A machine maintenance day was advertised on the Guild forum, so I signed up for it. Although I'm a mechanical engineer and not averse to repairing things, knitting machines have always made me somewhat nervous, owing to the brittleness of 1980s plastic. I've never progressed further than taking the back cover off - actually, that was because there's an annoying gap in the SK840 which is the perfect size to eat double-ended bodkins. So when this day was advertised, I jumped at the chance to take part. It was being organised by fellow RO for Northamptonshire, Wendy Piper, also known as Knits n' Bits on Ebay.
Well, the satnav confused me somewhat and took me on a mini-tour of the village - why Ms Garmin can't admit defeat (or admit I missed the turning) and tell me to turn around, I don't know - but I soon identified the building we were in because there was a machine table sitting outside. It was to be held in refurbished stables which have underfloor heating - I'd expected to be a bit chilly first thing, but as it turned out we were toasty all day!
There were ten tables laid out with cloths, screwdrivers and cotton buds, and each table had a tray underneath (this gave me visions of oil-changes and the leaky cars in the Coventry Road Transport museum). It turned out to be a receptacle for all the plastic parts, which got a good wash.
My machine, ready for disassembly.
Getting ready to clean up.
We had nine Brothers (some electronic) and a rogue Toyota. It was actually quite easy to get the plastic ends and covers off the machine, and get the covers off the carriages - the electronic machines weren't completely disassembled where the printed circuit boards were mounted - and the needles were quickly removed for a sonic wash. Wendy's hubby Ged was in charge of the sonic cleaner, and then he was also the man with the compressed air - each machine got a good blasting outside. Luckily we had lovely weather on the Saturday. We all took packed lunches, but there were some cakes and biscuits and plenty of tea and coffee on offer.
Ged, hard at work!
The needles were popped into a plastic bag with a good squirt of Ballistol (we had numbered tubs so that we all got our own needles back) and we set about washing the plastic parts, drying them with a hairdryer and then reassembling the machines. Whilst my machine was apart (a KH881 I use for demos - it's hardly been used) I cleaned up the knitleader buttons, one of which kept jamming because the grease under it had set hard. I also got a first-hand view of the mythical "oil strip" that came with early Brother machines - a plastic-backed strip of foam, soaked in oil, that laid under the needles, in order to lubricate them. This was later discarded as providing no useful purpose and actually adding crumbled foam into places hard to clean!
A naked carriage on a naked machine!
It was interesting to see that the lady behind me had a KH950i, but her sinker plate had a slightly different design to the one on my machine at home. It also surprised me how many different (but almost the same!) screws Brother saw fit to use on these machines - I'm sure if they were manufactured today, there would have been some standardisation in this area. As it was, it was a kind of "Krypton Factor" game - screws were reinserted by a process of elimination. I managed not to have any left over, but I was lucky. The owner of the Toyota had everyone scratching their heads, as things had gone flying off when it was opened, and nobody was quite sure how it went back together.
Trying to figure out what went where - I seem to have finished mine (foreground)
As there was a bit of a delay waiting to get "blasted" (machines, carriages and brushes all got the treatment) it was lucky that Wendy had brought a few boxes of yarn and books for sale. I picked up some Inex skirt books and a very interesting Montse Stanley book about embroidering on knitwear. Yes, I was good and stepped away from the yarn, although I did look at it!
We ran over to about 5pm and all helped each other get needles back into place, which is somewhat time consuming. Everyone went home with a lovely shiny clean machine. It was a very useful day, and I hope perhaps there will be a Knitmaster-centric one in the future - although if I take the fine gauge, it might well take all week to get the needles out as there are 250 of them! :)
Many thanks to Wendy and Ged for organising it.