For the old hands this whole post is a triviality, but for anyone like me contemplating getting into wheelbuilding (for myself, not as a living), I wanted to share this. I just got my first wheel built, rode it around the neighborhood last night, and I'll take it on a much longer ride today.
Originally I was going to build it with Sapim CX-Rays, aluminum nipples, the Pacenti SL-23 rim, and the Shimano Ultegra 6800 32h hub. In another thread, people offered the advice to ditch the CX-Rays and go with normal double-butted spokes, and brass nipples for a first build. In the end I compromised and ditched the CX-Rays, but I fell back on the aluminum nipples because I wanted red ones. Hey, I like red, sue me.
I picked up a tube of anti-seize compound at the auto parts store to use on the spoke threads, and used some light-weight gun oil to lubricate the nipples prior to installing them, so they'd turn easily.
I used Velofuze nipple washers under the nipples. These were exceedingly thin washers, I estimate probably .3 or .4mm thick tops. I had used the Edd spoke length calculator to determine that with these rims and hubs I should round down slightly to 288mm for the front wheel, and 288 NDS and 286 DS for the rear. Because of the washers I rounded up to 289 and 287, and a guy on eBay custom-cut and threaded the Sapim Race spokes to these lengths for me. I think this was a mistake. The washers were thinner than I expected, so I probably would have been better off just sticking with 288/286mm spokes. I now have a mm or so of spoke thread sticking out past the end of my nipples. Probably no big deal, but it was a lesson learned.
The SL-23 rim where the nipples go is curved close enough to the hole that these washers would have to bend a bit at the edges. I was concerned about that at first, but these were so darn thin that I decided at appropriate spoke tension these would bend as needed, and it looks like that's what happened in fact.
I don't own a spoke tension meter, so after lacing up the wheel and getting some preliminary tension on it, I drove over to the local Sport Chalet and used their Park Tools TM-1 to measure. I was at only 58kgf or so. I tensioned two spokes up to between 105 and 117 kgf (21 to 22 on the tool) and drove home again, and then brought up the rest of the spokes by listening to the plucked sound of the spoke, based on the sound of the two spokes I had measured with the tool.
In the end my tensions were not as consistent as they need to be. The wheel wasn't totally round and there was some wobble from side to side. I adjusted most of this out so that it's not bad, but still not perfect. The spoke tensions are now not consistent at all. I don't have the experience yet to pull this off without some trial and error. I had the wheel mounted in my fork for a truing stand, sitting out in my garage, but I could pretty much see what I needed to see with that setup.
My current plan is to buy a Park Tools TM-1 spoke tension meter and then go through and actually measure the spokes and try to get them consistent and in the region of tension I'd like to see (110-115 kgf) with a rounder, straighter-tracking wheel.
I put two layers of Stans no-tubes yellow tape around the rim, mounted a Conti GP4000s and tube on it, and took it for a spin around the neighborhood. I heard about 5 or 6 pings within the first two revolutions of the wheel, and it was silent thereafter. Throughout the tensioning process I had often gone around and squozen (is that really a word?) pairs of spokes together to stress-relieve it, and a couple times stressed it laterally by laying the wheel down on a wooden surface and pressing down around the outside of the rim. I've read that a very well-built rim won't ping at all on its first ride, so obviously I'm not there yet.
Anyhow, I think it's turned out OK for now. When I get the tension meter I'm going to re-true it all up and try to reach an improved state of tension and trueness, but I think its rideable for now.
My rear Ultegra 6800 hub is in the mail, as they say, but I don't want to build the rear wheel until I have the tension meter, so probably next week some time. I've been riding a 32h cheapo wheel that I'm not worried about at all, so it's less of a hurry. In the front I've been riding a 20h Bontrager Racelite wheel that's served me fine for around 3000 miles since I bought the bike (used, obviously, it's a 2003 Trek 2300), but as a 270lb rider I've always had this nagging concern in the back of my mind over the strength of that 20h wheel. This new wheel build takes a load off my mind. It's a lot heavier than the 19mm wide 20h wheel it's replacing, but it's also much tougher, and the Pacenti SL-23 wide rim will bring improvements of its own in ride quality.
I'd probably have gone with 28h for the front wheel, but the Ultegra hub wasn't offered in less than 32h, so I went with it. Since the main idea here was to get a very strong, tough wheel, 32h was a good compromise anyway. I'll take the extra 25 grams or so from four more spokes for the peace of mind.