Monday, July 31, 2017

Twelve Step Program for Rehabbing Machines

12-Step Program
For Rehabilitating Old Japanese Knitting Machines

Suppose someone gives you an old knitting machine, or you purchase one at a garage sale or thrift shop.  What should you do?  Here’s a step-by-step list that applies to Japanese machines – Studio, Silver Reed, Juki, Corona, Knitking, and Brother.  Some of this applies to Swiss and German machines, as well, but they are somewhat different. 
I believe you can do these steps without being terribly mechanically inclined – well, because I can do them!  Over the years, I’ve gotten quite a bit of practice fixing up old machines.  My husband, who has great mechanical talents, has encouraged me to help him rehab machines, even very old ones, and the outcome is nearly always a very functional machine, because these babies are built to last!

1.       Determine whether the machine is worth the effort required to repair it.  Generally speaking, if the knitting machine is heavily rusted, if working parts are badly bent, broken or shattered, you might not want to attempt a repair at all.   Don’t throw it away, though – someone will want it for parts.  The good news is that home knitting machines, by and large, were incredibly well built and last a long, long time.

2.       Make sure you have an owner’s manual for that model.  If you don’t, most manuals are available to download at  Free!  Bless the man who put up and maintains that site!

3.       Next, take a careful inventory and find out if any critical parts are missing.  This is not all that difficult.  Virtually all owner’s manuals I have seen have parts sketches or photos included, and you simply compare the parts to the pictures in the manual and see what might be missing.

4.       If parts are missing, figure out how hard they are to obtain.  If you are missing weights, transfer tools, cast-on combs, upper tension unit, or punch cards, those are relatively easy to get.  If you are missing the carriage, sinker plate, or electronic console, well, it will be a challenge to find and afford those major parts.  You will need to contact dealers, place requests on the machine knitting “for sale” groups, and check eBay.  I have a long history of always finding the parts I need, rather like a Mountie always getting his man, but I keep after it as long as it takes.  You certainly could end up in a situation where you don’t think it’s worth the cost and effort.  Brand new knitting machine replacement parts are quite expensive, and you can expect to pay for shipping.  This might be a good time to do some internet searches and find out what your model is worth.  When was it manufactured?  Does it have the more desirable features that might make it a machine you will want to keep for the long haul?  How much do they fetch on eBay?  How much do dealers charge when they sell them used?   

5.       If you have a complete machine that appears to be in good shape, you are lucky, but you aren’t finished yet.  Virtually every machine that has been stored any length of time needs its sponge bar replaced.  The sponge bar is a metal strip with foam rubber that fits inside the machine on top of the needles.  If your needles are popping up above the bed, you need one.  The sponge bar should hold the needles down against the bed.  The best way to get a sponge bar is to purchase one from a dealer.  You will need to pull the old sponge bar out, measure it, and buy one as close as possible to the one you took out.  In a real pinch, you can put new foam rubber into an old sponge bar, but the new ones do last longer. 

6.       While you’ve got the sponge bar out, remove all the needles.  The manual will have a page or two that explains how to remove and install needles.  They need to be thoroughly cleaned.  We soak our needles in a mixture of denatured alcohol and Hoppes Elite Gun Oil (only buy Elite, which is safe on plastic), and we use the denatured alcohol outdoors only because it gives off fumes.  We make three or four containers with this half and half mixture, using old jars, and put 1/3 of the needles in each container and let them soak a while.

7.       While the needles soak, vacuum the machine to remove fuzz from its innards.  If you have a machine brush, use that on it.  Wipe down the machine thoroughly using a rag with some knitting machine oil (again, I use Hoppes Elite). 

8.       Take the carriage and push every button and pull every lever and make sure they all work.  Turn it over and make sure that when you change a control on the top, something happens on the bottom.  If anything is stuck, penetrating oil will often loosen it up, but you do have to wait for it to work.  I’ll leave a stuck carriage on the kitchen counter, and every time I walk by, I’ll play with the controls until it’s unstuck.  Penetrating oil is available at auto parts stores.

9.       Turn over the sinker plate and make sure wheels and brushes spin completely freely.  If they don’t, use a cross-point screwdriver to remove them, then remove any fuzz or bits of yarn.  When you put them back on, use a drop of oil, and they should spin.

10.   After a while, take the needles out of their soak and reinstall them one by one, wiping them down, looking them over to see that they are straight and the tiny “latches” open and close easily.  Don’t use a bent needle or one that won’t open and close.  If the latches don’t work, the needle won’t knit.  Replacement needles aren’t usually terribly hard to get.  It’s a good idea to move the needles to new places.  The needles in the center of the bed get the most wear, so move those to the ends of the bed.  If you don’t have quite enough needles, “borrow” some from the ends of the bed so the middle ones are all filled in and order some spares.

11.   Test the machine!  If you’re a beginner, work the Beginner Course with it, and after that, go in the manual and check that it will do fair isle, tuck, slip stitch, and lace, whatever patterning it was designed to do. 

12.   Now that your machine is feeling so much better, keep it in the pink with a little routine maintenance!  Whenever you walk by it, poke the buttons and move the levers to keep them working.  Keep it oiled and wiped down, and give it an extra cleaning after a project.  When you vacuum, vacuum the machine, too.  Keep it indoors and out of the sunshine, and cover it when you’re not knitting. 

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