View Full Version : Spoke removal

02-11-2011, 09:39 AM
Not exactly a tool question, but didn't fit elsewhere.

I'm trying to take apart my wheels from my 29 French bike. The rust was really bad, but now I need to take the spokes out to really get down to rust and paint removal to redo them. The wheels have really good looking brass nipples that would look great with the high gloss black rims, once redone. I hope to save them.

Is this a hopeless endeavor? Are there still quality brass spoke nipples made? I see Buchanan makes brass ones with non-brass finishes, but I want to keep the wheels as they looked when new.

Any special tools or tricks to try? I have been spraying them in PB Blaster or liquidwrench and trying to grab with vice-grips and a spoke wrench, without any luck yet.

I suppose I could build whole new wheels, using the old hubs, but I want to keep as much of it original as possible.

Thanks in advance.

02-11-2011, 09:53 AM
I would strongly advise you to save your spoke nipples if you can. The spokes can be replicated by Buchanan but your nipples are probably unique and Buchanan will not have them. I try to never cut a spoke but if you have to, it would probably make seperating the nipple and spoke easier. I generally do what you have been doing with the exception that I use a vice grip on both the nipple and spoke, and then gently work them until I feel actual thread movement and not spoke twisting. If you are careful with the vice grip, there should be minimal damage to the nipple.

02-11-2011, 05:28 PM
How about a "light touch" with the propane torch? too risky?

02-11-2011, 07:08 PM
[QUOTE I use a vice grip on both the nipple and spoke, and then gently work them until I feel actual thread movement and not spoke twisting. If you are careful with the vice grip, there should be minimal damage to the nipple.[/QUOTE]
Vise grips are crude and likely to cause damage. Buchanans sells real nice spoke wrenches measured in thousands. Get an accurate measurement of your nipples and see what they have. I have bought their wrenches that were a little tight because of plating and used a hard stone to get then where there still fit tight. The Buchanan spoke wrenches I own don't just slip on.
Leave the vise grips to the farmers.

02-11-2011, 08:39 PM
Cut the spoke close to the nipple. Then put the nipple in a collet either on a lathe or use a collet-type stud remover. You can then grip the spoke with vicegrips or with some kind of tool and work them out of the brass nipple.

Keep in mind, rust (iron oxide) is 9x thicker than the metal it replaces. That can cause a condition called Rust Smacking, which locks the spoke in the nipple. Also, the unlike metals (ferrous on the spoke, cupric on the nipple) will cause electrolysis and worsen the rusting. Some propane torch work is a good idea to loosen things up. Use various solvents. PB Blaster is fine, but you can also use non-flammable penetrating oil while hot as the heat will help draw in the solvent/lubricant.

But the collet will hold your nipple w.out damage while you gently worry the spoke out.

Hope this helps.

Cheers, Sirhr

Chris Haynes
02-11-2011, 10:12 PM
Cam Buchannan thread the new spokes to match the metric nipple?

02-12-2011, 09:03 AM
Good advice all. It looks like with careful, hard effort, I am averaging one that will move, to every 3 that won't. Patience is not my strong suit, but I am trying. To this point, penetrating oil/pb blaster then tap on them, let gravity try, and then vice grip and spoke wrench. I may put some heat on it today.
Buchanan says they can match. I am trying to be patient. Only one broken so far to a dozen or so loose. I would guess pro-shops (garages) wouldn't have a much improved technique or tools. Trying hard not to mess anything up.
Cheers, Kevin

02-12-2011, 09:08 AM
I took the wheels apart on my 1911 Merkel and saving the spokes and nipples was critical becuase Buchanan does not make anything remotely close to to early motorcycle spokes and nipples. The nipples are thin, brass, and have 2 flats for a wrench (Buchanan nipples are thicker and have 4 flats). I recall it taking weeks of careful soaking and manipulation with 2 VICE GRIPS to liberate the nipples from the spokes. Apparently I was successful because I got all of the parts nickle plated and aside from a bit of rust pitting on the spokes, it all looks pretty good. I guarantee, if you use a wrench on a brass nipple that has been 'rust smacked' you will destroy the nipple.

02-12-2011, 09:59 AM
kmo-ran what kind of bike do you have?

02-12-2011, 11:40 AM
Two 71 Bonnevilles, but this one is a 1929 Terrot 350. http://www.flickr.com/photos/29hg350/4253570633/

02-12-2011, 12:20 PM
if you check this site. you should find alot of parts to help in your build

02-12-2011, 04:15 PM
In case anyone is interested, this is a collet-type stud remover. This is one of the most-used tools in our shop.




08-27-2011, 01:46 PM
Hi Sirhr:

Doesn;t the threaded collet damage the nipple?