With a busy season slowing we were looking at ways to speed up production. Winding the nipples onto the spokes during the initial assembly process is slow and with the increased volume this year I was concerned with Darren suffering Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI). Automating the first finger tight wind on of the nipple onto the spoke would speed up the build significantly. The nipples we use are either have a slotted or a 5.5mm hexagonal head. Having seen a few videos online of wheelbuilders at work I looked for tools to help speed up this phase. By threading the spoke into the rim and adding just one half turn of the nipple to hold the spoke in place, once the wheel is initially laced, the wheel builder can then go round the wheel again after the last spoke has been fitted and tension all the nipples so the wheel is still “baggy” but evenly tensioned and ready for the truing stand.
First we purchased a small Erbauer electric drill from Screwfix. With a Lithium Ion battery it is light (less than 1kg) manouverable and with adjustable speed for control. A charge lasts a good number of builds and the speed is readily controllable. Excellent purchase.
Next thing to tackle was how to drive the nipples onto the spokes quickly and accurately. The slotted end nipples can be driven on and automatically stopped at the right point on the thread using the Problem Solvers Holy Driver. “How does it do that?” you might be asking. The clever bit about the Holy Driver is the hole in centre of the slotted blade (which can be seen on the tip of driver in the photo below). Insert a length of spoke with a smooth squared end and lock it off with the grub screw. Then as the nipple is wound onto the thread the spoke stub protruding from the driver makes contact with the top of the spoke thread and disengages the driver at the required depth – genius! It requires a little trial and error to perfect the depth before disengagement takes place but within a couple of minutes it was working a treat.
Next up was the hex end nipples. This was a little tougher to find a solution for as the rims we typically use these for are 25 mm deep (the Archetypes) and the access hole on the rim is tight for access. Searching the internet provided a 5.5 mm deep impact socket from Draper. However it was way too thick to insert into a rim. So I took it round to Clive our local machine shop wizard based here on the industrial estate and he machined it down to a delicate 7.65 mm wide. He added a radius onto the neck to make them look neat and we took it back for testing. Perfect.