Wheelworks Journal: Upgrading our Tools (Again)

New Tools: Even Better Builds!

I’ve been following Ryan at Islandix for a few years now and watching his progress. On my recent trip back home to Canada I took the opportunity to meet him, check out his workshop, try his digital truing stands in-person, and ultimately return to NZ with a couple of them in my bag.

Essentially the Islandix system replaces the analog gauges on our truing stands with a digital read-out on a computer screen. Other than being friggin’ cool and exciting my inner wheelbuilding geek, utilising this system we reduce the number of times we’re adjusting each spoke nipple during a wheel build. This is less about saving time and more about getting the wheel into perfect tolerances without building-in a bunch of stresses that we need to later remove with our de-stressing machine Grimlock. The less we can adjust each spoke nipple the better as this leads to longer-lasting wheels which don’t go out of true.

I took this upgrade as a chance to upgrade some other parts of our truing stands at the same time. We’ve had these German-made Centrimaster stands for about 9 years and they’re really good: they’re super rigid and locate precisely, meaning that we’re able to remove and re-install the wheel in the stand in the exact same place every time. This is critical when you’re building wheels which are true to one-tenth of a millimetre and it’s something that most truing stands really struggle with.

Despite the stands being really good I’ve never loved how the gauges are mounted and over the years have made quite a few mods and improvements to make them more comfortable for daily use.

The Islandix gauges were my chance to start from scratch so I started with a blank sheet of paper (well, blank iPad screen), wrote out what I wanted to achieve, and ran through various sketched ideas to achieve this. Once I had a solution I was happy with I modelled the parts in CAD and then made them on my 3d printer and lathe.

The result is this replacement for the Centrimaster gauges which allows adjustment for wheel sizes between 20”and 29” diameter, and rims between 15mm and 100mm wide. The vertical roller can be quickly moved out of the way for checking wheels with tyres on them - something we don’t do frequently but which was a real pain with the original gauge setup.

The digital gauges plug into the Islandix ‘box’ which takes the readings from the gauges and translates them onto the computer screen. I added a monitor to our existing wheelbuilding carts so that it’s in a comfortable position to view while working.

Islandix has two ways of visualizing the wheel’s trueness: Target Plot and Augmented Indicators. Augmented Indicators essentially digitises what you’d typically see with analog gauges and while this looks super cool, it isn’t super useful. Target Plot is where the magic is. We’re able to set our wheelbuilding tolerance box in the software and basically play a video game trying to get the ball (which represents the point on the wheel we’re currently working on) into the center of the box.

Here’s a short Youtube of Ryan explaining the Target Plot:

We’ve made continual and incremental improvements to our wheelbuilding tools over the 17 years we’ve been turning nipples and these Islandix upgrades are the latest improvement. Gav’s been really impressed with the upgrade and says the visualisation really helps reduce the number of times he’s adjusting each spoke nipple, helping him to build better wheels.

We’ve been working with Ryan to use Islandix to visualise dish (how centered the wheel is) and it’s been great working with him and throwing ideas around for how to achieve this. We’re using some pre-production software at the moment and loving it so keep an eye out for this feature being added to his production units shortly.

Stay tuned to our Facebook and Instagram over the week while we show and explain the Islandix and our truing stands.  If you have any questions please reach out and we’ll do our best to answer them.

- Tristan