Brother Profile 552 knitting machine is a rare find and I was lucky to work on one and even knit on it.
It is a standard-gauge machine (which means the needles are 4.5 mm apart) with 200 needles. It has a metal bed and (lightweight) metal end caps (which is a huge advantage because the plastic end caps of later models often break during shipment or age and crumble due to UV exposure).
My online research on when this knitting machine was manufactured brought only scarce results. I suspect that it was released to the market in the mid-1960-ies because later 8-push button machines have a bit more advanced features and because KH552 looks and feels very similar (judging by simpler carriage and overall design) to its 4-push button counterpart, Brother Profile 551. Brother Profile 552 model is only one number higher than the previous model (Profile 551, 4-push button). So, it makes me think that Brother Profile KH552 is the first 8-push button knitting machine for Brother to release to the market.
If the carriage does not seem to be working correctly, you can refer to this article on common problems with the Brother knitting machine carriages.
The pattern center includes eight needle-selection buttons, a reverse lever, a slide dial, and a set lever. It is truly a genius of mechanical engineering, like other non-electronic knitting machines.
The role of the set lever (the one that is rotated with the ratchet tool) is to bring the needles forward: you push the corresponding buttons and then turn the set lever with a ratchet and the needles move forward to the C position. By turning the ratchet to the off position, the buttons return to the unpushed position. Another option is to push the very first button (the green one before button #1) to deselect the working push buttons.
The role of the reverse lever (controlled with the A/B knob) is that: for example, you want to select needles 2 through 8. So, you simply push button #1, turn the reverse lever to B, and rotate the set lever: all but needles in position 1 will be brought forward.
The carriage has tuck, plain, and part buttons. The holding cam levers have positions marked I, II, and III. Buttons on the carriage are used for fair-isle, tuck, and part-based patterning. Holding cam levers in the position I are used for basic knitting: all needles in B and D positions (fully extended) will be knitted. Refer to the manual for knitting with cam levers in II and III positions. But the general rule is that II position for needles in C and D positions as well as for tuck knitting or/and knitting only on one side of the knitted panel (i.e., for neck shaping). when cam levers are in III position, normal knitting occurs only on needles in the B position.
The role of the slide dial is to shift the needle selection. It is controlled with the L/R knob. For example, a pattern requires the selection of needles 1 and 5, then 2 and 6, then 3 and 8. Instead of pushing and unpushing the corresponding buttons (like what you would do on earlier 4-pushbutton models), you simply push buttons 1 and 5 and then simply move the slide dial to the corresponding number of places. If you move the dial only once, needles 2 and 6 will be selected even though buttons 1 and 5 are still pushed in. If you move the slide dial two places, then (even though the buttons 1 and 5 are pushed in) needles in positions 3 and 7 will be moved forward.
The additional patterning is accomplished by moving and holding the cam lever in positions I, II, or III and by pressing pattern selector buttons.
Standard setup includes a toolbox with a lid,…
…which holds all minor assesories (a typical set). The claw weights are cute and match the color of the machine. Very often the plastic of this box is brittle due to its age (plastic in the old days was not of such high quality as modern days) and is unsalvageable. The machine comes with cast-on combs: one long and one short.
Not many additional major assessors are compatible with this machine. Ribbers KR580, KR586, and KR587 (which are pretty rare finds) as well as KR810 (which is easier to find) can be used to convert Brother Profile 552 to a double-bed machine. I personally did not test any of these ribbers with KH552. Brother Profile 552 knitting machine does not come with the lace carriage. The manual of the Brother KL111 knit leaders suggests that the Brother Profile 552 knitting machine might be compatible with it. Knitleaders help with knitting and shaping the garments.
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 row counter (available in my store) is of a more modern design (unlike its 4-push button counterpart, Brother Profile KH551). However, the carriage handle is a typical (for older models) screw-on handle, that can be completely removed for storage.
The handle then can be placed inside the case in a specially allocated space. Mast, sinker plate, and cast-on combs also have allocated places inside the lid. The storage box sits on the left-hand side of the bed.
Table clamps are S-shaped, unlike later Brother knitting machine models. The head of the “S” is smaller than for similar ribber clamps.
Replacement parts are available only on the used market. The needles are unique as they have a slight bend near the butt part of the needle. they can be purchased on the used market or in my store.
(+) The bed is narrow which makes the overall setup compact, very light, and easy to handle.
(+) 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 manual/basic model since the needles can be moved forward in a predetermined pattern
(+) A significant advantage of KH552 knitting machine relative to its later counterparts (like, Brother KH710) is that all major parts are metal (with the exception of some small knobs and levers). Thus, no UV damage and discoloration to the main parts (unlike later models, in which UV damage, aging and the resulting discoloration of carriage plastic panels, end-caps and top panel can be quite significant).
(-) Despite the presence of the pattern center, a lot of manual keeping track of which needles to select is needed.
(-) parts are only available on the used market.
(-) unique needles that can only be purchased on a used marked
(-) Two- and more color fair isle knitting as well as other patterning requires a lot of manual manipulation and color switching. It is, however, typical for manual and push-button knitting machines.
Some might find the machine too simple – yes, it has only limited patterning capabilities. However, with manual needle selection and yarn manipulation, the possibilities are endless, which is kind of a big plus to artists and hand-knitters who just transitioned to machine knitting and are not ready yet to give up the feeling of satisfaction of hand-manipulating the stitches
Overall Brother KH552 is a very robust mechanical machine that will continue to serve knitters for years especially if kept indoors with humidity and temperature control. To see one of a few Brother Profile 552 machines in action, check out my video of testing and knitting on it.
Brother manufactured also other standard-gauge 8-push button knitting machines: KH560, KH561, KH581, Profile 583, Profile 585, KH587, KH588, and Genie KH710. If you like this type of patterning mechanics but would like versatility, check out the Brother KH800 knitting machine: it has the same ratchet-based needle selection mechanism but it is actually punch-card based (thus, more unique needle combinations with 12-stitch repeat).
Brother 8-pushbutton knitting machines are very often available in my store for purchase.