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If I wanted to get into wheel building - advice?(25 posts)

If I wanted to get into wheel building - advice?DougSloan
Jun 12, 2002 7:59 AM
I'm fed up with shops not being able to build or true a wheel for me. Sure, sometimes they get it right, but sometimes it's very frustrating. I hate having to take stuff back in because it's messed up, and hate even more having stuff break on a ride.

So, taking the plunge, what do I need? I assume a wheel truing stand (is the super duper Park shop stand the One?), dish tool, nipple tools, but what else? Any recommendations on these things? What about a spoke tension guage?

Also, I checked on prices of spokes, hubs, and rims, and it seems that the total cost of these things (from Excel, for example) is about the same as built wheels. Is there a better source?

Do you wheel builders just order what you need each time, or do you order and keep on hand an assortment of spokes and nipples?

Finally, what's the best source of building technical info?


Expert advice.unchained
Jun 12, 2002 8:38 AM
Or at least it is reputed to be,comes in the book The Bicycle Wheel by Jobst Brandt.

Lots of threads at groups on the subject. Jobst even posts there. He seems to be a retro grouch with an interesting perspective and a detailed analysis on all things pertaining to the bike.

Sorry, I don't know how to post the link. You will have to copy and paste.
im not an expert....Spirito
Jun 12, 2002 9:55 AM
but it sounds like you are set.

spoke tensioners are a bonus but experience and consistent building come close. concentration and even steps all round make it simpler - lots of different colored sticky paper tabs to attach to spokes as you work round to help keep track of where your up to.

stick to quality rims that are round to begin with and have nipple sleeves/eyelets, spokes and hubs are pretty much all good nowadays. did i mention FIR rims?

there is no way your gonna manage to get cheaper prices against a buying giant/importer like excel and such unless you get a wholesale account and even then its not much cheaper. i however can recommend excel as a spoke source as they have always delivered even and proper length spokes for any rim/hub/lacing pattern combination i have asked for - many places fxxx this up.

never build a wheel if your in a hurry, whilst suffering a hangover or if you have had too much coffee - get zen like and methodical even with every 1/4 turn. properly stress relieve and final true and your home.

agree on "the bicycle wheel" as a reference. sure and steady wins this race. stick to front wheels first and then when you have that nailed then move on to dished wheels.

dont tell your mates - at first its cool but then they all start comming over with their wheels. i offered to lend them my tools so they can do it themselves.

get a comfortable stool at a perfect height - some prefer to stand. if it starts out wobbly sometimes be prepared to unlace it all early and start again rather than going all the way.

wheelbuilding is foreplay - be attentive, look at the overall picture and work slowly.
im not an expert....Juanmoretime
Jun 12, 2002 10:04 AM
Ditto to all the above. You will not build cheaper, unless you have bought the components through this website or Ebay. What you will get is a wheel that is strong and correctly built. Never start on a wheel unless you have all the time in the world on your hands. Why? Because you will %&^^%^%%&*( it up. Crafting a well built wheel takes time and care. So even if you have a little time, don't start. You will start rushing to see how much you can get done and do no better than the LBS's you were refering to. LoL.
re: get into wheel buildingChen2
Jun 12, 2002 10:15 AM
I've built several wheels over the last year and I'm enjoying it a lot. I recommend that you not get anything less than a Park TS2 wheel stand. And with it I don't see a need for a dishing tool. I reverse the wheel in the stand several times while truing just to confirm that the rim is centered. I like to use the Jobst Brandt wheel book.
re: get into wheel buildingstoutga
Jun 12, 2002 11:21 AM
I totally agree with Chen2 about the TS2 truing stand! I bought the TS7 to save some cost and the stand drove me crazy. After one wheel build I bought the TS2 and tilting base and it's been well worth the money. I also like the Brandt book.

re: If I wanted to get into wheel building - advice?feathers mcgraw
Jun 12, 2002 10:17 AM
Check out Sheldon Brown's site as well. His lacing technique is easy and foolproof. One cool trick with rear wheels is to tension the drive side first, get it pretty true (but way off in dish), then use the non drive side to pull the rim to center. That way you can get the drive side nice and tight without cranking away at the nipples. Don't skimp on the truing stand, the Park is great. Paint works as threadlock. You can pluck the spokes of a well built wheel and use the musical pitch as a reference for proper tension. I'm always amazed at how many problems my friends have with their wheels and how well mine hold up, and I've only built five sets.
Good advice so-far......Len J
Jun 12, 2002 10:47 AM
One other comment.

I have an LBS that is a wheel building guru. I made a deal with him, I agreed to buy all the parts from him & pay him for his time if he would teach me to build my own wheels. The first thing he did was have me read Jobst's book. It was a great way to learn some valuable experiential tips.

I ended up with Open Pros laced to D/A hubs for about $300.00. Not much more than the cost of parts.

If I heard it once I heard it 100 times, you can't stress relief enough.

Good luck

re: If I wanted to get into wheel building - advice?Tom C
Jun 12, 2002 10:55 AM
I've told this story before but around 1980 I wanted the upgrade of the day and that was a set of light tubulars. In a tiny ad in Bicycling the then fledgling Colorado Cyclist offerred handbuilt wheelsets with your choice of components by one R.D. Bruinsma, master wheel builder. For $109 plus shipping I ordered Ambrosio Crono Durex rims mated to what else, Campy Record hubs via DT spokes. They came, I glued on a pair of Clement Criterium Seta extras. Ah, what acceleration, what jumps, what's this? Within 500 miles a brakeshoe dragging at regular intervals had me reach down at a stoplight only to discover a handful of spokes which had worked loose. I figured that as I had not gotten killed courtesy of the legendary strength of the spoked wheel, I should be able to do at least as well as Master Bruinsma. So my first wheel building experience came about as a rebuild. There was nothing wrong with the spokes, I did not at that time know how to lace a wheel and the only book I could find was Richard Wrights, Building Bicycle Wheels. With a .50 spoke wrench which I still use to this day and using the bike itself as a truing stand/dishing guide I retensioned the wheel. I usually had to retrue in the spring and it became part of the tuneup ritual every year. Eventually I did get a dishing gauge and a truing stand. The Park, although not necessary is nice and obviates the need for a dishing gauge. Unless you are going to build many sets of wheels a nipple driver isn't necessary. My suggestion is to get an old wheel from the 5,6speed era check it over for cracks around the spoke holes, oil up the nipples and completely detension the wheel in a methodical manner i.e. the way it was tensioned in the first place, a turn or so at each nipple all the way around until you've got it slack. Read your literature, Jobst is fine, retension and use your ears to clue yourself in to balanced tension. If your apprehensive, take your finished wheel to your favorite bike shop and have them make pronouncement on it before you ride but indeed ride it! It is the only way you'll get feedback on what you are doing right and what you're doing wrong. In every race I was in, I only used my own wheels. Only I am going to spend an unlimited amount of time on them because I'm using them. A craftsman is like a contractor if he spends 10 hours on a 2 hour project he won't make any money. The only caveat I can give you that I haven't seen in print is that I learned to make my final tensioning on the wheel with a mounted and inflated tire. No matter how tight I thought a spoke may be, when a tire was mounted the nipple would turn. The inflated tire of course compresses the rim and microscopcally and aggregately compresses the rim and your tension must account for that. After I solved that problem, I can build a wheel that doesn't really require anything more than a touch up every couple years or so. Oh yes don't crimp or locktite a nipple no matter what famous builder you're told does it. It's a coverup for a crap job. You seem such a gonzo Sloan, that I'm sure once you start and get the hang of it you'll be afraid to ride anything but your own.
thanks, allDougSloan
Jun 12, 2002 12:58 PM
Good info. Thanks.

just a few additional points to add to those above...sprockets2
Jun 12, 2002 2:07 PM
see if you can take a class or at least hang out with an LBS builder and watch him/her. You might be surprised how accomodating they would be.

I find the Brandt and Schraner books to be useful when building, but they are full of old-school wisdom that I find minimally useful. Both books are actually written somewhat poorly, they don't answer some obvious beginner type questions and concerns, and you had best know what to do before you start reading or you will be there a while getting it right. Jobst makes some more modern assertions-he uses computer models, but I still class them as subjective and not gospel.

If you are $$, you could keep a stock of spokes, but I usually just get what I need when I need it, as I build a lot of things, road and mountain, disc and non, so I never know what is going to come up.

I get by with the stand, dish tool, and wrenches. I do tension by hand and tone, and contrary to what I have read about how crappy that is supposed to be, I have learned to get it quite close, so I forgo the tension tool.

Give it a shot, it is fun. If you look for deals on rims and hubs you can make good wheels for pretty cheap. Good Luck.
What a great ideaDaveL
Jun 13, 2002 4:50 AM
Reading the thread about talked me into it, too. This may be the best content advice thread I've read, thanks; welp, here goes...
ordered some books, and will take it from thereDougSloan
Jun 13, 2002 5:44 AM
Just ordered Brandt, Zinn, and another. I think I'll read them, then buy the stuff and get going. Thanks.
Doug, before you leap!Kerry
Jun 13, 2002 5:52 PM
I've been building wheels since the mid 60s, and the only tools I have are a really cheesy wheel jig and a spoke wrench. Never bought a dishing tool, don't use a tensiometer. Here's why: the key to a good build is a feel that you develop with experience. If you start with a good rim/hub/spokes and pay attention while you string up the wheel, your rim will be very close to dished, true, and round without even doing anything. Paying close attention means threading each nipple on the spoke until the same number of threads show (will depend on relative spoke length), and then tightening the DS spokes an extra 4 or 5 turns. At that point, you're almost done. Lube all spoke threads and nipples, try to work in groups of spokes (rather than a single one) and keep "tonking" the spokes with a screwdriver blade to see (hear!) that the tension is roughly equal around the wheel. Check the dish by putting the wheel in the frame. After you get the wheel put together, get it round, get it true, tension all the way around, and repeat. Keep this up until you get the right spoke tension using a known good wheel for comparison. So much for the tensiometer. I built a set wheels in a campground in South Dakota (only tool = spoke wrench) that held up without a touch for more than 3300 miles of loaded touring, so the tools aren't the trick. Building your own wheels is the way to go, as MOST shops aren't very good at it, and they aren't going to give you the instant turnaround on repairs that you can do yourself. Go for it!
Jun 13, 2002 8:06 PM
So, what you're saying is that by the time I'm 80 years old I should be good at this? :-)


Good advicepmf1
Jun 14, 2002 4:30 AM
Especially the part about tightening each nipple on the same amount of turns. If you go slow and keep going arond the wheel, there will be minimal truing needed. After you get the wheel laced, tighten each one a couple turns, then maybe two turns, then one turn, then half turns. Keep going around slowely tightening each one the same amount. Its also important to relieve stress near then end. When the spokes are getting tight, go around the wheel and grab two in your hand and squeeze them. This relieves stress on the spokes.

Its also important to get spokes that are the right length. LBS or places on the web will have the length needed for given hub rim combinations. A rear wheel is harder to build than a front because it involves spokes of two lengths. Try building a front wheel first.

Damn, all this talk of wheel building is making me think maybe I need to build a set myself.
Take your K's apart, and rebuild them. And the boardPaul
Jun 17, 2002 10:06 AM
will bow to you.
Why monkey with perfection?pmf1
Jun 17, 2002 12:59 PM
Take the K's apart? Why? They don't need to be so much as trued. Just because you know one guy who broke one spoke riding hard over a bumpy wooden bridge, you have given up on these wheels. Have they given you any trouble so far? I recall you praising them up and down when you first got them. Come on man, spokes break from time to time. Its not that big of a deal. Certianly not enough to convince me that those boat anchors you used to use were better.

I did rebuild a set of machine built Open 4CDs with Ultegra hubs I got at Performance once. All the spokes completely lost tension.
re: If I wanted to get into wheel building - advice?pmf1
Jun 13, 2002 6:31 AM
I used to build wheels quite a bit. Nothing real fancy, just standard wire wheels for mtn and road bikes. Did a few for friends as well. I found it to be fun and relaxing. Don't have the time to do it anymore. For starters, get a good truing stand. I have a cheaper Park consumer stand and always wished I had spent the extra $70 and bought the full blown pro stand. The book The Bicycle Wheel by Jobst Brandt has every technical aspect of wheel building any human would ever want. Frankly, I think its overkill and starts looking like an engineering students MS thesis after a while. The only pages I really ever used were the 5 that explained how to lace a 3-cross. That part of the book is clear and makes it worth owning. Parts about tying and soldering spokes are fun to read, but who has done that in the last 20 years?

I never used a nipple driver (screwdriver works fine), but thay are cheap and favored by some folks. I never used a tensiometer either and everything I built turned out fine. Some people swear by them, but they seem over-priced to me. The amount of funds you devote to cycling probably indicates that you will own one. I don't want to start a war with someone telling me I'm an idiot for not using a tensiometer. All I know is that I had success without one. I did use spoke prep and found that to be worthwhile.

Its actually very easy to true and build great wheels yourself. It takes time and patience. For some reason, a lot of folks think its rocket science. Every cycling pervert should build at least one set of wheels.
Truing standsNessism
Jun 13, 2002 12:28 PM
I was very disappointed with the Park TS-2 truing stand when I learned that even though it appears to dish the wheel, the dish is often off-center. What good is a stand that centers, if it centers off-center? (how's that for a mouthful?)

Honestly, it's not that bad, but it's not all it's cracked up to be either. And considering the high cost, it's a poor value unless you're building for a living and need the speed.

Jun 14, 2002 4:20 AM
Mine works fine for truing a wheel. I built a few on it too with good results. However, I always regretted not spending the extra money and getting the top of the line one. I don't like the way it centers a wheel. The mounts wobble up and down until you tighten them.

I got it 12 years ago when I first got into cycling and was a lot poorer. Its always done the job, but if I could go back in time, I'd definitely get the better one. Another example of the bad taste of poor quality lingering long after the sweetness of saving money has vanished. Or as an ex-girlfriend of mine once said -- you're never unhappy with the best. Then again, she dumped me so what the hell does she know?
TS-2 Rim CenteringChen2
Jun 14, 2002 7:23 AM
If you can't center the rim with a Park TS-2 it's because you aren't using it correctly or the stand needs to be adjusted. It is capable of centering the rim perfectly. The caliper arm is laterally adjustable. Problems with centering can arise if you overly tighten the axle in the stand, this is especially true with front wheels or wheels having different shaped axle lock nuts. I always reverse the wheel in the stand several times to confirm rim centering. With this technique there is no need for a dishing tool.
According to Park...Nessism
Jun 14, 2002 11:12 AM
..."For precision work, the TS-2 should be used with the WAG-1 Professional Wheel Alignment Gauge. "

Also contained within the TS-2 centering instructions, "For precision work, always use a dishing tool, such as the Park Tool WAG-1 or WAG-3."

While the TS-2 does center, is doesn't do that great a job. I messed around with mine for hours before I gave up and accepted that the dish will be slightly out. No big deal. That's what dish tools are for.

According toChen2
Jun 14, 2002 1:47 PM
Hey Ed, thanks for the info. I'm familiar with the problems encountered when centering rims and working with different wheel widths, front wheel to back wheel, but I've found that a high degree of centering accuracy can be achieved with the TS-2 by reversing the wheel in the stand and adjusting the caliper arm as needed. This does take some patience and I may buy a dishing tool just to see if that makes the process easier, but I really don't believe it will result in more accuracy. After all, Park is in the business of selling us tools. When I get through working on a wheel the rim is centered, but someone else may be able to do it faster with a dishing tool, I haven't tried it, but from Park's description of how to use it I doubt that it will result in more accuracy than my wheel reversing trial and error technique. Cheers
My advice.vitusdude
Jun 13, 2002 10:15 AM
I got into wheel building several years ago after getting fed up with poor LBS quality. Based on my experience:

Get a book. I use Brandt's.

Getting a trueing stand and dishing tool. Don't need to get fancy, but you do need to center (dish)your wheel.

Use good parts. New rims with eyelets and new spokes, preferably double-butted with brass nipples. You want it to last for your time and effort. I've built with used parts buy the results are better with new.

Take your time.

Use a tensiometer. No matter how you eyeball or earball it, a tensiometer will give you more consistent, even tension, and a stronger, longer lasting wheel.

Take your time.

Tension in even, small, increments. Quarter turns are good. Round and round you go. Check tension often. Keep it even as you build and when you get up to tension you will need minimal tweaking.

Take your time. I usally build a wheel bit by bit over several days.

Did I say to take your time?