Vertical oscillating hook · ZPS

Do you know ZPS?

I didn’t, but now I do, and I’m a fan! 😃

ZPS is a manufacturer of precision machinery from Czech Republic, established in 1903 and still going today, see their brief history at the company website. They have always made very diverse machinery, and at some point even sewing machines! 😉 The name ZPS came into existance in 1950 when the business was nationalised. It stands for “Závody přesného strojírenství” (abbreviated ZPS) – Plants of precise engineering.

In 1953 the whole sewing machine manufacturing division of ZPS was transferred to another Czech company – Minerva (read their history here). It was mostly industrial machines, and indeed Minerva still exists today as a part of Dürkopp Adler group, making industrial sewing machines.

So what about my little beauty here? It was imported to the UK badged Chapman, but the badge was just a sticker which came off during cleaning, so I made my own logo, and I put ZPS. I know what it is because the hook and the bobbin case are clearly marked, and there are further markings inside the body.

It is a forward-facing vertical oscillator with 6mm (!) wide zig-zag, needle positioning, reverse and drop feed. The zig-zag was normally 4-5mm wide at the time, so 6mm is unusually wide. The bobbin case has a little hole in the finger which improves the quality of satin stitch as well as stitching with twin needle.

You can see here how tight and precise the hook assembly is. The machine is unusually quiet, and that is not because it has plastic gears – it doesn’t, not in the hook assembly anyway.

There is one plastic gear in the arm, and it drives zig-zag.

The forces affecting this gear are quite small, and it is still immaculate. It looks like there is also a model with cams out there – look at those mount points right by the big gear. I bet it is supposed to drive the cam. The arched arm that goes over that big gear moves the zig-zag actuator, so if you had a cam that moved this arm left and right, you’d get variations in zig-zag width that would make decorative satin stitches.

So I got myself another sewing machine… The VSM addiction is raging on! 😆

18 thoughts on “Do you know ZPS?

  1. I have a green “MINERVA” Model 122 straight-stitch-only sewing machine (that was “Made in Czechoslovakia”) and it appears to be a non-industrial machine. I would have loved to have been able to add a photo of it to this message, , but that option is not available.


    1. If you read that history of Minerva, you’ll see that they started out with domestic machines. They only started producing industrial machines when they got the sewing machine division of ZPS injected into Minerva in 1953. They continued producing domestics until 1968.


      1. Hi Elena,
        Thank you for your blog- I have been reading it the second day running.

        Minerva as a brand still exists and they still manufacture domestic sewing machines (well, manufacture…I think they have outsourced the production to someone like Janome or Brother). But Minerva is still considered a known brand for sewing machines. at least, in Eastern Europe and Russia-Ukraine.


  2. Thank you, I wasn’t even aware of ZPS’s existence! Interestingly, this machine seems to have the exact same body as the Lada 237, which is commonly seen on sale in Czech Republic. However, the guts are different as Lada 237 is a rotary machine. By the way, the red reverse button is broken off on about half of 237s being sold, so you’re lucky to still have it on 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Here these machines are pretty rare, and from Lada we only have the T132. I bought this one because I thought that the styling was similar to my T132, so I thought it was either another Lada or a different Czech machine. This ZPS is in very good condition. It’s a very strong machine, a proper heavy duty, the strongest of all my machines. I was doing an alteration on heavy leather trousers today, so had a chance to test it. 😁 This is now officially my strongest machine! Very impressed. Just need to upgrade the motor – it has a common domestic motor supplied by the importer, so I’ll just swap that for a better one. I haven’t tested it on fine materials yet – it is still too stiff with solidified oil inside the joints, so rather heavy going. More testing to follow later.


      1. Elena, I love your website, everytime I visit it, it gives me a pleasant experience.
        There are two at sale at my local Craigslist version, under the Minerva name, type 236, so hopefully I can join the joy. What kind/type (link por favor) of motor would you put on and for what exact reason? Faster sewing, more reliable, quieter or more penetration super-powers?
        Unfortunately, there is also a stunning green 122 hand crank Minerva. It’s getting harder and harder sneaking more machines into the house without a significant other noticing it.


      2. Hi Roger, note that Minerva is a different make, even if it looks the same from the outside. Sorry I cannot advise on the motor because our 220V motors are different from your 110V ones.


      3. I think it is likely the Minerva machines are a continuation of the ZPS model. Like the Gritzner 280 and Pfaff 280, when Pfaff took over Gritzner-Kayser.

        Image of the outside:

        Hope this links work, it’s an image of the Minerva version. Cosmetically almost identical. Internally I don’t know. But this pictures shows some of mechanics, does it look similar to yours?


      4. About my curiosity of the motor change, I can work out the power difference with the wattage and amperage, if you know them. I can than translate that to a similar version in 220V.

        And what I would also like to learn is for what reasons you wish to swap the motor? Noise, durability, power, speed?

        I’d love to know!


      5. Hi Roger, what I rather meant is that we don’t have that much of a choice of motor types. Also my very small experience with 110V motors shows that they feel very different even though they are supposed to be the same according to the laws of physics. May be it’s because I have to use a transformer, or may be not – I can’t tell! Here we basically have the same type of motor rated for 5000-6000 RPM, either with 40W or 50W output power. There are some that do may be 60W at a pinch, and old Janome motors that do 27W with more torque (rated for 4000RPM). But they all have essentially the same torque to speed performance. I have a few machines with their own non-standard motors that are significantly different in terms of torque to speed, but those motors cannot be readily used elsewhere. For example, Lada T132 has a motor with remarkable torque, but it is clockwise and semi-internal – it has no housing.

        So for my ZPS I used one of our standard external motors, but I picked a more powerful version because the mechanism is still rather heavy going, so a lot of power gets wasted. If a motor is too powerful, the machine runs too fast for my liking, so I lose precision at lower speeds.

        In my experience the amount of torque – and thus punching power – that a machine provides, depends mostly on the internal construction. The motor just supports that. ZPS has very good torque and punching power, the strongest of my round bobbin machines, which are all domestic, I must add. Lada T132, Necchi Supernova and Adler 87 come very close too, but the rest is much lighter. However, you still cannot sew leather with it, regardless of what eBay sellers tell you. I was repairing my husband’s leather trousers last week, they are biker’s trousers, so made of cattle hide rather than lamb nappa. ZPS could sew 4 layers, but to fix the waistband you need to sew 7-8 layers with glue between them. No chance. But my Mundlos vibrating shuttle machine sailed through it as if it were gauze, with the very same type of motor. In fact, in tricky spots I went stitch by stitch just turning the balance wheel manually. There the punch comes completely from the machine itself.

        So to answer your question on how I choose motors: I pick the ones with the same type of socket. 😀 As simple as that. Just minimising the number of different pedals under the table. So I usually just use our standard 1960s motors, where possible.


    2. It just occurred to me that the broken knob problem does not apply to ZPS because the internal mechanism is different. 😃 Does Lada 237 have the same internal belt as T132? This is the only weak point of T132 in my opinion.


  3. How on earth did you dig up that info about ZPS? A Google effort did not result in anything meaningful from my end. Facebook search, if you can call it that, no results either.


      1. I used and ‘ZPS nähmaschine’ as search term. Nothing came up. Care to link the page you found?


      2. The links are in the post already – to Minerva and ZPS websites. Those are in English, but I also remember reading German pages, probably Wikipedia. There are ZPS needles to be had on eBay. I am mostly finding my own blog now. 😕 There isn’t much info, so it’s mainly ZPS website and their history and Minerva history linked in the post.


  4. // It looks like there is also a model with cams out there – look at those mount points right by the big gear. //

    This machine is very popular in the exUSSR, but it’s known as Lada 238. And it seems to me, that it’s possible to put in it a fancy stitch unit from its predecessor called Lada 237. It is a very complicated mechanism, which can do a lot of different stitches such as waves, triple zigzag, meander, etc. But I’m not sure that these stitches would be as wide as 6 mm, because Lada 237 had only 5 mm zigzag width.
    Class 237 had rotary hook, and 238 had oscillating one, but inside the arm the construction is the same.
    Though I have to mention that I’ve never seen Lada 238 with a fancy stitches unit.


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