On Aug 21, 2005, at 12:07 PM, Thomas L. Hayes wrote:
> In reading auction descriptions on Ebay and elsewhere phrasing such
> as "hand
> built" or "custom-built" wheels is used repeatedly.
This how the phrases should be used: Hand Built wheels are just that, laced, trued, and tensioned by hand without the help of a machine. Custom Built are where the parts are selected by the customer. These wheels can be hand built or machine built, but the parts can't be chosen before the customer orders the wheels.
Alas this is not how the words are used. In the wild world of Ebay they're really nothing but marketing speak. In general I build Custom Hand built wheels for my customers. In the past I've been known to spend the winter building hand built wheels during the slow periods. Now there are a dozen different ways to build wheels that fall between the mass produced machine built wheels and custom hand built. When I was working for the OT company Bike Friday we built custom machine built wheels, but they were all finished by hand.
To be honest I've seen lots of great machine built wheels over the years, and I've also seen a lot of poor hand built wheels. . . it just depends. If you're looking for hand built wheels always ask who built the wheel. If they don't know, or say 'It was finished by. . . ' odds are you're dealing with a machine built wheel. In the end wheelbuilding is really, really simple but hidden behind some ancient bike industry mumbo-jumbo and mysticism. Anybody can built a great wheel by hand if they just go slowly and follow the steps.
Oh, right about the machines. I've heard thet they had wheel building machines going back about 100 years, but I've never seen pictures even personally. I have seen machines dating from post-WWII. best, Brandon"monkeyman"ives painting M's new mixte in Coeur d'Alene, ID.