36 spoke Alex DA22 rear. Bought very cheap on eBay (new, $100 for the set with tires and tubes). After about 1500 miles, it wouldn't stay true, started breaking spokes, and developed a bit of a hop, so I retired the wheel and got a new rear wheel (Mavic T520, hand built at the LBS).
That was a year ago.
I got wheel building tools for Christmas (truing stand, tensionmeter, Jobst Brandt's The Bicycle Wheel).
So I decide to try rebuilding this wheel as my second project (first was a replacing the hub on my fixed gear). I figured I'd use it as a backup that I could have different tires on.
I loosened every spoke until threads were visible.
Put a dab of Prolink in every nipple.
Got the wheel centered and round by turning a few spokes with my fingers.
Turned every other spoke with my fingers until it started to seat in the rim. Before doing this, you could shake the wheel longitudinally and laterally.
Then I started bringing up tension while keeping centered and round.
At one point I needed to re-dish the wheel by almost a centimeter.
Finally, I had 110-140 tension on every drive side spoke (per Alexrims website) The wheel was true, and the hop was less than 1mm by about a half. Spoke tension on the left side was fairly even. Moreover, getting to this point was not difficult, indicating that the rim itself is fairly sound.
Stress relieved the wheel and it remained true.
Rode the wheel. No pinging sound whatsoever upon first loading (I took great care to avoid spoke twist). After a short ride, it remained true. So I thought every thing was fine.
I get to work. I have a 14 mile commute. I weight 205 and was carrying about 15lbs in panniers. So there was about 150 pounds on the back wheel. I was using 32mm tires.
I check the wheel at work, and it's seriously out of true - about 2mm.
So then ....
1. Am I trying to polish a turd. Is it possible that a cheap rim and cheap spokes will never perform to my expectations. Mind you, this wheel popped a spoke a very short while after I had it professionally trued.
2. Was the Prolink a bad idea? Jobst Brandt says to lubricate spokes. I chose the Prolink because of it's penetrating properties.
3. I needed to re-dish this wheel quite a bit. I notice that there's considerable clearance between the first cog and the frame when the wheel is installed. That means that it could be dished considerably more than it needs to be. I could re-space the hub, moving it about 5mm to the left and take some of the dish out of the wheel. Could that be the root of the problem?
4. My initial method of getting the wheel round and true was to tighten 16 key spokes with my fingers (the two on either side of the valve hole, the four directly opposite those, and the eight spokes that were perpendicular to those (forming a cross, more or less). Then I twirled the remaining spokes with my fingers until the nipples contacted the rim. Only then did I start brining up tension. Anything wrong with doing it this way?