I took on a project of cleaning and conditioning this machine with enthusiasm because I already restored one Brother KH551 earlier this year. This machine was easy to clean – it needed some dusting, wiping, needle inspection, some needle replacement.
It came with ALL accessories (even including a silky thread) with the exception of hard copy of the manual (which can be found in here absolutely free: http://machineknittingetc.com/brother-kh551-user-guide.html).
Despite being familiar with Brother KH551 already, I was puzzled by some of the quirky perks of this machine.
For example, the sinker plate’s thread guide was somewhat different from the previous KH551 I restored: it had a bracket. I checked with FB experts on push button machines and they assured me that some KH551 indeed have such brace for better control over color change. When I was threading the yarn through this bracket, it did not cause me any discomfort and it only took two tries to get used to it.
Overall, the machine was in great shape even before I started restoring it. The row counter was not even stractch despite this machine being made in 1960s.
Even the undercarraige and the pegs were without any rust.
I extensively tested the patterning mechanism. I was not a big fan of constant ratcheting but I was pleased with the result. At least it was straightforward and easy to understand. Maybe sometimes challenging to keep track of the order of operation especially for a long pattern. Below you see several patterns I knitted by following the instrucions in the manual.
Then I wanted to make sure that the whole set of 200 needles functions smoothly. So, I started a blanket on a full bed and had good success!!
In my video I created specifically for this machine (https://youtu.be/epZrcb1MEZA) I show that it managed some challenging yarn pretty good as well!!
Below are the general pros and cons of Brother KH551:
+ Carriage is very light and slides very easily
+ The bed is narrower than other machines – which makes it more compact
+ …and makes the machine lighter than other similar models
+ relatively easy deep cleaning – all parts are solid and straightforward to insert/assemble/disassemble
+ The needle count is engraved on the bed – so these slippery and constantly in the way paper liners showing the needle count won’t annoy you by constantly sliding and getting lost.
+ Threading the yarn is a bit more intuitive and straightforward in my opinion
+ built-in capabilities for 3 different yarns
+ the hard case is a combination of fake leather and plastic, which makes it not only look neater and nicer than other machines but also mode durable. The case shows absolutely no discoloration despite the age of this machine.
- The push-button mechanism helps to select the needles but every row, you need to change the needles selected (basically turn the ratchet tool to SET and OFF). It might be tedious and you need to keep track of the correct order.
- 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.
Overall, I think this machine is excellent for somebody who wants to simply knit blankets, scarves or for people who find punchcard mechanisms and electronic mechanisms too overwhelming. It is also excellent machine for beginners since it is very robust and simple.
Also, you don’t even need to use patterning. Just find a thin self-striping yarn and knit by a simply stockinet stitch like I did to create this wonderful sweater for myself!!