Blog: Tooling

07 Jun 2020

Truing stand beta


Development hasn’t stopped on my truing stand. The software has been stable for more than a year but recent changes make it the tool I really wanted. After a few hardware revisions, that part is working well too. For a peek at both check out the video below.

I designed and built this tool for my own purposes as a professional wheelbuilder but it’s generated a surprising amount of interest. Whether that’s curiosity or commercial demand is hazy so, below the video, find a short survey to shed light on the matter. If you can, please contribute! All questions are optional and the survey can be submitted anonymously if you prefer.

On the tech front I have a handful of units I’d like to distribute for outside testing and feedback. If you’d like to be a tester, please use the survey to express your interest. Read more →

25 Sep 2018

Universal nipple driver


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


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


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.

Note: you don’t need 300mm spokes to fashion a tool (but that length is very fashionable). Use what you have but adjust the arithmetic factor to the sum of the length of your rods. If by some trick you end up with 300mm and 299mm rods, carry on using 599mm in your calculations.

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 asymmetric washers it’s helpful to give your measuring spokes a spin after pulling them taut just to make sure everything is seated properly. Overall this approach accounts for the end-to-end nipple/washer/rim fit and avoids errors from incorrect nominal measurements (a real thing).

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.