Plucking spokes while building is a time-honored technique for tension appraisal. It’s especially effective for judging if neighboring spokes on the same side of a wheel are at different tensions. The more even the tension, the more stable and long lasting the wheel. For more on the acoustic tension method, check here.
30 years ago, visitors to Wheelsmith would remark that we sounded like a harp tuning studio with musical notes in the air as builders plucked spokes to confirm or correct their hunches about the best adjustments to make. In those days we used fingernails to pluck and it wasn’t so easy for everyone.
Today, plucking continues in popularity among builders who want to make accurate adjustments and move faster through builds and, guess what, guitar/banjo picks are being used. Here, I show how to compare the tensions of neighboring spokes by plucking them.
After Jude Gerace told me she used banjo picks, I tested every finger pick I could find to determine the best for wheelbuilding. Here’s an assortment:
The winner was no contest: Fred Kelly’s delrin Freedom Pick does it all. They are the white one’s above. This pick can be fitted on your spoke wrench hand’s ring finger. There it is neatly out of the way for truing and handling. When you want to establish tone by plucking, the pick acts like a reinforced fingernail. Pluck as hard and as often as you want without strain. Delrin produces a clearer, more spoke-only sound than a metal pick, which invites harmonics into the tone.
This pick is just one of 58 pick styles Mr. Kelly makes in Grayling, Michigan. He’s been playing for 60yrs and making picks for 40. This one takes the place of your fingernail, has a comfortable yet secure fit to your finger, and is completely adaptable for a personal fit by exposing them to hot and then cold water.
We stock medium and large which fit 90%+ of wheel builders. Try one as soon as you can. Buy two and keep what fits best. You’ll never go back to bare nail plucking.
Thank you Mr. Kelly!