Standard Cleaning for Japanese Knitting Machines

​by Pat Holbrook

Cleaning the Carriage: 
* Remove the arm from the carriage. Turn upside down and using a natural bristle paint brush and clean rag, remove the dust, fluff and old oil. 
* Rotate the cam levers or part buttons and tension dial. Using a lint-free rag saturated with Knitting Machine Lube/Cleaning oil or the oil which came with your machine, rub it over all the moving parts. Follow the needle butt channels and carefully clean all the nooks and crannies. 
* If these parts are very dry, then oil directly from the container. The Brother, Studio and Singer oil containers have a brush at the tip to prevent the oil coming out in big blobs. Passap knitters are advised to use Bellodor oil which may be used on all machines. Bellodor oil is vegetable-based and is less likely to gum up the machines than the mineral-based oils.

Checking the Carriage Arm: 
* Check to see if all the brushes are spinning freely. Remove the brushes and clean out the lint from around the posts that the wheels sit on. Be careful removing the wheels as they are soft metals and can be stripped easily. Use the proper Phillips screwdriver. 
* Check the brushes and plastic discs for wear; it may be necessary to replace them.

Cleaning the Needlebed: 
* Clean the bed with the bristle brush and a dry lint-free cloth. Wipe out all the old black oil from the rear rail and the channel behind it. 
* You may at this point prefer to use your vacuum cleaner. Never use the vacuum to blow into the machine, only use it to vacuum out the fluff. The mini vacuum attachments are ideal for this procedure.

Check the Needles: 
Bring the needles out to E (D) position and pass the carriage over the bed a few times. Is there anything odd about the needles? Are they twisted, misaligned, bent, hitting the underside of the carriage? Do the latches stay closed and do not open?

If any of these problems exist, then the needles should be replaced.  Make a note of the needle numbers which need to be changed.

If changing a needle without fully removing the needle retaining bar, make sure the latches are closed. ALWAYS remove the garter carriage from the machine when removing the needle retaining bar.

Passap Machines 
To change a needle, remove the needle retaining bar. Using a pair of pliers, cut the head off the needle below the latch, then remove the needle butt. If you try to remove the needle without cutting the head off, it. is likely that damage will be done to the spring inside the machine. This is not easy to replace!

Japanese machines
Remove the needle retaining/sponge bar to check the condition of the bar. To do this, push the bar using a flat-bladed screwdriver or Cardiknits' new Sponge Bar Pusher and pull out the complete bar. The condition of the bar is generally related to the use of the machine. In some machines it is related to the age of the bar. Check to see if it is frayed, perished or has lost its springiness, or if the sponge is flattened. If it is just frayed, cut the frayed edges but be careful not to cut the foam.

The flattening of the bar can lead to damage of the main bed needles when the ribber is in use because the hooks catch in the connecting arm as the carriages are pushed to and fro. A flat retaining bar can also prevent the proper formation of stitches with the main or garter carriages. A replacement bar may be necessary.

Be sure to insert the sponge bar/needle retaining bar into the machine with the sponge facing down and hold the needles down onto the needle bed as you go so the bar is on top.

Cleaning with the Long-handled Brush
Before replacing the sponge bar, take a long-handled brush, sometimes called a cat tail brush, to clean out the front of the needle bed. Insert the brush (nylon bristle brushes do not lift the lint out) into the slot left by removing the retaining bar. As you push it through twist the brush towards the front of the bed; pushing it the other way could cause it to jam on the needle spring. Once clean, replace the sponge bar.

Outside Cover and Plastic Parts
The outside of the carriage can be cleaned really well with Simple Green.
Never use WD40 (it will locked up the machine) or any other chemical or household abrasive products on your machine.

Quick Check-off List for Cleaning Machines
Daily or weekly if the machine is not used every day:
1. Brush fluff from the carriage. 
2. Brush needles towards you. 
3. Wipe bed and carriage with a dry cloth. 
4. Oil the rails and the ridge at the back of carriage. Use Bellodor oil or knitting machine lube; just a drop on the finger tip will do.

Monthly or every couple of sweaters: 
1 to 4 above and oil the metal parts of the carriage. 
5. Snip frays on the needle retaining bar. 
6. Use the cat tail brush to clean under the needles while the retaining bar is out. Be very careful to not jam the brush in the electronics. Twirl brush toward the front of the machine, and slowly push it through until it reaches the other end. Then withdraw it and remove the lint. Re-insert if necessary to completely clean the channel. 
7. Vacuum if desired, but never blow the fluff into the machine.

1 to 7 above. 
8. Remove the needles in groups of 50 (mark as group A, B, C or D). Place each 50 in a separate bottle, and cover the needles with Denatured alcohol mixed with two teaspoons of Bellodor oil. Swirl around and let sit while you do the rest of 1 to 7 above. 
9. Withdraw the needles and allow to dry on a terry cloth towel or cloth baby diaper. Now, ten at a time, line them up on a table in front of you, arid remove all needles that are not perfectly aligned, whose latches don't close properly, or are otherwise damaged. Replace them. 
10. Reinsert the needles, putting the B section into A, the A section into B, the C into D, and the D into C (the outside needles now move to the inside and the inside needles now move to the outside). Replace the sponge bar with the spare retaining bar. 
11. Wipe down the plastic carefully. 
12. Clean and oil all of your accessories following the guidelines given for the main carriages. 
13. Take the time to clean around your knitting machine: the areas behind and under the machines have a tendency to "collect" stuff. 

This really isn't a scary procedure, it just takes time. But it is worth it. Your machines will be easier to use and your knitting will go much faster. Make a habit of setting a date to deep clean your machines each year, such as January 1st.

Two books on cleaning knitting machines that are highly recommend are "Make Your Knitting Machine Sing" by Scott Renno and "Passap Paramedic" by Michael Becker. These should be on every knitter's shelf along side a Lube specifically for knitting machines, Bellodor Oil, a long-handled brush, spare sponge bar and extra needles.

Cleaning a Knitting Machine

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