Brother KH800 knitting machine

Brother KH800 was manufactured in 1971. It is a standard (4.5 mm between the needles) gauge knitting machine with 200 needles. It comes in a unique bright emerald-green color and has a wide bed, which makes this machine heavier than usual.

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The standard setup should come with two screw-on handles: one for the main carriage and one for the lace carriage. Large assesories included with KH800 are extension rails, cast-on combs, and tension mast. I like that the yarn guide on the tension mast is an open triangle: it is much easier to thread and unthread the yarn this way. All major assesories are stored inside the lid when not in use. All minor assesories are pretty standard and include stitch transfer tools, weights, oil, etc. They fit nicely into the storage box.

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This is a very unique knitting machine. It is the first iteration of a knitting machine capable of patterning based on the punch-cards yet it still has features of older knitting machines, like vintage (with bends) needles, removable (screw on) carriage handle, MC/N button on the edge of the needle bed (like latest 8- pushbutton knitting machine modes, KH585 and KH710), bent (ribber-like) table clamps, greenish colors all over, metal end caps and a ratchet-tool activated needle-selection mechanism.

By the way, I while i was fixing one of the machines, I opened it up and got a very good glimpse of its patterning mechanism: read my blog and watch my video.

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Another uniqueness of this machine is its very wide needle bed because it includes a built-in tool storage box, a stand for punchcards, and a 12-stitch punch-card reader. The toolbox also has a tray on top of its lid to store tools during active knitting.

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The punchcard reader translates the pattern to the needle selection mechanism. I made a video showing the inside of this unique needle selection mechanism. Using knobs, levers, and buttons on the carriage, various patterns with different stitches (like, tuck, slip, part, weave, lace, and fair isle) can be created.

The manual, in my opinion, is especially confusing on how to knit fair-isle on this machine. So, I created a video showing the steps. The process is also described in my blog article.

This machine as well as other machines with punchcard patterning capabilities can be purchased from Etsy store or for less in my own independent shop. Read my post on how to choose the right machine for your needs. Regardless of the machine you choose, check out easy-for-beginners projects for your first knitting machine.

Replacement needles and detachable row counters can also be purchased in those stores if your machine comes to you missing these accessories.

The needle bed has markings for 5 different needle positions: A (non-working), B – working, C, DI and DII (for patterning, lacey, and fair isle knitting), E (for holding position where the stitches do not knit). These positions are also explained in the manual.

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The holding cam lever (the sliding knob on the carriage marked with letters one through 5) is a bit unusual for Brother knitting machines. I’ve seen such sliding holding cam lever on many Empisal machines as well as on Brother KH601. I suspect that this mechanism was first introduced to the Australian markets that also sold Brother knitting machines under the Empisal brand name.

It is important to set up the correct combination of the carriage buttons and the holding cam lever (HCL). The manual describes these positions in detail. Overall, HCL position at “3” is for normal knitting. Positions 4 and 5 reflect if you want a different setting for which needles will knit when going to the left and going to the right. HLC positions 1 and 2 correspond to the identical settings for knitting to the right and to the left. This feature is very similar to the carriage I’ve seen on Emisal and some other Brother knitting machines (mostly those targeted for Australian markets).

The carriage knob is round, which is typical for most previous vintage models: almost all 8-pushbutton machines have the same round knob with the exception for KH710. The carriage knob has N (normal knitting), T (for weaving), and MC (for fair isle) positions.

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The pattern center consists of an N/MC lever, punchcard reader and the red release button. To help knitters with the settings for patterning, the standard setup includes so-called “pattern card cassettes” and operation cards.

The vintage needles for Brother KH800 (featuring a bent new needle butt) can only be purchased on the used market. I have some in my Etsy store and my own independent shop.

Table clamps are S-shaped, unlike later Brother knitting machine models but very similar to all pushbutton knitting machines. The head of the “S” is smaller than for similar ribber clamps.

The knit-leader tripper is already included with this machine (the white upside-down V-shape lever tripped by the carriage movement across the needle bed). The same V-shaped lever moves the row selection lever in the punchcard reader.

The retaining bar needs a sponge strip, which needs to be replaced every 6-12 months depending on how often the machine is used and how vigorously it is oiled. The retaining bar is 41 x 0.5 inch and can be purchased new.

The sinker plate has retractable weaving brushes, activated with the green sliding button with N/T positions. These brushes, unfortunately, are quite unique and a pain in the butt to replace. But if you are not into weaving (or creating woven patterns or fabric), you do not have to worry about it. Most knitters do not even do weaving on their knitting machines.

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PROS:

(+) The bed is wide enough to accommodate a spacious tool storage box, card reader and a card holder.

(+) It is super easy to make your own punchcards. I printed out blank cards (available on the website with all knitting machine manuals) and punched the holes with a simple pencil. See my video and read a separate blog article on how to do it. 

(+) A straightforward view of the pattern card makes it very easy to go back one or several rows.

(+) The carriage is very easy to slide across the bed

(+) Excellent for beginners and those who transition from hand-knitting to machine-knitting.

(+) Relatively easy to deep clean – all parts are mechanical and straightforward, so it is easy to assemble and disassemble if deep cleaning is needed

(+) Nice green color, which makes it stand out.

(+) More advanced than just a pushbutton machine.

(+) The standard setup comes with a lace carriage. I heard from some knitters that knitting lace on Brother KH800 creates one of the best-looking lace patterns…. Just heard – I have not knitted enough lace to compare …

(+) Might be compatible with several ribber models (KR580, KR586, KR587 and KR810) and with KL111 knit leader, also available in my Etsy store and my own independent shop.

(+) A significant advantage of this machine relative to its later counterparts (KH710 pushbutton, later 24-stitch punchcard models and electronic knitting machines) is all metal parts (with the exception of some small knobs and levers). Thus, no UV damage and discoloration to the main parts of the machine (unlike later models, in which UV damage, aging and the resulting discoloration of carriage plastic panels, end-caps and top panels can be quite significant).

CONS:

(-) Parts, including needles, are only available on the used market. Check my Etsy store or my own independent shop (less expensive).

(-) A very wide bed which makes this machine somewhat heavy. But it still fits sturdily on a typical A knitting machine stand.

(-) Replacement of weaving brushes is a real pain.

An almost identical model is Brother KH801. I don’t own KH801 yet I could not directly compare KH800 and KH801 but judging by the pictures the only difference so far is the Japanese writing on the carriages and the pattern center in KH801.

Later models of standard-gauge  Brother punch-card knitting machines use a vertically inserted punchcard and a rotating punchcard reading mechanism. These models are Brother KH821, KH830, KH831, KH836, KH840, KH851, KH860, KH864, KH868, KH871, KH880, KH891, KH892, KH893 and KH894.

To the best of my knowledge, none of the other manufacturers made knitting machines with similar patterning capabilities and needle selection.

Don’t forget to check out the fun and beginner-friendly projects that can be done easily on any machine.


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