There are two types of circular sock machines that you can acquire: new or used (many of which are antiques). Which is the best type of CSM to buy? The short answer is one that works. If the seller can show you pictures or video of the machine knitting & ribbing, then you can feel confident it is in good working order. Just remember, though, that there is a definite learning curve with CSM’s. It takes some persistence & practice to reach the point of feeling comfortable with the machine & being able to consistently produce the socks & other items you want to make.
The most expensive, instant-gratification way to get one is to buy a brand-new machine. A new CSM will arrive fully adjusted & ready to knit right out of the box. Depending on model & shipping costs, a new machine with ribber will cost about $1500 or more. Currently, there are two companies producing new machines: Erlbacher Gearhart Knitting Machine Company or Jacquie Grant’s NZAK. Click here for contact information.
The least expensive way to buy a CSM is to find an old one that needs work. If you are mechanically inclined, don’t mind getting dirty & want to get to know your machine intimately inside & out, this is the way to go. If you like the idea of bringing a venerable antique back to useful life, you’ll love this option. You run the risk, of course, of getting a CSM that is beyond repair, so make sure the price is right for you before you go this route. Most people I know who have found old machines in need of work got lucky at yard & garage sales, auctions, and antique & junk shops, or they took a chance on an ebay purchase. Most of these stories have happy endings; the purchaser, after a little (or a lot) of work & research, ended up with a usable machine. Some do not, but even then you can probably recoup your money by selling the machine for parts…if you didn’t pay much for it. Unless you’re sure you can restore an old machine & that the one you’re considering is restorable, don’t spend more than a couple or three hundred dollars.
A middle-ground method is to buy an antique or used machine from someone who has refurbished and/or restored it, has gotten it knitting, and stands behind their work. This type of machine with ribber will typically go for about $1000. There are a few sellers on ebay that have gained a reputation for selling CSM’s in good working order. Do a “sock knitting machine” search on ebay & look for dantib or cls125. (I’m not endorsing these sellers, but I know they’ve been dealing in CSM’s for several years & have heard they are reputable.)
Antique CSM names to look for: Gearhart, Legare, Home Profit Master Machine, Creelman, Auto Knitter, Harmony, Cymbal, Tuttle, Verdun, Griswold, Harrison, Imperia, and Franz & Pope are among the antique CSM brands you’ll find in the CSM world.