Fabricating simulated wire spoked wheels - RC Groups
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Jan 07, 2004, 12:36 AM
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Greg Knipp's Avatar

Fabricating simulated wire spoked wheels

I have posted this question in the Builders Workshop forum. I am hoping I will reach more people and gain more ideas by placing it in this Scale Modeling forum also.
I need to fabricate some light weight simulated wire spoked wheels for my vintage airplane project and I am at a loss for ideas and don't quite know how to approach this task.
Any photos, techniques, etc... would be of great help and gratefully appreciated. Thanks in advance.....Greg Knipp
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Jan 07, 2004, 07:13 AM
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This method was passed on to me by Roger Huber, who also took these photos.
Basically, the rim is a slice cut from plastic drain pipe, which has had a groove made for the tyre to sit in. It has also been drilled for the 'spokes'.
The hub is just a piece of brass tube with a washer soldered just in from each end.
Jan 07, 2004, 07:21 AM
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The next stage is to mount both rim and hub onto a simple jig, and lace the spokes in position. Fishing line is good for this job, I've never snapped a 'spoke', even when the wheel itself was a write off.
Roger starts at one hole, passes the line around the hub and back to the next but one hole. He then goes back to the missed hole, and takes the line around the opposite side of the hub. Carry on until the entire wheel is complete, and then lock it all off with CA.
Jan 07, 2004, 07:25 AM
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The final step is to glue the tyre in place, CA again. The tyre itself can be virtually anything rubber that fits. I've used Hoover Junior drive belts, but they are on the heavy side. The smooth coated, sponge rubber strip is much lighter. Several sources for that have appeared in other threads.
Jan 07, 2004, 07:29 AM
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Finally, here we see them pressed into service on Roger's little Sperry Monoplane model.
I have a set of these wheels, made by Roger, and they are the strongest spoked wheels I've come across. Far stronger than any of the commercial types I've tried.

Hope that's of some help.

Jan 07, 2004, 09:26 AM
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Jeff Meyers's Avatar

That's a neat method for making these little wheels....

How was the groove made in the wheel for the tires?
Jan 07, 2004, 10:23 AM
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I believe Roger said he used one of those little rotary file type tools in a mini drill, although any small, round file would do the job. Just rather more slowly.
If there isn't a plastic pipe available in the size you need, I've used an almost identical method, but with a strip of thin ply used to make the rim from. It needs to be well glued, and soaked in some type of laquer to harden it off. Those particular wheels survived two 40FS powered models, back when I was still influenced by the 'dark side'.
Jan 07, 2004, 01:26 PM
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Greg Knipp's Avatar
Thank you so very much Peter. I am impressed with these wheels. What size and type of fishing line did he use? Does or did he ever paint them? This is exactly what I was visualizing when I was trying to relocate the article I saved, or thought I saved, from a magazine some time back. Thanks again for your help..........Greg Knipp
Jan 07, 2004, 02:27 PM
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JIMA's Avatar

What a great idea. Peter, you always seem to be in the know. When it comes to vintage planes, you can trace down an article for anything. How do you do it?

Jan 07, 2004, 07:04 PM
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vintage1's Avatar
I haven't tried it yet, but an 8 thou guitar string might make a good substitute for the fishing line. Pre chromed as well. Or nickelled rather.

Might be stiff in the smaller wheels, but should suit larger ones. Solders as well.
Jan 07, 2004, 08:10 PM
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Glad to have been able to help.
I don't think Roger painted his wheels, but I have done in the past. They look great with gloss black rims and hubs, but silver spokes.
All my wheels have used ordinary, monofilament line of various strains. A 5lb. model, for example, worked great with 12 lb line but for small electric models, 5 lb strain would be ample.

Thanks mate, blame it on me hating to throw away anything that might come in handy. That same ideal applies equally to snippets of information,

The only problem I can foresee with guitar strings is them not being long enough to do all the lacing in one 'hit'. For larger wheels, some of the lighter grades of nylon coated trace line would work well.

This is one of those IC powered models I mentioned, the 80" span Flair Taube. Considering the model flew well on an old 40FS, it would make a good candidate for conversion to electric power.

Jan 08, 2004, 12:20 PM
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pburress's Avatar

Guitar string spokes

Guitar strings would make great spokes, but they are not chromed. They are usually a nickel/steel alloy and will start oxidizing in a few weeks to a couple of months, so you'd have to find a way to coat or clear-paint these. You couldn't "thread" them so I guess you'd have to cut individual spokes.

Some newer guitar string sets such as the "Elixir" brand have the larger brass-wound strings in the set coated to reduce oxidation and increase string life but the 2 smallest unwound strings are still not coated.

Your local small guitar shop can usually sell a single string for $1 or so...

Last edited by pburress; Jan 08, 2004 at 12:24 PM.
Jan 08, 2004, 02:18 PM
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vintage1's Avatar
All guitar strings are nickel plated. Nickel actually rusts less than chrome. Its the gutarists sweaty fingers that cause the rust in time. Ive gort gutrairs that I haven't played for years and the strings still look silvery. Nickel also solders well.

Peters points are valid tho - hard to get very long strings without going to the manufacturer.

Peter: I wish you did some CNC cut little jigs, and a kit of parts for these. The rubber, the fishing line, bit of tube and some washers.. and precut and predrilled rims.

The jig and the rims are the worst part I think. Both fiddly jobs with the tools I have.

One possible way to make rims on a CNC machine would be to make them in split halves, out of ply, and machine slots, for the spokes (and in fact the tyre), that didn't go all the way through. Then you could just glue the halves together.

If you are interested mail me, and I will draw up what I mean and send it to you.
Jan 08, 2004, 07:30 PM
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With CNC time at around 25 an hour, they would work out awfully expensive wheels.
The jig really is quite simple to produce, it's the grooved and drilled rims that take the time. A kit of parts is a possibility, but the rims would have to be in the form of blanks for home finishing. It's something I can look into at any rate.

Jan 08, 2004, 08:01 PM
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tim61's Avatar

This is a great technique. The only thing I don't quite have down is the pattern of threading the spokes. Can you diagram it?

I have built wire wheels from Gunze Sangyo Hitech kits for scale motorcycles, but they used individual stainless spokes glued in place while the assembly is held in a jig. Would not work to well for an airplane, but the look is fantastic.



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