don't pedal backwards...
Join Date: Jul 2005
Bikes: Surly Long Haul Trucker set up for commuting and loaded touring, old Sekine road frame converted to fixed-gear, various beaters and weird bikes, waiting on the frame for my Surly Big Dummy build
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yes, practive with traditional (and inexpensive) parts before you go to the elaborate stuff.
I think that once you build a half dozen wheels, you will probably be ready to try fancier or more complicated things as long as you have a mechanical mindset.
I've built four wheels now so far and it was a blast. With the first one, I took it extra slow and double checked everything. It took me 4 to 6 hours I think. Now I am to the point that I can probably string and partially tension a wheel in a half hour if I wanted to. Wheelbuilding really isn't that hard; it's the truing that takes some patience and time. The actual stringing and rough tensioning is fast, methodical work once you learn how to do it and get the techniques down.
You'll need a truing stand, nipple driver, and a spoke wrench at the very least. Some people will tell you to get a dish stick, but they are easy enough to manufacture from plywood or even cardboard that it's not really worth buying one unless you plan to build a lot of wheels.
I've been using the ebook by Roger Musson for reference. It has a ton of information and explains pretty much all aspects of the process, including how to build your own tools (including a truing stand). Highly recommended. http://www.wheelpro.co.uk/wheelbuilding/book.php