It seems like forever since I reviewed the Bernina 730 Record. Today we'll be looking at the next incarnation in the Bernina x30 series, the ever-popular, 830. This workhorse holds an 11 year 'record' for being Bernina's top of the line offering between 1971 to 1982. Now that's a long time! This, is undoubtably one of the most sought after vintage Berninas on the aftermarket today. Let's find out why.
Perhaps one of the most striking things about the 800 series Berninas are their sleek and elegant design. Cosmetically, these have certainly held up to the test of time and, to my eyes, appear much more modern than the 930s and even 1030s.
Like all of the x30 Berninas, the 830 Record is a front loading, oscillating hook machine. It uses something called a CB Hook which is just Bernina's lingo for their proprietary oscillating hook system. Learn more about hooks here. One of the things I love about these Berninas is just how easy it is to pop the hook out. These are super easy to remove and clean. Just press a button on the side of the cover and presto, out comes the hook! Just about everything has been well thought out and designed with usability in mind. Threading is a total snap, and all the sewing controls are carefully laid out.
And of course, this uses Bernina's proprietary Old Style Feet. A mechanic friend of mine described these feet as mini sculptures and I tend to agree. This ingenious quick-change system provides the stability of a screw on system but without the hassle of screws!
Oddly enough, I was fiddling around with my Bernina 1008 (which also uses Old Style Feet) and discovered that while my 1008 feet do work on the 830 the same cannot be said in reverse. So I did a little digging. From what I've gathered, there are 4 types of Bernina feet. I don't know if the two oldest styles have official names or not, but this is what I call them:
- Ancient Style Feet - are attached via a screw.
- Vintage Style Feet - found on the x30 series up until the 930. These often have a 3 digit number that is engraved into the top of the foot and are designed for a maximum zigzag width of 4mm. These will not fit machines past the 930 due to their capped max width.
- Old Style Feet - these have the white sticker with two black numbers and are designed to accommodate a max zigzag of 5.5mm. These WILL fit the older x30 series as well as the modern 1008.
- New Style Feet - these have the white sticker and red numbers. These are not backward compatible at all.
Very often, you'll find sellers that do not differentiate between what I call Vintage Style Feet and the Old Style Feet so just be aware of this. The Vintage Style Feet are NOT forward compatible, but the Old Style Feet ARE backward compatible. Talk about confusing!
Just like the 730, the 830 comes equipped with a 3 piece feed dog. It makes a beautiful forward stitch and satin stitch but only a decent backward stitch. Normally, I'm all up in arms against this type of feed dog configuration, but these Berninas have 20 built in cam patterns screaming to be used. This machine is designed with satin stitches in mind! Learn more about how your feed dog configuration affects your stitches here.
Despite the sturdy metal construction, all of the x30s, x40s and even x50s are cursed with cracking nylon cam and vertical shaft gears. This one has been freshly replaced. The cam gear replacement procedure is nearly identical to the 730 Record and can be found here.
The cam system is activated via the lever on the right while cams are chosen via the lever on the left. This machine uses a rotary cam position indicator instead of the oscillating indicator found on the 730. I find that I'm able to more accurately gauge when to stop my stitches using the oscillating indicator of the 730 than when using this rotary indicator.
The remaining controls are conveniently vertically aligned on the right of the machine. Stitch width is adjusted via the upper most outer dial and maxes out at 4mm. While the needle position is adjustable via the smaller top dial.
The 830 is the first x30 machine to introduce a true automatic buttonholer. Sure, the 730 Records had a buttonhole system, but this 5 step buttonholer is so simple to use it is practically fool proof! Let's break it down:
- Step 1: Zigzags forward at stitch width 2 creating the left side of the buttonhole
- Step 2: Zigzags the bottom wide end of the buttonhole using stitch width 4
- Step 3: Zigzags backward at stitch width 2 on the right side
- Step 4: Zigzags the top wide end of the buttonhole using stitch width 4
- Step 5: Secures stitch in place
The stitch length regulator is new and improved, now featuring a spring loaded reverse. The fine length adjustment control knob on the 730 has been integrated into the lever itself, which is much simpler to use. This is unfortunately marred by one glaring oversight. The 830 does not feature matching forward and reverse stitch lengths!
Feed dogs are droppable via a knob and the motor has a min and max speed control. Despite the larger motor, the 830s run a little slower than the 730s and tops out at about 1000 stitches per minute. While internally similar, all of the 830s that I've encountered run stiffer than the 730s. They are also outfitted with higher amp motors. Earlier 830s came equipped with a .82 amp motor while the later 830 Record Electronics came with more powerful 1 amp motors. The electronic versions feature a needle positioning system that you operate by tapping on the foot control.
Performance-wise, the 830 feels slightly smoother than the 730 Record but neither come close to the speed or performance of their flatbed x40 cousins. I have a few Favorits in the review queue and the difference is quite frankly, astounding.
Of course, the 830 also comes equipped with the all important presser bar knee lifter and handy bed extension!
While I miss the cool bobbin winding compartment on the 730, it was all style and little substance. Winding bobbins is now a much easier though somewhat noisier affair given this utilitarian top loading design with standard clutch release.
Upper tension is adjusted from the top of the machine and is neatly tucked away inside the lid. You can see where the tension discs sit within the slotted channel in the chassis.
Rounding out the features, we have a sewing light in the nose and adjustable presser foot pressure via a screw.
- Sturdy metal construction*
- Forward facing oscillating hook
- Free arm
- Knee lift
- Feeddog drop
- Adjustable stitch width up to 4mm
- Adjustable needle position
- Internal cam stack with 20 utility and decorative patterns
- 5 step buttonhole
- Reverse capable
- Two speed motor
- Takes proprietary Bernina old-style presser feet
- Adjustable presser foot pressure via screw
*Nylon gears and 2 plastic panels aside.
Perhaps the biggest downside to these classic machines is the tendency for their plastic parts to yellow. Nearly every 830 I've come across has some degree of yellowing on the motor cover or on the rear panel. And while I liken dings and blemishes to battle scars that give a vintage machine character, aged plastic is one vintage look I'll pass on.
Cosmetically pristine machines are hard to come by and I consider myself very fortunate to stumble on this one. After some TLC and some motor work, she now looks and runs like new.