Brother KH260 chunky knitter being a cranky machine

There is only one photo to go with this post as I was so covered in oil I didn’t feel secure holding a camera!

I am running a machine knitting workshop for my local Brighton and Hove Textile Art Group (TAG) in a few weeks, and most uncharacteristically I decided to plan in advance and check out the machines I will be taking along.

TAG is affiliated to the East Sussex Guild of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers, so most members spin in one way or another (drop spindle or wheel), so knitting hand spun yarn seems a pretty sensible thing to cover in the workshop. Because of this I intend to take my Brother KH260 chunky, single bed machine. I do love this machine, but haven’t used it in several years. Whilst I was working on ‘Translating Between Hand and Machine Knitting’ I used my two electronics, a Knitmaster mid-gauge HK160 and a Knitmaster punchcard, so there just wasn’t room for the 260 to be out. Since completing the book I have been diverted to spinning and dyeing for a refreshing change, hence the long storage of the KH260.

When I unpacked the machine it was frustrating to find that the timing belt seemed jammed. The carriage would knit fine in stocking stitch mode, but everything else refused to work. Luckily my long experience at machine maintenance stood me in good stead to sort out the sticking cams on the carriage which were preventing the KC dial from activating and connecting the carriage to the timing belt, taking the machine cover off to expose the workings at the back, and understanding the basics of the patterning mechanism. For a start, the carriage and pattern mechanism parts were all covered in yellow, thick gloopy oil that I know glues the workings of the machines when they are left unused, so I applied LPS1. After watching many of ‘TheAnswer Lady and Jack’ YouTube videos when working on various machines I had invested in a can of this spray cleaner/lubricant; it works really well and is to my mind well worth the rather high cost (in Europe, not sure about elsewhere). According the Jack, LPS1 does not damage the plastic parts of the machine like mineral oils do and is similar in chemical composition to the Bellador oil supplied with Passap machines.

Having replaced a broken Brother timing belt before I’ve found its quite a long and exacting job so I am wary of timing belts and did not want to stretch or break this one whilst sorting out the problem. The service manual (downloadable from the wonderful resource at machineknittingetc.com) is really useful, but I still couldn’t work out what was jamming the belt. So it was back to ‘The Answer Lady’ and Jack, who is a fount of all knowledge on knitting machines.

After watching two of their helpful videos about the Brother timing belt I was pretty sure that the problem was connected to the right hand end of the belt and the associated cog and cam. On the right of the card reader, there is a round cog with a spring on the top that the timing belt goes around and inside this there are cams that activate the patterning mechanism; this clog refused to move more than a third of the full revolution, and felt ‘sticky’. So I soaked it in LPS1, making sure to get the little tube over the holes so that the spray would penetrate fully into the enclosed middle. But 24 hours later it was still stuck, but the black roller rotated, and now the card roller knob popped up and down when the cog mechanism revolved the short distance it was able to, but this still jammed after a third of a revolution.

After a further trawl of YouTube I found another, slightly older video that discussed reasons why the pattern mechanism won’t advance in a bit more detail. In this video, Jack explains that a drive cam hidden underneath that right hand, cog mechanism rotates the lower of the two card mechanism rollers (the white plastic one), which I had already noticed was not revolving when the top (black) one did. I now knew that the problem was definitely under that right hand mechanism. More LPS1 went into it; the machine case was now awash with the stuff! After another hour or so soaking the time had arrived for another test run.

With a rag to help my grip I nudged the clogged mechanism into a place it didn’t want to go. I could feel the gunk fighting me, but it was slowly yielding, and most importantly, as I nudged it, the lower, white roller began to revolve. I was now certain that the hidden cam was stuck up with gunk, and needed to be helped to free itself. I connected the carriage to the timing belt by setting it to KC, and if I gently moved this in the right direction I could add a little more leverage – gentle was the word here, remember my fear of damaging the timing belt? More LPS1 went in, and a bit more nudging back and forth, and slowly it all began to free-up. At last the cam gave and the clogged mechanism moved fully, the lower roller rotated and the punchcard mechanism advanced!

Wooppee!

Next came a test with a punchcard, which seemed to select needles and rotate OK. It took several rags to mop the LPS1 out of the case; it was leaking a bit and I didn’t want it to run out on the floor when I put the machine back on its end for storage.

Before putting the case back on I tested the patterning by knitting a piece, which worked up no problem. I felt wonderful – its such a kick mending something.

Those oily rags then came in useful to wipe off all the yellow gloopy oil that was left on parts of the inner workings of the machine. After that the case went back on. I’d reserved an oily rag to wipe down the beds and other exposed metal parts to protect and lubricate the machine; we live near the sea so I am very conscious of the rust factor. My old Knitmaster 700 had a rather sad case of rust when I was bequeathed it, but LPS1 was a great help in restoring it to good health.

I now have a working KH260, shiney and ready for the workshop. On to the next machine…

The Answer Lady and Jack videos can be found on YouTube, and these were the ones I used to help me with this problem.

Several Reasons why a Brother card reader might not advance, The Answer Lady and Jack, on YouTube.

4 thoughts on “Brother KH260 chunky knitter being a cranky machine

  1. Dorothy Bithell

    Loved reading this. I have a Brother 950i machine. It crunches selecting the patterns, and doesn’t always select the correct needles. I am frightened of it so just do the plain knitting or hand tooling now.

    1. HI Dorothy, Thank you for your comment. I’m sorry to hear about your crunching 950i. My first thought is that you need a new foam needle retaining bar (also called a sponge bar). If the sponge/foam gets compressed, which happens over time, the needles rise up in the bed and can hit the front plate or get under the wrong cam – making a crunching noise and jamming the carriage. This is particularly noticeable when working with needle selection when knitting a pattern. To check if its worn, first make sure the needles are in NWP. Look at the end of the bed, where the bed drops to meet the flat area where the needle hooks are lined up. There will be a white (possibly grey or pale beige) plastic tab there – if its not visible on one end of the bed, it should be on the other. Grip the plastic tab with a pair of needle nosed or narrow nosed pliers, and pull the bar right out to the side of the machine. The needles will jump around a bit, which is why you want them in NWP, or they will pop out of position. If you’ve not got pliers, you can try to use a narrow screw driver to lever the bar out until you can grip it with your fingers. If the foam is flat, your needle bar needs replacing. If its springy all the way along, its OK.

      Replacing the sponge bar is very simple. First of all get a new one from your local dealer or online, in the UK there are several online machine knitting accessory suppliers; BSK and Andee Knits to name a few, or eBay, I replace my sponges with a kit from Xena Knits that works out much cheaper and is a more sustainable solution. Its not difficult, but it is a bit DIY – maybe for the first time its better to buy one ready made. Make sure its for the Brother, although Silver Reed ones for the same gauge will fit at a pinch. Hold the needls down in the bed as you slide the new bar in, sponge down all the way along the bed, There may be a little resisitance, that is fine, but try not to push so hard that you bend the bar as you push it in. Check a needle is not blocking it before you shove too hard. I do hope this solves your problem. To preserve my sponge bars I take the new sponge bar out and repalce it with an old one when storing machines.

      If it doesn’t you may need to take another look, as it could be that a cam is jamming underneath the carriage. If you take the carriage off, see if all the little cams move freely when you turn the selector dial and press the buttons. If any are slow to move, give them a clean and a dab of knitting machine oil and work the button or dial until they move freely again. Another thing might be a bent piece on the side of the carriage. Take a look from above. There are little metal ‘tongues’ that poke very slightly outside the plastic cover on each side of the carriage. These direct the needles to the correct cam when patterning. If one of these gets slightly bent, when you take the carriage across to select the needles for patterning there can be a crunch as it bangs into the needles it should be directing towards the correct cam. These can get bent if the carriage is dropped on its end, or just through a bit of a crunch at some point.

      Lets hope the sponge bar does the trick – 9 out of 10 times this is the problem. Best of luck, Vikki

  2. Cynthia Schroemges

    Dear Vikki,
    Thank you for sharing your efforts on this machine! I’m also doing a bit of maintenance on my 260, with the help of Answerlady and Askjack.

    I noticed that you used LSP1. Can you tell me whether that was storebought, or via internet? My husband happens to be traveling to Brighton soon, and I was hoping he could pick up a can over there.
    Thanks a lot!
    Cynthia (the Netherlands)

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