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Spoke Nipple Brands

Old 06-15-23, 12:55 PM
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Spoke Nipple Brands

I' going to swap a rim over and I was thinking that I might change out the spoke nipples. I have 2.0mm spokes.
I see that people generally recommend Wheelsmith. Is there any reason to go with other brands like Sapim or DTSwiss (cheaper?)?
My only worry is that I have read that there can be small variations in thread. Is this true?
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Old 06-15-23, 05:02 PM
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I haven't had any problems mixing and matching any of the major brands (Wheelsmith, DT Swiss, Sapim). I do believe Wheelsmith is out of business, though. I like Spline Drive as well.
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Old 06-15-23, 05:34 PM
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Most of the spoke makers do not actually make their own nipples. Nipple manufacture process and machinery is VERY different from spoke making, so most prefer to have them made by folks best equipped to do so.

In any case there's not a meaningful quality difference brand to brand. Instead, focus on the individual characteristics, like shape of the head, quality of the flats, and (most important) length of thread.

Spokes generally have 10mm of thread length, so I look for nipples with only 7-8mm of thread. That allows me to err to the long side with 2mm+ room for overrun. Confirm this by threading a spoke and seeing how far you can go beyond the head before bottoming. As a rule it's all a matter of preference, but if you're spokes are already on the long side, you MUST buy nipples that allow overrun.
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Old 06-16-23, 06:55 PM
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Look at the various brands closely, even go to a shop and look. Various brands have different shapes to the head of the nipple. I really prefer Polyax brand as the head of the nipple is more rounded, and the slot for the nipple driver is a bit deeper. The rounded head allows the nipple to seat well and not bind when at a higher angle. (Some builders suggest spoke washers, I have not used them) The deeper head allows you to run in the nipple without stripping the slot out. I have older rims with nipples somewhere between the generic one and the Polyax one shown that also have a bit deeper head.

Any of these will work just fine, it's a matter of how much annoyance you tolerate. I usually screw up at least once on a build (sigh....) and having to deal with stripped out slots is never fun. Multiply by 64 or 72 nipples and you get the idea

Polyax on left

Polyax on left
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Old 06-16-23, 09:15 PM
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Brass it doesn't matter much, I got a deal of 500 brass nipples for 20.00 so I lean towards those till the next bargain comes along. Alloy I'm with urbanknight, spline drive all the way and I go with wheel fanatyk, don't know if anyone else is making these, they allow for proper torque with no stripping out of the sides.
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Old 06-17-23, 04:53 AM
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Thanks for the replies. I bought some DT Swiss. I'll try the Polyax next!
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Old 06-17-23, 01:06 PM
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Whatever gives you a match on the threads. Stay away from aluminum, though.
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Old 06-17-23, 05:18 PM
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Originally Posted by Russ Roth
I go with wheel fanatyk, don't know if anyone else is making these, they allow for proper torque with no stripping out of the sides.
I believe the patent is still good for a couple more years and Wheel Fanatyk bought the rights. Not sure if it has caught on enough to copy when it expires though.
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Old 06-17-23, 07:38 PM
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Originally Posted by WT160
My only worry is that I have read that there can be small variations in thread. Is this true?
This used to be a problem, but nipple thread has pretty much standardized at 56tpi now. You do still need to match the spoke guage.
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Old 06-18-23, 12:04 PM
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Where I live, Sapim and DT Swiss are available (mostly sourced from Germany), but Wheelsmith is not.

I prefer DT Swiss classic nipples, because they don't have a conical head (so they distribute the load on the rim over a wider area), and because their threads let the spoke protrude more - so there's less chance of having the nipple's head be unsupported by the spoke, and break off. Sure, if you get your spoke lengths just correct, ideally, that should not be a problem with Sapim either, but with DT Swiss I have a bit more of a margin for error (and, besides, I usually get spokes at 2mm length difference, at best).


Niple thread lengths for Sapim and DT Swiss brass nipples

That bit of "OCD" aside, both Sapim and DT Swiss make good quality nipples.

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Old 06-20-23, 05:36 AM
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Originally Posted by oldbobcat
Whatever gives you a match on the threads. Stay away from aluminum, though.
I agree although I often get a lot of flack for suggesting brass. To be, the minuscule weight savings using alloy nipples isn't worth the extra possibility of galvanic corrosion. Brass is more forgiving.
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Old 06-20-23, 06:25 AM
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Originally Posted by Lombard
I agree although I often get a lot of flack for suggesting brass. To be, the minuscule weight savings using alloy nipples isn't worth the extra possibility of galvanic corrosion. Brass is more forgiving.
Aluminum nipples are not all created equal. I have built a couple thousand carbon wheels over the past decade almost exclusively with Sapim aluminum nipples. They are anodized 7075, resistant to rounding (better than brass in that regard) and corrosion resistant. I get to service bikes with wheels I built many years ago and corrosion is rarely an issue.
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Old 06-20-23, 11:37 AM
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Originally Posted by oldbobcat
Whatever gives you a match on the threads. Stay away from aluminum, though.
I'm with you there... so easy to strip these... even if they look cool.

Also, it's helpful to use something that will set the threads (like a threadlocker.. but not) once you have the wheel back together. I like to use linseed oil... it smells great and works well.
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Old 06-20-23, 11:38 AM
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Originally Posted by Dan Burkhart
Aluminum nipples are not all created equal. I have built a couple thousand carbon wheels over the past decade almost exclusively with Sapim aluminum nipples. They are anodized 7075, resistant to rounding (better than brass in that regard) and corrosion resistant. I get to service bikes with wheels I built many years ago and corrosion is rarely an issue.

Good to know! Thanks!
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Old 06-21-23, 01:59 PM
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Originally Posted by Dan Burkhart
Aluminum nipples are not all created equal. I have built a couple thousand carbon wheels over the past decade almost exclusively with Sapim aluminum nipples. They are anodized 7075, resistant to rounding (better than brass in that regard) and corrosion resistant. I get to service bikes with wheels I built many years ago and corrosion is rarely an issue.
Good to know. The nipples I'm familiar with are the ones Specialized threw on Rockhoppers and Hardrocks a decade or so ago.
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Old 05-07-24, 11:44 PM
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Originally Posted by FBinNY
Most of the spoke makers do not actually make their own nipples. Nipple manufacture process and machinery is VERY different from spoke making, so most prefer to have them made by folks best equipped to do so.

In any case there's not a meaningful quality difference brand to brand. Instead, focus on the individual characteristics, like shape of the head, quality of the flats, and (most important) length of thread.

Spokes generally have 10mm of thread length, so I look for nipples with only 7-8mm of thread. That allows me to err to the long side with 2mm+ room for overrun. Confirm this by threading a spoke and seeing how far you can go beyond the head before bottoming. As a rule it's all a matter of preference, but if you're spokes are already on the long side, you MUST buy nipples that allow overrun.
I'm sorry to resurrect this discussion, but what brand nipples have you found with 7-8mm of thread? I'm desperately looking for 14mm nipples with no more than 8.5mm of thread. Thanks.
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Old 05-08-24, 05:21 AM
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I doubt you'll find any.

14mm nipples are favored by production wheel builders because they make lacing faster. The benefit is the longer thread that allows lacing to be finished while the spokes are all very slack. So a 14mm with short threads nipple is self defeating.

The 12mm nipples I'm using now are from a large purchase from Alpina some years ago.

But that begs the question of why you need those specific nipples.
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Old 05-08-24, 02:11 PM
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I'm changing out some old aluminum nipples for brass ones and the wheel set (c. 1987) was built with two different spoke thread lengths (the rear, 9mm thread on Hoshi spokes, and the front "OHIO" spokes have a thread length of 13.75mm), both use the same 15.5mm aluminum nipples with a 8.5mm thread.

DT 12mm standard nipples fits well for the rear rim, but they leave approximately 1.75mm of exposed thread on the front wheel which looks a bit unsightly and I'm also not sure if the exposed threads would effect durability. I was considering using the 14mm for both, which would hide the exposed threads on the longer threaded spokes, but the nipple threading of both the DTs and Sapims (9.75mm and 9mm) are too long for the 9mm spoke threads.

One option is to use the DT 14mm nipples for the front and 12mm nipples for the rear. Another is to deal with the exposed thread. Or maybe I'll salvage the best ones for the rear and put fresh 14mm or 16mm ones the front. I'm looking into a few other options, just waiting on the specs.

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Old 05-08-24, 02:18 PM
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I think you're mis-applying the logic relating to nipple thread length. It would ONLY matter if the spokes extend beyond the tops of the nipples. Since you're describing a situation where the spokes are too short rather than too long, there's no issue. In fact, for your situation, you'd want more, not less thread length. So, feel free to buy any14mm nipples as long as your spokes don't reach beyond the nipple heads currently.
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Old 05-08-24, 04:34 PM
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No, the spokes are not too short, some spokes extend fraction of a millimeter beyond the nipple end, but they are generally even.

Given a spoke of "correct" length with 9mm of thread, a nipple with 10mm of thread will cause the spoke to bind 1mm before the spoke reaches the end of the nipple, yes? In this case, a shorter thread of say 8.5mm would be preferable. Is that reasoning correct?

The DT Swiss 12mm nipple has a thread of 8.55mm and their 14mm nipple has a thread of 9.75mm. The 12mm nipple is fine, but the 14mm would bottom out/bind on my 9mm threaded spoke 0.75mm before the spoke end reaches the end of the nipple.
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Old 05-08-24, 04:59 PM
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Originally Posted by Devotee
No, the spokes are not too short, some spokes extend fraction of a millimeter beyond the nipple end, but they are generally even.

Given a spoke of "correct" length with 9mm of thread, a nipple with 10mm of thread will cause the spoke to bind 1mm before the spoke reaches the end of the nipple, yes? In this case, a shorter thread of say 8.5mm would be preferable. Is that reasoning correct?

The DT Swiss 12mm nipple has a thread of 8.55mm and their 14mm nipple has a thread of 9.75mm. The 12mm nipple is fine, but the 14mm would bottom out/bind on my 9mm threaded spoke 0.75mm before the spoke end reaches the end of the nipple.

Yes, you've nailed it. But you can't have it two ways.

If a spoke is short enough to show thread beyond the nipple, it's obviously short of the head by 2-4mm or more, respectively depending on the nipple length.

If I may, I'll assume that the wheel has some spokes that reach the tops of nipples, and some that are short. If so, you might use appropriate nipples alternatingly, though it might look off.

Or, you might buy the 14mm nipples and a 2mm drill bit or reamer. Then by hand, deepen the counterbore for those shorter spokes.

I used to do this from time to time by putting a power drill or Dremel in a vise, and hand feeding nipples. It takes some touch, but then goes very fast. If you don't have a power drill, you can use a pin vise.

Note, reamers will offer better control with power, and twist drills are easier with a pin vise.
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Old 05-09-24, 07:39 AM
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Originally Posted by FBinNY
Or, you might buy the 14mm nipples and a 2mm drill bit or reamer. Then by hand, deepen the counterbore for those shorter spokes.

I used to do this from time to time by putting a power drill or Dremel in a vise, and hand feeding nipples. It takes some touch, but then goes very fast. If you don't have a power drill, you can use a pin vise.

Note, reamers will offer better control with power, and twist drills are easier with a pin vise.
I was going to suggest drilling/reaming, but I'd add a milling cutter to the list.
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Old 05-09-24, 12:15 PM
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Okay, we're closer, but going back to my original problem, the issue with the threads showing on my front wheel when using a 12mm nipple comes not from the spokes being too short, they are the correct length, but rather because the spokes are threaded very, very long at 13.74mm. So even when fully tensioned and the top of the spoke level with the top of the nipple, threads still show at the bottom...hence the need for a longer bored nipple to hide/cover the extra threads. Unfortunately, those those longer nipples general come with more thread, not the same amount of thread as the 12mm that works perfect with my rear wheel with more standard 9mm threaded spokes. I was finding it difficult to find nipples that worked for both wheels, for aesthetics sake.

Anyway, I found some 16mm Wheelsmith brass nipples with 8mm of threading (supposedly) that approximate the original aluminum ones (15.5mm with 8.5mm of thread).

Thank you for hashing this out with me and for the counterboring tip (all)...I'll keep it in mind if these nipples don't work out.
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Old 05-09-24, 12:39 PM
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Originally Posted by Devotee
Okay, we're closer, but going back to my original problem, the issue with the threads showing on my front wheel when using a 12mm nipple comes not from the spokes being too short, they are the correct length, but rather because the spokes are threaded very, very long at 13.74mm. .....
So, you don't have a problem. Assuming spokes are the right length, then ANY nipple with thread length less than 13.74mm is fine.

The universal rule simple ---- spokes can extend beyond the tops of nipples by an amount equal the the difference in thread length (spokes threads minus nipple threads).

So, it seems you're fretting over nothing.
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Old 05-09-24, 02:08 PM
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Originally Posted by FBinNY
So, you don't have a problem. Assuming spokes are the right length, then ANY nipple with thread length less than 13.74mm is fine.

The universal rule simple ---- spokes can extend beyond the tops of nipples by an amount equal the the difference in thread length (spokes threads minus nipple threads).

So, it seems you're fretting over nothing.
Well, I don't have a problem anymore, but as I said before, I was looking for the same nipples that would work for both the front and rear wheels and not ANY nipple with thread less than 13.74mm would do, only one with 8.50mm or less would do...which I was able to find.

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