Despite several articles in the periodicals I seriously believe this is a subject left for the professionals and should not be attempted by amateurs. We are representatives for the Central Wheel Company in England and sell literally hundreds of rims and thousands of spokes every year. Almost every day we get retail customers calling who claim that the rims or spokes they have bought from us are incorrect, many in frustration demanding that we pay the return shipping on the defective parts. Our standard answer used to be to tell the customer to return the rim, spokes and hub to us. If it was defective we’d correct the parts a pay for the build, if correct the customer paid. Unfortunately our friend and good wheel builder, Jock Graham, passed away recently so we no longer offer this service. Over 90% of the parts returned had nothing wrong with them.
I am not a wheel builder but when necessary have always been able to lace them up OK for my own bikes. Here’s the tip I give to customers having difficulty, including several claimed to be experienced builders, and from the feedback it seems to work.
Forget about the dozens of pictures you took of your original wheel.
Lay your hub on a flat table and place the rim around it chocking it up on books or whatever to get it in the approximately correct position (I hope you measured the offset before you took it apart).
Take 4 spokes and thread nipples onto them.
Push the spokes into the rim holes with your thumbs and by seeing where the spoke heads “default” to you will be able to move the rim around, turning it over if necessary, to get the position right.
Now you have identified which drillings go where, get your inner spokes loosely installed, followed by the outers.
Final truing is for sure best left to the professional, the importance being to tension all the spokes evenly. This is best done by feel and experience. Central Wheel tell me that in 100 years in business they have never had a spoke torque wrench on the premises.