Blog: Tooling

29 Aug 2020

Truing stand progress

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A special thanks to everyone who participated in the survey in my previous blog. The feedback was really helpful. To anyone else: new survey submissions are still appreciated.

The survey indicates customers overwhelmingly prefer a bundle versus sourcing everything themselves. It’s not my preference but it’s understandable. In response I’ve been evaluating samples, looking at manufacturing processes, etc. The kit will include the brain box, digital indicators and cables — everything needed to upgrade your existing truing stand.

I decided the foot pedal will also be part of the package. The foot pedal means the interaction between the mechanic’s hands and the truing stand and the wheel are completely unchanged by the digital upgrade — everything can be managed using foot control. I couldn’t find exactly what I wanted so decided to manufacture my own pedal. I source five components from three vendors and assemble according to my own schematic. It has a 3m/9ft fully overmolded cable to facilitate long runs under and behind workbenches. The feel under the foot is the best I’ve found (and I tried quite a few).

One niche feature of my pedal is its two distinct buttons. This is exploited by a tension gathering application I call Live tensio. This app reads deflections from a connected tensiometer and converts to tension values in real time, automagically. The left pedal instructs the system to assign the current reading to the tally of readings for the left side of the wheel. Similarly with the right pedal for the right side of the wheel. Watch the video below for a demonstration.

The video is a teaser and doesn’t show everything. For example there’s a little graphic below each live readout that situates the current reading among previously recorded readings. The interface is a plus/minus bar chart that shows relative magnitude and direction at a glance. There are a few things left to implement and then I’ll film a more complete presentation.

Next steps

The system is in beta trials at the moment. This process is designed to sort out bugs and identify improvements needed to make the system more self-explanatory.

To facilitate my eventual IPO I’ve moved the product rights into a separate company, Islandix Systems Corporation. I named it Wheel Analytics to reflect the range of applications that go beyond truing. Available late 2020 — sign up at islandix.com to be notified.

07 Jun 2020

Truing stand beta

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I’ve been developing my truing stand for quite a while now. 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’m turning my mind to how a system like this should be packaged. Below the video is a survey to get a handle on the demand for a digital truing system. If you can, please contribute! All questions are optional and the survey can be submitted anonymously if you prefer. 

(For communication purposes the “wheels” in the screencast part of the video are simulations. I have a simulation driver for testing the user interface, which lets me try wheels far worse than I encounter in the workshop. No wheels were harmed in the design of this system.)

Survey

You would be most likely to add digital truing to your workshop as


If you imagine upgrading an existing truing stand with digital controls, what cost/configuration would be justified by the expected benefits? Check all that apply if any. Figures in USD.







Would the package be enhanced by including a display at an additional cost?

What platform would you be likely to use as a display? Check all that apply.





Do you have a truing stand equipped with test indicators already?


How often do you build or repair wheels?




Use this space for additional feedback on survey questions or on the system itself.

This box is for sharing your contact information. (optional)


25 Sep 2018

Universal nipple driver

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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).

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. 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.

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. 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 tool 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!