Resurfacing a Treadle Top

Some time ago, I got Pfaff industrial treadle courtesy. I wanted this treadle because of the Pfaff 134 long arm industrial machine I have, which had been residing on an old Singer frame. The top of this Pfaff treadle was shot, and the machine in it was one of those specialized industrials that are set up to do only one thing. However, I got the treadle and a lot of parts off of the machine, including a nice spoked Pfaff hand wheel. I had had to adapt a White wheel to the 134 to put it a treadle.

The treadle sat here unassembled for a year as I was involved with other problems. I finally assembled it, and set about making a new top for it. The top on this piece was not veneer. It was 1/4" planking, Unfortunately, it had warped, lifted, cracked and generally done everything you would find undesirable. I stripped off all the broken planking, which was no effort as the old glue was about gone from having been exposed to moist air via the cracks. The base wood underneath was in fine condition.

I debated as to whether to put a universal top on this, and decided that I wouldn't. My reasoning, which feltwas looking for, and I would rather find complete treadles, even with the space considerations, than a heads in something usable but not "right". The universal top was a good idea when I had about 30 to 50 heads around, but not with a lessened need.

I picked up a 2' X 4' piece of 1/4" Appleply ( a very fine, craft grade plywood). I stripped off the old broken and warped planking and sanded down the base top to get it smooth and get the old glue off, then perched the ply on top and carefully drew the opening and the two belt holes in pencil from underneath. I made a start hole and cut out the main opening with a saber saw (Jig Saw) and a new fine cut hacksaw blade (avoids chipping the surface), then drilled the ends of the belt holes with a correct diameter Forstner bit and connected the holes with the saber saw. put a fine cut plywood blade in the table saw and cut the whole ply piece down to match the dimensions of the treadle top, plus 1/32".

Next I carefully spread yellow glue and clamped the whole thing. This was Phase I, as I had to let the new top's glue dry thoroughly. The next step would be to either power sand or route the edge, then stain and oil finish.

Here is how the first day went:


Here is the old top. These were individual planks, very warped, both in width and length, broken, partially burned (?!) and just not in good enough shape to restore. I tore them off to get to the underlayment or support structure, then sanded that.




The raw underlayment of the top. The discolored areas at the left, with horizontal lines through them, are where moisture got under the top planks, which had warped both lengthwise and across.


Here you see the new 1/4" Appleply top set on, with the machine cutout and the belt holes done.



Pfaff 134 in position on new top. The machine base and top levels are virtually the same.


Here I have measured, positioned and cut in the holes for the hanger hinges. In spite of my efforts, the Fortner bit walked a bit on the left one, and it is not as perfectly positioned as the right one. Works fine, though.


Clamping the new top... He was asked, "Why did you use 24 clamps and a heavy sewing machine? " He replied, "Because I didn't have 30 clamps and I could only fit one heavy sewing machine on..."


Here is the rest of the project:



Here is the finished treadle... drawers from a Singer 15-88 have been added. Top finish is a walnut waterbased stain followed by three coats of Formsby's Tung Oil Finish, then Howard's Orange Wax and finally Turtle Wax.

An outdoor view...


Machine in place in sewing room. this is the side window. The 201 still has the back window.



While this piece was not veneered, very often, really bad veneer can be steamed and removed from a treadle. If you have experience in veneering, it can be replaced, but it is finicky work. I often replace it by resurfacing with a thinner plywood than was used in this example. In the case of this Pfaff industrial, there was no veneer... 1/4" planking made up the top surface, and I replaced it with 1/4" craft grade plywood. However, you can buy a thin 1/8" plywood in oak at your local lumber store... Ask for "doorskin". It comes in 4 X 8 foot sheets. It is thicker than veneer, but if you approach the job carefully, you can take the flip top off of a treadle, then take the second level that supports the flip top off, then resurface all three layers, then reassemble it. You usually have to do all three layers anyway when the veneer is really bad, and you will have to to accommodate the thickness difference. But it is technique worth knowing about, since the plywood is, to me, easier to work with than veneer.


The Captain