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
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
Santiago Morete's wheel building files and pictures. Click HERE to go to his page.
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
Rodger & Betty Childs
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."
Next is to add brass grease fittings; "...they're readily available from any good Ford restorer's parts house. Snyder's Antique Auto Parts,
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.
Do not have the threads cut as they are weaker than rolled threads. Buchanan's Frame Shop
any good motorcycle shop.
alloy rim, and about 19 lbs metal rim, that's with wire wheels, tubes, and tires complete.
Hope this helps.
Michael D Cuy
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
Ken- I machined some 4" diameter x 1/8" thick stainless steel for the hub ends, then
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.
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.
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.
describe any of that ?
Q: What are your wheels made of ?"
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
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.
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.
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
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.
Issue #45 of the BPA Newsletter has the article (reprinted from
turned for a press fit in the hub and a running fit on the 1.5" axel.
The flanges are drilled to accommodate 40 spokes per wheel.
This was a time consuming project that cost approx. $450.00 but when they were finished it was very satisfying.
Greg Cardinal in