Blog: Tooling

25 Sep 2018

Universal nipple driver

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I prefer using a nipple driver specific to my chosen nipple but sometimes that’s not possible. Sometimes a tool doesn’t exist or isn’t available but you’d like to use one anyway — getting your nipples started evenly makes life a bit easier. In a pinch you can make one.

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 but a jam nut can be used if you want adjustment. 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. Then sideload the spoke to hold the nipple and unthread the tool. This isn’t the fastest way to work but it gets the job done and costs very little. 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.

06 Jul 2018

Truing stand explainer

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Here’s a more detailed video about my truing stand. To answer the number one FAQ: I didn’t build it for commercial purposes. Regardless, summer days aren’t long enough to run SpokeService and crank out new products. Maybe something for the off season if there’s interest. What do you think?

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

20 Jun 2017

Measuring ERD

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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. Use one with 0.5mm resolution (such as this one) or 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 simply install nipple washers on your measuring spokes and build nipple washers right into your ERD. With this direct approach, no 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 followup blog I’ll expand on the topic of rounding, which matters more when available lengths aren’t as good. Stay tuned.

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.