Pros: powerful, simple, light weight
Cons: lots of plastic parts, not more readily available
I got this vacuum cleaner (Eureaka model 1934A) from a thrift shop for 25 dollars. While that's a bit much to pay for a used one, this is an awesome machine. I collect vacuum cleaners as a hobby (have 30 now!) and I sold them at Sears for two years, so I know a "little" about them.
This vacuum cleaner is a very simple one that is designed to do only one thing, but to do it very well. So many vacuums today try to multi-task, and they don't do any one thing well. Think "jack of all trades, master of none." They clean the air with HEPA filters, have attachments for everything except cooking dinner, do bare floors, but they don't do much on carpet. This machine CLEANS CARPET (and does it with style, grace, and elegance, I think). That's all. That's the reason the first vacuums were invented, and that's what this one does perfectly.
Why does this vacuum clean so well?
There are several things about this machine that make it clean well. The best thing is that it has a brushroll that has beater bars on it. These are little strips of plastic that serve to slap the embedded sand and dirt out from deep within the carpet fibers. It is this kind of dirt that slices and matts carpet over time, giving it that dull worn out look. Most vacuums came with beater bars back in the old days, but as of late, manufacturers have all but eliminated them from the brushrolls of modern machines. Another reason this machine cleans so well is because it has what is called a "direct air" or "dirty air" fan. That means that all the dirt must pass through the fan on the way to the bag. Vacuums that do not have this system (called clean air or bypass systems) route the dirt through the hose and the suction path is very long. Dirty air vacuums are more powerful because the fan is MUCH closer to the dirt and agitator cavity. The other reason that this machine is more powerful than many other machines is that it uses a bag to capture the dirt. Bagless vacuums in general (save Dyson, Rainbow, original Fantoms and a handful of others), especially in this price range (the Eureka 1934A is about 90 bucks new), have a small paper pleated filter in the middle of the dirt chamber. The dirt clings to that filter and clogs the suction almost immediately since the suction has to fight through all the dirt to get to the floor. The 1934A uses a huge dust bag (9 quarts), so there is a lot more surface area on the bag than any paper pleated filter in a bagless machine can possibly have. What's more, it uses a top fill bag where the dirt falls to the bottom, and the air can still flow through the top. Of course suction will diminish as the bag fills, but that happens slowly, and the machine will still clean even with a full bag because of the other two features previously mentioned.
What comes with the machine?
This vacuum comes with NO accessories. In the box of a brand new Eureka 1934A, the machine itself, user's guide, belt, and bag are the only things to be found. Assembly is simple. Just screw the handle sections together (the screws run horizontally through the middle of the handle) and attach the bag.
There is an optional accessory kit available for this machine that will give it the ability to be used with a hose. It includes a nozzle plate adapter (goes down where the brushroll is, hose connects to it), hose, dusting brush, crevice tool, upholstery tool, and one extension wand. I've not tried it, but it does exist. I'd recommend to get a supplemental canister vacuum if above the floor cleaning is needed.
There are a few things about this machine that some people may not like. The first thing is the extremely SHORT cord. It is only 20 feet! I have to replug the machine 3 times to do my entire small one bedroom apartment. Most vacuums have a cord that is 25 or 30 feet. This cord annoyingly short. Another bad thing about this machine is that it does not have a quick release cord wrap. You'd be hard pressed to find a modern vacuum that does not have a quick release cord wrap. A quick release means the upper cord hook will actually swivel so it can be turned 180 degrees and the cord can be removed without manually unwrapping it. I guess this is where the short cord comes in handy. There isn't much unwrapping to do! The Eureka 1934A cannot do bare floors like many machines can. There is no way to turn the brushroll off, the wheels are plastic (they make an awful noise on a bare floor, the vacuum will skate around, and they may scratch a bare floor as well, must bare floor friendly vacuums have rubber coated wheels), and because of the beater bars, certain bare floors may even be damaged by the machine. There is no headlight on this machine. I don't happen to care about that (I don't vacuum in the dark and most machines that do have lights have them so they shine on the vacuum hood itself and cast a shadow on the floor). While this machine looks like the old ones, the traditional parts that used to be metal are now plastic. The handle, motor hood, beater bars, and fan are all plastic now. While that makes the machine lighter, it also makes the machine less durable. I know someone who had this vacuum and accidentally sucked up a B.B. The fan made an awful noise and immediately shattered into a million pieces. Because everything goes through the fan, and the fan is plastic, great care must be taken not to run over the wrong kind of "dirt". I'm sure a coin would wreak havoc on this machine!
What about bags/belts?
While there are many modern machines that function without belts or bags, this is not one of them. This vacuum requires the use of both consumer replaceable expendable supplies. The good news about the bags is that they are relatively easy to find since several Eureka models from all the way back in the 70's to even some of today's commercial machines take them. In my area Wal-mart, Sears, and K-mart reguarly stock them. The are also readily available at any vacuum store and online. They are Eureka style F and G bags. There is a tube on the bag that fits over the tube (chute) on the cleaner. Then a spring is rolled up over the paper tube to hold it onto the vacuum's chute. Very simple. The bag is large enough to hold plenty of dirt before filling up. The belts are typical Eureka round belts. There's only one kind of Eureka round belt (versus the many different styles of flat belts used by various other machines), so it's easy! The only confusion that might possibly happen is if you were to buy a round belt for a Hoover Convertible. If it's round and says Eureka on the package, it will work! The great thing about this machine is that there are no tools required to change the belt. The (METAL, very nice) bottom plate snaps off with two thumb operated clamps. Then the belt is put around the brush roll and the motor pulley. A new belt is pretty hard to put on because it is so tight, so be careful, or have someone with big muscles do it for you!
Does it have a HEPA filter?
NO! As I said, this machine does ONE thing well and that's clean carpet. It doesn't clean the air too. There are better bags that have a filtered lining (opposed to just a single layer of paper) available. They are called Filtrete bags. They work well. Combined with the dense outer cloth bag, this machine filters decently if allgergens aren't a huge problem. Previous generations used vacuums very similar to this one for YEARS and they survived just fine!
This machine has 3 very simple controls. The pedal to release the handle from the upright position, the power switch button on the motor hood, and the 6 position height adjust knob on the front of the base. Hopefully, those are all self expanitory. This machine has a very pleasant motor sound. It's only 5 AMPS (which means only how much electricty it draws, not how well it can clean, do not be fooled by modern vacuum manufacturers throwing out 12 AMPS in their advertisements). That makes it a littler quieter than a vacuum that has a motor that draws more current. Combined with the 5 AMP motor, the brushroll gently slapping the carpet gives this machine a pleasant throaty sound not found on many other machines. This one is not a screamer to be sure! This machine practially GLIDES across the carpet. I don't know of it's just the light weight, or the way the wheels are designed, but this vacuum is super easy to push. It would be perfect for an elderly or disabled person.
This vacuum whisks up sand, leaves, cat litter and hair, and food crumbs with only one pass. While it's doing all that, it's also grooming the carpet beautifully and removing the deep dirt!
All in all, if you are considering this black beauty, by all means go for it! This machine is based on the old school design that probably will not be around much longer with consumers demanding bagless beasts that do a several different things. The proven design of the Eureka 1934A married with the light weight materials it is contstructed from make it a true winner. I know that I'm forsaking my Hoovers, Kirbys, Dyson, Oreck, Rainbows, Filter Queen, and Miele for this wondeful machine and loving every second of it!