Most fencing equipment is quite simple to test and maintain once you understand it. However, there are a few tips that can really help make the job easier. Some are listed here. If you have a new tip or armoury question, send a message to the Armourer.
- Don't use the test boxes provided by fencing suppliers - they are expensive and often only test that there is a circuit. It is important to test electrical resistance too, as this is a major cause of problems. Instead, buy a reasonable quality digital multimeter from an electrical supplier (e.g. Maplin's) for £15 - £20. If possible, get one with audible continuity test (i.e. it beeps!). This is useful when weight testing weapons.
- Don't spend vast amounts of money buying tools at DIY Warehouses. Buy cheap tools from market stalls & pound stores. These will do just as well and cost significantly less. For example, a set of jeweller's screwdrivers can be found for 99p in many shops. Also, don't spend £15 on a t-shaped allen key from a fencing supplier - go to the tools stall on a local market and buy a set of 10 t-shaped allen keys for £10.
- Use liquid super-glue for rewiring blades. It's cheap & easy to use. If you find it difficult securing the wire at each end, invest in a new glue called 'Mitre-Mate'. This is a two-part super glue. Spray a small section of the wire with the activator aerosol, then drop a small amount of the main glue (which is a thick super glue) onto the section of blade & spread it very thinly. Place the wire into the groove & hold it for 10 seconds & you will have a strong bond. I don't use this glue for the whole blade, as it is expensive and not really suitable, but for fixing each end it can cut up to 30 minutes off of the job.
- Invest in some barrier cream for when you are rewiring blades. Rub this into your hands first & you will find that super-glue has less of a chance to stick. This could save you an embarrassing trip to casualty with a foil stuck to your hands! Alternatively, buy a pack of cheap, disposable rubber gloves - like they use on food counters. These stop your hands getting stuck too.
- When rewiring a blade you need to bend it while you glue it. Make a simple but effective chain by buying a length of ornamental chain (about 1.5 metres) from a DIY store, then attaching plumbers copper pipe end-caps to it using split-rings (like you use on key-rings). Put each end of the blade into the end-cap & adjust the position of one of the split-rings along the chain to give the right bend.
- 90% of all weapon problems can be attributed to the tip. Rewire a blade as an absolute last resort (because it's expensive & hard work).
- When rewiring a blade, use a heat gun (like you use to remove paint) to melt the glue. Pull the wire out with a pair of pliers as you heat it & you will find that it leaves the groove mostly clean.
- When screwing in a grub-screw (or any screw really), give it half a turn in the wrong direction (i.e. anti-clockwise) first to make sure it is not cross-threaded.
- Take time to understand how your weapon works - it makes problem solving much easier. Preferably attend one of the NFC Basic Weapon Maintenance Classes - e-mail the armourer for details.
- When re-taping the end of a foil blade, only use the expensive cloth tape on the blade itself. You will need to remove the tape from the barrel far more often, so use cheap insulating tape for this. It's also easier to apply as it can be stretched.
- Test your weapons before you go to a competition. It's quite amazing to see how many people arrive on the piste to find their blade isn't working (it's also a yellow-card offence).
- Foil & Sabre lamés are expensive and delicate & must be treated with respect. Sweat and moisture are their main enemies. When you have finished fencing for the night, turn your lamé inside-out and ROLL it up (do not fold it as it will crease and damage it). If possible, store it in your bag in a different section to your hot sweaty jacket. As soon as you get home, turn it back the right way out & hang it somewhere to dry.
- Masks are designed to keep blades away from your face - an important job, I'm sure you'll agree. So why do you so often see people drop or throw their masks to the floor? If you drop your mask it will weaken it. Do it too often (especially in the same place) and you will eventually weaken it enough to allow that fast-moving broken, jagged sword to pierce it. It's too late to be sorry at that point. Respect you mask like you would a motorcycle helmet.