My 2 cents:
There are tons of theories out there about the various parameters for wheel building. Most have been discussed on the list already. I hate getting into any of these discussions because it is usually impossible to come to any conclusions that are provable in any scientific way.
With regards to spoking patterns pulling a rim joint together; I think that it is safe to say that any and all spoking patterns do that. I hope that this doesn't start any big debate.
I have tied and soldered lots of wheels. Again this is controversial as to the effectiveness of this practice and I am not going to debate it because I can't prove anything one way or another. Lets just say I do it because I like the way it looks. The point that I would like to make on the matter is that many of the wheels that have been tied and soldered don't look too good aesthetically (to me) because the builder uses too many turns of wire and/or has a poor looking method for securing the ends. I was told verbally how to do it by Mike Fraysee and he was taught by Dave Molten.
Here is the method of winding the wire that I use. It is just like the way guides are put on fishing rods or a whip finish on a rope. The ends of the winding are under the winding and thus invisible. If you think of the cross of the 2 spokes as a momentary helix then the direction that the helix spirals is the direction that you must wrap. I hope that makes sense. You lay the wire into the crotch of the cross and wrap over the top of it. TAKE ONLY 3 TURNS and tuck the end through the opposite crotch from where you started. Actually it isn't even 3 whole turns. Next you grab the the 2 ends with pliers (simultaneously) and gently pull. This will tighten the wraps and the the wire will break off inside. It takes a little practice to get the wraps very tight and nice looking.
After they are soldered (another lesson) I like to do the traditional thing and paint the windings with a small brush. Usually red but sometimes a color that matches or contrasts the bike.
I used to build a lot of wheels for Syl Greico; for the various riders that he coached. Syl's son Alan was an Olympian and Alan's daughter Jessica was a World Champion who did some color commentary for the Tour de France last year. One time Syl had me build 3 identical sets of track tandem wheels. His sprinter de' jour was a great guy named Tommy Moschetto. Tommy was a clever tactician but had never been able to develop the horsepower to medal at nationals. With Syl they decided that Tandem sprints would be his ticket. The wheels that I built used very light gold Martino rims with washers, 36 - 14 gauge spokes, 3 cross. Syl asked me to tie and solder them not only at the last cross but the second cross as well. I had never heard of that before (or since) but he was the boss. Man, that was a pain in the butt! There is no room to work in there. We are talking about 6 wheels times 36 ties per wheel! It was all worth while when Tommy came home with a Bronze medal. I don't remember who his stoker was. He went through several...
One of my keepsakes are a pair of pictures taken by John Issendorf. The first is of Syl Greico holding me for the start of a track race at the Labor Day track meet at Kissena. The second is of me crossing the finish line winning the race. Sorry, no victory salute. I look like I am going to puke. Syl never formally coached me but we were friends. He passed away last year. Syl was good guy... Now I've got a tear in my eye. How did I get onto that from tying and soldering? Jamie Swan - Northport, New York.