I'd like to find some sort of "spoke wrench" which actually clamps onto the nipple (not the spoke proper), so that nipples that are slightly rounded-over (or, like aluminum ones, have a propensity to round-over) can be adjusted without further damaging the nipple.

  • ooof. what a pain that situation is
    – Paul H
    Aug 20 '19 at 23:12
  • Could it be that your spoke wrench is bad? I’ve built several wheels with high spoke tensions and aluminium nipples where the nipples where really hard to turn and I’ve never had this problem. I use a Cyclus Spoke Wrench which touches all 4 sides of the nipple.
    – Michael
    Aug 21 '19 at 7:27
  • 1
    @Michael - The problem occurs when you're working on a bike that's been in the weather for years, where the nipples are seized. Aug 21 '19 at 11:11
  • @DanielRHicks if the spokes and nipples are in that bad of a condition, it’s probably worth replacing them.
    – Rider_X
    Aug 23 '19 at 4:09
  • @Rider_X - In other words, rebuild a rim that's worth maybe $5 with all new spokes and nipples? Aug 23 '19 at 11:40

The Park SW-10 is exactly what you are looking for. It can really save the day. If possible, use it (and a healthy dose of light lubricant) the moment that you notice any stripping to completely remove and replace the damaged nipple. I've seen very old versions of identical design, and wouldn't be surprised to learn if it dated back to penny-farthing days.enter image description here

enter image description here

  • 1
    "This item is currently not available." Aug 20 '19 at 23:57

Hozan used to make one (C-122 model). I don't see it in their catalog any more. I do see some for sale on ebay at the moment.

I used one a few times, hoping for the same things, but I just couldn't get it tight enough to avoid rounding over.

  • Apparently not available anymore. Aug 21 '19 at 0:22

I have several nipple spanners. None of them are clamping as per the other answer, but some are better than others at not rounding off the corners.

Own Work

There's a park spanner on the right which has flat jaws. Its pretty good at rounding off a nipple if not firmly engaged, or if there are not quite perfect tolerances.

The middle one is another park took that has a pair of lips - you have to put it around the spoke and then slide it down on top of the nipple. This works better than the flat sided one.

On the left is some random chinese thing that I picked up a long time ago. Notice the lips are much stouter and longer. It also has 4 different sizes of fitment for the different widths of nipple.

As long as there's pressure outward from the hub, this style is good and is unlikely to round a nipple.

Own work

  • Yeah, that Chinese thing looks pretty good, if it's accurately machined out of stout metal. Aug 26 '19 at 20:56

4 inch vice grips will probably not preserve the nipple, but IMHO if you can't turn it with the correct size spoke wrench, the nipple should be replaced. These wrenchs are pretty cheap, if you ground the jaws flat it might help preserve the spoke nipple. They will definitely let you get enough grip that you're either going to get the spoke loose or break the spoke if the threads are totally locked.


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