Blog: Tooling

25 Sep 2018

Universal nipple driver

Webmaster

It’s ideal to use a depth-setting nipple driver specific to your nipple but sometimes you can’t. Sometimes a tool doesn’t exist or isn’t available but you can still do better than eyeballing. In a pinch you can make a tool for starting your nipples an equal number of turns all around.

To make a universal nipple driver I trim a thin butted spoke and roll threads in such a way that the threads cross the butting boundary. This lets a nipple thread all the way through without bottoming out. Then I attach an inverted nipple — one with a round bottom and no screwdriver slot — leaving a bit of spoke thread protruding. How much protrudes depends on how far you want the driver to work. I use some Loctite so the nipple doesn’t move. In the following example I inserted the tool into a pin vise but you could glue it into a cork, dowel, etc.

To use the tool thread it onto the back of your nipple. Insert the loaded tool into the rim and thread onto a waiting spoke. Sideload the spoke to hold the nipple, unthread the tool and repeat. This isn’t the fastest way to work but it gets the job done and costs very little. With all your nipples preloaded the same amount, you’re off to a clean start.

I keep a couple around for starting deep dish rims, where a longer reach is required and the risk of losing a nipple more acute. They’re a good solution for inverted nipples too. If you’d like a spoke specially prepared like the one above, buy a Sapim Race from the shop and use the checkout comments to ask for the cut and thread treatment described above (no charge).

06 Jul 2018

Truing stand explainer

Webmaster

Here’s a more detailed video about my truing stand. To answer the most common question: this will not be a product in the near term — summer days aren’t long enough to run SpokeService and crank out new products. Maybe I can take it further in the off season. What do you think?

If you like, future videos and updates can be found using this bookmark.

20 Jun 2017

Measuring ERD

Webmaster

Pros measure the effective rim diameter (ERD) of every rim.

My tools are DIY, which is inexpensive. Here’s how I make them: take two black 310mm Sapim Leader spokes and cut off the elbow leaving a 300mm rod. Use bolt cutters or a hacksaw to get close, then creep up on 300mm exactly using a file or a grinder. Screw a silver nipple to each rod using a bit of Loctite so they never move. For my process I make sure the spoke penetrates the nipple until it’s flush with the bottom of the screwdriver flats — spokes stretch a little under tension so they’ll end up in a good place. That’s it. If you’re precision-minded, you can ensure nipple geometry isn’t a factor by making a new set of measuring rods any time you build with a new variety of nipple.

Usage is straightforward. Insert your measuring spokes into opposing spoke holes, counting them to make sure you’re not off by one. Pull the spokes tightly across a ruler. To make the process easier and more accurate, try raising the ruler with a shim so the spokes leave the rim closer to 90°. I suggest using a ruler with 0.5mm resolution (such as this one) but you can eyeball to the same. For most builds the spokes will overlap on the ruler, in which case you deduct the overlap length from 600mm. If the spokes don’t overlap, add the gap length to 600mm. Perform at least two measurements 90° apart and average the results to get ERD.

If you’re building with nipple washers, remember to increase spoke length to compensate. As an alternative, you can install nipple washers on your measuring spokes and build nipple washers right into your ERD. With this direct approach, no after-the-fact compensation is required.

Most spoke calculators will give you lengths to the tenth of a millimetre, which you’ll need to round to the nearest available length. Since measuring as above targets the bottom of the acceptable range, resist rounding down for low tension builds or on the low tension side of a wheel. When shopping here, you get to round to the nearest millimetre compared to traditional vendors that stock spokes in two millimetre increments. In a future blog I’ll expand on the topic of rounding, which matters more when available lengths aren’t as good.

01 Jan 2015

Doing digital dishes

Webmaster

A few times a year I get a query about the digital dishing tool I have in the image slider on my homepage. It’s something I came up with myself though I’d be surprised if I was the first.

You’ll recognize the base tool as the standard Park Tool WAG-4. It’s a decent tool with sliding blocks that lets you check dish even with tires mounted. Checking dish with the analog indicator probe is fast and easy. The problem is it’s not quantitative. I record a ton of stats about every wheel including tension at every spoke and three kinds of alignment. To record dish alignment with a conventional gauge you need feeler gauges and that’s a bit cumbersome.

I had a spare digital gauge in my toolbox so I mounted it up with no fuss. The lug back on the gauge can rotate 90° so I oriented it perpendicular to the shaft. I re-used the existing hole on the WAG-4 so no drilling required — I simply removed the existing screw and replaced it with a slightly longer one to accommodate the thickness of my gauge mount plus a washer. It’s a wood screw and I was able to find a longer one of the same diameter and thread pitch at Home Depot. That’s it.

The issue with my gauge is the throw of the indicator — the range isn’t appropriate for all axle lengths. I could find an indicator with more throw but this was a project done on the cheap (the cost of a screw if you discount the bits on hand). I deal with this problem by installing indicator contact points of different lengths, suitable to the axle in question. Actually I do gross dishing using the regular analog probe and then install the correct tip to record final dish. When using the regular probe it’s handy to remove the contact point altogether so the digital indicator is out of the way.

How does it work? Pretty well. Having the accuracy of a digital gauge makes you realize the limitations of the underlying tool. I balance the digital dishing tool over the wheel and hold it with the lightest touch otherwise the tool flexes and tilts, distorting values. This amount of distortion wouldn’t lead to bad wheels but it doesn’t hurt to sweat the small stuff if you’re bothering to measure.

Happy New Year!