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Refurbishing a Vintage Sewing Machine, For Beginners

Starting point on a Vintage Brother Charger 651, Refurbishing a Vintage Sewing Machine | @vintageontap

Cleaning interior of Vintage Brother Charger 651, Refurbishing a Vintage Sewing Machine | @vintageontap

Vintage Brother Charger 651, Refurbishing a Vintage Sewing Machine | @vintageontap

Vintage Brother Charger 651, Refurbishing a Vintage Sewing Machine | @vintageontap

Refurbishing a Vintage Sewing Machine was definitely a learning experience!

Can I say WOW? I’m actually super surprised that I was able to pull this restoration off. I’d been commenting to my boyfriend for ages about how much I needed to invest in an all metal machine, or even an industrial, when this Brother Charger 651 fell into my lap! I stumbled into it at a local thrift store for 25USD$ (~17£, 25AUS$) and when I verified it ran, it was purchased immediately.

I chronicled my experiences refurbishing a vintage sewing machine, start to finish, in my latest YouTube video. To be honest, I started at square one- absolutely no idea what I was doing and what to buy. There was a lot of conflicting information online about what works and doesn’t work, so I read, a lot. Please check out the resources links at the end of the post: if you’re taking on a refurbish and restoration, you want to make sure to eat up as much knowledge as you can! Each machine is different and if you’re working on an old Singer, there’ll be extra things to worry about (like the decals!)

The items I bought and talked about in my YouTube video are listed below. I’m sure a lot of these products are not available world wide, but do a quick Google search and you may be able to find counterparts in your area of the world.


Rubber Gloves
Face Mask
Cheap paint brush set
Cheap toothbrush
Compressed Air
Tri-Flow Lubricant
Cotton twine
Cotton towels
Sewing machine oil
MAAS Metal Polish

Replacement Parts:

Sewing Parts Online


Assorted sandpaper
Pre-Stain Wood conditioner
Minwax Stain + Polyurethane
Staining brushes

Final Thoughts

Please don’t let refurbishing a vintage sewing machine freak you out! The process definitely is labor intensive, but not enough to stop me from doing the process again. Spend an hour or two a day plugging away at your sewing machine, scrubbing here and there, and it’ll be done in no time. And don’t skimp on taking it in for that final tune up! It was important to take it in to be seen by a professional before stitching to make sure the electrical components were good to go. I took my machine into Serge A Lot here in San Francisco and have nothing but good things to say about it!


Additional Reading Material + Resources:

How to Clean and Care For Your Older Sewing Machine
Pete Olson’s sewing machine restoration process. Bringing new life to an old Singer 301.
Cleaning and Lubricating a Machine Head
The Vintage Singer Sewing Machine Blog


Disclaimer: This post includes Amazon affiliate links :) 


  1. I have the exact same machine. It had belonged to my husband grandmother. I sew on it all the time. Great machine.

    • Good to know! My next project is going to be on it- still haven’t checked if all my sewing feet will fit on it, haha! Can’t wait to work with it!

  2. I am super impressed with your restoration! Seriously, you did an unbelievable job! And you looked super cute what you did it so way to go you!

    • Thank you! Can’t wait to sew with it all ready *_*!

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Vintage on Tap started in 2013

Since then, it has become not only a photo blog, but also a popular YouTube channel and Instagram Feed.

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