Brother KH836 tested in July 2023

Brother KH836 knitting machine is one of the many models of knitting machines with punch-card capabilities manufactured by Brother. The machine is standard gauge (which means the distance between the needles is 4.5 mm). There are 200 needles. It accepts punch cards with 24-holes (which makes it capable of knitting patterns with 24-stitch repetitions).

Unlike its younger counterparts (Like Brother KH892 and KH894), it does not have built-in intarsia. But KH836 works with KA8210 intarsia carriage.

After working on both punch-card Singer/Studio Brother machines, I can see clear differences and personal pros and cons. But both machines are still great and offer a variety of possibilities. The thing I like about Brother punch card machines compared to Singer/Studio ones is that the lace carriage comes as a standard accessory. I like that rails are included as well to put the second or lace carriage to the side while using the main carriage on a full bed. I very much like the presence of the cast-on combs since using them is my favorite (and quickest in my opinion) method to start knitting.

However, unlike Brother lace carriages, Singer/Studio lace carriage (even though it is sold separately and is quite pricey) needs only one pass when knitting lace since it transfers the stitches and knits them at the same time. To me, Singer/Studio’s patterning with drums seems a bit more straightforward and easy to follow, unlike a needle selection mechanism on Brother hidden inside the bed. But again, those are minor differences. I also don’t understand why a rod is needed on Brother to hold the punch card together: it always disappears/loses itself and honestly, I always forget to insert it and the machine knits ok with it anyways. There might be other differences but these are the ones that seem the most substantial to me. Yet, they still do not affect the usage of those machines at all and both companies made very solid hard working machines.

Now about this particular knitting machine, Brother KH836, that I serviced in July 2023.

It comes with all major and almost all minor assesories.

All accessories can be stored in a convenient built-in compartment.

The minor assesories missing are:

  • Cast-on thread: any smooth strong yarn will do (not too thick though)
  • Wax – the one that came with the machine was too old and just crumbled
  • Oil – the one that came with the machine was too old and yellow so I discarded it. A good oil for knitting machines is gun oil available on Amazon.
  • A hard copy of the manual will not be provided but an electronic copy can be found here.

The absence of these assesories absolutely does not affect the functioning and use of the machine.

The work done on this machine:

  • Inspected and cleaned all needles;
  • Cleaned the main bed and under the lid;
  • Serviced the patterning mechanism;
  • Replaced sponge in the retaining bar
  • Serviced carriage – oiled and got all buttons unstuck

The machine was tested on a full bed (to make sure all needles and needle latches are in excellent shape) using stockinet, tuck-, -sli- and fair isle stitch-patterning. All looked perfect. See the cowls/hoods below I made from the fabric knitted during tests.

The beige/greenish yarn was somewhat borderline thick for this machine to knit on all needles (not every-other needle). The slip- and tuck-stitch patterning were still perfect on a full bed (see my video of all tests). So, the fair isle with beige/green yarns was giving me some minor mispatterning. When I switch to thinner yarn (brown/camel natural colors), I did not have any troubles with fair isle.

Case is in pretty decent shape with only some minor dents and scratches. Overall the machine is in great shape and no visible rust on the main bed.

I cleaned the lace carriage and checked all the knobs and levers but I did not test any lace-patterned knitting.

This machine and other Brother punch-card machines are easy to maintain. Spare needles are still available for purchase new and on a used market. Sponge-bar needs to be replaced 1-2 times a year depending on usage. With regular cleaning (suck out by vacuum all lint and dust from the machine) and oiling will prolong the life span of this machine to almost forever. This machine is perfect for people who want to knit something quickly with predetermined patterns, who like creating their own patterns by punching holes in the cards and for those who are looking a bit more functionality than simple manual machines. There is a myriad of additional assesories available for Brother machines, which makes this machine a very desirable tool for volume knitters and for those who just like to experiment and create garments for family and friends. Now about imperfections. Some minor rust on the carriage – it is typical whiteish rust. A potential problem might be additional static, which can be handled with wax. I did not experience any static with this carriage/machine and did not need to wax my yarn (I used acrylic yarn). These rust spots are actually very minor (compared to some carriages I’ve seen and those still worked). So, besides mentioned above, I do not anticipate any problems and I did not experience any during my tests.

Hope these imperfections will not stop you from adopting this hard-working machine capable of creating a lot of beautiful garments and things.


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