Brother KH710 knitting machine refurbishment

Or

How I disassembled the needle selector plates of a KH710 and they lived to knit again

I have purchased one of these older, push-button knitting machines and at first look it was not in too bad condition. I have fond memories of these machines; Jones KH588 machines were the first ones I used at college when I started my degree in textile design in the dim and distant past. Apart from being cream rather than blue, the KH 710 is pretty similar to look at, and has the same functions and a lace carriage included. The KH710 is a little more streamlined as the two carriages have integral handles, not screw-on ones like the 588.

The 710 unpacked, de-needled and ready to be worked on

After a quick assessment it seemed to be complete and by the state of the brushes, I would say never used – but the main problems were sticking push buttons and, sadly, rusty needles. It looks like the machine may have been stored in a damp place as the needles were rusted underneath the sponge bar. This is not too bad, as the hooks and latches are not damaged so I planned to salvage as many as possible. The sponge bar itself was disgusting, melted, sticky and disintegrating into the bed, but this actually made it easier to clean it and re-line with a replacement sponge from Xena Knits. https://www.xenaknits.com/

The new sponge bar ready to go in

Before I tackled the sponge bar I removed the needles and put them into a jar of 10% citric acid for about an hour or so to see if I could shift the rust. The needles came out of the soak and after a thorough rub with wire wool and surgical spirit followed by a gentle oil they are not too bad. I’ve only had to swap a few few dire ones for fresh ones, and after a knitting test the salvaged needles knit fine. I’ve tried tuck, fair isle and slip in an acrylic 4ply and all went well.

Sample still on the machine, fair isle, tuck and slip all working OK

However, I now needed to take a look at the push buttons as some were sticking down. This started with number 8; it was very slow to rise up so the cancel button didn’t clear the selection and the needle was reselect – really annoying.

Brother apparently didn’t issue a separate service manual for the KH710, so I worked with the KH588 one I have, which was a good starting place. Although I have taken these machines apart before it was a long time ago, so I trawled the internet and found useful info on YouTube from the Answerladyknits and also from Vintage Knitting Machines. However, as with the service manual, these feature older KH585 and 588s which seem to be slightly different inside – particularly where the button module sits.

Whilst working on the machine I cleaned out the buttons, not that they were dirty, but one of the little springs was out of line, so had to be babied back into position. I may have done that whilst repeatedly testing the buttons for a clean return.

One of the parts that was difficult to get apart was the long wire that is attached to the plate which slides the button/needle selection across the bed. This is connected to the black numbered scale on the cover which shows the needle positions and has to be removed if you want to take the main back cover off. The screw is difficult to remove becasue there is nothing behind it, so no resistance to turn against. I managed to strip this and needed to use pliers in the end and a new screw was needed to replace the old one.

Since starting the refurbishment I’ve taken it apart several times and made a video which might help people with this model. I will put it on YouTube and link to it at the end of this post. The first time I removed the case, and sprayed the insides with LP1 to clean and food grade silicone to lubricate as recommended by Jack on the Answerladyknits, using both on the selector plates as well. After testing I thought the buttons were freer, but they reverted to sticking quite quickly, and had this had now moved to numbers 3 and 7. By now they were not miss-selecting but the slow return was annoying me! The physical needle selection with the set lever was also a little sluggish, so I decide the problem was probably with the needle selector plates inside the machine rather than the buttons themselves. All really frustrating. A lot of rude words were heard!

As I had taken the machine apart I thought it might be useful for other owners of 710s to see how I did this. Sadly I didn’t think of this until I was putting it back together again, but have put photos and video together to show most of my method, as you can see below.

This video explains how to disassemble and reassemble a Brother KH710 push button knitting machine. I have also made another video about unsticking sticky buttons on this machine and refurbishing rusty needles.

This video explains how to check over a Brother KH710 push button machine and the first thing to try to release sticky buttons. It also describes how to clean rusty needles and knitting to test the machine. For a more advanced fix, which includes taking the needle selector plates apart for extremely thorough cleaning, read on…
Garment pattern in tuck and stripe knit cotton yarn. Prepared in DAK 9 to be knitted on the KH710

At this point, thinking I had solved the problem I decided to knit a garment to test the machine. But whilst knitting this number 3 button began to get sticky and annoyingly slow to respond to the cancel button and pop up to neutral. It was only a little glitch, but enough to be noticeable. I also noted that number 1 and 2 were a bit slow as well. After I completed the back my frustration with the buttons overcame me and the machine came apart again.

This time I decided to concentrate on the needle selector plates. There are eight of these plates which are thin metal strips with tabs along the top, longer edge that look a bit like castle battlements. These are sandwiched between two ‘L’ shaped nesting metal needle selector plate holders in one complete assembly. Each thin plate has differently positioned, evenly spaced tabs which correspond to a push button and a needle. These plates are held in the needle selector plate holder with pins and screws and slide across each other, so must be clean and smooth without any gunge between them.

Close up of the selector plates when out of the machine, but still in their holder. In this image, plate one, which responds to button one is at the back, plate eight, which responds to button eight is at the front. This positioning depends on the way in which the needle selector holder is viewed.

The way these plates work is rather neat. Each has a different sequence of holes, (round and elongated) along their length. They also have as series of slots shaped like extended ‘U’s. When the plates are stacked together in the holder in the right order the holes overlap, forming a set of eight small holes that line up with the control wires, (or feelers) that come from the eight push buttons. When a button is pressed its feeler wire moves to the side, sliding the corresponding plate so that the tabs are inline with the needle number (1-8) to be selected. However, the plate is still too low to touch the needle butts and this is where the pins and slots come into action. When the plates are stacked in the holder, the slots fit onto the pins. As a plate slides, the slot travels over the static pin and the plate rises upwards as it reaches the higher side of the ‘U’. This lifts the tab high enough to align it with the butt of the correct needle. As the set lever is pulled the whole plate assembly slides forwards and each selected plate tab pushes the needle in front of it as it moves forward.

So I bit the bullet and stripped it down a bit more. To start with I unscrewed the white nylon zig-zag arm and removed the metal plate that slides the button selection/assembly along the bed from position 1-8. You can see how to do this in more detail in the earlier video. This allowed me to see the needle selector plates more easily. At this point the needle selector plates were still inside the machine. Next I tried taking out the three little screws on the base of the plate holder assembly which hold the right angle plate-holders together. This allowed me to open them up so that I could slide a scalpel blade between the plates to open the gaps, and squirt more LP1 into the gap and clean out any debris. I then stood the machine at 45 degrees so that the fluid would run out from between the plates and left it for an hour or so. After this the sticking improved, but didn’t go away. Plus I had a pool of lubricant in the lid of the machine that I had sat the end in… messy and smelly.

Next I decided to remove the plate holder itself. This involved removing the button assembly as well. Horrors! I was entering the dark side…

All the sensible advice is to avoid disassembling the needle selector plates, but I could see that there was a stringy, viscous substance between them preventing them sliding across each other. I really needed to clean this off! My envy of videos showing effortless button pressing on other machines spurred me on.

The selector plates being taken apart. Note the ‘U’ shaped slots and the labelling of the parts. These plates are shown with the tabs at the top, as they would be in the machine.

It all came out quite easily, which was a surprise to me. The whole needle selector assembly is mounted on three raised-head screws that enable it to slide from left to right but there is a long, screwheaded nut that fits through a metal blocking plate attached to the button assembly which stops it sliding totally off these mounting screws. I had to remove this long screwheaded blocking nut to remove the holder from the machine body. The button assembly had tocome out as well, so before going any further I carefully unscrewed the two large headed screws that hold it in place on the metal slide its rear. Once that long headed blocking nut was removed, and with a little fiddling the whole needle plate holder could be slid to the ‘keyhole’ end of the three long screw slots and holder and button assembly lifted out completely. The button wires could then be slid out of the plates and put to one side. Mine was clean, but if yours needs cleaning do that after cleaning the plates and before reassembling it all.

The long screwheaded blocking nut fitted underneath the needle selector plate holder. It fits through that metal plate so that the plate stops against a bracket, preventing the needle plate holder sliding all the way out of the raised-head mounting screws.

Now it was easy to take the plates apart. BUT, if you do this, take the time study how it all works before starting. Take lots of photos as you disassemble, and label each part clearly in permanent marker BEFORE moving it. Then if you knock things over, or have to leave the machine for a period of time, you will know how it goes back together again.

My order of work, once the holder was out of the machine, was a follows:

Remove the inner plate holder

Label L and R end

Remove all the plates in one go and lay them parallel to the inner with the tabs facing away from you

Label the outer holder L and R.

Carefully separated the top needle selector plate

Label it on one end. I used ‘L1’ meaning it is push button 1, and that that end matches ‘L’ on the holders. All others followed as ‘L2’, ‘L3’ etc. One is the plate at the rear of the holder, eight is the one at the front.

Wipe the plate clean of oil and dirt and polished both sides

Replace it onto the pins in the outer holder, matching L to L.

Repeat with each plate, making sure to label them methodically.

Test that the plates slide smoothly.

Screw the holder back together.

Phew, time for a cuppa now!

With a little fiddling the button wires went back into their respective holes. I found this easier to do with the assembly held so that the wires were vertical.

Sliding the button wires back through the selector plate holes

Because that long screwheaded blocking plate nut is really awkward to replace in situ I replaced it in the needle plate holder before putting it back into the machine. This meant that I had to remove one of the raised screws which the holder slides on otherwise the blocking plate didn’t fit correctly and the holder would not slide. These raised screws attach through to the set lever mechanism, but temporarily removing the left hand one, (button side of the bed) meant that I could slide the needle selector holder and button assembly back in place so that the blocking plate and nut fitted together correctly and did their job. Just remember to replace and fasten this screw before you move anything else.

A quick test showed that the buttons were zapping away cleanly and efficiently and that the needles were selecting with ease. After that is was plain sailing, and the machine went back together as shown in the original videos without any problem.

I hope this might help anyone who wants to take a Brother KH710 apart for repair. I certainly could have done with a bit of help.

I will put this into a pdf at some point and upload it here.

Googling myself again!

I took a quick look at the Amazon page for my book Translating Between Hand and Machine Knitting and thought I would share some reviews.

I notice that subscribe wishes to express their annoyance because the price has been reduced. I fully appreciate how annoying this can be, and wonder if retailers understand how this upsets customers. I felt similarly annoyed when I bought a new drawing tablet only to see it was reduced by £40 in the Black Friday sale two weeks later! They wasn’t much I could do but accept that I’d had two week’s use of the tablet already, (working on my next book). So although this is beyond my control, my apologies to anyone to whom this has happened.

So moving on from issues of frustrated shoppers, here are some of the very nice things said about the book.

JayBards from the US writes, ‘5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Coverage of Topics, Great Photos and Illustrations’, and finishes the review with, ‘The text is really well-written, very clearly presented, easy on the eyes, and a pleasure to read. This book will become an important part of my extensive library on knitting. In short, I LOVE this book! Congratulations to Dr. Haffenden on an excellent book that should become a classic.’

Thank you JayBard for your feedback and review.

Meceo from Canada writes, ‘This is one of the best books I’ve purchased covering the hand knit patterns converting to knitting machines. It is beautifully done with lots of photos and information to help anyone interested in this type of knitting.’

Sharon Sullivan from the US writes. ‘Very well written book. Haven’t had the book very long, but the time I’ve spent going through it so far, it’s an A+ book. Content is excellent. Photography is excellent. Easy to understand. Definitely worth the cost. I don’t usually do reviews, but think everyone should know that this book will help a machine knitter immensely.’

Its so helpful as an author to get feedback, and positive criticism, (suggesting improvements rather than just pointing out what you don’t like) is the most helpful.

So thanks to all who have taken time to review my book and help others decide if it is right for them.

Top-down knitting resumed

Back problems have meant I need to avoid computers and knitting machines for a while, so I wanted a hand knit project to work on. Digging around on shelves, ( I can’t get at my stash boxes at the moment) I found a bag of knitting I had forgotten about. Inside was the first few rows of a top-down sweater. I remembered how long it took to work out the pattern, (yes I did it myself) and how carefully I chose the yarn. The notes with the pattern are dated 2013, which says volumes about my engagement with larger hand knit projects!

Luckily the moth had stayed away, thanks to ziploc bags, and I haven’t used the balance of the yarn for something else. This seemed a perfect opportunity to get on with my long-lost dream jumper.

I knitted a top-down jumper last winter with good results. Although it has dropped quite considerably due to the stitch I used, do is more a dress than a number. I like the method because you can check the shoulder fit, which is so important, and adjust it before embarking on the larger areas. Monte Stanley wrote about top-down knitting and as I am interested in integral knitting, I find the technique intriguing

I had obviously found fault with the stored knitting because there is an separate neck and shoulder be sample threaded into waste yarn in the bag. On reflection I seem to remember it was discarded because of the shaping finish rather than size. I will unravel it if I need the yarn later on, but at the moment it is useful for reference.

It’s knitted in DK alpaca/wool/silk blend yarn on a very pretty warm stone colour.

I’m using a 4mm circular needle from the KnitPro convertible system. These are very versatile so am using these for this project where they are separate ‘tubes’ to work on. Being able to change the length of the cable means it’s easy to work narrower sleeves as well as the larger circumference of the body.

The design is a raglan sleeve, generous fit jumper with cable panels running up front and back. Shaping is worked fully fashioned along the raglan ‘seam’ lines using lifted left and right increases. My initial sample was not fully fashioned, and clearly the fully fashioning makes a much nicer finish.

I’ve just finished one sleeve, (stocking stitch) with fully fashioned decreases along the underarm ‘seam’, and the fit seems good so far.

Part way down the first sleeve. As you can see, I love stitch markers!

Working out the pattern was quite complicated even though I used Designaknit for the basic silhouette. It was easy enough to invert the shapes, but then I had to combine them in-the-round. Some maths later I had a picture in my head, and the numbers to match it on paper. I worked out the positioning of the cable panels manually because it was important to have plain stocking stitch for the raglan shaping.

If I get the next sleeve done I might even got to finish the cable front and back before 2025!

Update : OK, it’s now the end of December and I have completed both sleeves and am part way down the body. So far I’ve used one bag of yarn, (500g) and anticipate using another 200g, making the jumper quite heavy!

The body is slightly flared, just enough so that it’s not a straight tube shape. The increases are worked down where the side seam would be, and at the outer edge of the outer cables every 11th row.

The sleeves folded towards the front cables. The cuffs are knitted as rolled edges on 3.5mm needles for 8 rows.

Update January 2022

The jumper is now complete! First blocking fine, now test-wearing before sewing in the ends. Then I shall wash so that it matches the revision swatch and the stitches even out a bit more. Something I noticed whilst knitting was that although this is a lovely yarn it has a tendency to leave fine fibres on the needle so the stitches catch. At first I unpicked and reknitted some stitches, thinking I had miss-knitted the stitches and it took me a while to realise what was happening. Gentle tugging releases the fibres and opened the stitches, but from the tension swatch I can see that washing will even the knit out.

The neckband is a single rib with a rolled edge. The neck band was picked it up into the neckline so is integrally knitted which has a tendency to stretch on top-down sweaters. In the past I have sewn take along the back neck to stabilise the neckline, but Roxanne Richardson on her YouTube channel suggests making a line of crochet slip stitch along the back neck instead. She also suggests using this solution along raglan seams.

Because it’s knitted top down, seamless I’m going to watch the raglan ‘seams’ to make sure they doesn’t drop. If the jumper does start to drop I will also work a crochet slip stitch in the back of the seams to stabilise them.

I’m just hoping the weather stays cool so I can continue to wear my new jumper.

Long staple Scotch Mule fleece

I purchased these two fleece in July and due to family and work things didn’t get around to washing them until August. They are what I believe is called Scotch Mule, a cross between Blue Faced Leicester and Scottish Blackface. These two were classed as ‘more BFL than Blackface’ which is what attracted me.

I set up a suint bath for them which is still going strong, (and I mean STRONG in an olifactory way when it is disturbed. The suint does clean well, but my family are threatening to leave home if I continue for much longer. Only four more bags need to be washed, and are soaking in the ghastly liquid right now.

They have come up nice and white with delightfully soft locks. There is stil some VM to be picked out during combing, but it wasn’t too bad overall. Some dirty tips have had to be removed.

I am very excited about starting to process the fleece using a set of Viking wool combs. I used these for a Lleyn fleece last year and was pleased at how fast I got at the combing (though sadly not as fast as carding).

Should I dye the locks before hand or after spinning? To be honest there is so much I could do some and some. The average staple in one fleece is 7″ and the other is 9-10″, which is going to lovely for worsted spinning.

Distaffs

I recently read an article in SpinOff about distaffs and decided to try using one when spinning in a wheel, not just on a drop spindle. Luckily I had a handy drumstick lying around that I use to roll rolags off the blending board and it is just about the right length and weight. Its varnished surface also helps the wool slide off easily as I take it from the distaff.

At the moment I am spinning Ryeland fleece and have been preparing batts on the drum carder. I used to be able to take a roving off but since the carder was motorised its not so easy as it won’t rotate freely. So now I split the batts into narrower lengths to wind around the distaff. This seems to work OK and after a spray with spinning oil I find the fibre supply much easier to handle in this manner. Using my (new) large double drive wheel I get a good speed up and even doing short draft can spin a surprising amount, (for me anyway) at a sitting.

I will carry on with this and see how it works out. I may even get to attach the distaff to one of the wheel uprights which might be even more efficient.

Distaff held in my waistband, but sometimes under my arm or in my outside fingers.

Another Spinning wheel

Rather like buses, spinning wheels come along when you are not looking in the right direction. I didn’t intend to gather another into my collection, but could not resist this one.

My new-to-me Norwegian wheel

This one is a Frank Herring imported Norwegian wheel from the 1970s (I think). It’s had a lot of use and a bit of abuse, but works fine. They are after all meant to be used!

I really wanted a double drive wheel with a large wheel that has a good solid tensioning system. My converted d drive is OK, but it’s really hard to get the take up going without cranking the mother of all up at quite an angle.

Part of my rationale for the wheel is that I grew up near to Dorchester, where Herrings are based. I used to see this very (maybe?) wheel in their window in the High St as we went past on the bus when visiting my grandparents in South St, and found it a magical thing, even as a child. So it’s a short of revisiting childhood, reclaiming the magic, back to my roots thing!

I never could have imagined the path my life would take as I gazed at that wheel, and now I own one. Definitely a personal journey. I don’t care if it creaks!

Actually it spins beautifully, plenty of take up and very easy to adjust. I probably need to use a slightly better drive band than kitchen string…

I just need a few more bobbins as it only came with one.

Ryeland on the bobbin… Should be Dorset really…

I am in love….

Plein-aire spinning

A bit like outdoor anything – providing its not raining or freezing – spinning is enhanced by the open-air. I took my little Louet wheel with me whilst on holiday on the Pembroke coast recently. We were being careful and avoiding towns etc in our caravan sitting on a farm, so there was plenty of opportunity to spin in the lovely sunshine. It seems ages ago now, but was so refreshing.

Victoria beside the caravan, enjoying the view.

I took a bag full of mixed colour Jacob’s fleece and sorted it into dark and light before hand carding it. Ifirst of all spun a skein of cream to test the tpi and grist I was aiming at and on a rainy day decided to dye it with the onion skins from our soup.

All very earthy!

I can’t resist a marl yarn, so plied the colours into variations on this.

From left: knot or knop marl, slubby marl, onion dyed 2 ply, chain plied random carded colours

First ‘in person’ TAG meeting of 2021

Our local Textile Arts Group (TAG), finally managed to meet today. Eight of us met up with Covid secure arrangements and as the weather was sunny we were in fact able to sit outside the hall to spin, knit and talk.

It was lovely, and everyone has been busy learning new things and perfecting their skills during lockdown.

Wheels all going madly
Natural dyed fibre

I took my Louet Victoria folding wheel and spun up a bag of Suffolk fibre that will be used as the core for a fancy yarn.

New members are always welcomed. If you live near Brighton and like to know more, or would like to come for a taster session, do get in touch.