sewing. I would like to find the decals. Any ideas would be appreciated. Thank you. ??????????????

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