Average Joe’s Wheel lacing shop

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Sep 17, 2013
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Let’s get one thing straight at the beginning. The average Joe only builds 36 hole, single speed, three cross, no offset rim and no cassette or free hub wheels. Simplest wheels to build. In my non average Joe alter ego I’ve built radial, 2x, 3x, 4x, cassette, 20, 24, 26 700C wheels, 28, 32, 36 and 40 spoke rims. I’ve not built fat wheels or disc wheels. This is my method for average Joe wheels, you won’t find this exact method anywhere else. There is no wrong or right method, as long as the result is right. I lace one whole side, then the other. I don’t flip the rim after the first 9 spokes and do 9 on the other. You need to find a simple spoke length calculator that lets you put in the measurements. Many calculators now ask for the wheel and hub make and model as the measurements are in the data base. We need two that let you put in the measures. This simple type of spoke length calculator is harder to find than in the past, slowly disappearing from the net in favor of fatter rims and offset drilling for disc hubs. Make sure both calculators give you similar results. If the calculator says you need, for for example, 298.7mm spokes order 298. If I’m building with wood rims I always get spokes 1-2mm shorter than the spoke length calculator indicates to account for the slow imbedding of the spoke nipples into the wood, resulting over time, in soft spoke tension. By the way, if you have CB Italia or Ghisallo replacement wood rims, don’t use the ERD that comes with them. Their off and your spokes will be too long. Measure the ERD yourself. For the hub measures you need an electronic caliper. Our rims are usually so old that there is no Effective Rim Diameter (ERD) available so we must do our own measurement. Here is my method.

The spoke is just low enough in the nipple to allow a screwdriver to fit and bottom out on the spoke.

Take the nipples off so the spokes come out, go 90 degrees around the wheel and measure the ERD again. It should be the same. Leave the nipples off and measure the length of the 3 clamped together spokes from end to end. The clamps need to be on the same side to allow the tape measure a straight shot. This is the ERD.

there are three basic patterns for spoke holes in average Joe type rims. Laying the rims with the valve hole opposite you notice that the top rim has the spoke hole to the right of the valve stem hole towards the top and the bottom has the same spoke hole down. These two different drilling patters are built a little differently, especially on the non drive side.

There is also a drilled spoke pattern that just goes down the center of the rim. I only recall building one wheel set with this pattern so it might be rare. You can use either the up or down hole pattern to build this type, just follow my direction for the hole arrangement you chose to use on this type of rim.

I’m using 2 wood rims and 2 armless coaster brakes so my photo essay is consistent. Start with the drive side. If your lacing a front wheel just pretend that the flange you start with is the “drive side”. I always place a tape flag on the first spoke I install on a front wheel. You can also do this after you finish spoking the first side. I always start with the spoke heads out or as some call it spoke heads up. Pick any hole on the drive side and drop in a spoke.

Place this spoke next to, the valve hole as shown for the two different spoke hole drilling patterns. The spokes on top of the hub flange all go into up holes on the rim. Starting like this makes them all correct when you start the lacing pattern. Thread the nipples on the spoke 4 turns, pull on the nipple to make sure it’s threaded enough so it won’t fall off.

Skip a hub hole, put a heads out spoke in the hub, count 5 holes clockwise on the rim and put the second spoke in that rim hole. It will be an up hole. You’ll have three empty spoke holes between spokes.


Continue, every other hub hole with an up spoke in the hub counting five clockwise. Twist the hub in the direction of the first spoke you put in, next to the valve hole.


The next 9 spokes go into the empty hub holes on the same side your working on, except the spokes are now placed head down on the inside of the flange. Place your first head down spoke in any vacant every other hole.


This spoke goes over two spokes and under the third spoke and then goes into a rim spoke hole in the middle of three vacant ones. Place your thumb or pointer finger over the spoke end to keep it from scratching the wood or alloy when doing the under cross.

Place a heads down spoke in the next clockwise hub hole that’s empty, count 5 holes clockwise including the last spoke you put in and cross over two and under one. This will be an up rim hole to match the up side of the hub. Continue the same until you have put in and crossed 9 head down spokes. Your now half done. Put a tape flag on the spoke next to the valve hole as shown. Do this to help locate the first spoke when starting to spoke the flip side and to let you know which side was spoked first on a front wheel. 99% of the time an incorrectly laced rim is from an improperly place first spoke on the second side. By flagging the first spoke you placed in the rim you can determine which side needs to be disassembled and respoked in case you screwed up. It’s easy to do that. Next flip the wheel over. The flip side starts with heads out spokes

For the rim drilled with the spoke hole down on the right side of the valve hole (the lighter wood colored rim in our example) place the wheel with spoked side away from you. Place a loose extra spoke on top of the flagged spoke and bring it across to the empty flange facing you. I’ll will fall between two spoke holes as the hubs are drilled displaced a half hole off from the other side. The example below shows what I mean but it’s not on top of the flagged correct spoke. I did this because the photo was clearer. Count 6 empty hub holes counterclockwise and put a heads up spoke in that hole. Put this spoke in the empty hole next to the valve stem. This is an up hole to match the same up position onthe rim.


the spokes are parallel to the valve hole so that there is space for an air pump head.

For the rim with the first spoke hole up to the right of the valve hole, when the wheel is on your lap, do the same spoke across the hub flange from the first spoke you put in and count 7 holes clockwise. This is your first heads up spoke and it goes next to the valve stem. Next, skip a hub hole, count 5 holes clockwise and put the spoke in that up rim hole do this until all 9 heads up spokes are in. Next, take any remaining every other open hub hole and put a heads down spoke in it and cross 3, over two under one. It only works in one direction so it’s obvious where the spokes go.


Oil the nipple threads and body. Do this before you begin to tighten up the nipples. This is especially important with wood rims as the nipples are long and deeply imbedded in the wood and cause a lot of friction. This really helps you to easily tighten the spokes. It will help down the line if you need to true a wheel, the oil should have inhibited a corrosion lock.

If you end out with a pattern where two spokes in a row appear too long and the next two too short you messed up locating the first spoke next to the valve hole on the non drive side. Since the first spoke you put in on the drive side is flagged, just put a magic marker line on the hub hole where you placed the first spoke on the non drive side and remove the spokes on the non drive side and try again, not using the hole first with the magic marker line. I do this quite a bit. Ha ha. As you can see, my first attempt on the lighter wood rim was spoked wrong. Sometimes you can’t tell it’s wrong until you start to tighten the nipples and two in a row are are high, like here. I noticed that I counted wrong. I dismantled the non drive side and spoked it again, correctly this time. If the across the hub spoke and empty hub spoke hole counting method confuses you do the across spoke hub technique on a spoke next to the valve stem on an already built wheel and count spokes to the place where the next spoke next to the valve. Figure it out, or come up with your own method. I’m posting this for my own reference, so I don’t have to look for my notes on napkins, old envelopes and shopping receipts. If anyone else finds this handy, so much the better.

Here are some of the wheels I’ve built in December. I built another set but their in my shop and there is a blizzard raging so no pictures of those.


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