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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Newb question for someone who is about to undertake their first wheel build:

When tightening spokes at relatively high tension (say 60+kgf) everybody seems to recommend using a 4 sided spoke wrench for the job. Why not use a tool like a nipple driver for this part of the job? I realize most (all?) nipple drivers have a center protrusion which would need to be removed and probably even replaced with a notch for the cases when the spoke is rising past the bottom of the bladed slot. Still this method would seem to have a couple of advantages:

1) Wouldn't have to worry about stripping the nipple because driving the top slot would provide better leverage for higher torques.
2) Driving the nipple from outside the rim would allow one to use pliers on the spoke itself very close to the nipple for prevention of spoke windup.
3) Seems less awkward to use (I know this maybe subjective to guys that have been using spoke wrenches for 30+ years)

Basically rather than buying a $20-$30 four sided spoke wrench I could re-purpose an old screwdriver and adapt it with a grinder for basically free.

Thoughts?
 

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Newb question for someone who is about to undertake their first wheel build:

When tightening spokes at relatively high tension (say 60+kgf) everybody seems to recommend using a 4 sided spoke wrench for the job. Why not use a tool like a nipple driver for this part of the job? I realize most (all?) nipple drivers have a center protrusion which would need to be removed and probably even replaced with a notch for the cases when the spoke is rising past the bottom of the bladed slot. Still this method would seem to have a couple of advantages:

1) Wouldn't have to worry about stripping the nipple because driving the top slot would provide better leverage for higher torques.
2) Driving the nipple from outside the rim would allow one to use pliers on the spoke itself very close to the nipple for prevention of spoke windup.
3) Seems less awkward to use (I know this maybe subjective to guys that have been using spoke wrenches for 30+ years)

Basically rather than buying a $20-$30 four sided spoke wrench I could re-purpose an old screwdriver and adapt it with a grinder for basically free.

Thoughts?
Once you remove that center protrusion, you basically just turned your driver into an expensive screwdriver. I think you would have a tough time generating enough torque without it slipping out. I have had no issues using a $7 Park spoke wrench.
 

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As mentioned, you can't drive it from the head, unless you get a hex-head nipple or something similar.

There's no *need* for a four sided wrench on a new wheel. Just be careful and make sure you've got the wrench fully engaged on the nipple and you'll be fine.

All that said, my four-sided Park is the wrench I use all the time. Yeah it cost a few bucks more, but so what. A spoke wrench is a lifetime tool, buy something good.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
You would strip the slot very easily. It was never designed to take the full torque.

If you don't want to use a normal spoke wrench, play around with these -

Hexagonal Nipples

20-$30 four sided spoke wrench? Try this -

Cyclus Spoke Wrench - Wheel Fanatyk

Best dollar value wrench out there.
First thing Mike T, thanks for the awesome how-to webpage on wheel building, lot's of great info and links to other great resources! I'm looking forward to tackling this project.

I do have a standard (3 sided, 2 cornered) black Park spoke wrench, but since I'm going with alloy nips I was under the impression that risks stripping the nipples. Unfortunately I have a v1 WI T11 rear hub whose poor flange geometry will almost guarantee the max 110-120kgf will be needed for the DS.

I wasn't aware of hexagonal nips, those do seem to nicely solve the problem/desire of performing the tensioning from the rim channel side. I already ordered some regular nips, but I like the idea of those enough that I may go back and order them anyways.
 

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First thing Mike T, thanks for the awesome how-to webpage on wheel building, lot's of great info and links to other great resources! I'm looking forward to tackling this project.

I do have a standard (3 sided, 2 cornered) black Park spoke wrench, but since I'm going with alloy nips I was under the impression that risks stripping the nipples. Unfortunately I have a v1 WI T11 rear hub whose poor flange geometry will almost guarantee the max 110-120kgf will be needed for the DS.

I wasn't aware of hexagonal nips, those do seem to nicely solve the problem/desire of performing the tensioning from the rim channel side. I already ordered some regular nips, but I like the idea of those enough that I may go back and order them anyways.
You'll be FINE with standard nipples. Just make sure the wrench is all the way on the nipple.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
All that said, my four-sided Park is the wrench I use all the time. Yeah it cost a few bucks more, but so what. A spoke wrench is a lifetime tool, buy something good.
I hear ya. Given the opportunity to buy the proper tools and do a job myself vs. having someone else do it for the same cost or more, 9 out of 10 times I'll pony up for the tool and do the job myself. Or at least I used to before kids were in the picture :thumbsup:
 

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You're overthinking this Coos. With hex-head nipples, tires and rim tapes have to be removed and with most rim tapes, their replacement cost would have to be factored in. I don't think any of us would choose hex head nipples just because we didn't have a 4-sided wrench. I've built FAR more wheels, even with aluminum nipples, using a 3-sided wrench and have yet to round one off. But since 4-sided wrenches became the norm I use one of those after the initial tensioning stage.

Just don't get sloppy at fitting the wrench to the nipple and if the wrench is the correct size and it isn't worn out, you will be ok. But why not just buy the damn "better" wrench?
 

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i use:
- my upside-down bike frame
- park sw7
- flathead screwdriver
- q-tip or chopstick
- two stacks of cd jewel cases.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
You're overthinking this Coos. With hex-head nipples, tires and rim tapes have to be removed and with most rim tapes, their replacement cost would have to be factored in. I don't think any of us would choose hex head nipples just because we didn't have a 4-sided wrench. I've built FAR more wheels, even with aluminum nipples, using a 3-sided wrench and have yet to round one off. But since 4-sided wrenches became the norm I use one of those after the initial tensioning stage.

Just don't get sloppy at fitting the wrench to the nipple and if the wrench is the correct size and it isn't worn out, you will be ok. But why not just buy the damn "better" wrench?
Conceptually the hex heads sound like they give you the best of both worlds for the same cost and weight: You can tighten them to final tension via the traditional spoke wrench or by hex driver on the head. Sure, if you're truing things up after a tire is mounted then using a spoke wrench is the no-brainer way to go. But for the initial build phase it seems working from the head side has advantages:

For one thing, newbs like me are prone to tightening in the wrong direction because the usual frame of reference is reversed when using the spoke wrench. Yes mentally you know the tightening direction should be reversed, but it's easy to forget when you're on autopilot. If you inadvertently make one wrong 1/4 turn twist out of 100, it probably won't be obvious until you check lateral and/or radial error. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of remedy.

Two, it makes it easier to use pliers so that you can ensure there is zero spoke windup when tightening things up (I'm talking about round double buttted spoke here). This could only make stress relieving easier and introduce less spoke fatigue.

Am I over thinking this? Probably yes- I'm an engineer and such things fascinate me. In any case I will plow ahead tonight with what I got and see how things go.
 

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For spokes having 14 gauge (2 mm) threads I prefer DT Swiss Squorx alloy nipples. Available in black, silver, and red.

Squorx = square + torx

Squorx nipples are exactly the same shape as regular 12 mm long DT nipples but with the addition of a T-20 male Torx feature about 3 mm long on top (inside the rim). They are threaded through. I use regular 12 mm long nipples for measuring the rim ERD when calculating spoke lengths.
Grey Metal Rectangle Cylinder Silver

The DT Squorx nipple wrench tool has a T-20 socket end to fit onto the nipple head during the spoke lacing process and then to turn the nipple during the tension and truing process. This is done from the outside of the rim.
Musical instrument accessory Bicycle part Guitar accessory Tool Household hardware

I use pliers having smooth gripping faces to hold the spoke next to the nipple to prevent the spoke from winding up during the final tensioning process.

Later on, after your rim tape is in place, if you need to make adjustments to your wheel you use a regular nipple wrench on the nipple flats, like on any other nipple.

I believe these are faster to build with because it's so quick and easy to install nipples onto spokes when they are held by the Torx socket on the end of the tool. And you can rotate the nipples much faster with this tool. As a bonus, the nipple flats are untouched during the wheel build, no chance of rounding them by accident.

-S
 

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I was 90% sure that you were an engineer just by reading your 1st post. I have an engineer friend who asked me the exact same questions :)
And I'm a mechanic (trained; licensed) and we usually avoid solutions that are looking for problems and just get the job done the easiest, quickest and least expensive way. And we know which way to turn nuts on bolts too. :D
 

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I use normal Park spoke wrenches (and why are they not called nipple wrenches, anyway?). For me specifically, they are faster than other options. I also use them often enough that overuse injuries and tendonitis anywhere from my right shoulder down through my fingers is a risk, and their ergonomics are better for me than any others.

I once rounded a nipple a couple of years ago, if you're careful at all you will not round nipples on a new build at all. We have almost every other kind of wrench in the shop, and I will often use a Unior (4 side contact) if I'm detensioning spokes on a wheel that's been in use for a while where the threads might have a little initial stiction. Other than that, it's the simple Park.

Rather than use pliers or a twist-resist tool, I'd recommend using spokes with at least a 1.8mm center section (Sapim Race or DT Competition) or bladed spokes (with appropriate spoke holder) to mitigate spoke twist. I know of some very skilled wheel builders who use pliers-type devices, but so far as I'm aware they are in the minority among high volume-ish builders. Even with very thin gauge spokes, minimizing windup in tensioning and then eliminating it in destressing (or whatever you'd semantically like to call it) is a skill that's fairly easy to acquire if you build wheels very regularly. To me, pliers slow you down quite a bit, always leave the chance to mar the spoke (although the iron-like callouses on my left thumb and middle finger could probably do the same), and eliminate the tactile sense of feeling the presence or lack of spoke wind up.

In the end, it's whatever works for you that you should use, but the pros I know generally keep it really simple.
 

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Spoke windup is completely overhyped IMO. On a new build with properly prepped spoke threads you'll get, at most, 1/8th of a turn of 'windup'. It's REALLY easy to account for.

Don't use pliars to hold the spoke, you're just going to make things a lot slower and more frustrating. Instead pinch the spoke between the fingers of the hand not turning the spoke - you're not trying to hold the spoke in place, you're just feeling the twist.

I do a ton of builds with Sapim Lasers and wind up is just not an issue.

Basically, quit thinking about it and just build the wheels already. It's not rocket science, it's nuts and bolts and hand tools.
 

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Just don't get sloppy at fitting the wrench to the nipple and if the wrench is the correct size and it isn't worn out, you will be ok. But why not just buy the damn "better" wrench?

This.

Hey, you're spending money on quality components for a wheel build. Don't ruin your build with cheap tools. Get the right tools for the job. A good spoke wrench is probably the most important tool you can buy for this job. I have a few and my favorite is this one:

P&K Lie Spoke Wrench - Wheel Fanatyk

Yes, I like it better than any of the Park Tool wrenches. Pricey for some, but worth every penny!
 

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And I'm a mechanic (trained; licensed) and we usually avoid solutions that are looking for problems and just get the job done the easiest, quickest and least expensive way. And we know which way to turn nuts on bolts too. :D


With only one wheel build under my belt, I was amazed how many people mix up which direction to turn the spoke wrench. This one is easy. When you are using your spoke wrench, orient the wheel so you are looking into the rim bed while tightening each spoke. Tighten right in the direction you are looking.
 

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With only one wheel build under my belt, I was amazed how many people mix up which direction to turn the spoke wrench. This one is easy. When you are using your spoke wrench, orient the wheel so you are looking into the rim bed while tightening each spoke. Tighten right in the direction you are looking.
This is so important and so fundamental that I have a whole section dedicated to it on my wheelbuilding site. It reads -

"Most newby wheelbuilders have the issue of which way to turn the nipple. As you will realize from the wheelbuilding tips above, we must know which way to turn nipples and we must not forget and turn one the wrong way. If we do, and don't correct the mistake immediately, then we're sunk and the spokes' tensions will be all out of whack. Let's take a few minutes to cement forever into our brains what it is that we're trying to do.

Grab a spoke and a nipple and look at it. It's really just a long skinny bolt and a tiny nut isn't it? Push the nipple onto the spoke (don't screw it on yet). The threads don't come all the way from top to bottom of the nipple so the spoke goes up inside the nipple about 4mm before it even meets any threads. About 6mm of threads will be sticking out of the nipple.

Twist the nipple onto the spoke. It has a normal right-handed thread, just like a normal bolt & nut. So the term "tighty-righty & lefty-loosey" fits. But that all depends where you're standing, relative to the spoke's end doesn't it? And this is where most newbs come undone when screwing nipples onto spokes. So spend a bit of time here to figure it all out for yourself on just how the nipple screws onto the spoke. It won't be time wasted. Hold the bend pointing away from you and screw the nipple on and then hold the spoke with the bend pointing towards you and screw the nipple on. The nipple screws on "the other way" doesn't it? You'll understand this when you start turning nipples when the wheel is in the stand or the bike frame.

When we screw a nipple onto a spoke were making the spoke's effective length (j-bend to nipple seat) shorter. As we screw the nipple off the spoke we're making the spoke's effective length longer. The distance from the j-bend to the nipple seat (the 45 degree bit between the shaft and the head) is the length we're concerned with when we're tensioning and truing wheels. Read that last sentence 3x.

Make that distance shorter and we exert pressure on the rim. Make that distance longer and we remove pressure from the rim. Read that one 3x too. This is the whole basic concept of wheel tensioning and truing."
 
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