How To Buy A Used Knitting Machine – Gauge and Parts
Our mission is specific. We want a knitting machine good enough to get the job done, yet cheap enough that we can bail if we don’t like it. We are looking for a machine with acceptable downside risk.
My focus today will be on Japanese metal bed knitting machines. I only recently got a Passap and will need more time with it before I can comment. The plastic bed Bond works for many but not for me.
So… lets begin.
Knitting machines have lots of parts. Some are essential and brand specific. Others are interchangeable between the same gauge machine. Still other parts can be used on all machines, regardless of brand or gauge.
Common Japanese knitting machines are:
The name was dependent on which part of the world it was marketed. For example, Brother and Knitking are the same and their parts are completely interchangeable between like machines.
My favorite resource for making sense of all the models made in the last 40+ years is the Chart History of Knitting Machines. I keep it handy so when I come across an ad I’ll know exactly when the machine was made and what gauge it is.
Frequently I find sellers have no clue about their knitting machine and make “best guesses” to my questions.
Knitting Machines are grouped by gauge, the distance between the needles on the bed. Standard gauge machines are4.5 mm, mid gauge machines are6.5 to 8 mm, and bulky machines are 9 mm. Finer gauge machines have smaller hooks for lace weight yarn, bulky machines have larger hooks to handle worsted weight and bulky yarns.
Pictured at right are three different gauge machines.
Starting at the top is a standard gauge, mid gauge, and then bulky.
If you count the number of needles in 9 cm, you have about 21, 15, and 11.
Plenty of sites discuss the merits of each gauge and the yarns they can accommodate. I’ve linked some of these articles on my Links page.
When you are paying over $1500 for a new machine, making a gauge decision is critical. When you are paying significantly less for a used machine, you take what you can get and say thank you very much.
Brand specific – hard/costly to find replacements
- needle bed and carrying case lid – this is the actual machine
- sinker plate assembly (Brother/Knitking) or arm (Studio/Singer/Silver Reed)
- row counter (if not built in, frequently a snap on part in accessory box)
Brand specific – easy to find replacements
- sponge bar (it is as long as the needle bed and installed under the needles)
Brand/not gauge specific – ease to find replacements unknown
- yarn tension unit (Brother/Knitking)
- auto tension and yarn rod (Studio/Singer/Silver Reed)
- table clamps to secure machine to the working surface
- electrical cord (if an electronic machine)
Gauge specific but not brand loyal – easy to find replacements
- transfer tools
- needle pusher tools
- latch tool
- cast on combs
Use on any brand/gauge machine – easy to find replacements
- ravel cord
- weight hangers
- assorted weights
If I come across a machine cheap at a garage sale and I want it to have enough parts to work, I need the machine and lid, at least 75% of its needles, carriage, sinker plate assembly, row counter, and a yarn tension unit. If it has a cast on comb, miscellaneous transfer tools or other stuff, I consider it gravy, pay the person, and smile all the way to my car.
Bent or missing needles are ok because they are relatively cheap and easy to replace. Same holds true for missing transfer tools, cast on combs, or weights. A cracked lid is a cosmetic problem, not a functional issue. No manual is a bummer, but many Brother manuals can be downloaded for free. Studio is more difficult. You may have to resort to eBay for a book.
Remember, this machine is cheap. If you decide you enjoy machine knitting you can always sell it online or through a local craigslist ad and trade up to a nicer model.
Now that you have a better idea of which parts are essential and which parts are easily replaced, go find a machine! Despite their quirks, they are a lot of fun.
November 16, 2006