Introduction: How to Make a Spoke Bender

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The Spoke Bender is a tool for winding bicycle spokes into round coils.

It was originally designed for the production of upcycled belt buckles, as part of my 100% Bicycle Belt project (How to Make a 100% Bicycle Belt). However, I'm also experimenting with other applications for these round coils, such as key rings and curtain hooks. If you come up with other possible uses you are welcome to share them with the community!

In this tutorial I will show you how to produce the tool out of scrap materials and hardware products. Due to Covid-19 I could not take process-pictures, so I'm working on the editing of some illustrated instructions that will very soon be added to this tutorial.

Step 1: Overview of the Spoke Bender

Before delving into the production of the Spoke Bender, let's briefly explain how the tool works and what its components are there for. As a first thing, check out the video demonstration.

Long story short, if you secure the spoke both to the handle and to the tube, by pivoting the handle around the tube the spoke gets winded. In order for this magic to happen, a couple of smaller components and arrangements are needed: let's take a look at all of them!

Main components of a Spoke Bender:

  1. Wooden handle - it helps you hold the spoke steady while you wind it around the pipe
  2. Metal cover - it prevents spokes from consuming the wooden handle when they slide on it
  3. Seatpost - the tube I use is actually a bicycle seatpost
  4. Seatpost Hole - this is the hole in the wooden handle where you put the seatpost through
  5. Incision on the seatpost - it'is where you pin the head of the spoke
  6. Seatpost binder - it's what the handle leans on, it prevents it from sliding down
  7. Rail for the spoke - it's where the tail of the spoke slides while you wind it around the pipe
  8. Rail fastener - it secures the spoke inside the rail

SketchUp Instructions:
If you want, you can downolad this SketchUp file where I provide a 3D representation of the steps in this tutorial, with dimensions. If you dont have Sketchup on your PC, you can upload the file on the web version of Sketchup (SketchUp Web).

Step 2: Gather the Materials

The fastest and cheapest way to build the Spoke Bender is to use a combination of scrap materials and hardware products.

Scrap materials:

  1. Wood plank (minimum size: 25x10x3 cm)
  2. Steel sheets (e.g. an old metal shelf)
  3. Bicycle seatpost
  4. Bicycle seatpost binder
  5. Inner tube of a bicycle wheel

Hardware products:

  1. Mending Plates x 2 (80-100 mm long, with 4 holes)
  2. Flat Corner Brace x 1 (50x50 mm)
  3. Flat Head Screws x 4 (15 mm)
  4. Truss Head Screws x 9 (15 mm)
  5. Oval Head Screws x 2 (15-20 mm)

Step 3: Gather the Tools

Tools for drilling:

  1. Vertical Drilling Machine
  2. Hole Saw for metal, (same diameter as the seatpost)
  3. Spray Lubricant
  4. Power drill
  5. Drill bits for metal
  6. Screwdriver with the same bit as the screws you have taken
  7. Clampses

Tools for cutting:

  1. Wood - Hand Saw, Jigsaw or Table Saw
  2. Metal - Hacksaw, Jigsaw or Angle Grinder

Tools for smoothing out:

  1. Sandpaper
  2. Wood - Rasp or Belt and Disk Sander
  3. Metal - File, Angle Grinder or Belt and Disk Sander

Step 4: Cut the Metal Covers

In this step you will prepare the metal covers that protect the front and the back of the wooden handle. Before cutting the steel sheets, you will need to draw the outline of the two pieces. Dimensions can be found in the pictures provided for this step. Grab your tool for metal cutting, the one for metal smoothing and let's get started!

Front Cover:

  • Draw on the steel sheet the outline of the front cover
  • Cut out the main 8 X 24 cm rectangle first, the cut the rest
  • If you are a pro metalworker, you can smooth out the corners in a round shape
  • With sandpaper polish all the edges of the sheet until they are not sharp anymore

Back Cover:

  • Draw on the steel sheet the outline of the back cover
  • Cut out the 8 X 8 cm square
  • If you are a pro metalworker, you can smooth out the corners in a round shape
  • With sandpaper polish all the edges of the sheet until they are not sharp anymore

Step 5: Drill Screwholes on Both Covers

For this step you will need the vertical drilling machine, a drill bit for metal, spray lubricant and a clamp. It's important that the diameter of the drillbit is at least as large as the screws that you are going to use, so that they fit inside the screwholes. So grab one Truss screw (this is the type of screw you will use here) and either measure it or place it close to the drillbit to see if their size is matching.

Another important thing: Mind that on each of the two covers, screwholes are placed differently, so that screws don't meet inside the wood when assembling everything. On the Front Cover, screwholes are closer to the center, on the Back Cover holes are closer to corners.

Let's drill:

  • If you haven't marked the holes yet, do it now. To know where to mark them, check out the picture
  • In order to drill safely, clamp the metal sheet to the platform of the vertical drilling machine
  • Drill holes on both sheets
  • While you drill, remember to spray lubricant on the drill bit, so that it does not overheat

Step 6: Cut the Wooden Handle

Grab the wood plank and draw on it the outline of the handle. You can place the Front Cover on top of the plank and draw an offset outline of 5 mm around the metal piece.

Let's make this handle:

  • For cutting the wood, use any tool you find yourself comfortable with. Hand Saw, Jigsaw or Table Saw will all do the job.
  • If you want, after cutting the handle you can smooth out the corners in a round shape. Use a rasp or a disc sander.
  • With sandpaper, sand all the edges of thehandle, so that you don't get harmed by splinters.

Step 7: Put Together Handle and Covers

For joining the components you will need 9 truss head screws:

  • Place the Front Cover onto the handle, making sure it's well centered
  • Grab 5 truss screws and screw them in the screwholes
  • Flip the handle
  • Place the Back Cover, making sure it's well centered
  • Grab the remaining 4 screws and screw them in

Step 8: Drill the Seatpost Hole With the Hole Saw

The Seatpost Hole is the hole in the center of the handle, where you will put the seatpost through. You are going to drill all three layers at once* (Front Cover, Handle and Back Cover), so you will need a hole saw for metal.

For drilling the hole, you are also going to need the vertical dilling machine, spray lubricant and a clamp. As for the hole saw, make sure that its diameter and the diameter of the seatpost are the same.

Drilling the hole:

  • If you didn't do it yet, mark the center of the Front Cover
  • Clamp the handle to the platform of the vertical drilling machine
  • Drill the hole through the handle, make sure that you drill through all three layers
  • While drilling, remember to spray lubricant oil on the hole saw, expecially when you are drilling through the steel layers
  • After drilling, you might need to send the edges of the hole with sandpaper

Step 9: Find Position for the Rail

The Rail holds spokes in place when you pivot the handle around the seatpost. It's quite easy to make the rail, you only need two mending plates. However, it's very important that you position the plates correctly, otherwise the spoke will get stuck when you wind it. In this step, I will tell you how to find the proper positioning.

Position the first mending plate:

1. Place the plate to the left of the Seatpost Hole, leaving a gap of 3 mm between the edge of the plate and the edge of the hole.
2. Align the first screwhole of the plate with the center of the Seatpost Hole

Position the second mending plate:

3. Place the second plate to the right of the first one, leaving a gap of 3 mm between the two plates
4. Make sure the top edge of the plate is 3 mm distant from the Seatpost Hole

Mark the correct screwholes:

  • On the left plate, mark holes number 1, 3 and 4
  • On the right plate, mark holes number 1, 2 and 4

Holes number 1 and 3 on the left plate and holes number 2 and 4 on the right plate will be used to screw the mending plates. Hole number 3 on the left plate and hole number 1 on the right plate will be used later on for the Rail Fastener.

Step 10: Assemble the Rail

For assembling the mending plates, you need to use 4 flat head screws. Before screwing, drill screwholes on the Front Cover. You only need 4 screwholes, but it's more convenient to drill at once all 6 holes that you have previously marked.

Again, check whether the size of the metal drillbit and the one of the screws are matching.

Let's assemble:

  • Drill the 6 screwholes. Drill through the steel layer only, so that screws hold stronger on the wood
  • Place the left plate and put flat head screws on holes number 1 and 3
  • Place the right plate and put flat head screws on holes number 2 and 4

Step 11: Build the Rail Fastener

Now that the rail is in place, you can build its fastener using the flat corner brace and 2 oval head screws.

Cut the corner brace:

  • Place the brace so that one arm points at you and the other one points to the right
  • Cut the right arm about 2 mm after the first hole
  • Sand the edges of the cut until they are not sharp anymore
  • If you want, you can smooth out the corners in a round shape

Assemble the Rail Fastener:

  • Grab the first oval head screw
  • Screw the shorter arm of the flat corner brace to hole number 1 of the right mending plate
  • Keep the screw slightly loose, so that the corner brace can rotate
  • Screw the second screw to hole number 4 of the left mending plate*

*This second screw will work as a stop for the corner brace.

Step 12: Prepare the Seatpost

The handle is ready! Assembling the seatpost will only take a few more steps.

Cut the seatpost in the right length:
Cut away the head of the seatpost (where the seat is normally connected), so as to get a clean tube of about 24 cm in length. Then smooth out the edges of the tube using either sandpaper or a file.

Make an incision on the edge of the seatpost:
This is the incision where you pin the head of the spoke. The incision needs to be 3mm large, so that the spoke can fit inside it, while the head of the spoke can't pull out.

  • On one end of the seatpost mark a 2,5 cm line, perpendicular to the edge of the tube
  • Draw a second line at 3 mm from the first one
  • WIth a hack saw or an angle grinder cut along both lines
  • Refine both edges with a file or with sandpaper

Step 13: Mount the Seatpost Binder

The Seatpost Binder is the last component you need to add to the tool. It's function is to prop up the handle, so that it does not slide up and down while you pivot it around the seatpost.

Your binder will probably be larger than your seatpost, so you might need to add a layer of rubber in between, to make the two pieces steadily adhere. You can use a strip of bicycle tube.

  • Cut out a 15 cm long, 2 cm larg strip of bicycle tube
  • Wrap it around the seatpost
  • Put the seatpost binder on the seatpost
  • Slide both the binder and the rubber strip towards the edge of the seatpost where you have cut the perpendicular incision
  • Position both of them at 3 cm from the end of the perpendicular incision
  • Tighten the seatpost binder
  • If any rubber is sticking out of the binder, you can cut it with a cutter knife

You are done!

Step 14: Try Out the Spoke Bender

Slide the end with the incision through the seatpost hole, so that the incision is accessible from the front of the handle. The back side of the handle should be as close to the seatpost binder as possible in order to bend the spokes firmly and without it springing back.

Bend that spoke!

  • Open the corner brace to free the rail
  • Slide the spoke’s head into the incision of the pivot
  • Fit the spoke in the rail
  • Fasten the spoke into the rail by closing the corner brace
  • Rotate the handle clockwise with one hand, while holding the pivot firmly with the other hand
  • Keep rotating until you see the end of the spoke approaching the top of the rail
  • Open the rail fastener
  • Take out the ring by pulling the pivot out of the seatpost hole carefully

Pro tips:
Stop bending the spoke right before its end reaches the end of the rail in order for it not to spring back. It is harder to align the two layers of metal afterwards if you don’t control this movement.

If the spoke is repeatedly getting stuck, try adjusting the height of the seatpost binder along the seatpost.