Sometimes you have to look twice to see how beautiful something is.

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The Pfaff 30 has spent the last few days patiently waiting for me to finish cleaning it up.

I found time this weekend to clean the grunge off the cabinet and see what I could do with the machine itself. This evening, I polished it all up and brought it in the house.

The effects of war-time rationing show on the cabinet as well as on the machine. Latches and hinges that would normally be made of brass are of blued steel on this cabinet.

Blued steel hardware
Blued steel hardware 1
Blued steel hardware 2

Besides the blued steel hardware, you may note that the cabinet was “refinished” at some point. Someone some long time ago put a coat of what looks like polyurethane varnish on it. Who ever did it hadn’t ever done it before - the brush strokes run across the grain.

I decided not to sand the varnish off and refinish it. Besides not having the time (the Pfaff 30 only has another seven days here,) I thought I’d rather let this machine tell its own story. The finish is in good condition despite being inexpertly applied - it’ll last a good long while yet.

Besides its war-time roots, this machine’s appearance tells its life story.

Despite its war-time roots, it also shows the same high quality manufacturing as the earlier machines (such as on the Pfaff 31 my daughter owns.)

The cabinet is made of oak veneer over solid oak, with a decorative front panel made of walnut veneer.

When I got all the grunge off, I used some furniture oil to deep clean it and give it some shine.

In cleaning the cabinet, I seem to have awakened some kind of wood or tree spirits. I found this guy glaring at me from the back of the cabinet after I polished it:

Tree spirit
Tree spirit

I’m not sure if he showed up because he was glad to have been cleaned up, or if he showed up to let me know he was still unhappy about his tree being cut down.

At any rate, because of the way the oak veneer was made, the tree spirit had a buddy with him:

Two tree spirits
Two tree spirits

While they both look rather grouchy, the one on the right looks like he’s in pain.

The cabinet was damaged at some point, and repaired by someone with good woodworking skills and not so whoopy wood finishing skills (or maybe just a lack of stain and varnish.) The woodwork was well done and the cabinet is solid and strong despite what looks like a fairly drastic accident.

There are other signs of hard use and a hard life on the cabinet.

The machine itself also shows signs of being well used.

Worn paint
Worn paint

I imagine it takes a good bit to wear through paint with nothing more than cloth. There were little dings and scrapes all over the paint as well.

Yes, paint. I don’t know when the change came, but at some point the sewing machine manufacturers quit using japanning and shellac and switched to simple black paint. My Adler 8 from 1926 was japanned and shellaced. My daughter’s Pfaff 31 from 1939 was painted, as was this Pfaff 30.

It makes a difference. My Adler 8 had little dings and worn spots in the japanning, but the japanning itself is still smooth. On both painted Pfaffs, the paint is cracked and crazed. You can see the crazing in the photos. I’ve seen some painted machines with what looks like black “alligator” skin - big, rough edged, crazed patches. I imagine you’d have to sand down and repaint something like that.

I touched up the worn and chipped spots in the paint with a can of “jet black” (RAL 9005 glossy) paint that I had on a back shelf in the garage. I have no idea when I bought it or why, but it is a near perfect match for the color of the Pfaff 30.

I let that dry over night, then took the machine outside this evening and polished it. I had cleaned all the old oil off the paint with alcohol, which left the paint rather dull looking. A coat of car wax gave the old machine a beautiful shine.

Polished machine
Polished machine 1
Polished machine 2

It’s so shiny you can see every grain of pollen that landed on it while I was taking photos.

I cleaned out the drawers while I was at it. You know how you’re not supposed to wind more than one kind of thread on a bobbin at a time? I found most of the bobbins had at least three different kinds of thread on them. One bobbin had five different colors of thread.

Tree spirits’ drawers
Tree spirits' drawers

With the machine cleaned, oiled, and polished and the cabinet freed of the grunge of decades, my wife allowed me to bring it in the house.

Finished Pfaff 30
Finished Pfaff 30 - 1
Finished Pfaff 30 - 2
Finished Pfaff 30 - 3
Finished Pfaff 30 - 4

I put a new drive belt on it and practiced working the treadle for a bit - my Adler 8 was converted to use an electric motor, and I didn’t get much chance to practice on the treadle when I cleaned up my daughter’s Pfaff 31.

The Pfaff 30 runs so quietly that I could hear a tiny bit of grunge rubbing between the hook and the bobbin race. I had to take the hook out and give it a second cleaning to get rid of the slightly annoying “squeak.”

This Pfaff 30 isn’t as much a “looker” as my daughter’s Pfaff 31, but if you stop to take a second look you’ll find it beautiful despite its years of hard work and the lack of brightwork due to its war-time birth.

All its dents and dings and worn spots tell the story:

For somebody, this Pfaff 30 was quite likely a literal “bread winner” in the post war years - a way to earn money to keep food on the table. It worked hard and was well taken care of, even to the extent of repairing a damaged cabinet.

I’m glad I took the time to look closer at this old machine.

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