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Tips to build wheel quickly?

Old 01-21-20, 03:30 PM
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Winfried
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Tips to build wheel quickly?

Hello,

I want to build a new rear wheel for my Brompton by reusing the spokes + BWR gear hub, as it's about 10x cheaper than buying a whole, new wheel.

I've already done it for the front wheel, and did an OK job but it took a bit long.

If you have good experience building wheels, what would be your top tips to get the job done in less than an hour and reasonably well — ie. a professional wouldn't be happy, but good enough for the (rim) brakes to do their job — ?

Thank you.

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Old 01-21-20, 03:59 PM
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Unfortunately, practice...
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Old 01-21-20, 04:03 PM
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Why the rush? Ever hear: "there's never enough time to do it right but always time to do it over"?
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Old 01-21-20, 04:30 PM
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The slower I build wheels, the sooner I'm done.
Tension up slower than you need to and recheck often.
"Final" truing is very minor, and I'm usually within +/- 5kgf of same side spokes.

BTW, old "crusty" threads will make your effort difficult to do right. You need "feel".
Use new nipples and wire brush the spoke threads well.
That will go strides toward making a less crappy wheel.
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Old 01-21-20, 04:50 PM
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All the good advice above ^^!
I've built 4 or 5 wheels for my Dahon and Tern folders, and a couple for my full-size road bike. I seem to get pretty good results in a couple hours of work. But it's easy work, and it isn't necessary very often... it's not as if I'm making my living building wheels.
Slow down and enjoy the process!
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Old 01-21-20, 06:56 PM
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Originally Posted by Winfried View Post
Hello,

I want to build a new rear wheel for my Brompton by reusing the spokes + BWR gear hub, as it's about 10x cheaper than buying a whole, new wheel.

I've already done it for the front wheel, and did an OK job but it took a bit long.

If you have good experience building wheels, what would be your top tips to get the job done in less than an hour and reasonably well — ie. a professional wouldn't be happy, but good enough for the (rim) brakes to do their job — ?
Detension the spokes, tape an identical new rim on in three places, move the spokes over one at a time taking the opportunity to lubricate spoke threads plus sockets, cut the tape, then tension and true as if starting from scratch.
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Old 01-21-20, 07:58 PM
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Originally Posted by Drew Eckhardt View Post
Detension the spokes, tape an identical new rim on in three places, move the spokes over one at a time taking the opportunity to lubricate spoke threads plus sockets, cut the tape, then tension and true as if starting from scratch.
+1. And if it wasn't obvious Winifred , you don't even need to unlace the spokes from the hub. Just move the threaded end over to the new rim, one at a time.
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Old 01-21-20, 09:03 PM
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Originally Posted by noobinsf View Post
Unfortunately, practice...
Yup. And don’t overthink it. It’s not as daunting as many people make it out to be.
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Old 01-21-20, 11:50 PM
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want to speed it up use a small handheld screw gun, unthread each nipple about 3 turns, then tape the two rims together. Unthread a spoke with the screw gun, set the new nipple and thread till there's about 2 threads still showing. You can do this all the way around. Note, if you could see any part of a thread on the original wheel you'll need to adjust the visible threads. Something like the cyclus nipple driver
https://www.bike24.com/p2242915.html will also speed up the whole process. Var and a couple other brands make similar and they cost 15-30 each but totally worth the cost if you do this often enough. With this and a bit of practice you can build a wheel in half an hour.
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Old 01-22-20, 06:19 AM
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Thanks for the tips.

A digital tension meter seems to help a lot to get it right and fast — I assume it's how wheels are machine-built in the factory —, but it's way too expensive for non-pros.

I'll also get some linseed oil for the threads. I've seen it recommended here and there.
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Old 01-22-20, 06:28 AM
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I like to tape the spokes together at the crossings and then I can remove the old rim and swap in the new one. I put all of the nipples on and then go around and run all of them down the end of the threads. I put my thumbnail against the last thread and run the nipple down until it hits my thumbnail. Then I go around the wheel and tighten each nipple the same amount of turns until it starts to get some tension. At that point, it goes in the stand and gets dished and trued before further tightening.
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Old 01-22-20, 08:33 AM
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Originally Posted by Winfried View Post
Thanks for the tips.

A digital tension meter seems to help a lot to get it right and fast — I assume it's how wheels are machine-built in the factory —, but it's way too expensive for non-pros.

I'll also get some linseed oil for the threads. I've seen it recommended here and there.
There are better products out there. Linseed oil works okay if you dip the spokes and let them dry. Trying to apply it while transferring a rim is not as easy. Ideally, you loosen one spoke at a time and transfer the spoke to the existing rim. Putting linseed oil on each spoke and letting it dry during the process would be very time consuming. Most of the other spoke preparations have the same issue. They are meant to be used after they dry. Rock N Roll Nipple Cream is meant to be used wet and might be a better choice. I've only used it once myself and that wasn't on one of my builds. I can't say how well it holds but it gets mostly good reviews.
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Old 01-22-20, 09:15 AM
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Originally Posted by Winfried View Post
Thanks for the tips.

A digital tension meter seems to help a lot to get it right and fast — I assume it's how wheels are machine-built in the factory —, but it's way too expensive for non-pros.

I'll also get some linseed oil for the threads. I've seen it recommended here and there.
It'd be a lot cheaper to pay someone to build than purchase a digital tension meter.
You seem to make a lot of assumptions or go off an tangents because you read "something somewhere".
You have obviously never measured the tensions on a machine built wheel. They are all over the place.
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Old 01-22-20, 09:57 AM
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Swapping rims by taping the rims together and moving spokes one at a time is a time honoured and fool-proof way to do it. But it is the slow way to do it. Much of the time comes from unthreading each nipple and reinserting and rethreading in the new rim.

To do a faster wheel build, in my experience, you need to have the spokes out and sorted by length (usually drive-side/non-drive-side), then make sure you find the correct hole in the rim to get everything lined up to start, then drop all the spokes in to one side of the hub from one direction, lace them into the rim, then repeat this three more times.

When I regularly built wheels in an LBS I would not reuse spokes as unthreading and inspecting and cleaning cost more in shop time than a new set of DT P.G. spokes. Maybe the calculation would work out different if the spokes were more expensive.
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Old 01-22-20, 10:01 AM
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Old 01-22-20, 10:39 AM
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Originally Posted by dsaul View Post
I like to tape the spokes together at the crossings and then I can remove the old rim and swap in the new one. I put all of the nipples on and then go around and run all of them down the end of the threads. I put my thumbnail against the last thread and run the nipple down until it hits my thumbnail. Then I go around the wheel and tighten each nipple the same amount of turns until it starts to get some tension. At that point, it goes in the stand and gets dished and trued before further tightening.
Thats an interesting way. I like it, means you can clean and prep teh spokes faster also.

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Old 01-22-20, 12:02 PM
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Originally Posted by Bill Kapaun View Post
The slower I build wheels, the sooner I'm done.
Tension up slower than you need to and recheck often.
"Final" truing is very minor, and I'm usually within +/- 5kgf of same side spokes.
This^^^^

Unless you have a bunch of wheel builds under your belt, I think that an hour is an unrealistic time objective. Most of the time required to build a good wheel has to do with tensioning and final truing.

My trick is to stick my thumb nail into the last spoke thread and tighten every spoke to that level. That gives me an even place for starting a round wheel. From that point on I count turns as I gradually tighten each spoke. I usually start with two full turns, then one full turn, then fractional turns. Start at the valve hole and tighten every spoke by the same amount. This may not be the fastest way to do it but, if you are meticulous, it will keep the wheel round as the tension builds and radial truing is the hardest to correct afterward. As the wheel approaches final tension, I do the finish truing by tightening and loosening opposing pairs of spokes by an equal amount. That keeps the absolute tension as even as possible.

I once built up a 40 spoke tandem wheel using this method that required no truing, either lateral or radial, at all.
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Old 01-22-20, 12:14 PM
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Originally Posted by Winfried View Post
...

If you have good experience building wheels, what would be your top tips to get the job done in less than an hour and reasonably well — ie. a professional wouldn't be happy, but good enough for the (rim) brakes to do their job — ?

Thank you.
"your top tips to get the job done in less than an hour and reasonably well" It's already been said, but here it is again. The top tip - build ~200 wheels in the next two years. Then you may be able to do a decent job on this one in less than an hour. (Make a good portion of those wheels small ones. They will be harder to do than the larger wheels. Shorter, stiffer spokes, harder to bend, etc.)

Ben
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Old 01-22-20, 12:27 PM
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Originally Posted by Retro Grouch View Post
This^^^^

Unless you have a bunch of wheel builds under your belt, I think that an hour is an unrealistic time objective. Most of the time required to build a good wheel has to do with tensioning and final truing.

My trick is to stick my thumb nail into the last spoke thread and tighten every spoke to that level. That gives me an even place for starting a round wheel. From that point on I count turns as I gradually tighten each spoke. I usually start with two full turns, then one full turn, then fractional turns. Start at the valve hole and tighten every spoke by the same amount. This may not be the fastest way to do it but, if you are meticulous, it will keep the wheel round as the tension builds and radial truing is the hardest to correct afterward. As the wheel approaches final tension, I do the finish truing by tightening and loosening opposing pairs of spokes by an equal amount. That keeps the absolute tension as even as possible.

I once built up a 40 spoke tandem wheel using this method that required no truing, either lateral or radial, at all.
I learned to build wheels with the old Robergel spokes. The spokes out of a sealed box were far from uniform. There was no reference to start with. It would take me probably an hour to get a loosely spoked wheel with some semblance of round and true. (Spoke lengths were not uniform, Depth of threading likewise. Gauges varied, 3 spokes/wheelset would just break in the early miles. I used the very light butted galvanized Sport spokes. Well built and after those bad spokes broke, those wheels went forever and were the weight of the modern DT Revolutions. Building my first Wheelsmith spoked wheel in the '80s was a revelation! Round to start with!

Ben
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Old 01-22-20, 03:24 PM
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Originally Posted by 79pmooney View Post
I learned to build wheels with the old Robergel spokes. The spokes out of a sealed box were far from uniform. There was no reference to start with. It would take me probably an hour to get a loosely spoked wheel with some semblance of round and true. (Spoke lengths were not uniform, Depth of threading likewise. Gauges varied, 3 spokes/wheelset would just break in the early miles. I used the very light butted galvanized Sport spokes. Well built and after those bad spokes broke, those wheels went forever and were the weight of the modern DT Revolutions. Building my first Wheelsmith spoked wheel in the '80s was a revelation! Round to start with!

Ben
I did my early wheelbuilding with DT Champion spokes. So consistent were the threads that I would initially tighten the spokes so the last thread was even with the end of the nipple by eye, and often that would be astonishingly radial and lateral true without any more adjustment. I could then count spoke key rotations to bring the wheel up to tension and it would require only minimal adjustment to get it good enough to go to a customer.
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Old 01-22-20, 05:05 PM
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Originally Posted by 79pmooney View Post
I learned to build wheels with the old Robergel spokes. The spokes out of a sealed box were far from uniform. There was no reference to start with. It would take me probably an hour to get a loosely spoked wheel with some semblance of round and true. (Spoke lengths were not uniform, Depth of threading likewise. Gauges varied, 3 spokes/wheelset would just break in the early miles. I used the very light butted galvanized Sport spokes. Well built and after those bad spokes broke, those wheels went forever and were the weight of the modern DT Revolutions. Building my first Wheelsmith spoked wheel in the '80s was a revelation! Round to start with!

Ben
I didn't build my first new wheel until I was laid up with a bike induced* (extra points) broken tib & fib during the winter of 13-14.
It was an OMG experience!
I had purchased a TS-8 stand & tension meter. a couple years before when I was flipping bikes for side money. Make $20, buy $30-35 worth of tools kind of profit.
My ACTUAL REASON was trying to get those damned Huffy wheels straight enough so I could get the brake pads really close so they had at least some braking.
I quickly learned the limitations of Huffy's & TS-8's.
I had cannibalized a few wheels for parts, so I had "built" a couple "used" wheels. Even with new nipples, a complete pain.
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Old 01-23-20, 05:12 AM
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Originally Posted by Retro Grouch View Post
My trick is to stick my thumb nail into the last spoke thread and tighten every spoke to that level. That gives me an even place for starting a round wheel. From that point on I count turns as I gradually tighten each spoke. I usually start with two full turns, then one full turn, then fractional turns. Start at the valve hole and tighten every spoke by the same amount. This may not be the fastest way to do it but, if you are meticulous, it will keep the wheel round as the tension builds and radial truing is the hardest to correct afterward. As the wheel approaches final tension, I do the finish truing by tightening and loosening opposing pairs of spokes by an equal amount. That keeps the absolute tension as even as possible.
Thanks.

I started by screwing each nipple until the end showed through and the screwdriver could no longer work.

At that point, I got a somewhat oval rim, and I wondered: Should I tigthen the few spokes around the section and move the rim closer to the hub, or conversely should I loosen those involved to move the rim away from the hub?

But anyway, after getting a reasonably round wheel, it took only minimal adjustment to correct the lateral wobble.

It's not perfect, but the brakes work fine.

Thanks everyone.

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Old 01-24-20, 06:59 PM
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Originally Posted by Winfried View Post

I'll also get some linseed oil for the threads. I've seen it recommended here and there.
You don't want to do anything to make the nipples more difficult to turn later.

Put enough tension in the wheel (110 kgf rear drive side) and it will stay true until crashed or bent on a road obstacle. Zinc anti-seize is ideal since that corrodes preferentially to aluminum, although plain grease works well.

Insufficiently tensioned wheels can taco hitting bumps when the rim bends enough to slacken the spokes, without lateral support the rim shifts sideways, and the rim springs back while still off center.

While sticky stuff stops loose nipples from turning so wheels stay straight, it doesn't fix the underlying problem which you're better off knowing about.

Wheelsmith developed Spoke Prep to cut warranty returns from heavier riders using under tensioned machine built wheels which wouldn't stay true.

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Old 01-26-20, 11:04 AM
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Originally Posted by Winfried View Post
Thanks for the tips.

A digital tension meter seems to help a lot to get it right and fast — I assume it's how wheels are machine-built in the factory —, but it's way too expensive for non-pros.
I got the Park TM-1 on sale for about $60. It's a one-time purchase and should last virtually forever for the occasional wheel-builder (like me) if it's not mis-treated. It's not digital, but perfectly adequate.
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Old 01-26-20, 05:14 PM
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I got an even cheaper one from China.
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