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Old 11-16-05, 07:30 AM   #1
TallRider
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Okay, so tensionometers run around $60. I'd get one if I planned to build a lot of wheels, but I'm not. From my understanding, experienced mechanics can judge proper tension by plucking the spoke, like a guitar-string, and hearing the note. Now, I'm a musical person, and have close-to-perfect pitch, would love it if any of you could tell me about what the note (or range of notes) associated with an ideally tensioned spoke. If type of spoke matters, I use 14/15/14 for most of my wheelbuilding. The one especially in question is rear wheel, drive-side.
Also, note that you don't need perfect pitch to do this - just compare to a guitar or piano.

Do people use this sort of technique? It makes sense, but I've never heard anyone refer to the actual note.

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Old 11-16-05, 09:45 AM   #2
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One can not tune a piano with a tensionometer.
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Old 11-16-05, 09:57 AM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by WorldWind
One can not tune a piano with a tensionometer.
Right, but one could correctly tension a spoke with a piano. So, does anyone know what is a proper pitch for a correctly-tensioned 14/15/14 drive-side spoke to "ping" at?
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Old 11-16-05, 10:30 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by WorldWind
One can not tune a piano with a tensionometer.
I thought it was "you can tune a piano but you can't tuna fish"







I'm sorry, I'm just in one of those moods today.

On a somewhat more responsive 'note' (yea, another bad pun). How much for an LBS to properly adjust it? Then you could use the pitch technique to keep it properly adjusted and as a reference for future wheels.
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Old 11-16-05, 10:42 AM   #5
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http://www.bikexprt.com/bicycle/tension.htm

on the other hand

http://www.yarchive.net/bike/spoke_tone.html
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Old 11-16-05, 10:58 AM   #6
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Thanks - those links are exactly the sort of information that I was looking for. I'll need to read more about this, and *maybe* buy a tensionometer...
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Old 11-16-05, 12:01 PM   #7
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Another musical fella here (duh, they call me "oboeguy" for a reason) so I'm interested in this too. I'll have to check those links and find some batteries for my electronic tuner.
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Old 11-16-05, 12:04 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by WorldWind
One can not tune a piano with a tensionometer.
Use the Madame Sousa method



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Old 11-16-05, 12:07 PM   #9
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I built my first wheelset using Allen's table of pitches and a piano. 3+ years later, they're still strong and true, with minor maintenance truings along the way (hey, I ride in NYC everyday, and they've been amazingly dependable).
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Old 11-16-05, 12:11 PM   #10
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Find a set of wheels that you know is properly tensioned and "feel it up". With your thumb and two fingers of both hands, grab two sets of spokes halfway between the hub and the rim and squeeze. You'll soon have a good feel for how much tension there should be in the spokes. Be sure to get a feeling for the tension difference between the drive and non-drive side of the rear wheel. "Don't need no stinkin' tensiometer."
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Old 11-16-05, 12:30 PM   #11
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I've been a cellist for over 30 years, also with close to perfect pitch (in a quiet room), and while I've also built a few dozen race wheels I don't do it every day. But maybe I'm the guy to span the knowledge gap here- while Granny's truing technique in The Triplets of Belleville cartoon is quaint, it doesn't work so well in real life. Even if you start with a top quality brand new rim, it ain't ever perfect out of the box so when you "tune" your spokes with the precision to play Vivaldi Sonatas, your humming will cease when the resulting several mm's of noticeable wobble in your wheels may cause you to roll into the canal as you speed past his birthplace in Venice unable to apply your brakes with any precision. Just for kicks, I tried a couple of times to build a wheel without a stand, just using a pitchpipe. So I could feel old-school smug or something. If I were to compose an Italian Opera, it would definitely have a bike mechanic as the central, and very tragic, love-interest character. The wheelbuild didn't work. Maybe it requires years of apprenticeship, I dunno. As you probably know something already about strings, the pitch will also depend on the length (effective rim diameter/hub/spoke count) and thickness (gauge, butted/non, bladed..) It will obviously vary also on each side of rear wheels. It's true that the human ear, especially a musician's, is gonna be orders of magnitude more precise than any common tensiometer. Well, maybe unless that ear is my Dad's at Sunday morning services... The point is that pitch, while a useful indicator of relative tension, cannot be used to measure absolute tension unless you have calibrated your ear for a single combination of rims/spokes/hubs/patterns. Anyway, I only recently bought my tensiometer, the cheap Park Tool one, since I've been building and repairing non-standard funky wheels recently. Paired, low-count or bladed spoke wheels. Why bother, don't ask, fashion over function... and finding "trashed" expensive wheels in a shop's dumpster that I restored for cyclocross abuse. For standard wheels you really don't need a tensiometer. Just take a similar well built wheel and pinch the spokes to get the "feel" then copy it. It will be close enough, then just true it up in your stand. Or what the heck, pluck away and copy it. The point is, you will need to find an "average" pitch/tension around the wheel, no way all the spokes will be identical AND perfectly true, at least with the rims (mostly high end Mavics) I've tried. Close, but off by as much as a minor 3rd high-lowest. Geez what a time-waster web forums can be! Anyway have fun!
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Old 11-16-05, 12:49 PM   #12
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I guess if I forget my tuning fork and electronic tuner but ride to a concert I could bring the wheel on stage to give the tuning pitch to the orchestra.
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Old 11-16-05, 01:13 PM   #13
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I don't have any trouble tuning a guitar or banjo, and I've had good luck tuning radially laced spoked wheels. But when it comes to cross-spoked wheels all I hear is a rattle, kind of like trying to tune a guitar with a loose capo. The Park tension meter is a good investment at $55.

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Old 11-16-05, 01:44 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Al1943
I don't have any trouble tuning a guitar or banjo, and I've had good luck tuning radially laced spoked wheels. But when it comes to cross-spoked wheels all I hear is a rattle, kind of like trying to tune a guitar with a loose capo. The Park tension meter is a good investment at $55.

Al
You have to push the crossing spoke away just a hair to kep them from touching.

Also, I wouldn't use a guitar unless it was just tuned to a pitch pipe or electronic tuner, or even a piano unless it was tuned recently. I have seen both that are tuned well to themselves, but are way out of true pitch.

I play trumpet and hand drums.
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Old 11-16-05, 02:11 PM   #15
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Do people use this sort of technique? It makes sense, but I've never heard anyone refer to the actual note.
I'm also a musician with close-to-perfect pitch. I also know how to true a wheel without a tensiometer, and with nothing but a bike to use as a truing stand.

I have no idea what note (and at what octave) my spokes would supposedly produce when properly tensioned. I've never had a radially-spoked wheel, so plucking the spokes has always gotten me an indistinct mess of pitches.

I make sure my spokes are tensioned fairly evenly by feel. (Pull on the spoke, if it moves too much tighten it, if it doesn't move enough, loosen.) The next task is to guess what is the maximum tension that can be withstood by the weakest parts of the spoke, nipple, and the rim's spoke hole and stay under it. You may or may not have confidence in your ability to guess this. (Personally, i've never broken anything by misjudging this but I wouldn't use this method on expensive, fragile parts.)
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Old 11-16-05, 03:16 PM   #16
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I should be okay going by feel, since I'm normally just building standard 32-spoke wheels. It's interesting to see all the musicians coming out in this thread!
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Old 11-16-05, 07:57 PM   #17
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I've built only a few wheels. I'm no expert, but I've used the plucking method to bring each spoke to uniform tension. Regardless of the pitch, a spoke that isn't even become obvious.

Once I've achieved a straight true wheel, I then pluck each spoke to relieve stresses and also verify that they are uniformly tensioned. Works for me.
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Old 11-16-05, 08:08 PM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Avalanche325
You have to push the crossing spoke away just a hair to kep them from touching.
Actually, not. You are listening to both spokes resonating at once. I aim for a G. Taking a pair of crossing spokes and squeezing them together gives a pretty good feel for correct tension. e.g., spokes pairs singing at B feel quite a lot tighter than those at G. You should be able to move spokes pairs a few mm towards each other when squeezing them together like that.
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Old 11-17-05, 06:36 AM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by WorldWind
One can not tune a piano with a tensionometer.
That's true, but I don't believe piano tuners do their job without the proper tools.
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Old 11-17-05, 07:07 AM   #20
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I am an amateur musician, spoiled by years of piano playing, so I don't have a genuine perfect pitch, not even close. My relative pitch is accurate enough. As a reference I use a tuning fork. An electrical tuner would do, too, but I guess I am old skool. I would definitely not use any instrument as reference.

In my experience and as described above, there's no need to have every spoke sing at exactly the same pitch. You're hoping to build a good, true wheel - not a musical instrument. You have to allow for some variation there.

Now, to the pressing question of which is the best wheel-truing reference frequency for A natural: the 444Hz that is increasingly common in music, 440Hz (this is what I use, told you I'm old skool) or the 435 from the Romantic era?

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Old 11-17-05, 10:07 AM   #21
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When I first started building wheels I played around with this "plucking the spokes" business and never was able to find much value in it; it's a LOT easier to tension the wheel by feel - torque/drag on the spoke wrench. Of course, the key thing to building a solid wheel is to bring the wheel up to tension by turning each spoke the same number of turns. Also, make sure you grease the spoke threads so the torque/drag will be consistant between the different spokes.

All that said, I use a Park tension gauge now a days. To measure is to know.

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Old 11-17-05, 04:01 PM   #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Avalanche325
You have to push the crossing spoke away just a hair to kep them from touching.
But that changes the tension and also deadens the amplitude.

Al
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Old 11-17-05, 05:04 PM   #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Al1943
But that changes the tension and also deadens the amplitude.

Al
Not on the one you are plucking. If you have two spokes tht cross and buzz on each other, you hold one slightly away ( like a mm) and pluck the other one. If they are touching you will not get a pure pitch for the length of the spoke. You will get harmonics mixed in.
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Old 11-17-05, 06:15 PM   #24
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If I remember right "Brandt" something or other a pro wheel builder, wrote a book I have a copy of some book on wheel building, somewhere out on loan, the arthur said that and I loosely quote " I used to tension by ear, until I used a tensionometer, and realized how far off that method was"

Not intended to be a real quote, if you want the real quote I will have to get the book back. The point he made was, dispite the fact that he was an accomplished wheel builder, he realized that a tension meter was far better.
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Old 11-17-05, 08:59 PM   #25
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And what should those of us who are musically challenged do? really! I just built a pair of wheels and they have a slight (.5mm) wave after 100 hard Chicago and DC miles. Wonder if this is good or not
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