Pfaff 130 Rebuild

Last year, I had the good fortune of finding a Pfaff 130 on the curb. These machines are famous for their power and durability. By this, I mean that they are just as comfortable sewing through five layers of canvas as they are all five of your fingers. This is what it looks like — sorry for the crap-tography.

The machine hadn’t been loved or used in many years. Tonight, I took it apart completely, cleaned and lubricated everything, repaired the wiring, scuffed all contacts and the motor armature clean, and clamped, glued, and screwed the bottom of the case back together. Incredibly enough it almost worked when I finished putting it back together. The remaining problem was adjusting the tension of the upper and lower mechanisms.

What I’d never fully appreciated before was that the stitches you get from a maladjusted machine are plainly diagnostic. Just look at the image below, from the Pfaff 130 service manual (taken from the Yahoo Group linked at the bottom of this post, BTW).

If the top thread is piercing through the fabric, but not pulling the bottom thread in, the bobbin tension is too high.
If the bottom thread is piercing through the fabric, but not pulling the top thread in, the top tension is too high.
If both penetrate the fabric equally, the tension is correct. Awesome!
(also remember that these things can be conceptualized the other way — if one is never high enough tension, the other probably needs to have its tension reduced)

Once I got that done, which took almost two whole hours of adjusting and re-adjusting (but will be a cinch now that I have done it a few times), I loaded it up with a needle and thread and tried to sew some neoprene. After quite a number of frustrating attempts to sew this thin neoprene, I realized that the hold in the needle was too small for the Consew Heavy Duty nylon thread I was using. The symptom that tipped me off was the thread sort of unwinding itself at the eye of the needle. After loading the machine with a “leather” needle, which is heavier gauge and has a larger hole, I was able to sew this little N900 pouch with almost no effort or trouble.

Spending an evening refurbishing this machine reminded me, again, that I am a builder, fixer, maker, artist. Nothing soothes like keeping these idle hands busy.

It’s probably obvious that I love this machine. I’m not the only one, there’s a Yahoo Group that has manuals and some discussion, and of course, there’s always the mass of people chatting all over the web.

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48 Responses to Pfaff 130 Rebuild

  1. Big Mike says:

    Beautiful Dan, To make a machine function so well so many years after its construction. I am impressed.
    How nice it would be if we all could find practical uses for things past their expected lifespan.

  2. samh says:

    This is a blog post I can sink my eyes into and enjoy, Dan. Thanks.

  3. michebobiche of cakebobake says:

    wanna make the 5 i have work now. ;)

  4. michebobiche of cakebobake says:

    also, i never thought i’d hear you talk up anything but your bernina… things change i guess.

  5. Sue says:

    Nice work! A beauty! Just keep your digits out from under that presser foot.

  6. danreetz says:

    Hey biche, I’ve been talking up the Pfaff since the moment I found it :) . It was just a long time before I could get around to makin’ it go properly.

    It can sew through more layers than the Bernina for sure. I’ll keep ‘em both, the Bernina for precision work, and the Pfaff for the brute stuff. Best of both worlds.

    My ultimate plan is to replace the Pfaff lighting with a couple of color-correct Cree Q5 LEDs, and to replace the motor with a high-torque BLDC. That would effectively modernize the thing, and remove the need for finding old parts. I suspect that’s a summer project, though.

  7. adam says:

    Hi I dropped our pfaff 130 and broke the hand wheel and the piece after it can you tell me where i can find parts like this?It”s my best machine Thank you and please call 1760 364-3699 or 364-3758 any info Adam strickland

  8. Adinghi says:

    Thanks for the really helpful information. With this page and a couple of hours, I’ve managed to get a just purchased 130 up and running well…except for the motor, which needs a little work, so the thing is powered by a hand drill and vacuum cleaner drive belt temporarily. Your LED retrofit sounds like a brill…ugh, better not say that, very good idea BTW. But what would you use as a controller for the brushless motor?

  9. danreetz says:

    I found out that the controllers I’d been planning to use (from electric scooters and/or treadmills) are unsuitable for the job. As of now, the Pfaff is in a storage shed in Fargo, ND, and I am in LA, so it’s going to be a while before I make any progress on that.

    Good thing I have my Bernina with me. Also, very glad that you found this post helpful. Motors for these Pfaffs aren’t really anything special — any Sew’n’Vac type repair shop should have something you can substitute for the original.

  10. Adinghi says:

    Since it was possible to repair the stock motor, I’m just running that with a generic AC foot control. Would be nice to reverse the fan in the motor, though, as the darn brushed universal motor blows the ozone towards the operator. Eeww.

    I wonder why scooter motors aren’t acceptable? We have some surplus brushed scooter motors and controllers around, and I’d be really tempted to try if it weren’t so easy to just use the stock motor and a $25 pedal…

    Thanks again for the info.

  11. Jin says:

    Hi.

    I am purchasing my first project Pfaff 130 and I hope I can make it to work. The machine has been store in it’s owner’s garage for years.

    I love your Pfaff.

  12. Jean says:

    Hi,
    I just purchased one of these machines. When I plugged it in the cord started breaking on me. Did you have to rewire the cord? Did you have to drill out the rivets to get to the wire connection?

  13. danreetz says:

    Hey Jean,

    I had to reconnect the wires internally, but the actual wiring, in my case, was not decayed. I’d suggest replacing it, as it’s old and unsafe. You may have to drill or grind the original rivets, but you can replace them with screws.

  14. Laura says:

    I have one of these machines that my aunt used in the 1950′s in a factory. It sits in a wooden Singer contraption that has a huge, black metal foot pedestal. There are even cigarette burns on the top of the wood part where the factory workers placed their cigarettes while working. The machine swings down so that the top is flat if needed. Unfortunately, my aunt (who is now 101) kept this in her garage and mice chewed through the cord that plugs into the wall. So, I don’t know if the machine still works. I am looking to get rid of this since I am not an antique collector. My aunt raves about how great this machine was to work with. Any ideas on what I can do to sell this?

  15. Johnny D says:

    Dan, I just bought one on ebay tonight. It will likely need the same care as you did. Plan to use it to make items for my boat: cushion covers, Bimini, dodger, new suite of sails, sail covers, bags, etc. Other possibilities: re-upholster houshold items in leather: easy chairs, couch, also car seats. Thanks for the .pdf of the manual. May send it to zuesmachines for the work.

    Johnny

  16. danreetz says:

    Cool stuff Johnny. You’re going to love the machine… it’s somewhere in between a normal machine and an industrial, and I’ve found mine to be pretty capable. Though I must admit I couldn’t figure out how to thread it without the manual. Glad it is helping, and hope your boat turns out well.

  17. keith says:

    i can make cleated timing belts for the pfaff 130. the belts are custom made by hand using fresh nylon cording. they can be installed without special tools. i can email anybody complete details upon request: keithstout@hotmail.com
    please keep my nota as a future resource.
    thank you,
    keith

  18. Nora says:

    I have my husband’s grandmother’s machine. It has been used occasionally, not near as much as I’d like. I’m having tension troubles as I have returned to sewing. It is driving me nuts! upper tension too loose… pulled to underside of fabric and vice versa . Cannot seem to find the happy medium adjustment. Is there a neutral starting point? I am so frustrated.

  19. Nora says:

    I do have the original guide book, or at least most of it.

  20. danreetz says:

    The tension guide in the manual is the best I’ve seen – have you seen their settings?

    The other thing that surprised me about this machine is that it seems to work best on layered fabric only. Two layers of thin cotton is not the ideal setup. Two layers of denim seems to work perfectly.

  21. sharon says:

    I have an old Pfaff 130. One of the gears underneath is worn through, it turns 360 degrees or I would jaut turn it the other way, but the machine will not operate with out it. Can any one please tell my how I could get this part or have one made. I will supply photos and more information upon requests
    thanks you very much,

  22. Judy Toy says:

    I am so happy to found you on the internet. I have a pfaff 130 that I am trying to get working. The hand wheel will not turn. Can you please tell me what the problem might be. Any help will be greatly appreciated. Thanks for you time.

  23. Lesli says:

    Pretty nice post. I just stumbled upon your blog and wished to say that I
    have really enjoyed surfing around your blog posts.
    After all I’ll be subscribing to your rss fesd and I hope
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  24. Rebecca ayres says:

    Where are you located. I need mine fixed. I sewed on it for 29 years. It was my grandmothers

  25. Christine says:

    I live in France and ly lither while visiting us in California bought us a Pfaff 130. We brought it back to France, changed the motor (110 to 220). And it worked perfectly well. On E-bay I bought from Tirol the same machine for my daughter. It should arrive in a few days. My concern: would you have an instruction manual that you could mail me?
    When I use my machine it’s by “feeling” but I would need more stable informations in order to forward my “knowledge”.
    I thank you in advance.
    By the way, it can be English or German.
    Marie-Christine Ott
    67600 Baldenheim France

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  28. Candace Brumley says:

    I have recently become owner of a pfaff 130 that would’ve otherwise bn thrown out. Mine has the black and gold cabinet matching the machine itself and it also has some very nice Asian-style details painted on it as well. The built in seat is intact and has a drawer below that contains many extras including a rectangular tin that reads “accessories”. I am a novice where sewing is concerned but understand and respect such a gem as this. I’d appreciate any and all information that could help in selling this wonderful machine. I am in sw lower MI and would prefer to sell locally, unless the price is right .
    Thank you, Candace

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