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Unequal Spoke Tensions !

Old 09-28-16, 08:24 PM
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atlantis
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Unequal Spoke Tensions !

Hi !

I am building a rear wheel disc, 32 hole.
Normal steel round spokes and brass nipples.

The wheel seemed ok , dish was fine, but when I checked the spoke tension with a park tool tensiometer the readings were a bit confusing.

i was aiming for a 120 on the drive side and approx 70 kgf on the nds.

The result on the drive side was alternating, that is one spoke was 120kgf and the neighbouring spoke was 86kgf on the same side.

On the non drive side the same thing happened one spoke was 77kgf and the other was less than 50 approx.

this was throughout the wheel.

Chart
Ds Nds
120 77
86 50
120 77
86 50
120 77
86 50

this happens throughout the wheel.
Can you please tell me where am i going wrong ?

Last edited by atlantis; 09-28-16 at 08:27 PM. Reason: some correction
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Old 09-28-16, 09:05 PM
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I suspect that this is one of these things when people build by numbers rather than letting the wheel do it's thing, and come to center (metaphorically) on it's own as you tension spokes.

Double check, by looking at which is which, but it might be that you're trying to rwist the hub apart with the tension unbalances twisting one flange one way and the other the opposite way. This is confirmed if you have pulling spokes tight on one side, and "pushing" spokes tight on the other.

If so, back off tension on both sets of tight spokes until the wheel is balanced and at roughly half tension. Then go back and retension working one flange at a time, and let the wheel find it's own equilibrium. When you're at 3/4 thension or higher you can play with the tension gauge.
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Old 09-28-16, 09:58 PM
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Thanks for replying in.

A bit confused, could you pls make it simpler.
I normally normally build by feel. The tensiometer is only a last minute checking. But I could have blundered somewhere.
Your input is certainly helpful .
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Old 09-28-16, 10:10 PM
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I can't tell you how you got to where you are now, but grab some coffee and look at your wheel with the brain engaged.

To make sure you don't misread, use some tape or something to mark a few of the "tight" spokes on each flange, then hold the wheel in front of you and look at it from the side. If the tight spokes on either flange are in opposite directions, ie, winding to the left (pulling, or trailing) on one flange, and winding to the right on the other.

So in effect, the tight spokes are pulling against each other rather than their opposites on the same flange.

This is harder to follow reading than by looking at the wheel which is why I suggested the coffee, marking, and eyeball observation.


BTW - If I'm right about the tight/loose pattern being opposite on either flange, you got there because of your build and tighten sequence. For instance, (possibly) tightening all the pulling spokes first on one flange, then flipping and tightening the same group on the other. There are other possibilities, but and this is only one.
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Old 09-29-16, 03:27 AM
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If I build with strict control of the number of turns on the nipples, I often get consistently alternating tensions. Always thought it was due to if a spoke is outside or inside at the cross.
I compensate for it and call it done.
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Old 09-29-16, 09:26 AM
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Originally Posted by dabac View Post
If I build with strict control of the number of turns on the nipples, I often get consistently alternating tensions. Always thought it was due to if a spoke is outside or inside at the cross.
I compensate for it and call it done.
+1, that's what came to my mind as well. Once the spokes have a decent amount of tension and I've started to true the wheel, I often look for neighboring spokes that are higher/lower than the rest that I can adjust, rather than just the ones where the immediate problem is. That has the effect of evening out the tension.
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Old 09-29-16, 09:38 AM
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I use anti sieze grease on spoke thread, so the nip, turning, pulls the spoke more than just twist it,

the spoke windup can unwind while you ride .
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Old 09-29-16, 03:24 PM
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Originally Posted by fietsbob View Post
I use anti sieze grease on spoke thread, so the nip, turning, pulls the spoke more than just twist it, the spoke windup can unwind while you ride .

I stress-relieve the wheel before the last adjustment -- grabbing pairs of spokes (with leather gloves) and squeezing, repeat around the wheel for both sides. This gets most of the twist out, and keeps me from having to retension the wheel after the first ride.
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Old 09-29-16, 03:55 PM
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I've Laid the wheel on the floor and pressed down on the rim to do a similar function.
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Old 09-29-16, 03:58 PM
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To the OP,

Now that people have weighed in with general advice based on how they build wheels, have you identified the issue and corrected it?
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Old 10-05-16, 11:58 PM
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Sorry for the late reply, was under the weather . I will be trying out your suggestions and let you know on the progress
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Old 10-06-16, 07:18 AM
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Hmmm. How many crosses?

That alternating thing is what happens when you get the two hub flanges laced one hole off from each other. That's easy to do and a pretty common mistake. Whenever I've done that, however, I've never been able to get the whole wheel to lace.
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Old 10-06-16, 02:02 PM
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I would detension and start from scratch.
The first thing is to make the wheel radially true adjusting for lateral run out as needed. When the tension begins to come up work more on the drive side until you are close. then begin to center the rim and raise tension on the drive side. When you think you have the right tension stress relieve the wheel by grabbing parallel spokes on both sides of the wheel and squeeze them.
I try to get the drive side to near the same tension and let the NDS fall where it may.
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Old 10-06-16, 05:19 PM
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Consider first that you CAN build a wheel with only half the spokes, if you just put the leading spokes from one side in, and the trailing spokes from the other side in. It looks like what has happened is that you have one set of spokes (call it the leading/trailing set) over or under tensioned relative to the other set (call it the trailing/leading set). If you took one entire set of spokes off, the wheel would still hold it's shape, at least until you torque it. But both sets need to be in approximately similar tensions (DS and NDS). With one set of spokes unequal to the other set, your wheels will still be true, but an undue percentage of the stress is put on the set with higher tension, and failure will come quicker. On every spoke that is at 'proper' tension, you need to bring the tension to it's mirror spoke to a similar tension.
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Old 10-06-16, 07:05 PM
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1. Get the wheel to the point where most drive side spokes are hitting about 90 KGF and most non-drive spokes are hitting about 50-60 KGF.

2. Grab three rolls of electrical tape - 3 colors ( I use green, red and yellow) Cut about 20 pieces of green, 4-5 pieces of red and 4-5 pieces of yellow.

3. Tag those spokes that are fine as-is with yellow.

4. Mark those spokes that need 1/8-1/4 turns more with green.

5. Mark those spokes that need 1/8-1/4 turn reduction with red.

For one full rotation of the wheel, do exactly as indicated. YOU have to decide whether it's 1/8 or 1/4 turn. I use double taping to indicate a full 1/4 turn.

I'll do this at least once, sometime twice during a build. Usually from then on, the spokes stay balanced for the most part.

Understand, that you're not going to have "perfect" balancing of spoke tension on each side. You will end up compromising - usually at the joint and sometimes near the valve stem hole where hole punching instead of drilling was used.

However, for 14g (2.0mm) on a Park Tool tensionmeter I try to achieve the following:

All Non-Drive spokes within one mark of each other.
All Drive Side spokes within two marks of each other.

It's better to get it closer on the Non-Drive spokes as they carry the lower tension in an asymmetrical rear wheel.

My wheels are not done until:

- Tension is where I want it.
- Trueness is where I want it.
- Wheel is dished (rim centered between the locknuts / end caps of the axle).

...and stays that way after a final stress relief cycle. (Very hard simultaneous parallel spoke squeezes on both side for two rotations.)

=8-)
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Old 10-06-16, 10:31 PM
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Originally Posted by FBinNY View Post
To the OP,

Now that people have weighed in with general advice based on how they build wheels, have you identified the issue and corrected it?
Yes finally got down to work on the wheel !
Grabbed the coffee and you were spot on with this statement "So in effect, the tight spokes are pulling against each other rather than their opposites on the same flange."

To rectify this I started working on the Nds spokes and got them to equalize tension, the result was that the Ds got balanced as well. I suppose doesn't sound like the right thing to do, but I got there.

Then gradually checking trueness, dish and tension, completed the wheel.

But somehow this does not solve my problem , as in how I got there?

Please stay on with me , I would like to narrate my wheel build process -

No of spokes -32 (14g normal)
Cross - Triple
Asymmetric pattern
Spoke length seems fine.

After lacing :
1. Turn all nipples upto 2 threads exposed.
2. Turn all nipples until all threads hidden.
3. Give three full turns to Drive Side Ds spokes, one turn at every rotation of the wheel. Inorder to dish to the right
4. Give 1 or 2 full turns on the Non Drive Side Nds.
5. Since I am upto some tension approx 50 Ds and 85 Nds
I start to work on the radial and lateral trueness. Keeping an on dish but not working towards it.
6.Once the wheel starts to take shape, I increase the tension on the spokes as required approx Ds 60 and Nds 100.
7. Destress the wheels, squeeze, press on table.
8 Finalize trueness
9 Dish the wheel.
10. Destress and final check of trueness , tension and dish.

Mostly aiming for a Ds 120 kgf and Nds 70kgf. I was not a fan of tensiometers until I checked one build of mine in which the tensions were all over the place. But in reality that wheel never failed me. But that is another debate, lets not confuse with the current issue at hand.

After reading through this can you'll guide me, as to what attributed the alternate tension scenario ?
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Old 10-06-16, 11:02 PM
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I'm going to assume you're right handed, but the following is equally true if you're left handed.

When you tighten going around the wheel, you start at the valve and probably a pulling spoke. Since the rest of the wheel is slack, you slightly rotate the hub vs the rim. When you tighten the next spoke on the same side, it works the cross, but doesn't correct that slight rotation. So when you finish the right side 3 times around always starting with the same spoke (so you don't lose count), you've set up half the problem.

Here's the clincher. You probably flip the wheel so the left flange is on the right because it's more convenient, and repeat the process, but that tiny rotation is now in the opposite direction because the wheel is flipped.

-----------------

In the future, protect yourself by introducing some randomness into the sequence. If you go once around clockwise starting at the valve, next time start at the label and go counter clockwise, or start with trailing spokes, then start with leading spokes. It might also help if for the first few passes you alternate working on the right and left flanges.

Once the wheel is what I call firm, I then over dish to the right bringing the wheel up to about 80-90% of my target tension. I do a semifinal true there with the dish wrong, then use the left spokes only to correct the dish and final true as the wheel comes to full tension. This virtually eliminates working on the tighter RH spokes, sparing me worry over spoke twist or rounding nipple heads.

One other trick I use to make life easier. I have a bunch of those plastic clips that they use on bread bags. I use them as markers to keep track if I'm interrupted, or if I did some extra work in an area, or to mark the starting spokes as I load tension. They help me keep track and act as red flags if, for instance I worked one area to the left, and later found myself working that same area to the right.
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Old 10-07-16, 09:44 AM
  #18  
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Not to insult you, but did you check the lacing pattern to make sure everything is correct? Sometimes I have forgotten to alternate the side the new spoke crosses over the third spoke (using cross 3) The only other recommendation I haven't seen is to relieve the windup or twist in the spokes caused when the nipple is tightened by overshooting when tightening by about a quarter turn and then backing off. You can feel the spoke between two fingers when doing this and feel it unwind.
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Old 10-07-16, 12:02 PM
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FBinNY - Thanks for the great explanations. I expect to be lacing and relacing a number of wheels in the near future. Most of my past experience was with 120 OAL which doesn't have nearly the dish current wheels have so the issues were not as severe, not to mention not paying much attention to tension - kind of like Dave in Breaking Away.


If you are computer guy, you can capture your tension readings in Excel and use a spider chart to visualize the tension distribution left and right. I have found this to be quite informative in terms of why I experience the variations in tension. Don't forget the 20% variance allowance
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Old 10-07-16, 12:12 PM
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Originally Posted by SJX426 View Post

If you are computer guy, you can capture your tension readings in Excel and use a spider chart to visualize the tension distribution left and right. I have found this to be quite informative in terms of why I experience the variations in tension. Don't forget the 20% variance allowance
I was in engineering school in the late sixties, the dawn of the modern computer age. While I used computers out of necessity, I never developed the fascination with them that my friends did, and soon they were calling me an analog man in the digital age. I'm still that way.

As far as wheel building goes, I've never subscribed to using anything other than the wheel itself to guide me. No tension instruments, no numbers, no charts or graphs. Once you learn decent practices and have a sense for what's happening as you go, you naturally end up with even spoke tension as the wheel comes to true.

All the work people do to correct uneven tension is the result of their introducing uneven tension in the first place.

Honesty in posting ---- I own and use a tension gauge, but only as a final QC device checking 2-3 random spokes to see if the near finished wheel is within my desired tension range. I didn't need it in the past when most wheels were similar, but these days I need the gauge to confirm that my finger's calibration is still OK.
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Old 10-07-16, 04:47 PM
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Years ago, I used to check spoke tensions with a violin bow....
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Old 10-07-16, 08:21 PM
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Originally Posted by FBinNY View Post
...... No tension instruments, no numbers, no charts or graphs. Once you learn decent practices and have a sense for what's happening as you go, you naturally end up with even spoke tension as the wheel comes to true...

I own and use a tension gauge, but only as a final QC device checking 2-3 random spokes to see if the near finished wheel is within my desired tension range. I didn't need it in the past when most wheels were similar, but these days I need the gauge to confirm that my finger's calibration is still OK.
That use to be me in the early 70's. Then I took a break until about 3 years ago, so I am hoping to get closer to your experience level, if I am lucky and smart enough.
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Old 10-07-16, 09:03 PM
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Originally Posted by SJX426 View Post
That use to be me in the early 70's. Then I took a break until about 3 years ago, so I am hoping to get closer to your experience level, if I am lucky and smart enough.
It's not a matter of being lucky or smart, it's a question of trusting yourself and repetition and more repetition.

It's like doing basic arithmetic in your head or with pencil and paper. Most people today can't because they've become reliant on calculators, and are out of practice. But you'll still find people at farm stands that write the numbers on bags, add them, give you the total, and pack the stuff in that same bag. Many of these old timers are faster at that than anyone using a cash register.
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Old 11-01-16, 08:51 AM
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And the uneven tension ghost, rears its ugly head.
This time I was building a front wheel (rim brake) , and the tensions started to alternate on the same side.
I did the same build process, as mentioned earlier, slow and gradual bringing up the tension with equal turns.
But this time I checked the tension halfway into the build and same story . I used the same solution, loosened the tight ones and tightened the loose ones (on the same side) and it got resolved.
I really need to understand this , where am I going wrong Sir ?
Really frustrating
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Old 11-01-16, 09:04 AM
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Originally Posted by atlantis View Post
And the uneven tension ghost, rears its ugly head.....

But this time I checked the tension halfway into the build and same story . I used the same solution, loosened the tight ones and tightened the loose ones (on the same side) and it got resolved.
I really need to understand this , where am I going wrong Sir ?
....
Two possibilities.

1- your obsessing and not giving the wheel time to settle, or possibly haven't set the elbows so are seeing the effects of half the spokes resisting laying flat.

2- there's something peculiar about your tightening sequence, and therefore tightening some more than others, or you're spacing and loosening some spokes when you think you're tightening them.

Otherwise, I can't help without being there and watching you build and tighten to see exactly what's going on.
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