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Upcoming Project – Making A Row Counter

August 27, 2010

I’ve seen pictures of the early Gearhart row counter in some of my instruction manuals and have marveled at the row counter that Jacquie Grant has available for her New Zealand Auto Knitters. However, neither counter looks like it would do me much good since they count hand crank turns, not actual knitted rows – this is a problem since the hand crank on a Gearhart does not turn on a 1:1 ratio with the yarn carrier.

However, I’ve had a Veeder-Root counter kicking around in one of my toolboxes for a while, which I intended to use on one of my ammunition reloading machines, but never got around to. A month or so ago, I saw a late Gearhart row counter which counts the number of passes that the yarn carrier does instead of the number of rotations that the hand crank makes. Naturally, the auction ended for far more than I was willing to spend, but it got me thinking about ways to use my little Veeder-Root counter to accomplish the same thing.

Below is a picture of the complete Gearhart counter, as taken from the counter instructions. It’s pretty simple in that the arrowhead-shaped cam is attached to the yarn carrier support and it actuates the counter arm on each pass. Since the cam is symmetric, it will actuate regardless of the direction that the yarn carrier travels (which means you would probably have to reset it after you make a heel to maintain your sanity while making the foot.)

The design is very simple and ideally suited to my counter. My counter actuates with only a 1/8 rotation of it’s ~1″ arm, so using simple trigonometry I will be able to design an appropriately shaped cam. The “roller” in the Gearhart diagram can just be a simple brass pin. The counter that Gearhart made was clamped to the topper mast, but I think I will mount mine on a block of wood that is in line with the hand crank and tilted for easy viewing of the numbers on the counter.

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Stating The Obvious – Cylinder And Ribber Needle Storage

August 26, 2010

For a while, I was perfectly content to keep my cylinder needles in a little plastic pouch and pour them out onto a piece of paper towel on the top of my stool. This worked well for a while, but I found that once I obtained a ribber and had two piles of needles on the stool, it was easy to mix things up. I remembered seeing a video on YouTube where the author used Altoids tins to keep their needles. This makes perfect sense over using the envelope because it provides crush-proof storage as well as a convenient place to place needles when they are not in use so that they won’t get mixed in with other sizes or types of needles (well, unless you knock them all off the top of your stool at the same time…) Not wanting to waste space by using large Altoids tins to hold the smaller ribber needles, I found that the Altoids Tiny Tin was the perfect size to hold the ribber needles. To try to prevent the needles from rusting, I have lined the bottoms of the tins with the anti-rust paper that came with my new needles (which are available from Angora Valley Fibers, who I highly recommend – Pat is so great to deal with!)

Now I just have to figure out what to do with the surplus of displaced Altoids I have…

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Yarn Mast Update

August 25, 2010

Originally my machine came with the standard Gearhart yarn mast, which is made of nickle plated 5/16″ cold rolled steel (CRS for short.) After using the machine for a few months, the threads in the base of my machine became a little worn, and because it was not possible to tighten everything up nicely and have the topper line up with the center of the cylinder, the topper and mast were free to swing about – especially while making a heel or toe.

To fix this problem, I headed down to the local hardware store and picked up a new piece of 5/16″ CRS and a brass 5/16″-18 wing nut. The CRS was roughly cut to length with a hack saw and then I squared up the ends with my desktop metal lathe. Finally, the threads were cut on each end.

I decided to thread the topper-end of the mast to the same depth as the original Gearhart mast, but to thread the base end of the mast ~7/16″ more than the original to facilitate the addition of the wing nut.

When I was done, everything fit together perfectly and the addition of the wing nut completely eliminated the swing in my topper when making heels and toes, but something still wasn’t right…

As noted before, the original mast was nickle plated, but my CRS rod was unplated steel. Because I was about to move to Florida I thought it was important to somehow treat the metal to reduce the possibility of corrosion. Paint was out because I was concerned that it would slightly increase the effective diameter of the shaft and possibly restrict the motion of the heel spring weight and linkage. Not to mention that the threaded ends would have to be unpainted to fit in their mating threads properly, which gave me concerns about things eventually rusting in place.

After a little thought, I remembered that I had some cold blue in with my gun-maintenance things, so I set about preparing the metal and bluing it. The CRS comes from the factory with a gummy, oily, protectant on it, which had to be completely removed to get a good finish. I used some fine sandpaper followed by steel wool to remove the protectant and get a nice bright finish. Finally, denatured alcohol was used to remove any oil that was left from cutting the threads and the natural oils from my fingers.

Cold bluing was pretty easy. I prefer to heat the part up with a heat gun and then apply the bluing chemical with a cotton ball that is held with a wooden clothes pin (make sure you do this outside and wear gloves!) The first treatment was a little blotchy, but that’s no big deal – I just rubbed the whole thing down with steel wool again, heat it up, and applied more of the bluing agent (the steel wool doesn’t scratch whatever surface was oxidized by the bluing agent, but will remove any oils or residue on the unblued bright steel.) I had to repeat the process about three times to get a nice, uniform surface and to get complete coverage of the threads. Once I was all done, the mast was rubbed down with steel wool one more time and then covered with a coat of light oil. After the final assembly, I arrived at what you see below.

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How Does A Guy Transport His Sock Machine? In A Toolbox, Of Course!

August 24, 2010

With several parts made of brittle zinc alloy, it seems that my machine is kind of brittle. With that in mind, I needed to devise a secure way to transport it that would also enable me to set it up and pack it out quickly if needed. The original crate was out of the question because the wood has gone rotten in places from damage that was caused by some sort of wood-boring insects.

After considerable though, I came up with the solution you see below…

The idea came after seeing a picture of how the machines were shipped from the factory (they were shipped in the vertical position in such a way that the mounting thumb screw was screwed into a piece of wood.) My adaptation of that idea was to mount the machine horizontally, but also to support the machine beneath the cylinder as well in order to minimize the torsional load on the sides of the container. To make it all fit, you have to remove the mounting thumb screw and take off the crank, but that’s not such a big deal because I don’t use the thumb screw anyway. Because of the low clearance beneath the wooden support, I was unable to use wing nuts, but I found that my local True Value hardware store sold brass threaded inserts for wood, and they work perfectly to help hold the machine in place securely. In the last picture, you can see that pretty much everything required to operate the machine fits well in the box (the picture is just for illustration – I typically wrap everything a bit better than that for real transport.)

The only problem I’ve run into now is that with the ribber in place, I can no longer transport the weight stack inside the cylinder, so I’m going to have to figure out something to make them fit in the box safely.

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A new addition to the stool

August 23, 2010

When I first got my machine setup and running, it was mounted on my father’s B&D Workmate, which worked okay, but it just didn’t feel right. Then I moved up to a 29″ Walmart stool, with a machine-shaped cutout, which I think works much better. Since the stool doesn’t have much room on the top, I had been setting my bobbins on the floor, which works very well, except if either the stool or the bobbin accidentally gets moved in such a way that it restricts the yarn from coming off in a uniform way.

By a stroke of luck, I was able to obtain the bobbin holder off of a real Gearhart Knitting Machine Stand, and it seems to have fixed all my problems.  Now, no matter how the stool gets moved, the bobbin stays in place, relative to the machine, and the tension remains constant as long as the bobbin was wound correctly.

Attaching the bobbin holder was fairly simple. I went to Lowe’s and found that the holder rested best 1/8″ thick cold rolled steel (hot rolled would have worked too, but I like working with cold rolled better.) Selecting a 3′ long, 1/2″ wide piece of 1/8″ steel and some brass screws, I went home to begin my project. In the pictures below, you can see the results!