ATFRCGuide – 11/15/00
"An Tir Fiberglass Rapier Construction Guide." By Esteban el Barbarosa de Curvo del Rio.
This article was submitted to me by the author for inclusion in this set
of files, called Stefan's Florilegium.
These files are available on the Internet at:
Copyright to the contents of this file remains with the author.
While the author will likely give permission for this work to be
reprinted in SCA type publications, please check with the author first
or check for any permissions granted at the end of this file.
Mark S. Harris
AKA: Stefan li Rous
stefan at florilegium.org
AN TIR FIBERGLASS RAPIER CONSTRUCTION GUIDE
as proposed by Esteban el Barbarosa de Curvo del Rio
This guide is designed to aid you in the construction of your own An Tir Fiberglass Rapier. The information contained within was obtained from many sources from all over the Kingdom. Much time and effort has gone into testing (including destructive testing) of ideas and assumptions. It is assumed that you are already familiar with the use of basic hand and small power tools. As with all instructional articles, please make sure that you have read and understood everything before proceeding.
If you already own the tools, i.e. hot glue gun, small wood plane, sandpaper, and have a metal weapon to convert, the cost of the materials should be around ten to twenty dollars.
I. The Handle and Blade Mount
I recommend using an old fencing epee or "wall-hanger" rapier as the base for your fiberglass rapier. The grip and guard can often be used with little or no modification, so as to conform with the An Tir Book of Combat requirements.
You will be making a 'socket' for the fiberglass blade to slide into. Start by cutting the old blade off 2 inches above the guard. Cut off a 4 inch long piece of 1/2 inch EMT. EMT is a thinwall metal electrical conduit available from most any hardware store. Flatten the piece of EMT in a vise to a width that will accommodate the base of your finished blade (approx. 1/4 X 3/4 inch).
Braze or weld the flattened tube to the stub of the blade. This leaves a socket 2 inches deep to accommodate your fiberglass blade. This method helps prevent twisting and splitting at the base of the blade and it is easier to replace broken blades as compared to some older methods. And if the unthinkable happens and someone falls on your blade during a melee, there is no 8 inch 'dagger' hidden inside, as in some older methods of mounting.
II. The Blade
Important Note: When working with fiberglass, always wear leather gloves, long sleeves, goggles, and a filter mask. Adequate ventilation is a must!
Blades are constructed using common 1/4 inch fiberglass rod stock hot-glued together and then tapering them.
A. Hot Gluing
Measure and cut the center rod so that it is 16-18 inches shorter than the other two rods. This will set the length of the foible or "weak" of the blade (Ill. #2).
Find a table, kitchen counter, or other hard flat surface large enough for the full blade length to lie upon. Lay a strip of clear packing tape down to catch any hot glue drips, and to prevent your sword from sticking to the table. Lay the three rods down with the short rod in the center and with the base ends lined up. Now tack the rods at the points indicated in illustration #3, and hold until the glue cools.
IMPORTANT!: Glue the center rod to the two outer rods by angling the glue gun back from the direction of travel and feeding enough glue to keep a small blob just ahead of the nozzle (Ill. #4).
This is to force the hot glue down between the rods. IT IS THE MOST IMPORTANT STEP IN GLUING THE RODS TOGETHER, so take your time. Don't try to fill the space to the top in one pass. Filling this comes later.
After the glue has cooled, smooth out any lumps with the side of the glue gun nozzle, flip the blade over and repeat the process.
To glue the foible, carefully clamp or weight the forte down so as to avoid inadvertently building a twist into the foible. Hot glue about 1 1/2 inches of the tip together and allow to cool. Fill in the foible until there is an empty gap about 6-8 inches long from the top of the third rod to the hot glue in the foible. Now squirt in 2 hot glue spacers about 1/2 to 1 inch long (Ill. #5).
Let all the hot glue cool before proceeding any further. Next, start filling in and smoothing down everywhere there is hot glue. You may smooth out the hot glue using the side of the glue gun nozzle (Ill. #6) or with an old iron. LEAVE THE EMPTY SPACES EMPTY!
With a sharp knife, carefully trim the hot glue "flashing" from the sides of the blade. Be careful that you don't nick the fiberglass.
B. Shaping the Blade
I use a small wood plane to trim the fiberglass as it works quite well, makes less mess, can be re-sharpened, and doesn't get clogged by hot glue. Flat taper the foible of the blade, starting just where the center rod stops (Ill. #7).
Periodically stop and check both the push weight ( < 8 lb.) and the curve as the blade bends. The curve should be even over the foible or slightly more towards the tip (Ill. #8). Avoid creating a blade that bends in the center or all in one place (Ill. #9).
A properly constructed blade will have a push weight of 6-8 pounds at 2 inches of bend (Ill. #10).
Check your push weight before taping the blade. The maximum allowed according to the ABCs is 8 pounds at 2 inches of bend and I recommend no less than 5 pounds.
C. Taping the Blade
Tightly wrap 2 turns of filament tape around the following points on the blade: the tip, the hot glue spacers with the gap, the hot glue at both ends of the gap, and about 2 inches from the base of the blade (Ill. #11).
Now lay strips of filament tape lengthwise on the blade and cover it completely from the tip down, leaving about 1.5 inch at the base free of tape (Ill. #12).
The area without tape is for the hot glue to grab when mounting the blade.
To finish: Lay a strip of duct tape lengthwise down the blade, leaving 1 inch at the tip and 2.5 inches at the base free of tape. Taper the duct tape toward the tip to avoid lumps and wrinkles and carefully fold the tape around the blade (Illus. #13 and 14)
D. The Tip
Rubber bird blunts make good tips for your blade. Use the small bird blunt, since more weight on the tip can cause the blade to be whippy. I prefer number "0" Rubber Stoppers with a 1/4 inch diameter hole drilled 2/3 of the way into them. These have some give and are much less likely to hook on an opponent's weapons or garb as you are pulling your blade back. Unfortunately they will not last quite as long as the bird blunts and need to be replaced a little more often.
To attach a rubber tip that is a little tight, squirt a little "spray" cleaner on the tip of the blade and into the rubber tip's hole. Twist the tip slightly while forcing it over the end of the blade. Ideally it's a tight fit, so MAKE SURE IT'S ON ALL THE WAY!
Use thin strips of duct tape to securely tape the tip to the blade.
According to the ABCs contrasting color duct tape must be used to mark the tip and may be used to designate cutting edges.
E. Mounting the Blade
Squirt a goodly amount of hot glue into the socket of the blade mount and force the base of the blade in as far as it will go. Hold it straight until the glue cools. Use duct tape to conceal the joint and the mounting socket.
III. Blade Maintenance
The duct tape will need to be replaced as it wears. Simply peel it off and replace it. Inspect your blade regularly for tip wear, splitting and cracking (it isn't always obvious). SPLITS AND CRACKS CANNOT BE REPAIRED BY REINFORCING WITH DUCT TAPE! This isn't safe. The blade must be replaced.
IV. Finding Materials
The 1/4 inch rods can be obtained by buying bike flags. Yes, it's that simple. K-mart, Fred Meyer, Target, almost any store that carries bikes will have these in stock. Or look in the Yellow Pages under plastics or fiberglass.
Rubber bird blunts are found at many archery shops. Call around and find one of the smaller sizes. "0" size rubber stoppers are found in many hardware store chains like Eagle, Ernst, Home Depot, etc.
1/2 inch EMT (thinwall electrical conduit) is found in hardware and electrical stores. If you can only buy it in ten foot chunks, don't worry it only costs one to two dollars for the entire piece.
Daggers are made with only the two outside lengths of fiberglass rod and a short (one to two inch) piece of rod as a spacer at the base. You must shave more fiberglass off to bring the push weight down below eight pounds. I have found that 3/16 inch rods work better for dagger construction, as there is not as much fiberglass to remove, but you will have to go to a fiberglass supplier to get some. If you use 3/16 inch rods for your dagger, you may use a piece of 1/2 inch thick walled rigid copper tubing in place of the 1/2 inch EMT. The 1/2 inch size of copper is smaller than the 1/2 inch EMT, and fits the smaller dagger blade better. I have found it impractical to make daggers shorter than eighteen inches long.
I welcome any feedback, suggestions, or ideas. Or just let me know if you find this guide useful, I would be pleased to know. A lot of time, effort, and testing went into this and it gives me a warm squishy feeling to know that I have been some help in promoting "rapier" fencing.
Ready made socketed tangs are available if you do not wish to make them yourself. I can do 1/4-20 and the more standard 12-24. Rods, kits, completed blades, and complete rapiers are available. Write to me at the address below, or catch me at an event. Be sure and specify the thread size on the tang when asking about tangs or blades.
VII. Copyright Information
The text and pictures in this article is copyright July 1992 to January 1995 by Steven J. Greenfield, AKA Estabon el Barbarosa de Curvo del Rio. Permission is given to all to copy and distribute this article in it's complete form only, including this notice. Any editing other than format and font may only be with the express written permission of the author. Publication in any periodicals, books, or manuals by written permission of the author only, and you must send one copy of any issues in which it appears to the author. You are welcome to use this as an instructional text as long as you adhere to the conditions stated here. You may charge only a reasonable copying fee in distributing this article. The author retains all rights to this article.
Esteban el Barbarosa de Curvo del Rio
c/o Steven J. Greenfield
steve.greenfield at rook.wa.com
2106 South 8th Street
Tacoma, WA 98405-3057
If this article is reprinted in a publication, I would appreciate a notice in
the publication that you found this article in the Florilegium. I would also
appreciate an email to myself, so that I can track which articles are being
reprinted. Thanks. -Stefan.