Old vs. New in a Business (mostly machinery)

I now work in a cobbler shop, which is a trade that has been around as long as shoes (of course). Some things haven’t changed much over the centuries, and one of them is the industrial sewing machine I have at work. Literally. The manual for the thing has a publishing date of 1860. I can’t be positive that the machine and the manual both emerged from the factory at the same time, but it’s not an unreasonable assumption which means the machine is 152 years old. In any case, it’s very much 19th Century right down the foot treadle that powers it.

We basically have representative tools from every decade from then to now, from said sewing machine through various power tools of WWII era vintage through things like a small air compressor and titanium shears to the very recent laptop and flatscreen monitor computer. However, this thread is mostly about that very old sewing machine.

When customers notice it they invariably have one of two reactions:

  1. Oh NEAT! A working antique!. That is so cool!
  2. WTF, can’t you get something newer?

Personally, I love the thing. It’s quiet. It doesn’t require electrical power so I can put it anywhere in the shop without worrying about competition on the wall sockets. Now that I’ve gotten a century and a half of dust and lint cleaned out of it and oiled up not just the sewing machine but the treadle as well (the owner didn’t quite get that you have to oil ALL the moving parts, seeing the stand as a table and not as part of the power source) it runs fast and quiet, and I have absolute control over the speed and direction of the stitching in a very intuitive manner. Yes, there are some downsides, like everything (including the manual) being in German which I don’t speak and read only a word or two (thank you Google translation) but that has nothing to do with age. Personally, I see no advantage to electrifying this thing as more speed is not required - indeed, I normally sew much slower than the maximum possible speed now. It stitches up heavy work boots as easily as thin glove leather.

So I guess I’m in camp #1, gee, neat, a working antique. And, hey, soooo green what with not having been carted off the dump a century ago and not generating green house gases and giving me a little exercise in the bargain.

I’m not sure I get #2 - the automatic assumption that old=not good/not useful/not efficient/whatever. Yes, it’s a bit of an anachronism, but even when I suggest that really, there’s no benefit to updating that bit of hardware there still seems to be a meme of “electrical powered tools are always better”. Or more serious, or more professional, or something.

I get that people are skeptical that sewing by hand is better because yes, machines are more consistent (we do hand sewing only when we can’t figure a way to get a machine to do it, usually due to awkwardness of shape that can’t physically fit on the machine, or some other factor). But the sewing machine is a machine, and indeed, it could be electrically powered by hooking a small motor to the drive wheel rather than to a treadle, it’s just a different power source. Otherwise, the mechanism is exactly the same and, indeed, some of the moving parts that periodically wear out a require replacement can be replaced by absolutely standard modern sewing machine parts that normally fit onto electric/computerized/whatever sewing machines.

So… what’s your opinion? Would you have reaction #1 or #2?

As someone who works with leather by hand, where can i get one :smiley:

Haven’t a clue - we found this one in a corner of the basement of a failed shoe store bought out by our company.

Estate sales? Ebay? Craigslist? Amishland?

Actually the company that made it, Adler, is still in business.

I just did a quick search on eBay, apparently that IS a place to get them. This one isn’t the model I use, but it might serve your needs. And it’s another Adler. Most Adlers take Singer needles and bobins, so getting those should be easy enough if you do go with it.

Definitely option #1 :slight_smile:

I know two people who make tack, and they work by hand, nothing is machined at all, and their stuff is fantastic

My wife has some electric sewing machines (American made, from the 1940’s). They are solid cast iron, and work as well as when new.

I’m a 1.

I get work done by a seamstress who owns both an electronic sewing machine and a foot-powered model. Some things are a lot easier with the fancy new machine, but for many others the old machine works fine, and she can use it in the terrace and enjoy the sun.

When you described it as ancient and German, my immediate thought was “Must be an Adler.”

I love seeing old machinery when it’s cared for and able to see regular use at its intended purpose. (As opposed to places like tailor shops with old treadle sewing machines as decoration.)

It’s mildly interesting to have a working antique, but if someone was insisting on using it instead of something more useful I’d probably roll my eyes a bit.

Then again, I only listen to music on wax cylinders; the sound is soooooo much better and more authentic.

I might remark on it in passing in a, “Oh neat,” kinda way, but it’s a cobbler shop. The business itself is an anachronism, so it wouldn’t stick out as much as if they were using it in, say, David’s Bridal. So honestly, I really do not give a crap what you use to fix my shoes, as long as you work your sweet, sweet magic on my sole.

How much do you charge, btw? Is it by the hour or by the shoe? Can you repair tennis shoes or just leather stuff?

Charges vary by what you need done, but it’s never by the hour. We have a $10 minimum shop charge (occasionally waived for really minor stuff - if you want another hole punched in your leather belt, for example, we’ll do that for free because it’s no big deal and about 30 seconds of our time). It goes up from there - for custom orthotic modification/lifts we’ve charged as much as $100 a shoe but those are rare exceptions. most repairs are $10-25 dollars.

Tennis shoes are problematic, as they aren’t designed to be repaired and many styles simply can’t be fixed in regards to soles and heels. We can repair the uppers, though (usually). We do work on not just leather but also fabric and other materials for shoes.

We also repairs purses, belts, wallets, bags, cellphone covers, and stuff like that.