"The best investment is in the tools of one's own trade." Benjamin Franklin
A plethora of spoke keys and other tools required to turn nipples.
With a seemingly endless number of hubs and spoke nipple designs a wheel builder will eventually accumulate quite a collection of tools. Above is a photo of some of the tools that I own to enable me to just turn various different types of spoke nipples. And this doesn't represent my entire collection! When a new nipple comes into existence a new tool follows. Each of these spoke keys/wrenches feel different in your hand and they all take getting used to. Some definitely feel more user friendly than others but all of them are required if you'd like to be able to service wheels of every kind. In the custom building of wheels by Cognoscenti Cycles, I choose to build with spokes and nipples that are not proprietary in design, therefore enabling an easy replacement if necessary.
The new Cognoscenti Cycles spoke tension meter. A special tool to analyse spoke tension variables through out the wheel.
Certainly one of the most critical tools needed in wheel building is a spoke tension meter. Without their use it's impossible to know if your overall tension is even. I have embraced their use and even found ways to exploit them in different stages of a build. Cognoscenti Cycles has recently brought to market a digital spoke tension meter that bares our name, as seen in the photo above.
My Park TS 2.2 truing stand and some of the many other tools needed to work on wheels.
I must confess to being a bit of a tool junkie. I love working with the absolute best tools, making the job that much easier. They also increase the degree of accuracy that one can attain. Improper or poor quality tools will compromise your work and short change your client.
A proper stainless steel spoke ruler will confirm that your spokes are the precise length they need to be.
I take spoke length pretty seriously. That may sound a little anal, but believe me it does matter. Spoke cutting and threading tools like the Morizumi can cut a spoke within a half millimetre. All of my spokes are cut on this super high quality machine. It offers not only the perfect length but also a perfect thread profile.
A nipple shuffler from the fine folks at Wheel Fanatyk. Also the very handy Mulfinger from Efficient Velo Tools. The DT Swiss Tensio 2 analogue spoke tension meter enables you to zero in on the exact tension of the spokes.
The tools above are relatively recent additions to the wheel builders tool arsenal. The Wheel Fanatyk "nipple shuffler" is a nifty invention indeed. Throw in a handful of spoke nipples, give it a few shakes and all the nipples conveniently drop into the slots ready to be picked up by your Mulfinger. These two tools are great time savers!
The DT Swiss spoke key. In my opinion, the best spoke key made. The four sided 3.25mm interface is made from hardened tool steel and the body from light weight aluminium. It works flawlessly with their equally well thought out bladed spoke holder.
An assortment of various different types of bladed spoke holders
Above are some of the tools needed to hold bladed spokes like the CX Ray made by Sapim. Each of these tools has a different ergonomic feel, making them suitable for different stages of a wheel build and various lacing patterns. For instance, the DT Swiss model is designed to work seamlessly with their spoke key and enables you to grab the spoke closest to the nipple ensuring that twisting is minimised. The Park tool grabs much less of the spoke length which is great for working quickly but not ideal for working under greater tension. I usually gravitate to the Icetoolz hard plastic spoke holder or a similar model by Birzman. Both grab over 3 cm's of the spoke which is preferable when working at high tension.
A custom made wheel lacing jig from Nobel Wheels in the UK. This offers the third hand you always wished you had! I have always laced my wheels freehand, which sometimes is the best way to do it, and yet at other times a wheel lacing jig can be a very helpful tool!
Our new spoke tension meter calibrating device from Switzerland. There is no point in using a spoke tension meter if its not calibrated correctly. So this is why I own a custom made tool that exerts a predetermined force on a spoke and this way I am able to test the accuracy of my spoke tension meters to assure that they are within a precise tolerance. I can use this tool to apply forces to different types of spokes as each model of spoke will have different properties requiring a unique tension profile for it. I can therefore create a tension profile chart for each spoke tension meter that I use. This guarantees that my spoke tension measurements are indeed accurate!