Saturday, January 3, 2009

Cleaning Mr. Cranky

Mr. Cranky's ribber attachment arrived in a separate parcel on Christmas Eve. Perfect timing, since I was morose that Eric had to work, and to add insult to injury, a crappy cold kept me from socializing to my heart's content. So, I threw a couple of sausage rolls into the oven, poured myself a glass of ginger ale (my Christmas treat - no pop allowed in this house otherwise), and donned my rubber gloves.

The ribber unit is complex, so I decided to cut my CSM teeth by cleaning it first. My resounding attitude: I might as well get the worst over with first. CSM boards advise cleaning the machines with mineral spirits or Marvel Mystery Oil, but my conscience won't let me purchase consumer products marketed with the word "mystery". As for the mineral spirits - where are they supposed to go but down the drain? Thanks but no thanks, our sceptic flora might not like that too much. It's also the middle of winter, and the windows in the kitchen are frozen shut. Using mineral spirits in an un-aired environment is a migraine guarantee. Again, thanks, but I'll pass.

I recently bought a citrus-based cleaner called Citra-Solv, a powerful degreaser that is sceptic-tank friendly to boot, so I figured I had nothing to lose by trying it. (And what this product does for stainless steel appliances cannot be described and must be experienced first-hand. If I won the lottery tomorrow, the first thing I would do is rip out our stainless cooktop and put it at the road with a sign that says: TAKE ME, PLEASE!)

Armed with the Auto Knitter manual I downloaded in PDF format from Angora Valley's website, and Yellow River Station's CSM Cleaning Instructions, I was ready to rock and roll.

My first step was to take the ribber apart. No problems there, save for removing the switch pin (part H-8 in the parts list). I was a bit stumped. I grabbed the micrometer, and took some measurements. Hmm. The switch pin is not tapered, which was my initial suspicion. That meant I could remove it from either end, but it would not budge. Finally, I oiled it, waited a bit, mulled over my options, and grabbed a motivator. That's a Shim Farm code-word for hammer.

Yeah. A hammer.

I gently tapped the pin, shielding it with a shim until I had success! (We keep shims lying around all over the house, they keep all sorts of stuff from squeaking, falling over, opening up, really, if you lived in a house as crooked as ours, you'd understand the usefulness).

The underside of the tappet plate looks like this:

I can't go into details about how it works; I understand the fundamental rudiments, however, even with the manual in one hand, the ribber in the other, without the needles in work, I'd be scratching my head if I had a free hand. I am sure once I get my needles it will make sense, but for now, my main concern was to clean it, not analyze its engineering.

During this exercise, I discovered I had a part missing, namely the driving pin, (part H-3). We keep a machinist on speed-dial (no joking!) so this is not a problem. In a pinch, a 1/4" Allen key can be used.

I buffed all parts. I took some 600-grit wet sandpaper and gave all stainless parts a gentle cleaning. This removed any rust spots, and with a liberal coating of oil and proper storage, rust formation will be inhibited. Any parts that had original finish on them were treated with Citra-Solv, maintaining the integrity of the enamel. The enamel is surprisingly tough; all I needed was to dip an old toothbrush into the solvent and scrub away. Good as new.

I dried all parts, oiled everything liberally, and reassembled the whole shebang.

This is what the ribber looks like now:

And another view from the side:

The ribber is mighty purty, if I may say so myself...

I ordered new needles for both the ribber and CSM from Angora Valley's site above. They were mailed out on December 22, however, between Canada Post and Canada Customs duking it out to see who can give us the crappiest service, it might take a while for the shipment to get here. The needles are the proverbial missing link I need to try out the unit and tweak it before I actually get to knit something.

I can hardly wait!

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