Making an 80 Cents Homemade Spoke Nipple Driver (photos inside)

Description: A nipple driver is a tool that helps you thread nipples onto spokes.

Nipple drivers make wheel lacing and spoke replacement faster and easier. They’re particularly useful on double-wall rims as it’s very easy to lose a nipple between the walls of the rim.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t find one where I lived. Bike shops aren’t selling them as most people aren’t doing their own wheel repairs.

So, I had to make one. It works rather well for standard double-wall rims.

The tools and materials needed for the job:

  • A spoke with intact threads (mandatory)
  • A nipple (mandatory)
  • A spoke wrench (optional but recommended)
  • Bike cable and housing cutters (optional)
  • Pliers (optional)
  • Electrical Tape (optional)

Step 1: Shape The Spoke

The first part is to shape the spoke/nipple driver.

I chose to go with a shape that mimics Klein’s speed screwdriver (67100) which allows you to easily rotate it by relying solely on wrist motion.

It’s easier if you first make a schema with the approximate length of each segment before bending the spoke.


Note: The threaded part of the spoke is the beginning of the driver.

There are many ways to bend the spoke. You can use pliers or the edge of a hard object.

However, one of the best tools for the job is a multi-size spoke wrench because it makes for the perfect jig.

Bend 1

You can use a multi-size spoke wrench as a jig.

Mark the length of the first segment. Slide the spoke between two parallel entrances on the spoke wrench as shown in the image above.

Make sure that the mark aligns with the end of the wrench.

Bend the spoke downward.

The first bend

To make the next bend, mark the length of the second section and put the spoke into the wrench as shown in the image below.

The direction of the bending should be opposite to the threaded part of the spoke.

Bend 2

Step 2: Straighten The Spoke Laterally

It’s quite possible for the spoke to bend laterally during step 1.

Straighten it with your hands until all segments are in one plane.

Step 3: Cut The Spoke

You can use many tools to cut the spoke (e.g., a hacksaw, standard pliers, bolt cutters…etc.)

If you have bike cable cutters, you can use them too. They work very well for this task.

Cable cutters are great spoke cutters too

Step 3: Thread A Nipple Onto The Spoke

Take a nipple and thread it onto the spoke until 2-3mm of the spoke’s thread are showing.

The wider part of the nipple should be facing out.

Step 4: Wrap The Handle With Electrical Tape

You can wrap electrical tape around the handle to increase its diameter and subsequently comfort.

You can also make a hook at the end for a lanyard.

At this point, the tool is complete.

Instructions For Using The Tool

1. Thread the nipple that you want to install until it touches the nipple on the tool.

2. Screw the nipple onto the spoke that you’re installing/replacing. When the tool bottoms out (reaches its maximum travel), turn it in the opposite direction.

Eventually, the threaded parts of the two spokes will meet. At this point, it’s time to reverse the tool.

FAQ: How does the tool work?

When the nipple on the tool reaches the nipple that’s being installed, the two heads tighten against each other and become one. As a result, the tool successfully grabs the nipple and screws it onto the spoke.

FAQ: What is the point of this shape?

The bends allow you to tighten nipples quickly via circular wrist motion. Of course, the tool works even without the bends, but the tightening process isn’t as fast and as comfortable.

Additional Tips

If you want to, you can apply super glue or thread-locker on the tool’s threads to prevent the nipple from unwinding.

You can also put heat shrink wrap on the handle to give it a more complete look.

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