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  1. #1
    Senior Member Skipper's Avatar
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    Wheel building = relaxation

    I haven't done a lot but I like doing my own wrenching. I recently acquired some wheel tools and a Park TS-2 truing stand. I don't really plan to do a lot of wheel building, mostly maintenance and repair. I had originally planned to build my own truing stand but I got a pretty good deal on a used TS-2. I still need to make myself a decent dish gauge.

    Just to get a taste of the building process, I have completely disassembled several wheels and then put them back together. Many of you here probably already know, wheel building is downright relaxing. I'm looking forward to building my first pair of new wheels. Maybe a spare set for the tandem.

    Any suggestions for parts sources?

  2. #2
    Great State of Varmint Panthers007's Avatar
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    First and foremost bear in mind you can buy hand-built wheels these days at break-even, or lower, cost as the necessary components. So now that we have that out of way - yes, wheelbuilding is a form of meditation to me. I always enjoy it. But due to my first statement, it's an expensive hobby.

    Where to get rims? First look at the names of the manufacturers you want to check out and go visit their websites. Peruse their specs and note the one's you like and do your homework. Then just Google the brand and model. See who has the rim you want for the least $$$. Ditto for hubs. A current favorite is the Shimano Ultegra hubs. They are very good. And overhauls remind me of Campagnolo Records of years ago - very simple and straightforward. Now figure out the spoke-length your hubs and rims will require. There are many different spoke-calculators available to you - right off the web. One of my current favorites is also the simplest:

    http://vocabforbreakfast.railsplayground.net/edd/

    But check with another one, or two, to be as certain as possible before ordering spokes. When you round the figures to get the real length, always round down. Read up on this subject at your leisure.

    Now a few other items will be needed, and let the war begin! Rimstrap - I like Velox. Others are bound to chime in (war). Some oil or grease for the spoke-ends and nipples. A spoke-wrench that is simple and feels good in your hand (consider it like a mantra) is also of primary importance. Using the wrong (for you and only you) spoke-wrench will turn this into a painful chore. Maybe stop by a LBS or two and ask to see/feel what they use. I like the Park color-coded ones - shaped like a teardrop. You want one that is as tight as possible on the nipples you will use. I have the red, green, and black Park's. Black is the one that sees the most duty - despite my LBS telling me to use green for DT spokes.

    Other tools you might consider are nipple-drivers. A screwdriver that fits spoke-nipples and is turned off-axis to begin taking them up to first tensioning. And a "thingy" you can afix to a spoke so you know where you left off should you need to go tend to other matters. A twist-tie is good. And a gold-chain to mount your spoke-wrench to to hang around your neck in triumph after building your first wheel from scratch.

    With that Park TS-2, you have the top-tier of wheel-rigs. Build another for fun. There are lots of home-brewed plans available off the web.

    So keep us all informed - and Have Fun!
    How do you keep an idiot in suspense?

  3. #3
    Insane Bicycle Mechanic Jeff Wills's Avatar
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    Yep, wheelbuilding is the male analog to knitting. It's a good way to waste an afternoon or two while appearing productive.
    Every once in a while I get an itch to build a set of wheels, then I have to put them on a bike. Now I've got 10 bikes in my garage- what the heck? You can't ride 10 bikes at once.

    Anyway, I've gotten good deals on decent rims from BikePartsUSA and I've bought a few sets of spokes from ICYCLESUSA. They have a Phil spoke machine, so they can cut any length spoke- an advantage when you like weird wheels like me. I've used the Spocalc spreadsheet for years and it's never done me wrong.
    Jeff Wills

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  4. #4
    Mtbiker Roadie Veloraptor's Avatar
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    Excel Sports Boulder - Online Bicycle Retailer
    Spoke chart.
    Use medium locktite on those nipples. Count the thread turns for each nipple.

  5. #5
    Great State of Varmint Panthers007's Avatar
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    The war over using Locktite on spoke-nipples/threads is a long one. Some say it will interfere with stressing the wheel and final truing. Or future truing as needed. Others say it's needed to keep the wheel from needing it.

    I just use whatever grease I have on hand on the threads. No Locktite. And I haven't had any problems.
    How do you keep an idiot in suspense?

  6. #6
    Senior Member Skipper's Avatar
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    "First and foremost bear in mind you can buy hand-built wheels these days at break-even, or lower, cost as the necessary components."

    I knew that going in. I can't and won't say cost does not matter to me. It does. But... a nice 35th anniversary bonus from my employer was burning a hole in my pocket. All work and no play make Dave a dull boy.

    I bought 2 Park spoke wrenches and a Park spoke tensiometer when I bought the TS-2, along with a couple of other bicycle specific and not so specific tools. I bought and read Roger Musson's e-book, "Wheel Building". I made my own nipple twister or spinner or driver or whatever you want to call it following the plan in that book.

    Loc-Tite and 30 wt. motor oil are both very useful items. One belongs on bicycle wheel spokes, the other doesn't. Hopefully, having mentioned both of these items will not cause this thread to become a dead horse beater.

    Thanks for the tips and links, everyone. More?

  7. #7
    Bikaholic blamp28's Avatar
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    I find Wheel building to be relaxing as well. I started because I was having trouble with unreliable work coming from an LBS. I figured that I could pay for the cost of the tools easily with the money I saved. I was right. In my case, I manage a lot of bikes just among family and friends. We have a large family and all of us ride. Most have two or more bikes and some of use do the occasional MTB race. That means that there are at least a few opportunities per year to repair wheels.

    Couple that with the fact that I tend to favor combinations of components not easily found in prebuilt wheels. It all came together and I became a wheel geek - my own term. I've learned a lot and regularly bore my friends with discussion of tension balance and double butt vs straight gauge spokes. etc... When we bought a used Santana tandem last spring, I just couldn't wait to build a new 9 speed rear wheel using my specs. It was my first 40 spoke wheel and is my finest build to date. Shimano Tandem hub Velocity Aeroheat hoop with Wheelsmith spokes. Very strong and true for the first few hundred miles!

    You will find the park tension meter useful in getting a good relative idea when learning to balance the tension as you get started. I also like to graph the wheels using a really cool spreadsheet I found once on the Park website. I've built enough now that the tension meter comes out as a sanity check but usually confirms that my spider sense was right on and the wheel is 95% perfect by touch. I even built a wheel by campfire light last labor day weekend to replace one I folded in a mountainbike race a couple of weeks prior. It came out beautifully despite the low lighting.

    Thanks for the cool thread! Now I really feel the need to build a wheel or two but have no projects in the works. My boss did mention building a 29er. Maybe I'll get to build some wheels for him.
    Trek Fuel XC MTB, Giant OCR Road Bike, Rans Screamer - Tandem

  8. #8
    In beaurocratic limbo urbanknight's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Skipper View Post
    I still need to make myself a decent dish gauge.
    Nah, I have built close to 200 wheels without a dishing tool. Flip the wheel around on the TS-2 to check and you're good.
    "Well, I guess you can cut the arts as much as you want... Sooner or later, these kids aren't going to have anything to read or write about." (Richard Dreyfus as Glenn Holland)

  9. #9
    Mtbiker Roadie Veloraptor's Avatar
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    Build the wheel and ride it. If you hear creaking noises then you need to tighten nipples. If you do a lot of climbing you could notice the spokes coming loose(reverse forces) and making noises. I have tightened spokes on the trail and wished the factory wheels had some medium lock tight on them.Yet i had custom built wheelsmith wheels that never needed tightened. A course those wheels had fourteen gauge spokes triple crossed.

  10. #10
    Bikaholic blamp28's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Veloraptor View Post
    Build the wheel and ride it. If you hear creaking noises then you need to tighten nipples. If you do a lot of climbing you could notice the spokes coming loose(reverse forces) and making noises. I have tightened spokes on the trail and wished the factory wheels had some medium lock tight on them.Yet i had custom built wheelsmith wheels that never needed tightened. A course those wheels had fourteen gauge spokes triple crossed.
    A properly built and tensioned wheel will not make creaking noises or need constant tightening. Factory wheels can be a bargain when properly tensioned by a wheel person once received but they are rarely tensioned properly when machine built. The fact that your custom built wheels never needed attention underscores these facts. There is no substitute for quality.
    Trek Fuel XC MTB, Giant OCR Road Bike, Rans Screamer - Tandem

  11. #11
    Bikaholic blamp28's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by urbanknight View Post
    Nah, I have built close to 200 wheels without a dishing tool. Flip the wheel around on the TS-2 to check and you're good.

    Urban is right. I bought a dishing tool and rarely use it. I find it easier to flip the wheel on my Ultimate truing stand. I'm then able to take a quick measurement as to how far I may need to move a rim by cutting the difference in half.
    Trek Fuel XC MTB, Giant OCR Road Bike, Rans Screamer - Tandem

  12. #12
    use your best eye kenhill3's Avatar
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    I have built a bunch of wheels in the last 15 years and have had ZERO issues with the builds because I took the time to learn from those with experience and to use common sense.

    No Locktite, no Spokeprep, just whatever grease is handy. As blamp pointed out, proper tension is uber important. To that I will add stress-relieving : over turn your spoke wrench then back off to help prevent spoke wind-up; grab pairs of spokes and squeeze 'em together a bunch; round plastic screwdriver handle pushed against spoke crossings. True/round wheel and repeat stress-relief. When true/round has stabilized, NOW go ride that wheel.

    +1 on no dishing tool required. If you like building things, though, can be a fun project. Here's mine, made from oak and hardware bits (carpenter's version):



    Last edited by kenhill3; 02-15-09 at 10:32 AM.
    "I tell you, We are here on earth to fart around, and don't let anybody tell you any different." - Kurt Vonnegut jr.

  13. #13
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    Where do you buy hand built wheels for a cheap price? I have a dented back rim... should I just try to replace the rim or replace the whole wheel? I also have a freewheel, if I replace the wheel with a cassette config, do I just have to make sure I have the same amount of teeth for the biggest cogs?

  14. #14
    Bikaholic blamp28's Avatar
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    good, cheap, light. Pick two.
    Trek Fuel XC MTB, Giant OCR Road Bike, Rans Screamer - Tandem

  15. #15
    Bikaholic blamp28's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mallow View Post
    Where do you buy hand built wheels for a cheap price? I have a dented back rim... should I just try to replace the rim or replace the whole wheel? I also have a freewheel, if I replace the wheel with a cassette config, do I just have to make sure I have the same amount of teeth for the biggest cogs?
    There is more to consider than just the number teeth on the larges cog. What spacing is your frame? How many speeds?

    Your local bike shop should be able to advise you on what replacement wheels will fit your particular setup without breaking the bank. A hand built wheel will be high quality but you can't really expect that level of hand work to be "cheap". One compromise that usually nets a reasonable price and quality balance is an inexpensive replacement wheel that is then touched up by a wheel man to properly tension the wheel since they rarely come from the wheel building machine that way.
    Trek Fuel XC MTB, Giant OCR Road Bike, Rans Screamer - Tandem

  16. #16
    Senior Member EatMyA**'s Avatar
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    I build wheels without a stand, tensioner, dishing tool, tension guage etc. All I use is a $3 "universal" spoke wrench.

    Once I get it assembled, I check the frame to see if its aligned properly. If its straight, I put the wheel right on the bike while its lifted off the ground. I get the spacers like I need them on the axle. I tighten evenly, then true laterally, then radially, then dish, tighten to proper tension, then check/adjust everything again. Done.

    So it can be done for less than it would cost to purchase it.

    I also want to support kenhills comment of overturning and backing off the spokes to relieve any torque you built up.

  17. #17
    Great State of Varmint Panthers007's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mallow View Post
    Where do you buy hand built wheels for a cheap price? I have a dented back rim... should I just try to replace the rim or replace the whole wheel? I also have a freewheel, if I replace the wheel with a cassette config, do I just have to make sure I have the same amount of teeth for the biggest cogs?
    Colorado Cyclist has very good ready-made wheels. Right out of the box. And their prices are more than reasonable.

    http://www.coloradocyclist.com/top_level_menu/Wheels/1/
    How do you keep an idiot in suspense?

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