Brother (Profile) KH588

Brother KH588 knitting machine (also often called Brother Profile 588) is a gauge (4.5 mm) knitting machine manufactured in Japan. Brother KH588 is a metal flatbed knitting machine. It features 200 needles (positioned 4.5 mm apart, which makes this machine a standard-gauge one). Additionally, the end-caps are not plastic (like later Brother knitting machines) but metal, which makes them more robust and less prone to breaking (especially during shipment and transport) and UV-exposure damage.

Brother KH588 is capable of patterning using semi-automatic needle selection performed by 8-push buttons and a pattern center.

It was manufactured in the mid-seventies of the last century. I could not find more precise information on their first appearance on the market. But it was probably in the early 1970-ies judging by the release time of slightly older 8-pushbutton machines (KH581 and Profile 585). Another known name for this model is Jones KH-588 (you can see this name on the carriage below).

The machine and some of its assesories are blue in color. The end caps of the machine case and the lid are metal. The machine comes with a lace carriage, cast-on combs, and extension rails to hold the lace and the main carriages. The lace carriage sits on these extension rails when not in use.

The handle on this carriage detaches (screw on) and when not in use, is stored separately in the special toolbox, which also holds all other assesories (needle selection tools, claw weights, spare needles, etc.).

The claw weights are blue to match the nice blue shade of the machine.

I’ve seen two machines: with Japanese and English writing on the carriages. I did not mind working on a machine with Japanese writing since it is straightforward and typical for all machines. I also used a picture of the carriage with English writing as a reference.

The change knob on the carriage (with positions N, T and MC) is round like in most similar 8-pushbutton models (all but KH710) and even like in the later first punhcard model, KH800.

The pattern center features 8-push buttons, set-lever (it engages by a special ratchet tool and moves the needles after the corresponding buttons are pushed), reverse lever (to determine whether the operator wants to bring forward the needles that are selected or those NOT selected), slide dial (the knob helping the knitter to shift the needle selection by 1-8 positions without pushing/unpushing or selecting/unselecting the needles) and MC change lever.

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 rotate the set lever with a ratchet and the needles move forward to the C position. By rotating the ratchet to the ‘off’ position, the buttons return to the unpushed position. Another option is to push the reset button (the very first button – red in this case, right before button #1) to deselect the working push buttons.

The role of the reverse lever 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 role of the slide dial (controlled with the L/R knob) is to shift the needle selection. 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.

MC change lever has N and MC positions also accompanied by the open and black triangles, which helps if you get a machine with Japanese writing for all main functions on the main bed and carriage. MC change lever is used for fair isle patterning (when moved to the MC position). Details of fair-isle knitting for this machine, especially how to insert the second yarn into the side yar guide, are very similar to the KH800 knitting machine, which is described well in my video and blog.

The picture below shows part of the pattern center for the KH588: 8 push buttons, a reverse lever, a slide dial, and an N/MC lever.

The additional patterning is accomplished by moving and holding the carriage cam lever in positions I, II, or III and by pressing pattern selector buttons. Unlike some other Brother machines, including some 8-push button ones, holding cam levers (marked on the bottom side of the carriage as I, II and III) are moving horizontally along the low side of the carriage. On many machines, these cam levers are on the side. The carriage also has a change knob (on the top right-hand side of the carriage). This knob chooses normal, weaving, or fair-isle knitting.

If your carriage does not seem to be working correctly, you can refer to this article on common problems with the Brother knitting machine carriages.

The row counter is not a vintage one, like in its earlier counterpart Brother KH581 but a more advanced one that I see on later models of 8-pushbuttnon machines have. I like this version because these newer row counter models can still be purchased on the new-part market (for example, in my store) whereas the vintage one (like Profile 551 and KH581 have) can only be purchased on the used market (if you are lucky to even find one).

The shape of the table clamps is typical for older models – with two wide screws, one of which is attached to the main bed. The heads of the “S” for these table clamps are smaller than for similar ribber clamps.

Unlike many other machines I refurbished, Brother KH588 comes with laying-in thread feeders (two metal pieces lying next to the blue claw weights in the picture to the left). They are used for weaving. They are inserted under the knobs between the knob and the sinker plate.

The retaining bar is 41 x 0.5 inch and those are still sold new. Some knitters replace only the sponge and any dense sponge with the smooth fabric top should work. The sponge needs to be replaced every 6-12 months depending on how often the machine is used and oiled.

Brother KH588 can knit with KR586, KR587, and KR710 ribbers according to this chart.

There are some indications in the manual that knit leaders KL111 and KL113 might be compatible with this and other 8-push button machines. A special trigger lever needs to be installed on the carriage to activate the knit leader mechanism.

Replacement needles for these machines are still available on the used market. They are shaped differently than newer models of Brother knitting machines. They have an unusual concaveness next to the needle butt which makes them stand out. Sponge/retaining bars, however, can be found more easily.

Pros and Cons of Brother Profile 588 knitting machine:

PROS:

(+) 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 blue 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.

(+) The presence of the pattern center offers many combinations of needle selection to make the knitter’s life easier

(+) Compatible with several ribber models and with KL111 and KL113 knit leaders, which are also available in my store.

(+) The pattern center is a bit more advanced than earlier 8-pushbutton counterparts allowing for more automatic fair isle knitting

(+) The carriage also features a bit more advanced settings (N, T, MC) than earlier analogous knitting machines

(+) Comes with a laying-in thread feeder for easier weaving knitting capabilities

(+) The standard setup comes with a lace carriage. I heard from some knitters that knitting lace on 8-pushbutton machines creates one of the best-looking lace patterns…. Just heard – have not knitted enough lace to compare myself…

(+) The row counter is a more recent model, which can be purchased on the new market if the row counter is misplaced or lost or your machine did not come with one.

(+) The standard setup comes with a lace carriage. I heard from some knitters that knitting lace on 8-pushbutton machines creates one of the best-looking lace patterns…. Just heard – have not knitted enough lace to compare myself…

(+) A significant advantage of this machine relative to its later counterparts (pushbutton, punchcard 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 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 not ready yet to give up the feeling of satisfaction of hand-manipulating the stitches.

Since KH588 needle selection is fully mechanical, there are only a number of things that can go wrong and they are easily fixable (unlike electronic and punch-card machines). This feature makes these machines very reliable horses. It is excellent for designers who prefer to have control and like hand manipulation. This machine is also excellent for beginners who just started machine knitting. I also feel that Brother KH588 would be an excellent fit for somebody who is transitioning from hand-knitting to machine knitting and simply wants to accelerate their work while maintaining satisfaction from manipulating stitches and patterns by hand. This machine is compact as the bed is narrower than newer models. Because of this, the machine is lightweight, which makes Brother KH588 excellent for people who are not as strong with their upper body or for older knitters.

Brother manufactured also other standard-gauge 8-push button knitting machines: Profile 552, KH560, KH561, KH 581, KH583, Profile/KH 585, KH587, and Genie KH710. Brother 8-pushbutton knitting machines are very often available in my store for purchase.

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).

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


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