Blog: Tooling

02 Jun 2018

Truing teaser

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Here’s a teaser of the science fiction truing stand I built recently. In January I broke my leg resulting in unplanned downtime. I came up with this. The video is just a teaser — I plan to make longer one that demonstrates all the features and shows how it updates the wheelbuilding process.

Stay tuned to this space.

20 Jun 2017

Measuring ERD

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If you have the wrong effective rim diameter (ERD), there’s a good chance you’ll compute the wrong spoke length. A lot of times you can use values from the manufacturer but it’s best to double check the numbers with Google. After a while you’ll find some brands, like Stan’s NoTubes or WTB, are reliable in their ERD numbers (contact me to order Stan’s rims).

You’ll get the most accurate ERD numbers if you measure your rims so I always do. 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. 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 distance from 600mm. If the spokes don’t overlap, add the gap distance 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.

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!