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    Senior Member mihlbach's Avatar
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    rebuilding machine built wheels

    Suppose you were a good wheelbuilder...how much would you improve a new set of machine built wheels by taking them apart and rebuilding them? Seems to me that would be the cheapest way to get a set of handbuilt wheels.

    Or is this just a stupid question?

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    Quote Originally Posted by mihlbach
    Suppose you were a good wheelbuilder...how much would you improve a new set of machine built wheels by taking them apart and rebuilding them? Seems to me that would be the cheapest way to get a set of handbuilt wheels.

    Or is this just a stupid question?
    No need to take them apart. Just tension and true them manually. No it is not a stupid question, most people here started by asking stupid questions and then slowly became less stupid ......................

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    Senior Member mihlbach's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by motorhommmer
    No need to take them apart. Just tension and true them manually. No it is not a stupid question, most people here started by asking stupid questions and then slowly became less stupid ......................
    Yeah, that would make sense that you wouldn't need to take them apart..just make adjustments

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    Senior Member nodnerb's Avatar
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    I don't understand the resoning behind 'handbuilt wheels' being supposidly so much better. If you buy a wheel, it is perfectly true in all directions, nice even spoke tension, what else is there. Especially if you are buying from your lbs and you can physically handle the wheel. I've had several machine built wheelsets and all have been perfect with even tension and haven't had a problem with any or them.
    I'm just not sure what the advantage is. Anyone?

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    Senior Member mihlbach's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by nodnerb
    I don't understand the resoning behind 'handbuilt wheels' being supposidly so much better. If you buy a wheel, it is perfectly true in all directions, nice even spoke tension, what else is there. Especially if you are buying from your lbs and you can physically handle the wheel. I've had several machine built wheelsets and all have been perfect with even tension and haven't had a problem with any or them.
    I'm just not sure what the advantage is. Anyone?

    All I can say is that the various machine built wheels that I have owned throughout my life have needed to be trued more often than the handbuilt wheels that I have owned. I can't explain it: I'm just passing on the anecdotal evidence.

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    Curmudgeon Wil Davis's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by nodnerb
    I don't understand the resoning behind 'handbuilt wheels' being supposidly so much better. If you buy a wheel, it is perfectly true in all directions, nice even spoke tension, what else is there. Especially if you are buying from your lbs and you can physically handle the wheel. I've had several machine built wheelsets and all have been perfect with even tension and haven't had a problem with any or them.
    I'm just not sure what the advantage is. Anyone?
    Read Gerd Schraner's "The Art of Wheelbuilding" - Part 1 - The Spoked Wheel - pp. 10-13, it's all there in black and white…

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    Senior Member Retro Grouch's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by nodnerb
    I've had several machine built wheelsets and all have been perfect with even tension and haven't had a problem with any or them.
    I can confidently say that your personal experience is far from universal. I've reworked several wheelsets that were nice and true but had significant variations in spoke tension. I've also seen new wheelsets that, after one ride, I could turn some of the nipples with my fingers. I've had factory wheels that were straight and true and had even tension, but the dish was off by maybe 3 or 4mm.

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    My experience with "machine built" wheels is with a set of Wheelsmith assembeled wheels on Dura Ace hubs, Mavic CXP-33 rims and Wheelsmith XL14 spokes, 32H, 3X. Now, maybe a real person did the final truing and tensioning but they were in service for 29,000 miles and NOT ONCE needed to be touched with a spoke wrench. They were also subject to the finest potholes and rough pavement PennDOT had to offer too. If that's what machine built wheels can do, I'm sold.

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    Klaatu barada nikto cascade168's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by nodnerb
    I don't understand the resoning behind 'handbuilt wheels' being supposidly so much better. If you buy a wheel, it is perfectly true in all directions, nice even spoke tension, what else is there. Especially if you are buying from your lbs and you can physically handle the wheel. I've had several machine built wheelsets and all have been perfect with even tension and haven't had a problem with any or them.
    I'm just not sure what the advantage is. Anyone?
    A very interesting thread .....

    Machines don't stress relieve. They don't set the bends at the spoke crossings. Both of these make a big difference in finishing and breaking in a new wheel. If you stress relieve and do the proper bending you accomplish what would otherwise take at least a couple of hundred miles of riding. Good wheelbuilders do these tasks as they build, and finish with a wheel that's much less likely to need more work, if ever any at all. Peter White, and some others, guarantee their wheels to stay true for the life of the wheel. nodnerb, your machine built wheels will need re-truing at some point. Fine hand built wheels that are not abused may go for the life of the wheel without any re-adjustment of any kind. That's what all the fuss about hand builts is about.

    You say that you have machine built wheelsets that have even tension? Did you actually measure the tensions of every spoke to verify this when the wheels were brand new? I am not an expert on machine built wheels, but I have not yet heard of wheelbuilding machines that do tensioning. As far as I am aware, they do lateral and radial truing, and dishing, and no more . These are all tasks that are relatively easy to measure dynamically as the wheel is built. Spoke tension is measured with a tensiometer and to do this in an automated process would be extremely difficult and expensive to do. Truing and dishing are easy - for a person. They are pretty difficult for a machine and that's why wheel building machines are very expensive. Tensioning is difficult for a person (as compared to truing and dishing) and would be incredibly difficult to implement the data acquistion and process control (I have many years experience in this type of equipment) required for a tension correcting wheelbuilding machine. It's certainly not impossible to automate this process, but it would probably result in a system that costs in the $5-10M range. I don't believe there is that much of a market for precision quality wheels to justify that kind of investment. It's very hard to believe that any current machine is going to get spoke-to-spoke relative tensioning to within 5% (the standard as set down in Barnett's). Fine hand built wheels will meet this spec. I know there are people that will disagree, but I absolutely believe that there is a certain amount of art, or craft, involved in wheelbuilding. Barnett's says that it's all science and quantifiable and I agree with that to a point, but I would take a great wheelbuilder's experience (or art, if you will) over a machine any day. Personally, I still use a tensiometer on every spoke. Record each value. Correct tensions and remeasure. Rinse and repeat until it's as good as I can make it. Or, when the beer runs out The beauty to building your own wheels is that you can take as much time as you want and get it as fine as you want it to be.

    I'd bet that most wheels used by the pros are either hand built from scratch, or, as someone pointed out earlier, machine built and then hand finished.

    If you know of an automated tensioning wheelbuilding machine, I'd love to hear about it. Otherwise, the current reality that fine, handbuilt wheels are going to be a better quality product and "stand" longer than machine built wheels will hold true for some time to come.

    It would certainly be a dream engineering project to build a machine that would do all of the following:

    1. Radial true
    2. Lateral true
    3. Dish
    4. Tension
    5. Relative tension
    6. Stress relieve
    7. Set bends

    If someone wanted to fund a project like this, I'd be pounding on the door to sign up. But, seriously, I doubt this will be happenning ;-((( In the meantime, go handbuilt if you can, and if you are happy with machine built, good for you.
    "Work is the curse of the drinking class."
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    Klaatu barada nikto cascade168's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by HillRider
    My experience with "machine built" wheels is with a set of Wheelsmith assembeled wheels on Dura Ace hubs, Mavic CXP-33 rims and Wheelsmith XL14 spokes, 32H, 3X. Now, maybe a real person did the final truing and tensioning but they were in service for 29,000 miles and NOT ONCE needed to be touched with a spoke wrench. They were also subject to the finest potholes and rough pavement PennDOT had to offer too. If that's what machine built wheels can do, I'm sold.
    It would be great if you were to contact the supplier of these wheels and get your question ("was there any human finishing?") answered. I know, I, for one, would like to hear.
    "Work is the curse of the drinking class."
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    In beaurocratic limbo urbanknight's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by motorhommmer
    No need to take them apart. Just tension and true them manually. No it is not a stupid question, most people here started by asking stupid questions and then slowly became less stupid ......................
    +1 great advice. If I were to buy a machine built wheel set (which is a great idea now that they are so inexpensive) the first thing I would do would be to tension and retrue the wheel. As far as I'm concerned, that's almost the entire difference. So with that little extra work, you have a set of wheels about as good as a handbuilt set. My only reason for advocating handbuilt wheels is that you can custom choose your specs. For example, I plan on building up a set of 24/28 2X wheels with lightweight rims. Most sets like this have a radial laced front, which I don't want for recreational riding. I actually did find a factory set (Fir Klever) but they cost more than it would for me to build them up.

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    Klaatu barada nikto cascade168's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mihlbach
    Suppose you were a good wheelbuilder...how much would you improve a new set of machine built wheels by taking them apart and rebuilding them? Seems to me that would be the cheapest way to get a set of handbuilt wheels.

    Or is this just a stupid question?
    After reading your original post for the third time, it occurs to me that it's not only an improvement to "hand finish" a set of machine built wheels, but it's a good idea to "hand finish" any set of wheels you buy (assuming you didn't pay for a quality hand build). I recently got a set of SunCR18 rims, Wheelsmith spokes, and Deore hubs for $90. I could not buy the components for that prices, but the wheelset was on sale. So, I got the wheelset and proceeded to true, tension, stress relieve, (yada, yada, yada) just like I was building a new set of wheels. Now my beater bike has a pretty damn good set of wheels that should last me a long time. Lots of wheelsets are just cheaply handbuilt and you can make them soooo much better by doing a quality finishing job yourself.
    "Work is the curse of the drinking class."
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    Quote Originally Posted by cascade168
    After reading your original post for the third time, it occurs to me that it's not only an improvement to "hand finish" a set of machine built wheels, but it's a good idea to "hand finish" any set of wheels you buy (assuming you didn't pay for a quality hand build). I recently got a set of SunCR18 rims, Wheelsmith spokes, and Deore hubs for $90. I could not buy the components for that prices, but the wheelset was on sale. So, I got the wheelset and proceeded to true, tension, stress relieve, (yada, yada, yada) just like I was building a new set of wheels. Now my beater bike has a pretty damn good set of wheels that should last me a long time. Lots of wheelsets are just cheaply handbuilt and you can make them soooo much better by doing a quality finishing job yourself.
    Cascade, I have a question about your techique (for "hand finishing" machine-built wheels). Which of the following do you do?

    1. disassemble the wheel completely, re-lace and rebuild.

    2. completely detension wheel by loosening all nipples, and proceed from that point.

    3. simply stress relieve, set bends, tension, re-true.

    I, too, have realized that I can't buy the individual components and build a wheel myself any cheaper than simply buying pre-built ones, and hand-finishing them. But I've never actually tried this (although I have built several wheels from scratch).

    What would you recommend?

    Bob

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    Quote Originally Posted by cascade168
    Machines don't stress relieve. They don't set the bends at the spoke crossings. Both of these make a big difference in finishing and breaking in a new wheel. If you stress relieve and do the proper bending you accomplish what would otherwise take at least a couple of hundred miles of riding.
    That's not correct. There are machines that stress relieve and set the bend at the spoke head to improve the spoke line. They are paired rollers that symmetrically stress and realign the spokes on both sides of the wheel doing mechanically what the human builder does by hand. I've seen video clips of them and they are quite intriguing to watch.

    BTW, riding, no matter what the distance, will not set the spoke head bends. That has to be done when the wheel is built either by hand or machine. It's major contribution is to improve spoke fatigue life.

    As to perfectly even tension in all spokes along with perfect trueness? Can't be done. No rim is perfectly round and the spokes vary slightly too. All you can achieve is a narrow range of tensions and a good builder, human or machine, will do that. In fact Wheelsmith's real contribution was to work with rim suppliers and to source their own spokes to obtain more consistent components that made high quality machine built wheels possible and practical.

    Factory wheels on any but the most entry level or department store bikes are remarkably true and durable these days and broken spokes are a rarity. These are all machine made wheels.

    I expect that high quality machine built wheels are give a final touchup by hand but the majority of the work (and time and expense) is machine done and very satisfactorily too. It may offend the artists but machine built wheels are every bit as functional from the riders perspective as the finest hand-built wheels.

  15. #15
    Death fork? Naaaah!! top506's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cascade168
    After reading your original post for the third time, it occurs to me that it's not only an improvement to "hand finish" a set of machine built wheels, but it's a good idea to "hand finish" any set of wheels you buy (assuming you didn't pay for a quality hand build)
    FWIW, my LBS tensions and trues all replacement wheels and wheelsets that are ordered from them as a service of the shop.
    Top

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    Quote Originally Posted by top506
    FWIW, my LBS tensions and trues all replacement wheels and wheelsets that are ordered from them as a service of the shop.Top
    Mine does too but it's a service and a final quality check, not an absolute necessity as it was years ago.

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    Klaatu barada nikto cascade168's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bobby Lex
    Cascade, I have a question about your techique (for "hand finishing" machine-built wheels). Which of the following do you do?

    1. disassemble the wheel completely, re-lace and rebuild.

    2. completely detension wheel by loosening all nipples, and proceed from that point.

    3. simply stress relieve, set bends, tension, re-true.

    I, too, have realized that I can't buy the individual components and build a wheel myself any cheaper than simply buying pre-built ones, and hand-finishing them. But I've never actually tried this (although I have built several wheels from scratch).

    What would you recommend?

    Bob
    I would not do any disassembly. Just finish the wheel just like you would if you had assembled it yourself. Treat it like you have completed the initial tensioning.

    True (lateral and radial), dish, stress relieve and set bends, tension, check for relative tensioning. Once you've set the bends you're done with that step. Then it's just a process of repeating the truing, dishing, and tensioning. You may need to repeat this once, or maybe several times. You should stress relieve after each true/dish/tension cycle. Each repetition will get faster and faster as the corrections should get finer and finer. Make corrections finer than you think you may need. Remember that any correction you make on any spoke affects every other spoke on the wheel.

    I feel like the wheel is done when the relative tensions from spoke to spoke are very close. Some rims are going to resist certain steps. For example, a rim with a noticeable protruding seam will be very difficult to lateral true past a certain point (it will "ping" when the seam hits the truing stand calipers). This will lead you to buy rims with machined rims in the future, as it's really annoying. Anyway, the wheel is done when you think it's as good as you can get it. I think Barnett's gives a pretty good standard for wheels:

    Lateral and radial true to <0.5mm
    Dish to <0.5mm
    Relative tension from spoke to spoke of <5%

    Truing and dishing to those specs is not too difficult with a little practice. Relative tensioning to 5% is difficult and I recommend not agonizing over this. The most important thing is that you don't have a single spoke that is way off. If you do, the wheel will go out of true. When you first start checking tension on spokes it's a bit surprising that your wheel may be perfectly in true and dish, but you have a spoke (or two, or three) that are way out of the tension spec. Once you get to appreciate that this is no good, they you can start building good quality wheels that will stand up to time and use. If you can get them all to 5%, or less, that wheel should last a long time with no corrections.

    Best luck with your wheels!
    "Work is the curse of the drinking class."
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