Blog: Tooling

25 Jun 2016

Zeroing the tensio

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In a previous blog I demonstrated the spoke tension utility available on this site. It works with the Wheel Fanatyk digital tensiometer and data cable.

When you place the tensiometer on a spoke, it’s ideal if the tool reads zero but sometimes that doesn’t happen because of the spoke itself — they’re not perfectly round. If you don’t zero the tensiometer, you introduce error into your readings. Zeroing the tensiometer is easy but you experience a delay while it resets and it requires the use of both hands. In short it takes a bit more time.

With the introduction of the data cable I had the idea of skipping that step by doing the zeroing in post-processing instead. How does it work? Suppose you place the tensiometer on a spoke and it reads 0.01. Instead of zeroing the tensiometer, send that reading to the software by pressing the foot pedal or send button on the data cable. The software understands this to be a baseline reading so it pops up a dialog box with the initial value and prompts for the final reading, which you send in the same manner. Then the net value is calculated, the spoke tension graph is updated and you carry on with the next spoke. At no time do you touch the keyboard or mouse on your computer so the workflow is very smooth. I’ve built several wheels this way and it becomes second nature.

To me this is the coolest thing in wheel tooling in a long time and it’s remarkably inexpensive. In part that’s because I offer the software part for free — not even ad supported — which I’m happy to do to support the wheelbuilding community. If you need spokes, support me by shopping here.

07 Jun 2016

Autograph tension

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This is a video of the new Wheel Fanatyk tensiometer, equipped with a deluxe Mitutoyo gauge. The terrific thing about a top end digital gauge is the ability to connect to a computer (an optional connection kit is available from Wheel Fanatyk). So what do you do on the computer side? I improved my spoke tension utility to accept input directly from the tool without keyboard interaction. After each reading the software advances to the next cell automatically.

I also added a new software feature to eliminate the need for zeroing the tensiometer but it’s not shown in this video. Stay tuned for a future blog post explaining how it works.

01 Feb 2016

Easier, better wheels

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I have over 15,000 spokes and nipples in the shop — that’s actual parts on hand. In addition I’m able to fabricate unlimited spoke lengths in house so it’s likely I can deliver what you need. Choosing spokes in 1 millimetre increments let’s you get closer to the ideal. Why accept less?

As a spoke customer there are good reasons to prefer my spokes compared to those from other dealers. You want your wheelbuild to sing? Start on the right foot by having all your spokes be exactly the same length. If all your spokes are the same length, they get identical treatment from your nipple driver. This gets you closer to even tension from the very beginning.

How do I do it? First, I sell a brand of spokes that has good quality control. The other major manufacturer, though a quality producer, has more variation in spoke length. Second, I check spokes as they’re entered into inventory. Last, I fabricate a lot of spokes in house, which means recalibration for every order. Variation happens when batches are mixed so get a batch to yourself!

01 Jan 2015

Doing digital dishes

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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 and that doesn’t jive with my process. 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 slow.

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 when it comes to measurement.

Happy New Year!

04 Jun 2013

Spokes in stock and on tap

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My spoke inventory has been refreshed and most sizes are back in stock! I keep DT Swiss Competition and Revolution butted spokes on hand in both silver and black. I also keep a small stock of straight gauge spokes from DT, Sapim and Wheelsmith but these are strictly for repairs. As usual aero spokes and the gamut of colored spokes and nipples are available by special order.

Deciding what sizes to stock involves tough compromises for the precision-minded. It feels really expensive to keep 1mm increments on hand when that kind of error is tolerable (and industry standard). For that matter many spoke types are only produced in 2mm increments.

To mitigate this issue I’ve installed a Morizumi spoke cutting tool in my workshop. This is a precision machine, made in Japan, and a beauty to behold. It cuts and rolls spoke threads using the exact processes found in spoke manufacturing. It carries a substantial pricetag but seems worth it for the ability to deliver spoke lengths on demand and dial precision ever tighter.