Spoke key?

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LittleGreyCat
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Spoke key?

Postby LittleGreyCat » 15 Aug 2019, 5:29pm

A companion had a circular tool to use as a spoke key; it seemed to be able to fit different spoke sizes.

Nearest I can find is https://www.cyclestore.co.uk/giant_o_type_spoke_key-ID_56851 which would conveniently take my order into free delivery.

Are these kind of tools "a good thing"?

Looks more versatile than buying several dedicated spoke keys.

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gaz
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Re: Spoke key?

Postby gaz » 15 Aug 2019, 5:45pm

I have one, which is "a good thing" when I need it for minor adjustments on an unusual/unexpected spoke size. My folder comes to mind.

For everything else the correct size Spokey is much better.
Hand wash only. Do not iron.

pete75
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Re: Spoke key?

Postby pete75 » 15 Aug 2019, 6:18pm

gaz wrote:I have one, which is "a good thing" when I need it for minor adjustments on an unusual/unexpected spoke size. My folder comes to mind.

For everything else the correct size Spokey is much better.


I prefer one of these cyclo spanners. They bear on the full length of the nipple which the multi sized doesn't. Mine is over 40 year sold and still going strong. I've a similar vintage multi size circular spoke spanner similar to the one linked to, made by Brooks.

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Brucey
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Re: Spoke key?

Postby Brucey » 15 Aug 2019, 7:43pm

IME circular multi-slot spoke keys are versatile but have four main problems

1) the shape of the jaws is a square slot not a diamond slot; this (combined with the relatively short engagement length) means the key is liable to round off nipples that don't fit the key perfectly and/or are seized on the spokes.

2) if the spoke doesn't line up exactly with the nipple (as is commonly the case with quite a lot of rims where the rim holes are not angle drilled to match the hub) you can't turn more than 1/4 turn without the far side of the key marking up the spokes. Some black finished spokes can be visibly badly damaged by these keys.

3) when building wheels using such a key it is easy to lose track of which slot you are using, because there is no tactile indication as to which slot is which. It gets pretty boring trying to find the right slot again, after about the tenth time.

4) the key shape is usually poor; typically it is never centred over the spoke, so it turns in a lopsided fashion. In addition circular keys always seem to have sharp edges; I nearly always have sore fingertips after building a single wheel using such a key. They key is also rather heavy considering the delicate fingertip usage, and is easily dropped.

Spokeys ain't perfect by any means but are pretty close. Even the standard spokey (with a single jaw insert, vs the 'pro' model which has two inserts) grips well enough that it will shear 14G spokes off before the key slips or rounds the nipple (*). The spokey sits easily in the hand, doesn't make your fingertips sore, it practically falls onto the nipple (so you can work it by feel i.e. without really looking at it), is the lightest weight of any spoke key I know of (which means it isn't tiring to handle), and it doesn't mark up rims or spokes with stupid sharp edges that needn't be there.

(*) If it fits. You can't get spokeys in every size you might need and in addition there is a subset of wheels that are produced in the far east that come with 14G nipples of a daft intermediate size, such that a new red spokey is too small, and a yellow one won't work either because (bafflingly) the nipples have rounded corners already. The only tool I have to fit these nipples is a rather worn spokey red; this will fit the nipples and turn them; practically nothing else will.

So yes, a circular multi-slot spoke key is a handy thing to have in your toolbox but if you are planning to build wheels then it is invariably the case that it is worth investing in a key/nipple combination that is easier to use. Annoyingly I think it would be easy enough to make an improved version of such a key. I'd like to see

a) diamond slots not square ones
b) the whole key to be built lighter
c) the key to have larger relief cutouts on the far side (to avoid spoke marking)
d) the key to have a built-in plastic guard (with tactile bumps) that can be turned so that only one slot is exposed; this would allow the thing to be used by feel
e) the guard would have rounded edges so would be easy to hold for prolonged periods (this would help with the marking issue too)

cheers
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Mike Sales
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Re: Spoke key?

Postby Mike Sales » 15 Aug 2019, 8:28pm

I quite agree about circular keys, horrible things.
I prefer Park keys for wheel building.

HobbesOnTour
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Re: Spoke key?

Postby HobbesOnTour » 16 Aug 2019, 6:21am

LittleGreyCat wrote:
Are these kind of tools "a good thing"?

Looks more versatile than buying several dedicated spoke keys.


They're only as good as the person using them.
One got me out of a hole one time when 2 spokes snapped. I was able to adjust tension enough that the wheel was reasonably true (not rubbing off the brakes) and limp back to civilisation.

If you get such a tool, practise with it so you know what you're doing! :D

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Mick F
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Re: Spoke key?

Postby Mick F » 16 Aug 2019, 6:53am

Mick F. Cornwall

NickJP
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Re: Spoke key?

Postby NickJP » 16 Aug 2019, 8:30am

The best spoke tools grip three sides of the nipple. I use the VAR spoke key when building wheels with conventional nipples - mine is decades old and will easily outlast me. A good thing as I don't think VAR any longer make this particular tool:

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When I'm off touring I have a Spokey as part of my toolkit.

When building wheels using blade spokes, DT Squorx nipples are good because they allow you to hold the blade of the spoke just below the nipple to prevent wind-up while you turn the nipple via its head using the Squorx driver through the spoke hole in the rim bed. The nipples can also be turned with a normal spoke key if you need to re-true an existing wheel without removing the tyre and rim tape.

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fastpedaller
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Re: Spoke key?

Postby fastpedaller » 16 Aug 2019, 9:55am

I've used the cyclo one for over 40 years of wheelbuilding, and it's excellent. The round one in the OP I'd be happy to carry on the bike for emergencies.
That Var one looks good - I think I shall be on the hunt for one! :P

Brucey
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Re: Spoke key?

Postby Brucey » 16 Aug 2019, 12:23pm

I started with Cyclo keys (it was the only type they had in the LBS) and they did the job. But I noticed that I got sore fingers after building a single wheel and after two I was in a state of some misery. I only reluctantly bought a spokey, because it didn't work that well on wheels built with aluminium rims and short (10mm) nipples; it only just engaged with the end of the nipple. Fortunately such wheels are not at all commonplace and the Cyclo keys haven't had an airing for years now. My fingertips have thanked me many times over.

At one time I had two or three Cyclo keys; they varied slightly in size (often one end was slightly different to the other IIRC) as do nipples; I used to pick and choose between them depending on the exact size of the nipples I was working with.

cheers
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fastpedaller
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Re: Spoke key?

Postby fastpedaller » 16 Aug 2019, 1:59pm

Having done some seaching today I've found a used Var old style one for £40 (not in MY budget) and a number of copies (some from far east) that look as though they may be ok - also an ice tools one.

Brucey
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Re: Spoke key?

Postby Brucey » 16 Aug 2019, 3:05pm

some all-metal designs with a diamond (or four side drive) slot

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- Icetoolz 08C5

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- park tool 'master' SW-20/SW22 (slotted box drive not diamond) (not SW-20.2 or SW22.2)

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- Unior

There is a 'fat spanner' spoke key which is all metal, fits four sizes, and has a 'slotted box' shaped drive surface like some Park tool master models.

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In theory this might drive all four corners of a spoke nipple. In practice it is fussy about the exact fit, has several of the disadvantages of the circular key and the shape of the drive isn't quite as good as a well-fitting diamond slot. If the sizes are useful (and IME they are) then it is a good key to have in the toolbox, not so good for building wheels with.

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DT

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Super-B Rabbit

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Cyclus. Cyclus also do a fairly blatant knock-off of the spokey.

cheers
Last edited by Brucey on 16 Aug 2019, 3:21pm, edited 1 time in total.
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alexnharvey
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Re: Spoke key?

Postby alexnharvey » 16 Aug 2019, 3:15pm

I'd have to second that view of the fat spanner, also finding it quite irritating to use for a full build.

One thing that has always confused me is why icetoolz only make the 08C5 in 3.45mm in that style and not any other sizes.

Mike Sales
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Re: Spoke key?

Postby Mike Sales » 18 Aug 2019, 9:09pm

I have a set of three unusual keys, marked 13, 14 and 15 swg. Though less handy than a Park type I use them as my ultimate deterrent because they give a good grip and easy leverage.
They are in the shape of a flattened U, about 60mm in the base and 30mm in each arm. At the end of each arm is the nipple slot, in the shape of a slotted diamond. The axis of the slots is aligned, so that while one end is engaging a nipple, the other is round the spoke. This gives good leverage and a secure grip.
Has anyone such a spoke key? I cannot remember where I got them!
When wheel building the nipples are lubricated and do not need the ultimate deterrent, but these keys will shift any frozen nipple which it is possible to shift without breaking the spoke.
Last edited by Mike Sales on 18 Aug 2019, 9:12pm, edited 1 time in total.

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NUKe
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Re: Spoke key?

Postby NUKe » 18 Aug 2019, 9:11pm

Mike Sales wrote:I quite agree about circular keys, horrible things.
I prefer Park keys for wheel building.
+1
NUKe
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