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Wheelbuilders! Brass vs. Aluminum nipples

Old 04-10-07, 06:57 AM
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Wheelbuilders! Brass vs. Aluminum nipples

So I'm planning a new build and am undecided about whether to use brass or aluminum nipples on the new wheels. I'm 160 lbs and the wheels will both be 32H campy centaur hubs laced 3x in the rear, 2x in the front with DT aerolite spokes to velocity aeroheads (offset rear rim too) and I'd be using either DT aluminum or brass nipples.

I know brass is more durable but I'm a fairly light rider, they aren't low spoke wheels and it seems like such a cheap cheap way to drop 2 oz. off the weight of the wheels.

Also, any opinions on DT's threadlocking nipples? It doesn't seem needed with prepped hand built wheels but I'd love to hear some opinions.

Thanks guys!
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Old 04-10-07, 07:03 AM
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One of the wheel sets I sold went to a user who put them on his commuter bike. Salt corrosion damaged several of the aluminium nipples. There was a place for brass.
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Old 04-10-07, 07:08 AM
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Go with brass nipples. The durability issue isn't about rider weight, it's about aluminum nipples having a tendency to round over after a time, often because the nipples have become very difficult to turn, and a spoke wrench will no longer turn them. The weight savings is minimal, I don't know exactly how much you'd save but the two ounces you mention sounds like more than it would be to me-

Last edited by well biked; 04-10-07 at 07:17 AM.
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Old 04-10-07, 07:19 AM
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Yikes.

Brass is sounding better and better. On the website 64 brass nipples are 65 grams, 64 aluminum are 20 grams, so 45 grams is almost 2 oz.

Any experience with the DT thread locking nipples?
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Old 04-10-07, 07:21 AM
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22g vs. 64g for a pair of 32h wheels. That's 1.48 ouces of weight. Not nearly worth the trouble of oxidation and soft work surfaces.

I wouldn't ride aluminum nipples unless I didn't have to maintain my own wheels.
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Old 04-10-07, 07:24 AM
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Originally Posted by Hocam
Any experience with the DT thread locking nipples?
I oil my threads and nipples. If the wheel is properly tensioned, you don't need to lock the threads -- they won't ever unscrew.

I've heard some like the non-locking loctite (can't remember red or blue) as it prevents thread corrosion, without actually locking the threads. I still like oil as it allows fine control of tension near the limit, but I haven't tried this loctite...
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Old 04-10-07, 07:35 AM
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Thanks, I think I'll stick to standard brass nipples then. Locking ones seem like a marketing scheme to me.
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Old 04-10-07, 07:47 AM
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Brass for me thanks. I like my teeth, hehe. Well the ones I have left anyway,,,,BD
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Old 04-10-07, 08:09 AM
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Originally Posted by Bikedued
Brass for me thanks. I like my teeth, hehe. Well the ones I have left anyway,,,,BD
aluminum nipples won't increase the risk of losing one's teeth in an accident. rather, they are more likely to freeze to the spokes and get stripped when trying to turn them with a spoke wrench.
On front wheel or rear drive-side, spoke tension is high enough to not worry about a thread-locker. But on the non-drive-side of a dished rear wheel, spokes are a notably lower tension and can loosen over time, and it's more worth using something that makes loosening less likely. Weaker versions of loctite can work, or spoke prep. I use boiled linseed oil, which functions as a "stiff lubricant".
And I've used brass nipples for all the wheels that I build.
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Old 04-10-07, 08:15 AM
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Aluminum all over except for drive side.
Do they oxidate? Yes they do
Is it a problem? No it's not
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Old 04-10-07, 08:20 AM
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Originally Posted by Lectron
Aluminum all over except for drive side.
Do they oxidate? Yes they do
Is it a problem? No it's not
Not a bad solution, actually.
Have you ever experienced aluminum nipples freezing to the threads and getting hard to turn (and then stripping/rounding out)? How have you prepped them?
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Old 04-10-07, 08:25 AM
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Just the same, brass for me thanks. Not a problem for them to oxidize, but I imagine corrosion is a real problem. I live 70-75 miles from the coast, and my fuel pressure regulator on my car (Holley) tries to corrode constantly. I have to keep it clean and lubed up on the outside. That and other aluminum things around here try to corrode if not protected.,,,,BD
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Old 04-10-07, 08:39 AM
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Originally Posted by timcupery
Not a bad solution, actually.
Have you ever experienced aluminum nipples freezing to the threads and getting hard to turn (and then stripping/rounding out)? How have you prepped them?
Experienced aluminum nipples freezing? Yep Especially when not lubricating the threads (or spoke prep). What I usually do now is lubricating the threads and finish of with DT spoke freeze. That way the nipples won't stay completely locked. If no lubes' used, they stay locked and impossible to true. With rev. (1.5mm) spokes you actually have to change the spoke.
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Old 04-10-07, 08:40 AM
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Originally Posted by timcupery
Not a bad solution, actually.
So now it's down to saving just 1.1 ounces (31.1 g) for two (32 spoke) wheels, and 3/4 of the nipples would still have the already mentioned potential headaches of aluminum nipples. Granted, the driveside nipples being brass would no doubt lessen the potential for problems. Still, no thanks. Either way, a drop of oil at each spoke/nipple junction at least once a year will help keep the nipples turning freely-

Last edited by well biked; 04-10-07 at 08:54 AM.
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Old 04-10-07, 08:56 AM
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I am in the process of building my first wheelset (ordered the parts last night). In my readings online, I found a guy who did the math about how much extra energy it takes to accelerate a wheel with brass nipples compared to aluminum nipples from 20 to 30 mph. He also compared it to the same weight when not as part of the wheels. All things being equal (rider weight, wind, weather, etc.) what he found was it takes 6 w extra to do the acceleration. I wish I could find the site...
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Old 04-10-07, 09:15 AM
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Inertia is the word you're looking for, and here's one pretty accurate way to determine it

Here's a graph over different wheels interia.


Last edited by Lectron; 04-10-07 at 09:36 AM.
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Old 04-10-07, 10:22 AM
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Originally Posted by Lectron
Aluminum all over except for drive side.
Do they oxidate? Yes they do
Is it a problem? No it's not
To this idea can be added DT revolution 14/17/14 guage spokes radial laced except for the drive side rear as 14/15/14 3 cross. Excellent performance wheels.

Does everybody need or even want them. No. These are not your grandads (me) wheels. They are fun though.
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Old 04-10-07, 10:40 AM
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Originally Posted by Hocam
So I'm planning a new build and am undecided about whether to use brass or aluminum nipples on the new wheels. I'm 160 lbs and the wheels will both be 32H campy centaur hubs laced 3x in the rear, 2x in the front with DT aerolite spokes to velocity aeroheads (offset rear rim too) and I'd be using either DT aluminum or brass nipples.

I know brass is more durable but I'm a fairly light rider, they aren't low spoke wheels and it seems like such a cheap cheap way to drop 2 oz. off the weight of the wheels.

Also, any opinions on DT's threadlocking nipples? It doesn't seem needed with prepped hand built wheels but I'd love to hear some opinions.

Thanks guys!
TWO whole ounces!

How will that translate into results in your next race or fast club ride?

Answer: Not at all.

Bob
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Old 04-10-07, 12:11 PM
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Nothing wrong with alumunum nipples. I've built with them for years, and gotten great service life out of them. My oldest set of wheels with alloy nipples are just over 10 years old, with no nipple related problems -- they're MTB wheels, so they've seen their fair share of water and dirt.

Most of the so called issues are easily solved.

Rounding of the squared portion is caused by poor quality tools. Use a high quality four sided spoke wrench and never worry about it again.

Corrosion can be prevented by using anti-sieze, and adding one mm to the calculated spoke length will reinforce the flange of the nipple by threading the spoke all the way through.

Aluminum nipples have been in use for many years and will continue to be used successfully by many wheelbuilders around the world, so don't blame the product for the mechanic's shortcomings.
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Old 04-10-07, 01:03 PM
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Originally Posted by Svr
Nothing wrong with alumunum nipples. I've built with them for years, and gotten great service life out of them. My oldest set of wheels with alloy nipples are just over 10 years old, with no nipple related problems -- they're MTB wheels, so they've seen their fair share of water and dirt.

Most of the so called issues are easily solved.

Rounding of the squared portion is caused by poor quality tools. Use a high quality four sided spoke wrench and never worry about it again.

Corrosion can be prevented by using anti-sieze, and adding one mm to the calculated spoke length will reinforce the flange of the nipple by threading the spoke all the way through.

Aluminum nipples have been in use for many years and will continue to be used successfully by many wheelbuilders around the world, so don't blame the product for the mechanic's shortcomings.
I can only speak to the wheels brought to me by friends, as I've only ever built with brass, but mainstream boutique wheels I've seen with aluminum nipples are bad news after a few months of all-weather use.
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Old 04-10-07, 02:51 PM
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Originally Posted by Bikedued
Brass for me thanks. I like my teeth, hehe. Well the ones I have left anyway,,,,BD
You have brass fillings? I have titanium fillings because there lighter and allow me to eat faster.
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Old 04-10-07, 03:09 PM
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Everyone talks going light this light that, but lightest weight stuff is not as durable as some of the only slightly heavier stuff.

So what are you trying to accomplish with this wheel build? Are you racing or just leisure riding? Leisure riding can be long distance riding but your not racing.

DT Competition double butted spokes are great spokes and they come in two flavors just get the lightest flavor. I would not use DT Revolution spokes on a 32 spoke wheel, while they are lighter they are more fragile and can have problems going out of adjustment, and are more difficult for a wheel builder to build so he/she better be real good; also they cost about twice as much as the DT Competition spokes. I have Revolutions on my front wheel and like you I weigh 165 pounds but I have 36 spoked rims and with that combo I've had virtually no problems.

Also if you want durability don't go with radial laced spokes, the weight you will save by doing that is not that great maybe an ounce and you will lose reliability. And go with the brass nipples for trouble free nipples.

BUT if you racing then that changes all of that, but if you were racing I would look into a completely new wheel set that would be more aerodynamic and use less spokes because most of the time Aerodynamics in a wheel wins over light weight non-aero wheels. And for the cost of rebuilding a wheel with all the light criteria done you could have bought a pair of Mavic Ksyrium Equipe for only $330! https://www.pricepoint.com/detail/130...--Wheelset.htm
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Old 04-10-07, 09:16 PM
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DT Aluminum nipples only on my builds. I use Revolution spokes but don't recommend them for driveside rear, too much stretch.

Al
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Old 04-11-07, 07:22 AM
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Originally Posted by Hocam
So I'm planning a new build and am undecided about whether to use brass or aluminum nipples on the new wheels.


sounds like these guys have been dealing with cheap wheels, cheap tools, and/or a poor quality of possibly pre-built/OEM wheels.

use aluminum nipples. they are far better than they used to be and shoud not carry over the reputation from several _decades_ ago as some of the posters seems to be hanging on to, for some reason.

i only build with alloy nipples and use linseed oil on the spokes thread. no thread lockers or spoke prep neded when you have proper and even tension; i don't need glue to hold my wheels together. a properly tensioned wheel won't have nipples coming loose, ever.




Originally Posted by Al1943
DT Aluminum nipples only on my builds. I use Revolution spokes but don't recommend them for driveside rear, too much stretch.

i've used revolutions since the spoke was introduced and have never once, had an issue with "stretch". a proeperly strees relieved wheel won't have that problem.
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Old 04-11-07, 07:49 AM
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Originally Posted by thesuper
i've used revolutions since the spoke was introduced and have never once, had an issue with "stretch". a proeperly strees relieved wheel won't have that problem.
He doesn't mean that the thinner spokes are going to permanently stretch. Rather, that they stretch more than thicker spokes for a given tension or force.

The benefits of thin-gauge (in the center) butted spokes like Revolutions is partly weight, and partly it's that they stretch so much more than spokes with 14g or 15g center section (Revolutions are 14g at the ends, 17g in the center section). A spoke that stretches more can handle greater amount of rim deflection without losing tension. However, too much stretch is a problem for drive-side rear spokes (which are already high-tension and are not in danger of losing tension under all but the worst rim deflection). Too-thin-and-stretchable spokes on the drive-side is a problem specifically in the trailing spokes, because under heavy pedaling torque, more stretch in the trailing spokes (which transmit pedaling torque to the rim) can cause the rim to shift over and rub the brake pads.

If you want to go light-as-possible but avoid this problem, you could use 14/15/14 spokes on the drive-side trialing, and 14/17/14 spokes on the drive-side leading. Although this may present its own problems in the wheelbuild process, it should end up with a wheel that's slightly lighter and just as durable as a wheel with all 14/15/14 on the drive-side.
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