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How to shine up old spokes

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How to shine up old spokes

Old 09-29-15, 09:45 PM
  #1  
plonz 
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How to shine up old spokes

I have a couple of old wheel sets where the rims and hubs polish up great but the spokes are a chalky, dingy gray. I made the mistake of cleanings the spokes on one set with a scotch brite pad and steel wool. I apparently ruined whatever protective layer was on them because they looked great for a week and then quickly rusted. I re-sanded and applied paint sealer which seems to last a little longer but still not great.

On another set I tried Simichrome and aluminum polish. The spokes are still dingy and chalky.

Any way to spruce up these old spokes without losing their protective coating? I'm not a wheel builder (yet) so looking for alternatives to replacing with new spokes.
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Old 09-29-15, 09:54 PM
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Originally Posted by plonz View Post
I have a couple of old wheel sets where the rims and hubs polish up great but the spokes are a chalky, dingy gray......
Any way to spruce up these old spokes ....
Great question! I always assumed that the spokes were steel with a thin tin or tin/zink rust-proofing. Which would mean they were never shiny to begin with. I'd love to make my vintage wheels look a bit better.
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Old 09-29-15, 10:27 PM
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Anything I can think of would involve disassembling the wheel. For example zinc electroplating. You could paint them black, but I've seen paint flaking off which looks worse.

So, I'd pick out your worst set of wheels. Check the length of the spokes (usually through the base of the nipple and slot). Disassemble one. Measure the spokes and buy all new stainless spokes. Also take the time to do a good job polishing the hub and rim. Then rebuild.

The only way to learn to build a wheel is by building a wheel.

Oh...
Also, check for brake track wear, and overall roundness, trueness. No sense investing time and money in a wheel with a worn out rim.
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Old 09-29-15, 10:32 PM
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Those spokes were zinc plated, perhaps the French Robergel Sport spokes of the '70s. Get used to the dull finish or just accept that you will be pouring water uphill.

I used to race the double butted 15-17 Sports. Cheap, light (basically round DT Revolutions) and far more resistant to breaking then the same company's SS spokes. They were very inconsistent so the start of a build was a challenge. (Spoke lengths varied as did threading depths and diameters. Every box had a couple that would break. Every wheel took an extra hour to get the tensions right at the start since you cold not just thread each nipple 4 turns and have an almost true wheel. But I never complained because until I saw Wheelsmith and DT, I did not know any different. For me, those were a revelation!) But with patience, very good wheels could be built.

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Old 09-29-15, 10:57 PM
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this won't answer the op's question, but for refurbished flips, i use 3m sandblaster pro 80 grit on the spokes of old wheels and wet 600 grit 3m auto paper on rim walls.
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Old 09-30-15, 03:41 AM
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Stainless spokes: WD40 with 0000 steel wool. I may follow up w/chrome polish and a rag, but it's a lot of extra time with minor improvement.
Galvanized spokes: I avoid anything abrasive, and simply accept the dullness. I do clean with WD40, but with a shop rag or old towel.
Nipples: They often clean up with the WD40 and the 0000 steel wool. Otherwise, I leave them alone.
Eyelets: I remove rust with Rustoleum's Rust Remover and a toothbrush, then the WD40 and 0000 steel wool.
Rims: WD40 and 0000 steel wool to dissolve grit, then a rub down with a rag and WD40.
Brake Tracks: I rub slowly with mineral spirits, try to get as much of the brake pad residue to soften and clean off. Then WD40 and 0000 steel wool.

A lot of time spent on wheels can make a big improvement, but there is a point at which you can double the time spent and only see a little bit better results. Some hubs just don't have a good finish, period, and some others are amazing with the "khatful" treatment. The issue is knowing which are coated/plated well enough to hold up to polishing, and which just get worse.
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Old 09-30-15, 04:47 AM
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Rub the spokes with crumpled up aluminum foil. Works wonders on the galvanized surfaces. Give it a try.
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Old 09-30-15, 05:40 AM
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Depending on the spokes and rims and their condition. I have been known to use brass wool pads. It works great on rusted chrome without scratching the chrome. Of course some rusted chrome is well past rehabbing.
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Old 09-30-15, 06:05 PM
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I like bronze wool and WD 40. They won't come out super shiny but they'll have a nice even unneglected looking patina.
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Old 09-30-15, 11:18 PM
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For cad/zinc-coated spokes, I stay away from the abrasive cleaners like Simichrome. It's got some very harsh abrasives for cutting through chrome, you can feel the grit when you use it.

I prefer to use a chemical-cleaner/polish like Mothers or Blue Magic. These are ammonia-based metal cleaners that take the minimum amount off. Will only give the coated spokes a clean light-grey finish, which is the best you can expect. If you want shiny, then gotta rebuilld wheel with new stainless spokes.
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Old 10-01-15, 02:27 AM
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Zinc, Cadmium and Chrome were used to plate bicycle spokes. Cheap bike spokes are still plated vs. higher quality stainless steel spokes.

Zinc plating develops a dirty dull gray corroded appearance. Cadmium plating is a little lighter gray color and more resistant to corrosion. Chrome plated spokes are shiny.

I use 0000 steel wool to clean up old spokes. It removes much of the corrosion on zinc and cadmium plated spokes plus light rust on chrome plated spokes.

I'd never waste any time on heavily rusted spokes.

A WORD OF CAUTION:

Use a dust mask to avoid breathing in the dust caused when cleaning spokes. Cadmium is a toxic heavy metal. Zinc dust is harmful too. Chrome plating not so much but not worth the risk of exposure.

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Last edited by verktyg; 10-01-15 at 02:30 AM.
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Old 10-01-15, 04:54 AM
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Originally Posted by verktyg View Post
I use 0000 steel wool to clean up old spokes. It removes much of the corrosion on zinc and cadmium plated spokes.....

A WORD OF CAUTION:

Use a dust mask to avoid breathing in the dust caused when cleaning spokes. Cadmium is a toxic heavy metal. Zinc dust is harmful too. Chrome plating not so much but not worth the risk of exposure.
And keep the 0000 steel wool damp with something like WD40, light oil or Pledge as the liquid will further contain the dust and reduce what floats away into the air.
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Old 10-01-15, 05:47 AM
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Never thought about using Pledge. Used to use it for lots of things including spit shinning our boots and shoes for inspections. One problem, it turned white when it got wet....

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Old 10-01-15, 07:48 AM
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Originally Posted by randyjawa View Post
Rub the spokes with crumpled up aluminum foil. Works wonders on the galvanized surfaces. Give it a try.
+1
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Old 10-23-15, 12:42 PM
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For bikes with galvanized spokes and if you're doing a major rebuild, or wanting to preserve the original.

There's lots of time involved this way but dismantle the wheels and soak the spokes in white vinegar. Then just wipe them down with a rag. Next is to use a rag with Johnson car paste wax and wipe each one of them. Re-assemble the wheel.

It might be more trouble than its worth but........

good luck-
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