[Note: this is #20 of a series of 20]
Fast, effective, enjoyable wheel building depends on details. Never miss a trick. No matter how small, they add up to mastery and fun. Imagine being paid to have fun?
Lacing is where many otherwise-advanced builders lose time. Who takes lacing as seriously as tension balancing and truing? Well, if it costs time and affects subsequent steps, take it seriously. Wheel Fanatyk re-introduces an historic trick for the lacing stage: a simple tray designed to sort nipples. Behold, the Wheel Fanatyk Nipple Shuffler.
Nipple shuffling is key to fast lacing. Ours is a precise tray with slots of exact width and spacing, made of wood, built individually by a master wheel smithy in Montana.
Dump nipples in the tray and shuffle. Play dance music, get hip action. Any shuffle works but best are movements in the direction of the slots. Presto, the nipples are sorted.
Sitting neatly in uniform positions, slots up, nipples can be quickly grabbed with a tapered tip driver. Brett Fleming at EVT makes the Mulfinger tool . Other builders through the years made theirs from short spoke stubs: ground to a tapered point, fitted with a nipple (crimped or overtightened).
The Wheel Fanatyk Nipple Driver is a bearing equipped, nickel plated, brass pin vise with 2 collets (four grip diameters).
We use the 13g collet option and a 13g stainless spoke shortened and precision ground to a 2° taper. We provide two tip lengths: one for rims up to 30mm depth and one for rims up to 50mm. You can make your own of any length from a 13g spoke. Simply taper the end with your bench grinder until it grabs and turns nipples.
The tip picks up any nipple sorted by the shuffle tray. Notice how easily the tip enters the nipple, lifts it out, and fits it to the waiting spoke.
Natural interference between the tip’s 2° taper and the nipple bore lets you turn the nipple a few revolutions onto the spoke. The tool’s bearing top rotates freely in your palm as you turn, for a comfortable, stable feel.
The Wheel Fanatyk kit (tray and driver) is an optimal solution to the lacing stage, a workshop must. $46.50 is your admission to the shuffle leading to faster lacing and happier builds.
After loose lacing, use a driver (like ProblemSolver) to draw each nipple down to the same spoke length. But oh such joy is shuffling. Try sorting nipples, dump them back in the dish, and sort again. Shuffle sorting is soothing, irresistible. Imagine being paid to have fun!