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cleaning/smoothing zinc-plated spokes

Old 04-10-22, 08:37 PM
  #1  
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cleaning/smoothing zinc-plated spokes

I'm working on the wheel of a 1970s bike with "zinc-plated," "galvanized," or "rustless" spokes. I'm not sure what they are plated with or which o those descriptors is correct, but it is dull, grey, and feels dirty. I think it was here in C&V that I read about rubbing such spokes witn balled-up aluminum foil to rub off most of the crud. Is this a thing? How well does it work? How good can I expect to gt it? I've used it on a few so far, and the appearance is cleaner and a little better - I'm not expecting chrome or lustrous stainless steel to leap forth, but ... a little smoother look would certainly be nice.
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Old 04-10-22, 08:52 PM
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Vinegar. Anything more and you will abrade through the plate and you will Have rusting spokes.
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Old 04-11-22, 03:56 AM
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Originally Posted by repechage View Post
Vinegar. Anything more and you will abrade through the plate and you will Have rusting spokes.
I’ll attest to this being the case. I recall years ago using steel wool to clean up some old spokes. Looked shiny for about a week, then rusted and looked worse than before. It was stainless steel for me from that point on.
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Old 04-11-22, 05:11 AM
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The zinc is a sacrificial plating. It's corrosion forms a protectiver layer for the underlying steel. Remove the zinc and you run the risk of exposed steel which will look eventually rust, look even worse and weaken the spokes. When the zinc corrodes, it may not look great but it does not weaken the underlying, steel spokes,
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Old 04-11-22, 07:39 AM
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Thank you, wise gents! I’ve only rubbed 8 out of 144 spokes, and I only need 72 to reassemble the wheels with the alloy rims. I’ll cease and desist immediately!

So Roger Musson in his book on wheel building, says used spokes should be reusable without risk if they haven’t been abused. It looks like I should not reuse the ones I have rubbed out, or any of the ones which are rusted.
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Old 04-11-22, 09:28 AM
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Do yourself a favor, if you are going to use used spokes, find a donor wheel with stainless spokes of the proper length. I would not put ANY time into reusing zinc plated spokes.
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Old 04-11-22, 10:53 AM
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If you do steel wool or WD-40 & aluminum foil, you can try replacing the zinc.
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Old 04-11-22, 11:10 AM
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I'm with @wrk101 . I don't save any galvanized spokes. I will save stainless steel spokes though. And I was a "dyed in the wool" Robergel guy. Way back, there was some concerns around stainless spokes not lasting. Stainless spokes took a leap forward in the '80's. . Maybe it was the 70"s but it took me until the 80's for me to start to trust them.

You can galvanize the spokes at home, But that should only be done for a correct restoration. All other wheels should be built with stainless.
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Old 04-11-22, 11:51 AM
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I haven't used zinc spokes for decades but in the '70s, my racing days, double butted Robergel Sports were all I used. They discolored. LIfe happens. That zinc was a sacrificial coating to protect the steel from both rust and galvanic corrosion. (Many spokes contact both aluminum and brass or copper at the rim eyelets and spoke nipples.) I saw any attempt to improve the looks as both work and a lessening of the protection. In other words, using elbow grease to shorten my spokes' life.

Now, I ride old bikes. Have ones of39, 43 and 49 years. But I'll never make the C & V hall of fame. Some of the best tools (oops, bikes) were made long ago. I still use (ride) then as tools, not works of art. (Well the Mooney is getting snazzied at real cost right now and I'm thinking most of its gritty work is in the past, but we'll see.)
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Old 04-11-22, 03:38 PM
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Just buy some new stainless spokes..
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Old 04-11-22, 03:44 PM
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Originally Posted by 79pmooney View Post
I haven't used zinc spokes for decades but in the '70s, my racing days, double butted Robergel Sports were all I used. They discolored. LIfe happens. That zinc was a sacrificial coating to protect the steel from both rust and galvanic corrosion. (Many spokes contact both aluminum and brass or copper at the rim eyelets and spoke nipples.) I saw any attempt to improve the looks as both work and a lessening of the protection. In other words, using elbow grease to shorten my spokes' life.

Now, I ride old bikes. Have ones of39, 43 and 49 years. But I'll never make the C & V hall of fame. Some of the best tools (oops, bikes) were made long ago. I still use (ride) then as tools, not works of art. (Well the Mooney is getting snazzied at real cost right now and I'm thinking most of its gritty work is in the past, but we'll see.)
In 1975, I built a training wheel with an "ancient Campagnolo" 3 pc hub with a rusted barrel, fresh Union 14 ga cad plated spokes and a used Super Champion rim from a customer who wanted clinchers.
I retired it from use in 2008, I still have it, the spokes look terrible, riding along the Pacific Coast Highway will do that. One day I will respoke the wheel. 33 years of service.
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Old 04-11-22, 03:50 PM
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Originally Posted by ironwood View Post
Just buy some new stainless spokes..
You would be ending the "stemming".
This pair of bikes he has been working on are a project is search of a way to avoid the conclusion.
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Old 04-12-22, 09:14 PM
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Originally Posted by repechage View Post
You would be ending the "stemming".
This pair of bikes he has been working on are a project is search of a way to avoid the conclusion.

wtf is “stemming?”

The wheels are nowhere near as bad as the first frame is. That one is impossible.
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Old 04-13-22, 09:31 AM
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also known as stimming. Associated with individuals on the autstic spectrum, repetitive movements or a fixation on esoterica on a sub task or detail to the point where the overall task gets derailed.
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Old 04-13-22, 10:14 AM
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Originally Posted by repechage View Post
also known as stimming. Associated with individuals on the autstic spectrum, repetitive movements or a fixation on esoterica on a sub task or detail to the point where the overall task gets derailed.
I've experienced this in others and myself but in this case I don't think the OP is guilty of it.

Spokes aren't cheap and if there were a way of salvaging and improving their appearance, I would like to know. I restore older, low-end bikes as a hobby, often selling or giving them away so spending money on spokes would put a dent in my wallet. That said, if I could find straight gauge SS spokes for around 50 cents each with nipples, I would ditch the tired looking steel spokes and re-lace the wheels.
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Old 04-13-22, 12:12 PM
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Jim Merz is a source of spokes
member of Classic Rendezvous Google group

know the lengths you need
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Old 04-13-22, 01:32 PM
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Originally Posted by repechage View Post
Jim Merz is a source of spokes
member of Classic Rendezvous Google group

know the lengths you need
I am aware of that. He has also stated that he does not have nipple threadings and spoke threadings matched up.
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Old 04-13-22, 03:23 PM
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Originally Posted by Road Fan View Post
I am aware of that. He has also stated that he does not have nipple threadings and spoke threadings matched up.
that is for Robergel, for the nipples a purchase from Mike Kone or ebay. Last I looked just now, under $11. delivered for enough for one bike, seller had multiple boxes. $47 per bike all told spokes and nipples.
Merz has DT spokes too that he will cut to custom length, might have those nipples, they are much more readily available if not in hand with him...

Just don't ask him to calculate spoke length.
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Old 04-13-22, 04:07 PM
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I have been doing some searching on this very subject for over two months. The best bet is to buy new spokes.
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Old 04-13-22, 11:37 PM
  #20  
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Originally Posted by repechage View Post
that is for Robergel, for the nipples a purchase from Mike Kone or ebay. Last I looked just now, under $11. delivered for enough for one bike, seller had multiple boxes. $47 per bike all told spokes and nipples.
Merz has DT spokes too that he will cut to custom length, might have those nipples, they are much more readily available if not in hand with him...

Just don't ask him to calculate spoke length.
I think it doesn't matter any more. I calculated the spoke lengths for the Ukai rim and 3x, and the original spokes are about a mm short of the calculated value2. I just finished lacing and turning out the slack by hand, and the fittings look good. I'm using Roger Musson's Ebook as a basic source of procedure. The original spokes and the original nipples are all usable, according to him. If you want to argue, get the book and do your research; I will not teach it, nor is it useful to tell me "I just would not trust it." My answer is, I have reason to think you are wrong. But I still have to do a rim swap-over on the front wheel, another Ukai rim to replace the front French steel rim. I might still need some new spokes if something goes wrong or I blow it. So I might spring for a set of new 15/17/15 spokes for my Rudge roadie, so ... maybe those Robergels look good. She's also being given some vintage alloy clinchers.

In these several discussions I've had numerous classic forum members, here and on CR, professionals and amateurs, enthusiasts of old paint and those trying to hold on to their former racing form (I never had racing form), argue with my desire for nipples that fit and ask why don't I just buy new complete spokes, argue with my interest in saving some $$ by reusing old spokes which are butted and a pretty fine gauge, and just buy new because of "all the hassle, dood!" or "just tell your bud to buy a new bike, man!", and then refuse to respond with clear answers (or any) when I ask for what does he have and what's his price.

Btw, Roger Musson in his wheelbuilding book is very positive on re-using spokes. Skeptics should look into it. I'm not going to teach it.

For those who do not remember, this is not my bicycle and I do not have the luxury of junking it. I have asked the owner, along with the original people challenged to lead the manufacturing and teach them quality (frames were built in a brand-new bike factory in Ireland), but they were based in their homes in New England, and could not make them do things correctly. I and one of them recommended in the strongest terms not to depend on these bikes because there are many risks which cannot be guaranteed. Samuel Clemens said one will love a bicycle, if you survive. So, I did tell him to abandon this project because I am not sure it will be safe, but my concerns are with the frame, not the wheels. He refused, so I am just trying to make a pile of parts into a bike that may be ridden with care. I'm going to have to test it and shake it down, and test him and make sure he is capable of safe riding. But the fact that I know it is flawed does not excuse me if I add to the risk by poor assembly workmanship. I know he will not accept a box of parts, and I know that once I give him the assembled bike he will not resist the impulse to ride it. So I have to rectify everything I can or I would be at fault. I am assembling a machine that if it was mine, I would trust it. My concerns are with the frame.

Quick release lever/skewers are still an issue. I bought a pretty decent new set from a wheel company, and what was promised to be 126 mm is actually about 145. The company just said "sorry, dood, you should just get a new bike." After I finish with the setting the OLD and the chainline of the wheel, I'll trim the axle to its correct length, and then it will be a wheel which may be ridden.

Branko and some others, thank you for the appreciation constructive comments, and encouragement. Some others with comments to make regarding my psyche, status on "the spectrum," or criticism about attention to detail from those who do not impress me as being detailed problem solvers, your comments are not helpful, polite, desired, or welcomed by me in the BF public forum. Privately, you can call me whatever you want to. If any of you are actually psychiatrists that's different, but I think in that case it's highly unethical to say what has been said.

I don't intend to share my projects very openly on BF, in the future. This has not been fun, professional, or worth the aggravation and stress.

Last edited by Road Fan; 04-14-22 at 08:37 AM.
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Old 04-14-22, 06:54 AM
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I use an automotive polish (not rubbing compound) that takes the roughness out of the spoke and shines them up as best as they get. Put some paste wax afterwards to keep them shining/protected. No steel wool or aluminum foil usage.
Buying new stainless spoke and nipples gets costly.
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Old 04-14-22, 08:38 AM
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Originally Posted by rancho66 View Post
I use an automotive polish (not rubbing compound) that takes the roughness out of the spoke and shines them up as best as they get. Put some paste wax afterwards to keep them shining/protected. No steel wool or aluminum foil usage.
Buying new stainless spoke and nipples gets costly.
What's the name of your polish?
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Old 04-14-22, 01:48 PM
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polish

Originally Posted by Road Fan View Post
What's the name of your polish?
Is it made in Poland?

Sorry cant resist a Dad joke when its presented.
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Old 04-14-22, 01:56 PM
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I have cleaned my share of spokes over the years. Clean and smooth (and even a bit shiny), just crumple up a piece of aluminum foil and rub away. You will, most likely, be amazed...

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Old 04-14-22, 02:25 PM
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Originally Posted by Road Fan View Post
I think it doesn't matter any more. I calculated the spoke lengths for the Ukai rim and 3x, and the original spokes are about a mm short of the calculated value2. I just finished lacing and turning out the slack by hand, and the fittings look good. I'm using Roger Musson's Ebook as a basic source of procedure. The original spokes and the original nipples are all usable, according to him. If you want to argue, get the book and do your research; I will not teach it, nor is it useful to tell me "I just would not trust it." My answer is, I have reason to think you are wrong. But I still have to do a rim swap-over on the front wheel, another Ukai rim to replace the front French steel rim. I might still need some new spokes if something goes wrong or I blow it. So I might spring for a set of new 15/17/15 spokes for my Rudge roadie, so ... maybe those Robergels look good. She's also being given some vintage alloy clinchers.

In these several discussions I've had numerous classic forum members, here and on CR, professionals and amateurs, enthusiasts of old paint and those trying to hold on to their former racing form (I never had racing form), argue with my desire for nipples that fit and ask why don't I just buy new complete spokes, argue with my interest in saving some $$ by reusing old spokes which are butted and a pretty fine gauge, and just buy new because of "all the hassle, dood!" or "just tell your bud to buy a new bike, man!", and then refuse to respond with clear answers (or any) when I ask for what does he have and what's his price.

Btw, Roger Musson in his wheelbuilding book is very positive on re-using spokes. Skeptics should look into it. I'm not going to teach it.

For those who do not remember, this is not my bicycle and I do not have the luxury of junking it. I have asked the owner, along with the original people challenged to lead the manufacturing and teach them quality (frames were built in a brand-new bike factory in Ireland), but they were based in their homes in New England, and could not make them do things correctly. I and one of them recommended in the strongest terms not to depend on these bikes because there are many risks which cannot be guaranteed. Samuel Clemens said one will love a bicycle, if you survive. So, I did tell him to abandon this project because I am not sure it will be safe, but my concerns are with the frame, not the wheels. He refused, so I am just trying to make a pile of parts into a bike that may be ridden with care. I'm going to have to test it and shake it down, and test him and make sure he is capable of safe riding. But the fact that I know it is flawed does not excuse me if I add to the risk by poor assembly workmanship. I know he will not accept a box of parts, and I know that once I give him the assembled bike he will not resist the impulse to ride it. So I have to rectify everything I can or I would be at fault. I am assembling a machine that if it was mine, I would trust it. My concerns are with the frame.

Quick release lever/skewers are still an issue. I bought a pretty decent new set from a wheel company, and what was promised to be 126 mm is actually about 145. The company just said "sorry, dood, you should just get a new bike." After I finish with the setting the OLD and the chainline of the wheel, I'll trim the axle to its correct length, and then it will be a wheel which may be ridden.

Branko and some others, thank you for the appreciation constructive comments, and encouragement. Some others with comments to make regarding my psyche, status on "the spectrum," or criticism about attention to detail from those who do not impress me as being detailed problem solvers, your comments are not helpful, polite, desired, or welcomed by me in the BF public forum. Privately, you can call me whatever you want to. If any of you are actually psychiatrists that's different, but I think in that case it's highly unethical to say what has been said.

I don't intend to share my projects very openly on BF, in the future. This has not been fun, professional, or worth the aggravation and stress.

I reuse old spokes and nipples all the time. What was written was that the scrubbing had started, and the implication was the abrading was already through the plate. Fine for one's own bike, a problem for a "client" no matter if you are being paid or not.
This Irish Witcomb project has been beset by a lack of planning. The hubs, the cottered bottom brackets, the headset, crown race and bike finish, you are a smart guy, the lack of forethought is quite visible.
Thoughtful disassembly will catch stuff, with a top tier machine one can avoid being concerned as much, better probability things were correct at first, these were price point machines, monitoring prevents mayhem.
It does bring to mind that working on downmarket bikes is much more trouble that top line machines. The basic quality of components, the care of mfg and assembly are just not very good often.
There was a whole string regarding the headset fit and adjustment. These bikes were manufactured to be "good enough". Attempting to "blueprint" them out of sequence is fraught with the anguish as expressed.

My repeat on spoke lengths was that I have seen many wheels for example where the original mfg spokes were too short, think that it is easier to get a wheel done and on its way than grind back spokes when required, or keep track of differing lengths on a rear wheel. Just how it was, leave it to the mechanic years later to sweep up the mess. Most 5 speed rear wheels from mfg's back in the day use equal length spokes on both sides, sloppy practice, get the drive side correct and the non drive side will be short, the nipples will not be completely filled.
Most often a 1mm difference between the sides improves things much. 2mm on a 6 speed.
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