If you ever get a second hand Japanese flat style knitting machine, the first thing is to replace the sponge retaining strip, or sponge bar. The sponge bars do not last longer than 2-3 years. It flattens over time and it will not knit properly. It is always a good idea to replace a new sponge strip and give the whole machine a thorough cleaning after putting away the machine for a while.
Types of sponge bars
Basically, there are several different types of sponge bars depending on the types of the knitting machine.
1. Standard gauge knitting machine: 4.5 mm gauge. Including the common Brother and Singer brand.
2. Bulky knitting machine: 9 mm gauge. Including both Brother and Singer brand. I am showing my Brother KH260 machine with KR260 ribber. Most people don't know KR260 Ribber requires a sponge bar too because most standard gauge machine ribber does not need one.
3. plastic bed mid-gauge knitting machine: 6.5 - 7 mm gauge. Including Brother KX350, 390, Silver Reed (old Singer) LK150, LK140 LK100.
There is also fine gauge knitting machine, but not very common. For metal bed knitting machine, the sponge strips are attached to a metal bar with 2 end caps. For plastic bed machine, there is usually no metal bar, just the sponge strip itself.
Where to buy new sponge bar
Check your model number before you buy the sponge to make sure it will fit. There are several ways people do to replace the sponge bar.
1. The easiest way and the most expensive way is to buy the whole sponge bar, including the metal piece the sponge is attached to. Just take out the old piece and slide in the new one. Done. That is what I am showing in this article. I buy mine from an eBay seller called Leanneco. They are in New York and the service is good from my experience. You do not need to wait for shipment from China.
2. The second option is to buy only the sponge of the right size and reuse the metal bar. You can buy it from eBay, online store, or use winter proofing sponge strip from the hardware store. This is more time consuming because you have to scrape out the old sponge, glue or tape the new sponge back, cut to the right size and tape down at both ends. It does save some money, but might be messy, and thickness of the sponge might not be ideal for your machine. It might take some experimentation to get it right.
Replacing sponge retaining bars for my Brother bulky KH260 and ribber KR260
1. Got my new sponge retaining bars in the mail.
2. Use a tool (anything small, sturdy and maybe flat) to push the sponge bar out from one side.
3. Comparing old flattened sponge bar and the new one.
4. Slide the new sponge bar in, the metal side facing up, sponge side facing down so the sponge sits on top of the needles. If needed, push down the needles with one hand while inserting the new sponge bar.
Do the same on both knitter and ribber bed for Brother 260 bulky machine. The KH260 knitter sponge bar will be longer than the ribber's. The standard gauge ribber does not need to have sponge bar replaced, only the knitting bed.
Cleaning and oiling
While changing out the sponge bars, I clean the needle bed by brushing away any lint, wipe with a slightly damp cloth on the plastic parts, and wipe all the metal parts with a rag and knitting machine oil. I have Lori-Lin brand that is recommended for the knitting machine.
If the needles are dirty or rusty, it is a good time to change out too. For a deep cleaning, take out all needles, put them in a jar with water, rubbing alcohol and knitting machine oil mixture. Shake a little until all dirt is loosened. Wipe with a clean cloth and air dry before put them back. Now the sponge bars are replaced, the machine is cleaned, oiled and ready to go. We will talk about changing sponge strip for the mid-gauge plastic bed next time. It is similar, just a little tricky putting the sponge back. Have fun knitting.