Clean Carriage

Clean and freshly oiled! I couldn’t resist saving some of the little felted rings I found around the brushes on the carriage arm (sinker plate to Brother people).

Last time I posted a series of photos to show you how I do a deep cleaning on my (Silver Reed) machine beds. This time I thought I would share some photos of how I clean my carriages. I opted not to take the carriage apart because it is a lot trickier than the beds and there are so many more small parts! Remember that the photos will enlarge if you click on them.

The first thing I do is give the underside of the carriage a good blow with some canned air. Please note (1) that I hold the carriage sideways so I blow the fuzz out instead of into the carriage and that (2) I do this over a waste basket so I don’t have little greasy dust bunnies all over my floor! This will only remove the loose fluff, not the greasy stuff jamming things up.

The yellow tool is pointing to the wire that connects the magnets (X). The while plastic edge (Y) is supposed to glide along the front edge of the bed. If it is gunky, it binds and makes the carriage action heavy.

Next I start removing any fuzz I can catch with an old tweezer. Pay special attention (on Silver electronics) to the wire at the front of the carriage that connects two little magnets that should slide back and forth freely. These magnets tell the electronics (EC1 or DAK) that you have finished knitting a row and changed direction. If they are gunned up, the pattern could skip a row or repeat one. After you remove any fuzz, use Q-tips or a paper towel to wipe out old grease.

The pipe at the back of the carriage glides along the rail of the machine. Silver pipes are round, Brother squarish, but they both need to be cleaned out. I sometimes add some fresh oil to homogenize the old oil and then wipe it all out.


The rollers at each end of the pipe help make the carriage slide smoothly. They should be oiled every time you use the machine as the oil passes through a slot in the pipe to the rail below.

The new style Silver machines have rollers at the end of the pipe (and at the front of the carriage – see the above photo) that need to be free moving and clean.





The block on the back of each end of the carriage reads the point cams on the back rail of the machine and need to be kept lint and oil free. I just use a Q-tip to do this. The machines come with “special” anti-static swabs and you can buy them at most electronic stores, but I have to confess that I use the drug store variety to clean my machines.

I use an old cosmetic bush to remove any lint lurking underneath and between the cams. I sometimes also fold a paper towels and run it through the pathways. Either way, when you do this make sure you move the cam lever on the top of the carriage to each setting as it will change the alignment of the cams and make it easier to get every corner cleaned. This is also a good time to watch what happens underneath the carriage. All carriages are a mirror image underneath (left and right sides) so that when you move the cam lever, both sides should do the same thing (if everything else on your particular carriage is in the neutral position). If a cam doesn’t move, it may not be damaged – just gunky and in need of a good cleaning. I use denatured alcohol sparingly because I do not want to dry out the metal, but a little dab will do ya!

Silver machines have Russel Levers (and I still don’t know who Russel was or what he did to get a part named after him!), while Brother machines use an N-H lever. The N-H lever controls both sides of the carriage at the same time and activates a cam at each edge. The Russel levers are unique to each side and operate independently of each other and only the lever on the leading edge of the carriage controls what happens to the needles in holding position (HP). That is, needles either stay in HP or return to work. Take a look at the photo above left. It shows the Russel Lever set to (I) so that it pulls close to the base plate of the carriage, which opens up the channel at the front edge of the carriage so the needle butts pass right through and stay in HP.

Now look at the second photo and you will see that with the Russel lever set (II) the lever has sprung out from the base where it will bump into the needle butts and push them back from HP to WP. Again, it is the leading lever that controls what happens; the trailing lever has no effect until the carriage reverses direction. In all cases, the N-H or Russel levers only affect needles in HP. If there are no needles in HP, their settings don’t matter. Clean ’em up!

Once the carriage is clean, you should re-oil the striking edges of the cams. Keep in mind that the base plate of the carriage (the place all of the cams attach to) should never make contact with the needle butts, which is why you were instructed not to press down on the carriage when you move it across the bed – it just makes it harder to move. So, don’t waste oil on the base plate. Just oil the side edges – the striking edges – of the cams that the needle butts are supposed to glide against. You can use an oil applicator (this one is Ballistol oil – most machines come with a brush bottle of oil) or an oily rag or paper towel.Give the cams a good drink.

Next, give the pipe a good oiling. Remember, from the machine’s point of view, you really can’t over oil. This does not, however, include using so much oil that you come up covered with it every time you get near the machine, oil dripping onto fabric or needle hooks. That would be overkill.

Now give the cover of the carriage a nice wiping down with a damp, soaped cloth and set it aside while you work on the carriage arm/sinker plate. I’m still working on the same SK860 I’ve had since the early 90’s. In fact, it was one of the first machines brought into the country. My carriage looks nice and white because I replaced the cover a couple of years ago. Good thing to keep in mind if you are selling or buying a used machine. A little cosmetic work can make a huge difference.

The arm (or sinker plate on a Brother) keeps the fabric back against the bed as the needles move forward and back. The brushes and wheels that do this must be free spinning and not bogged down with fuzz and crud. The various magnets only serve to keep the latches of the needles open when they need to be and apart from transferring grease to your fabric if they are really dirty, don’t really enter into this. The two ends of the arm are mirror images of each other. So – do NOT remover everything at once. If you leave the matching wheel in place you have a point of reference when you become confused about which way a piece should be replaced. I always only remove one wheel or brush at a time.

Because the brushes on the arm are “the first line of defense”, they often end up with yarn wrapped around their shafts which, in turn, causes problems casting on and knitting. You’ll need to remove and clean the brushes more often that you will need to do a full cleaning. Best advice: be very careful not to over-tighten or strip any of the screws. Use the metric screw drivers I mentioned last time.

The configuration of brushes and wheels changes from machine to machine so don’t be alarmed if this looks different than your machine. They all do the same thing. Promise.

I have removed one of the grey rubber wheels and when turned over you can see that both sides are different -which is why I told you to do one at a time. There is no guessing how it goes back.




Next I would remove the second grey wheel and then each of the black ones (individually). The brushes at each end of the arm are notorious for getting tangled in carriage mishaps. Note the nice little felted wad I removed from underneath this brush! More than enough to make the carriage drag and prevent the brush from turning, which helps create more carriage jams which add more yarn around the brushes. For beginners, most of the problems stem from either the tension mast or these brushes. For beginners, many of their problems stem from either the tension mast/threading or these pesky brushes and wheels. Clogged up brushes and wheels will cause carriage jamming, which, in turn often adds more yarn to the brushes.

Left lever is down so the brush is up (inactive). The right lever is up so the brush is down (active).

Next I remove each of the weaving brushes. More felted crud. I’ve also included a photo showing one brush down and the other up. Beginners have trouble keeping this straight because directions often say to put the weaving brushes down. Logic would indicate that the levers go down, but that is not the case. Levers are pushed down to raise the brushes; flipped up to lower them.

Even if your machine is a different model, this tutorial should give you some idea what to look for and where to clean. Just remember to re-oil the carriage when you are done cleaning so it purrs like a kitten!