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21_yellow_piet_wheel.jpg (893549 bytes)    One of the common questions that arise when people decide to build a Pietenpol is,

Where can I get the old style wire wheels.  I won't get into the debate about the wisdom of using

stock motorcycle wheels here, but I will say this, a lot of Pietenpol's are flying around with them. 


Conventional wisdom, or urban legend, says you need hubs that are wider than motorcycle hubs to help absorb side

loads from less than perfect landings. 


However, Brian Kenney has been using motorcycle wheels for over 25 years. He has provided instruction on how he modified them to work on his strait axel gear.

Gary Boothe used modified Harley Davidson wheels on his recently completed Air Camper.


    You can buy some nice pre-made wide hubs from Ken Perkins and send them off to Buchananon Spoke and Rim where they will lace them to rims, install the tire, and send them back to you all ready to go.  You can also tryAirdrome Aeroplanes for hubs and wheel kits. I don’t know anything about these other than what the web page has.


    Rims can be steel or aluminum.  Aluminum will save some weight.  40-spoke rims are traditionally used, but 36-spoke

rims are more common on the used market.  Best advice is to decide on the rims first, then  make the hubs. Strait-laced spokes look original, but if you plan on using brakes you need to cross lace the spokes.


Drawings of home built hubs


Frank Pavliga drawing


Drawing based on Ken Pekins Hubs


Santiago Morete's wheel building files and pictures. Click HERE to go to his page.





For some good photographs of homebuilt wheels see Mike Cuy’s, W.B. Evans and Larry Williams photos.



See Chris Tracy's wheel building pictures.  Click HERE to go to his page.




Below is some good discussion on building wheels from the Pietenpol Discussion list.


Postings from the Pietenpol list on Wire Wheel construction

The definitive article on wheel hubs was written by Grant Maclaren. It appeared in the March 1990 issue of Kitplanes, pg. 36

The best article on the logic was written by Jim Loyd and appeared in Kitplanes March 1992 issue on page 66.

Rodger & Betty Childs
Wire Wheels

This info on wire wheels first appeared in Kitplanes, March of 1990 on pages 36 - 38. Grant MacLaren included it in the BPA 
newsletter back in June '94 with further updates in Jan '95.

"Each hub's basic component is a piece of 2" O.D. 4130 steel tube, 6" long, with a wall thickness of .120". The disks to which the 
spokes are terminated at the hub are also made of 4130. They are 3.5" in diameter, .090" thick, with their centers cut out to fit snugly 
over the steel tube. Each wheel has forty spokes so twenty spoke holes are drilled in each disk. The diameter of these holes is determined 
by the size of spokes used on the wheels. The hub's spoke holes are equally spaced around a circle 3" in diameter, concentric with the disk.
With the tubes and disks finished to this stage, they are joined by heli-arc welding. The outer faces of the disks are located one-half inch back
from the ends of the 6" long tubes. It is very important that the disks be welded with their spoke holes alternately spaced. In other words, the
 disks do not have their spoke holes aligned. The center of a hole in one disk is half way between the center of two holes in the wheel's other 
disk.  When the disks have been properly located and welded to the tubes, the hubs are chucked in a lathe, then carefully bored clean and 
round to receive pressed-in bushings. The bushings are bronze, at least one inch long, and made for a .001" to .002" interference fit in the tubes.  
A bushing is then pressed into each end of each tube. The insides of the installed and bored bushings should have about a .002" to .003"

running fit on the axle."

 4bd5.jpg (32073 bytes)

Next is to add brass grease fittings; "...they're readily available from any good Ford restorer's parts house. Snyder's Antique Auto Parts, 

12925 Woodworth Rd.

 Rt. 156, New Springfield, OH 44443, is one of the best. Ask for their Model "T" Ford grease cup replica. These

grease fittings are joined to the hubs with 1/8" pipe threads."

 Mvc-002H.jpg (17269 bytes)

The next step is to obtain wheel rims, 21" for 3.25" to 4.10" tires are best. Use a 21x3 tire as it looks proportionally better and has no 
problem mounting on the rim.

Use 9 gauge spokes and nipples. Since no spoke length was given, a good shop would custom make them using rolled threads. 
Do not have the threads cut as they are weaker than rolled threads.  Buchanan's Frame Shop can do the lacing and truing work as could 
any good motorcycle shop.

If you go with the alloy rims, they are expensive. You could go with a steel rim for about half the cost. Weight will be about 15 lbs 
alloy rim, and about 19 lbs metal rim, that's with wire wheels, tubes, and tires complete.

Hope this helps.

Piet in progress  
Michael D Cuy
Re: Hubs
Jul 06, 1999
 Mike, Can you tell me what the dimensions and material used for you great looking hubs

also the diameter and the number of spoke holes? also what type of tube did you use for the
 axle and any thing you might do deferent next time. If I make up some drawings I have access to a Haas
 mill and a man to run it, hope to have my fuselage on wheels buy the in of the year

Thank You

Ken Hannan

Ken- I machined some 4" diameter x 1/8" thick stainless steel for the hub ends, then
welded those onto a 6" long s/s tube.  I forget the wall thickness of the tube.
The axle as I recall was 0.22" thick 4130 chromolly from Dillsburg Aero in Dillsburg
PA.  717-432-4589. 1.5" o.d. with standard axle nuts and cotter pinned. Flanged oil-lite sintered
bronze bushings to fit the hubs and axle.  (visit Bearings, Inc. now called Applied
Industrial Technologies or your local bearing dealer near home)  Made my gear
wider than plans....forget exactly.  Maybe 4" wider ?    I used 40 spoke aluminum
rims 19" x 3.5 found after going to 5 to 8 motorcycle shops all over northern Ohio
They were undrilled.   I would go the same route again.  One note- for the wide a/c hubs use all 'inner' spokes, 
not the inner/outer alternating method seen on some bikes.  This avoids the 'root' of the spoke from rubbing or
 bending over your flange from the outside.  If you make them all 'inner' spokes this won't create a potential problem. 
 Took lots of measurements and photos of how other guys did theirs and made my own conclusions. So far, so good :))   
I took the rims and hub to the local cycle shop and he faxed my dimensions out to Buchanan’s Frame Shop in CA 
and they rolled 80 stainless 8 gauge spokes for my application.   My Piet weighs probably ½ what a Goldwing does. at 
632 lbs.   I've seen many guys use stock motorcycle wheels and brakes with no problems, but have been told that wider hubs
 are the wiser choice for resisting side loads, ground loops and your basic 'fold them over like an inside-out umbrella mode'. 
 Building the wheels was an education unto itself.  I have about $ 600 into rims, tires, tubes, axle, spokes, nipples, etc.
Mike C.   

Ken Hannan
Re: Hubs
Jul 06, 1999
And 8 gages spoke dia. is .1285 what dia. hole did you drill in the hub flange?
it looks like the hole would have to be large enough for the bend to go though?
Thanks for the quick response

Ken- I have the size hole I drilled at home on a sketch.  I'm sure it was just barely enough to get the straight 
end of the spoke thru.  I also countersunk the holes on the outside face of the hubs to conform with the countersunk
 shape of the spoke end.

Mike C. 

Michael D Cuy
Spoked Wheels
Aug 13, 1998

Hi Brent:

I'm going to burglarize your conversation here, as I have gone thru the process of building some "tall" wheels.  
It really isn't all that difficult. Brent- Warren's description is very similar to my story.  (but I'll bore you with mine anyway....:)

I searched many, many motorcycle shops to find 19" aluminum rims with 40 spoke holes as opposed to the more common 32 
I think it is now. (ps- you can use 17, 18, ....21" wheels.) I found a pair of Borranni made in Italy 19 x 3.5 undrilled alum. rims for 
$ 40 each.  I followed a similar description found in one of the BPA newsletters by Howard Henderson or Grant about Howard on
 how to fabricate hubs.  I welded up two stainless 1/8" thick discs to a stainless tube 6" wide  and pressed in two oilite impregnated 
flanged bushings from Bearings Incorporated.  (now called something else)  I took the hubs and rims back to the cycle shop with a
 sketch of both.  The owner faxed my sketch (with all my dimensions on there) to Buchannen's Cycle shop in CA.  I specified 
8 or 9 gauge stainless spokes similar to Warren.  
You can get steel, chromed, or stainless...spokes.   A dangerous thing is to make your own spokes by cutting down used spokes 
and threading them.  Cycle threads are 'rolled' into the material, not cut.  This process avoids the weak stress risers you get when 
you cut threads by hand.   It wasn't cheap to have spokes made but I've bashed that plane in pretty good 2 or three times without 
a hint of ill effect.  (except on my passengers, of course :)) Try not to cheeze-out on your axle wall thickness either...I forget  what 
it is, but it feels too heavy to your senses.  (.17 or .20"?)   Once my spokes arrived the cycle shop couldn't use their lacing jig to 
do my wide 6" hubs so he gave me some pointers and home I went.  Buchannen's provides you with a thread lubricant,  and specific 
instructions on some items, but the rest was my problem.  It took about 2 hours per wheel to lace and true them up. It was pretty 
much trial and error with the help of a dial indicator I borrowed from work one eve.  Actually your eye is a super natural dial indicator
 too.  Back to the cycle shop and they put a big flat wide black rubber band around the rim base to protect the inner tube from the 
protruding threads poking thru.  On advice from the cycle shop I ground all of my threads down to the nipple on that side and put duct 
tape over each one before the rubber 'band' when on.  Nice and smooth.  More work, but less headaches later.  Then they mounted
the tires and tubes and off I went.  
I spent approx. $650 total.  For those with more money Buchannens' will make you up a set with Sun Alum. rims I believe for 
around $ 1,200.   I've seen them and they are very, very nice.  (but $$)  You can get used cycle rims with brakes and all too.  
Brian Kenney in Canada has them and they have worked fine for him for many years.  I've heard the reason airplane builders 
of old designed wide hubs was to take the side loads imposed by pilots like me in a crosswind or ground loop.  Too narrow 
or skinny spokes can fold over like an umbrella in a strong wind.  The tire selection was easy- I copied Frank Pavliga's 
Sky Gypsy tires called Avon Speedmaster's.  I'm told you might not be able to get that tread design anymore.   J.C. Whitney 
shows lots of different cycle replacement tire tread patterns too.  I just looked thru the catalog the cycle shop owner had and 
picked the pair I wanted. He ordered them and a few days later I was in business.  The cycle wheels aren't as cushy as the low 
pressure round tires, but they aren't that bad.  I started with 32psi and tinkered with pressures.  I found about 26 lbs. is just right.  
There is a danger by going too low though:  the tire could slip on touchdown on pavement and slide the inner-tube with it--shearing 
off your valve stem causing an instant flat.  One thing is true: we all like the Piet design very much, but I had a weak spot in me for
one with tall spoked rims.

ps- I see in photos that John Greenlee has some nice looking spoked rims and tires.  Yu-whooo. John, would you like to 
describe any of that ?

pss- Brent's initial question made me laugh  when I thought of a wise-guy answer-   
Q: What are your wheels made of ?"

Hope this helps some, 

Mike C.     

John Greenlee
RE: Spoked Wheels
Aug 14, 1998

I'm glad you asked......

Mine were done up from the Pavliga/Henderson design but made 'on the cheap' so to speak.  The rims are an aftermarket 
Harley Davidson replacement sportster front rim.  21".  The spokes are also a HD replacement part.  I cut out the disks 
and organized all the materials for the hubs which were welded up at a local machine shop.  (He only charged me 35 bucks, but I bet
he wouldn't do it again....)  He not only welded up the hubs, but turned the bushings from stock I provided, etc....

I got my wheels laced by this guy with LOTS of tattoos.  I'm sure he has a last name but all I ever knew was Dody Mike.  
I know because it said so on one of his tattoos.  He cut down the spokes and had the threads rolled by some buddy of his.

My tires started out as a Cheng Shin knobby moto-cross tire.  I took a utility knife and cut off the knobs, and then used a disk 
sander on my drill with 40 grit paper until I had something resembling a Clincher.  Eight to ten hours per tire. The rims cost 45 
bucks each if memory serves.  The spokes were about the same so we had 90 bucks each in rims and spokes.  I don't remember 
what the hub materials cost but lets say fifty bucks (probably less.)  Thirty five for machine work, one hundred for lacing and forty 
five per tire.  Does that come out to 455 or so?  Wheel, tire, tube and air weigh 19 lbs.  I covered the wheels with fabric just before
Brodhead so I'm sure they will weigh a few ounces more.

I used the lightweight (1.7 oz) fabric but wonder whether the heavy weight (3.something oz) would have been better considering where 
the wheels do their work.  At any rate HD products and accessories are available in any color desired so long as it is chromed.  
I figured chrome wheels would look out of place on the Piet so I covered them.  Besides, the covering is

supposed to gain you 5 mph......


Warren D. Shoun
Jan 05, 1998
Dear  Lee:

          I  also  used  Buchanan  Spoke  &  Rim,  Inc.  (805  W.Eighth  Street,  Azusa,  Ca. 91702  
telephone (626)  969-4655  fax(626)  812-0243  to  redo  some  Honda  Trail  90  36  spoke  Hubs 
and rims.    I  had  them  true  and  re-lace  with  9  gauge  stainless steel  spokes.  The  spokes 
 cost  $1.00  each  and  the  labor  was $54.00.  per  wheel.    Not  cheap.    Each  spoke  will  
take  in excess  of  1,000  pounds  of  terror  and  there  are  at  least  8 spokes  in  EACH  wheel  at  
work  all  the  time.    The  finished product  looks  beautiful  and  are  hell-for-stout.    If  I  were  to do 
 it  over,  I  would  change  the  rim  to  a  16"  or  18"  as these  size   motorcycle  tires  with  good  load 
 range  are much more  readily  available  and  cheaper.

Greg Cardinal
Re: Spoke hub motorcycle wheels

Issue #45 of the BPA Newsletter has the article (reprinted from 
March 1990 Kitplanes) on brakeless wire wheels.
It calls for 2" X .120 4130 tubing for the hub and flanges cut from .090 4130 3.5" in diameter. Bushings are
 turned for a press fit in the hub and a running fit on the 1.5" axel.
McMaster-Carr sells oilite bushings the correct size for a couple of bucks each.
The hub tubes are 6" long and the outside face of the flange is set back 1/2" from the end of the tubes.  
The flanges are drilled to accommodate 40 spokes per wheel.
I found that motorcycle rims with 36 spokes were far more common.
I did find 40 spoke rims at the bone yard. Look for rims from Honda Goldwings or the big 
Kawasaki’s.  Spokes are from Buchanan's. Search for their website.
This was a time consuming project that cost approx. $450.00 but when they were finished it was very satisfying.

Greg Cardinal in