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Old 12-09-13, 11:34 AM   #1
SethAZ
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built my first wheel

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.

http://www.leigh.org/seth/bikes/new%20front%20wheel.jpg
http://www.leigh.org/seth/bikes/fron...%20closeup.jpg

Last edited by SethAZ; 12-09-13 at 11:48 AM.
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Old 12-09-13, 02:01 PM   #2
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congrats. I also build only my own, and am not a very meticulous person by nature. I build on an old frame and tension by sound alone. I re-true them as needed, and it's not very often. I've yet to touch my first, and it has a few thousand miles on it. Santé 32 hole hub laced to a well-used Araya VX300 rim.
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Old 12-09-13, 02:33 PM   #3
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Building your own wheels is a rite of passage of sorts. I always thought it was a kind of magic, and maybe it is at least partially art. But it is a good skill to have and even though you may not build a large number of wheels, you'll be able to tension and true other wheels, replace spokes, and enjoy the confidence that you can do it.

I'm not nearly as quick at it as some folks on this forum, but that's OK. They have a lot more experience than I do. But I'm learning and that's satisfying in itself.

Congratulations.
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Old 12-09-13, 02:59 PM   #4
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There's nothing better than riding out on a self built set of wheels. With a little practice you can ride home built wheels better than most you can buy. Congratulations.
Spokes sticking out the back of the nipples is not a big problem at all. The real risk of long spokes is running out of spoke threads before reaching your target tension. This is why I always round down on spoke lengths, especially on the drive side rear where the higher tension can cause spoke stretch when using thin spokes or thin double butted spokes.
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Old 12-09-13, 03:17 PM   #5
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I'm concerned about tensioning up only 2 spokes, then using those two spokes as a reference for the whole wheel. When you tighten the other spokes to match, the original two spokes will get higher in pitch, which could make the whole wheel overtensioned. Check the wheel again when you get your meter- Alu nipples are not as strong as brass, and overtensioning can make them fail easier.
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Old 12-09-13, 03:29 PM   #6
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Nice job. I've never done a scratch-built wheel from all new parts, but I've re-laced six or eight wheels on classics, upgrading hubs, rims, spokes, etc. It's tedious but very satisfying work.

I've never had much issue getting a good/very-true wheel with very consistent spokes tensions (typically +/-10%), but I use my TM-1 throughout the wheel build. In fact, in the initial stages of firming up the wheel to about half final tension, I tend to pay more attention to uniform spoke tension than truing. If you get a wheel with ~50 kgf consistent spoke tensions, everything beyond is minor tweaking. Near the end, I use Park's spoke tension Excel spreadsheet to get a graphic representation of how uniform spoke tension is and it is easy to spot places where the circle is saw-toothed due to having one spoke either way too tight or loose, but compensated and trued by the adjacent spokes.

I guess I'm saying that while I understand some can get acceptable results without a tensionmeter, I don't think I could. Having a final printout of tensions with the average tension exactly on the desired target with no spokes much higher or lower gives me a lot of confidence that the wheel is going to hold up.

Keep in mind, that I do this for fun and therefore, don't watch the clock. I doubt I'm very efficient. I can easily spend most of the day on a single set of wheels.

I used AL nipples on one build, but now always use brass. They're just a lot more forgiving.

- Mark

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Old 12-09-13, 04:36 PM   #7
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Good quality aluminum alloy nipples have as much if not more tensile strength than brass. I use DT Swiss Al alloy nipples exclusively and have never had a failure, even with 160 kgf (not recommended).

Where brass has an advantage is in corrosion resistance, especially in salt water.

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Old 12-09-13, 04:39 PM   #8
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Old 12-09-13, 05:00 PM   #9
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Congrats. I have just recently reached this plateau, but I've still got a lot of practice ahead of me. I'm looking forward to it, and possibly teaching someone else the tricks of the trade!
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Old 12-09-13, 05:01 PM   #10
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If you "fixed" the round and your tension is now very uneven that would probably mean that you have tried to correct round with too few spokes or too many turns at a time, perhaps did not taper the amount you tighten as you work out from the high spot, or did not check the spokes across the diameter of the rim.

The key to even tension with good round and true is to first make complete rounds of tensioning, in smaller and smaller increments, until the tension is getting somewhat close, working on dish fairly early. Then always turn opposite side spokes the same amount when truing and don't limit tightening or loosening spokes for round to too few at a time. If you don't pay attention to even tension early on it is extremely difficult to even things out later, due to the interactive nature of the wheel. As noted, what you do on some spokes affects the others. When you pull in a high spot you will necessarily move one or more spots closer to the hub. When you tighten the spokes in one area you will incrementally tighten all the rest.

Finally, I did not work on low-count wheels that much, but I know they are more sensitive to rim imperfections, as the spokes are farther apart.

In my experience it's best at this point to back all the way up to where the spoke threads are at the bottom edge of the nipples (for a fixed starting point) and start over. Tension meters are no substitute for proper procedure, and in fact were very seldom used before the mid 1980's.
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Please take the time to post clearly so we can answer quickly. All lowercase and multiple typos makes for a hard read. Thanks!

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Old 12-09-13, 05:23 PM   #11
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The key to ending with even tension and an aligned wheel, is not to introduce uneven tension is the first place. Start by carefully turning all nipples to the same point, using a reference. I prefer sliding my thumb nail down the spoke to the first thread, and bringing the nipples to there. Others use a screwdriver with a pin that goes down into the nipple and ejects the blade when the spoke reaches a set depth.

Once you have the nipples all to one height, keep it by carefully counting turns as you add tension. Once the wheel comes up to some degree of tension, bring it into decent alignment without turning any nipples much more than the others. It's better to turn 4 nipples 1/2 turn than one or two more than one turn. Focus on radial (hops) alignment first because that's harder to correct later. Then as you add tension this will stay on target and you can correct wobble as you go along.

If everything were perfect you'd end up with an aligned wheel and uniform tension. But nothing is made perfect, so you'll have small changes in spoke to spoke tension on any wheel, but if you preserve even tension as you go along the variation will be minimal.

On your next build, focus less on hardware details, and more on technique. Anyone can get any hardware any time, but good wheels depend on good technique, which can't be bought.
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Old 12-09-13, 06:03 PM   #12
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FB made some good clarificatons to what I said. The basic advice is the same - back up and start over - and incidentally the sooner the better.
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There's no such thing as a routine repair.

Don't tell me what "should" be - either it is, it isn't, or do something about it.

If you think I'm being blunt take it as a compliment - if I thought you were too weak to handle the truth or a strong opinion I would not bother.

Please take the time to post clearly so we can answer quickly. All lowercase and multiple typos makes for a hard read. Thanks!
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Old 12-09-13, 06:29 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by markjenn View Post
.......Near the end, I use Park's spoke tension Excel spreadsheet to get a graphic representation of how uniform spoke tension is and it is easy to spot places where the circle is saw-toothed due to having one spoke either way too tight or loose, but compensated and trued by the adjacent spokes.........
I use a bunch of color coded alligator clips.
Red is "over 1"
Black is "under 1".
I also have some Green & Yellow that can mean what I need it to mean at the time. Over/under 2 or 5 or ??
Saves all that time inputting into the spreadsheet and you have what I feel is a better visual representation that's in your hands, not the computer screen. You don't have to count to "spoke 7".
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Old 12-09-13, 06:35 PM   #14
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I use a bunch of color coded alligator clips.
Red is "over 1"
Black is "under 1".
I also have some Green & Yellow that can mean what I need it to mean at the time. Over/under 2 or 5 or ??
Saves all that time inputting into the spreadsheet and you have what I feel is a better visual representation that's in your hands, not the computer screen. You don't have to count to "spoke 7".
Experienced wheel builders maintain even tension through the process, eliminating the need for checking every spoke, and doing this kind of exercise in futility.

A decent build should take under 1/2 hour start to finish, so obviously there's not the time for this, nor is it necessary. With good methodology wheels tension stays even within a narrow band and is easy to fine tune just by nipple feel as you do final alignment. The tension gauge is best used, not for spoke to spoke comparison, but at a few random spokes to verify that the finished wheel's tension is on target.
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Old 12-09-13, 06:41 PM   #15
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Well, FB - from posts I've seen here it's the rare person who can hit 30 minutes and even the number who can do a build in well under an hour is rather small. We generally considered 30 min front and 40 min rear to be fair time in a shop setting. I would consider a newer person successful if on their 2nd wheel they could bring it in at about one hour or less.
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There's no such thing as a routine repair.

Don't tell me what "should" be - either it is, it isn't, or do something about it.

If you think I'm being blunt take it as a compliment - if I thought you were too weak to handle the truth or a strong opinion I would not bother.

Please take the time to post clearly so we can answer quickly. All lowercase and multiple typos makes for a hard read. Thanks!

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Old 12-09-13, 06:50 PM   #16
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Since I'm retired and build wheels at my leisure, I could give a rats behind about speed.
I do it because I enjoy it and to have good wheels.
If it's a hobby, you don't get in hurry and end the fun.
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Old 12-09-13, 06:51 PM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SethAZ View Post
.... I tensioned two spokes up to between 105 and 117 kgf (21 to 22 on the tool) and drove home again...
Houston, We've created a problem.

Uniformity is paramount. Radial true is more challenging than lateral. And you will have grossly effected both of those with this approach.

Quote:
Originally Posted by cycle_maven View Post
I'm concerned about tensioning up only 2 spokes, then using those two spokes as a reference for the whole wheel. ...
Me too. There's a reason that Park's TCC tension spread sheet doesn't allow you to update singular spoke tensions, but, requires you to re-enter all spoke values before calculating. Anytime you adjust the tension of one spoke, you also effect other spokes.


Re-read FBinNY's post. There isn't much I was going to say that he hasn't already covered. So, I've simply quoted him below vvv. One small addition on the subject of uniformly removing slack from spokes is to examine your rim's joint for a sleeve and whether that will effect the nipple height within the rim. I think it was Mr. Beanz that first alerted me to this with regard to Velocity Deep V's. I've since started paying attention and accommodating this can save a little time in maintaining radial true and uniform tension. And, yes, even some welded rims have a reinforcing sleeve within them. I don't know about the Pacenti's. Have a look and let us know. You probably won't be able to see it unless you use a caliper or depth gauge to measure from the bead to the nipple seat adjacent to the joint as well as a few holes away.

Now, re-read FBinNY's post:-)

Quote:
Originally Posted by FBinNY View Post
The key to ending with even tension and an aligned wheel, is not to introduce uneven tension is the first place. Start by carefully turning all nipples to the same point, using a reference. I prefer sliding my thumb nail down the spoke to the first thread, and bringing the nipples to there. Others use a screwdriver with a pin that goes down into the nipple and ejects the blade when the spoke reaches a set depth.

Once you have the nipples all to one height, keep it by carefully counting turns as you add tension. Once the wheel comes up to some degree of tension, bring it into decent alignment without turning any nipples much more than the others. It's better to turn 4 nipples 1/2 turn than one or two more than one turn. Focus on radial (hops) alignment first because that's harder to correct later. Then as you add tension this will stay on target and you can correct wobble as you go along.

If everything were perfect you'd end up with an aligned wheel and uniform tension. But nothing is made perfect, so you'll have small changes in spoke to spoke tension on any wheel, but if you preserve even tension as you go along the variation will be minimal.

On your next build, focus less on hardware details, and more on technique. Anyone can get any hardware any time, but good wheels depend on good technique, which can't be bought.
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Old 12-09-13, 06:56 PM   #18
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Originally Posted by cny-bikeman View Post
Well, FB - from posts I've seen here it's the rare person who can hit 30 minutes and even the number who can do a build in well under an hour is rather small. We generally considered 30 min front and 40 min rear to be fair time in a shop setting. I would consider a newer person successful if on their 2nd wheel they could bring it in at about one hour or less.
It's just a matter of how often you do it. After a long interim, my first wheel will take over an hour, but if I sit down and build a few it drops back to about 1/2 hour pretty quickly. People alike Andy Muzi, and some of his mechanics that build daily, turn out a pair in under an hour, an have time left over for a beer.

Years ago when I built regularly, lacing took under 10 minutes using a power drill in a vise for pre-tightening. From there to finish was easily under 15 minutes on average. Of course I use a few speed tricks like using the tips of wooden kebak skewers in a pin vise for spinning on nipples with double wall rims.
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Old 12-09-13, 07:10 PM   #19
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Originally Posted by Bill Kapaun View Post
Since I'm retired and build wheels at my leisure, I could give a rats behind about speed.
I do it because I enjoy it and to have good wheels.
If it's a hobby, you don't get in hurry and end the fun.
Bill, your rat's are safe. I wasn't making the point because speed was important, but because I wanted to show that it was possible to produce evenly tensioned wheels without the need to check, mark, and compare tensions spoke to spoke. With a bit of practice, you'll be leaving the tension meter to final inspection, and turning out evenly tensioned wheels with less spoke rework.
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Old 12-09-13, 07:27 PM   #20
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Originally Posted by FBinNY View Post
Experienced wheel builders maintain even tension through the process, eliminating the need for checking every spoke, and doing this kind of exercise in futility.

A decent build should take under 1/2 hour start to finish, so obviously there's not the time for this, nor is it necessary. With good methodology wheels tension stays even within a narrow band and is easy to fine tune just by nipple feel as you do final alignment. The tension gauge is best used, not for spoke to spoke comparison, but at a few random spokes to verify that the finished wheel's tension is on target.
FBinNY, So often one's reality is a matter of perception. I can see how a professional wheel builder, who could easily be building a dozen wheels or more a day could share your opinion and experience. However, in the case of us enthusiastic amateur builders I believe the opposite view has significant merit.

In the absence of vast accumulated experience one can not be expect to accurately judge spoke tension nor uniformity by "nipple feel" or plucking.

If we were to hand a guitar to an individual who had never played before, their first challenge would be to learn to strum consistantly. Plucking the same note consistantly would be asking too much.

In the hands of the experienced professional such techniques may be adequate or "good enough" for the majority of situations and most certainly save time, thereby adding to the bottom line. But, I contend that even then, they are not Best. I've had too many wheel failures from too many professional builders who swore by such techniques and their accumulated experience. While lowly old me, with tension meter, spreadsheet and a bit of time has managed to deliver success, when they could not.

Love him or hate him, Jobst continued to defend the utility and value of pluck tests even after he had experience using tension meters and had declared their superiority with regards to accuracy and consistancy. Pluck and feel have their place. But, provided adequate time, tension meters are superior and can allow us ameteurs to produce a result that will not only compare, but, in many cases exceed what we would recieve from a professional.

Just my perspective.
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Old 12-09-13, 07:36 PM   #21
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FBinNY, So often one's reality is a matter of perception. I can see how a professional wheel builder, who could easily be building a dozen wheels or more a day could share your opinion and experience. However, in the case of us enthusiastic amateur builders I believe the opposite view has significant merit.....
I didn't post to show anybody up but to show that there's an alternative to suing tension meters as so many people do. If you follow the method I outlined you'll find that the wheel stays very even tensioned through the process. If you have the confidence you'll soon be passing on the tension meter. But even if you don't and prefer to use one to check spoke to spoke tension, good technique still helps, because it's much easier and produces better wheel if there's less tweaking.

Tho OP has problems getting even tension and alignment because spokes are working against each other rather than as part of a team. Wrestling it back into line while under high tension indtoduced all kinds of local stresses, that now need to be counter acted.

I'm not saying throw away the tension meter, just that life is easier if you use best practices to reduce dependence on it.
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Old 12-09-13, 07:48 PM   #22
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I didn't post to show anybody up but to show that there's an alternative to suing tension meters as so many people do. If you follow the method I outlined you'll find that the wheel stays very even tensioned through the process. If you have the confidence you'll soon be passing on the tension meter. But even if you don't and prefer to use one to check spoke to spoke tension, good technique still helps, because it's much easier and produces better wheel if there's less tweaking.

Tho OP has problems getting even tension and alignment because spokes are working against each other rather than as part of a team. Wrestling it back into line while under high tension indtoduced all kinds of local stresses, that now need to be counter acted.

I'm not saying throw away the tension meter, just that life is easier if you use best practices to reduce dependence on it.
Pretty much agreed all around on good technique from the beginning aiding in producing a good finished product at the end.
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Old 12-09-13, 07:59 PM   #23
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I'm with FB on this one - it's not about disdain for tension meters but rather using them at the right time, for the right purpose. That purpose is to ascertain proper overall tension and to identify anomolies that might indicate a problem with the rim. If one has a rim with a problem then early use of a tension meter can actually lead one astray.

As I noted in the post preceding FB's for a new wheel builder there is nothing simpler than starting with all spokes even and going around evenly tensioning, gradually rounding and truing, so that nothing goes much astray and so one can more readily see how the spokes interact.
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Old 12-09-13, 08:10 PM   #24
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I was taught in much the same way with regard to even tension and being methodical throughout the process. If you mess up, it's just easier to start over. It's hard to master feel and you will likely just be spinning your wheel(s). Don't consider it a failure, just an opportunity to improve the skill. I was taught to make adjustments by using at least four spokes and that keeping the nipples square to the rim will help to keep things orderly. Another place you can easily mess up is not keeping track of different sized spokes if they are required for dishing/alignment of the rear wheel. It was also recommended that I get a decent dishing gauge, too. I'm glad I did.

*Note: not sure if it was mentioned but side loading the wheel after a good round of trueing will go a long way to minimizing bigger adjustment later.
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Old 12-09-13, 10:52 PM   #25
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Did the OP check with Sports Chalet as to whether or not they keep their TM-1 calibrated?

Do they have a calibration rod or wheel to check against?

Suggestion for the OP. If and when you do get a TM-1, do not even touch it until you have a calibration rod or wheel ready before hand and THEN record your first readings on several spokes or the rod.

This way you can return the TM-1 to it's original state when it does go out of calibration. This assumes of course that the TM-1 comes out of the box properly calibrated and has not been manhandled between PARK - the distributor - and YOU the customer.

I've encountered at least 2 that came out of their box off to begin with.

Do some finishing touch up on your wheels - have another wheel builder with a high grade tension meter and calibration rod give you a second opinion.

=8-)
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