Constructing A Fibreglass Rapier
- 6mm (diameter) fibreglass rod (6mm is approx 1/4 inch, 25mm = 1 inch (approx))
- 4.5mm (diameter) fibreglass rod
- 3mm (diameter) fibreglass rod
Fibreglass rod is available from plastic/fibreglass manufacturers in 6 metre (yard) lengths. Shorter lengths can be purchased (cut to length) from kite supply shops but these are more expensive (retail vs wholesale).
- 6mm rubber stopper
We use soft rubber stoppers designed for chair legs. These are available from local hardware stores. A slightly larger internal diameter is OK.
- Fibreglass tape
This is a plastic tape impregnated with fibreglass strands. If you can get it, the cross hatch (#) patterned tape is better than the tape with the fibres going in a single direction. It blunts knife blades quickly and sticks to itself better than anything else. Available at some hardware stores.
- Duct tape
The normal US duct tape is not the same as that used in Australia; their's is reinforced/tearable tape which is banned for use in this method of constructing rapiers - These instructions assume a silver grey vinyl duct tape.
- Electrical tape
Colored plastic tape. We tend to use red or yellow. The purpose of the tape is to make the rubber stopper visible to the *marshal(s)* during combat, not your opponent, so any color acceptable to them will do. Available at hardware stores, super markets, garages etc etc.
- Hot melt glue
Your basic heat-it-and-it-melts craft glue.
Medium to fine grade. A single sheet should be more than enough.
- Safety Gear
If you are going to be cutting and finishing fibreglass then you need to use adequate eye, respitory and skin protection while doing so. You will be generating a very fine fibreglass powder that you do not want to inhale or get in your eyes. Keeping it away from your skin is also a very good idea.
- Craft Knife or Scissors.
Available all sorts of places. Required to cut various lengths of tape. You can use a craft knife to cut fibreglass rod but it's not a good idea. A fine hacksaw blade works best.
- Hilt/guard materials
Some people use a small stainless steel bowl with holes punched in it for blade and quillons, some just use quillons. Some build up the grip with off cuts of rod and tape, wire, leather. Others use a piece of hollowed out dowl. My personal preference is for a pair of quillons, and a handle built up by wrapped tape.
R = length of rapier (including hilt) in inches
X = R - 7"
Y = R - 11"
Z = R - 15"
R = blade length + 4" handle sinkage allowance.
(adjust for sinkage allowance but anything less than 4" doesn't give enough stability. - with your 'wrapped' handle version you'd need to have the sinkage allowance almost the whole length of the handle so I can see how you came to your version of R. I allow an extra 1" in the handle for lead counter weighting as I use a 5" handle so R is Blade length + 4")
X = R - 7"
(the length of the 3mm past the 6mm is ALWAYS 7" - 8" produces a tip that hits too light & is very whippy. 6" produces a tip that hits harder but breaks much more often)
Y = R - 11"
(4" is the 'sinkage' of the 3mm alongside the 6mm to give it enough grip & stability - longer is OK but wasteful & shorter doesn't give enough stability)
Z = R - 15"
(got this right but by default - the extra inch of the 4.5mm spine stiffener provides for additional rigidity in this section of the blade not necessary & probably undesirable as it takes some of the bend out of the last 1/3 of the blade on impact)
Before commencing ensure that you have taken adequate safety precautions.
You should not allow any exposed skin to come into contact with the fibreglass (rod or dust) and you should be wearing a filter mask to prevent inhalation of the dust particles. Eye protection should also be worn to prevent dust particles getting into your eyes.
Cut a length of 6mm rod X" long.
Cut 2 lengths of 4mm rod Y" long.
Cut a length of 4mm rod Z" long.
Cut 2 lengths of 3mm rod 12" long.
(A fine hacksaw blade is best for cutting the rod.)
Lightly sand the ends of each length to create a bevelled edge. This helps prevent the edge of the rod from cutting through the tape later. Cut a few short lengths of fibreglass tape and split them length wise into strips about 1/3" to 1/2" wide. Stick them somewhere handy.
Take the two Y" long pieces of 4mm rod and lay one on either side of the 6mm rod. Tack them together using two or three lengths of the pre-cut tape. The three pieces of rod need to butte tightly against one another. You should now have a fairly flat cross sectioned blade. Run a thin trickle of glue down the grooves. Try and avoid any "lumps" in the glue as these will form hard points that will break through the tape.
Take the third length of 4mm rod and lay it on top of the 6mm rod. Tack it in place using the pre-cut tape. You should now have something roughly triangular in cross-section - o oOo Run hot melt glue down the gaps/grooves. Again try and avoid any lumps. If possible try and flatten the glue while it is still warm (be careful not to burn yourself) so that you get a more triangular cross section. Place a large drop of glue at the end of the Z" length of 4mm rod to create a slope. This will make the transition from triangular cross section to flat cross section easier.
Wrap this transition point in 2 to 3 layers of fibreglass tape. Wrap a small piece of fibreglass tape around the protruding 6mm rod (tip end). Leaving the Hilt section (tang) bare, wrap the blade in fibreglass tape, using a spiral wrap. Leave the ends of the two (Y length) 4mm rods bare. Take one of the 3mm lengths and lay it next to the exposed 6mm rod, so that the tip is butted against the 4mm. Tack it in place using the pre-cut tape. Do the same on the other side with the second 3mm length. Wrap the join in several layers (5-6) of fibre-glass tape.
Bind the two pieces of 3mm rod together with fibreglass tape to form a point. Allow a small overlap (1/8") of tape to protrude beyond the edge of the 3mm rods. Fold this down to form a pad of tape at the end of the blade. This is to help prevent the fibreglass rod from cutting through the rubber stopper.
Partially fill (2/3 - 3/4) the rubber stopper with glue and then push the point of the blade in (about half way). Wipe away any excess glue, again being careful not to burn yourself.
Bind the rubber stopper to the end of the rapier using fibreglass tape. Cover the tip (stopper) in electrical tape.
Now you have to decide on the type of hilt/guard you want. Basic quillons are easiest. A simple cup hilt with quillons is not too hard either. See below.
Wrap the blade in duct tape using a spiral wrap. Stop just below the point where the 3mm rod joins the 4mm rod. Starting just above this junction continue wrapping to the tip. Wrap the junction at 90 degrees to the blade. The reason for stopping/re-starting the wrap like this is that most of the flexibility is in the 3mm tip and this is where the blade is most likely to break. The tip is designed to be replaceable. By stopping the main wrap just below the start of the tip it makes replacement/repair easier.
The completed blade should very easily bend 90+ degrees along the flat. The forte is nearly rigid and can be used to parry quite effectively. The blades tend to be very light, and therefore quick. The highly flexible tip means that "heavy" shots rarely leave a bruise and the tip tends to break before any real damage is done. When coming up against a novice (trainee) fencer I would much rather see them using one of these than a schlager.
Take a length of 6mm rod and cut it to the required length. Cut a length of 4mm rod 1" shorter than the 6mm rod. Mark the centre point of each piece. Lay the two pieces side by side, so that the centre points are together. Bind the two pieces together at one end. Position the quillons so that the centre point is over the blade. The 6mm rod should be against the flat side of the blade, the 4mm rod should be against the V shaped side.
Now bind the other end of the quillon. This should lightly clamp it in place. Using fibreglass tape, proceed to bind the quillons as tightly as possible to the blade. Hot melt glue "pumped" into the cavity helps strengthen this join, and to balance the weapon by adding weight to the hilt. I usually place a rubber stopper over each end as a safety feature (the quillons *do* come in contact with yourself and your opponent on occassion - I prefer to soften the blow a little if possible).
Complete the hilt by either building it up to a comfortable diameter with tape (or leather or wire ...). If you wish to you can hollow out pieces of dowel, modify tool handles (eg Rasp) etc and use these. In either case the fibreglass should be totally covered.
Obtain a small stainless steel bowl roughly 6" in diameter. Try army surplus, discount or camping stores.
Punch holes in the sides of the bowl for the quillons (6mm). Punch a triangular hole in the base of the bowl for the blade to pass through. Ensure that the alignment of the blade/quillon holes is correct. Try and ensure that there are no sharp edges where the blade passes throught the hilt. Padding this area with leather or extra tape is a good idea.
Cut two pieces of 6mm rod (one for each quillon). Mount a rubber stopper on the end of each and wrap in tape. Assemble the hilt and tape together. Taping the blade above and below the cup will ensure that it doesn't move too much. This bit is very fiddly and may require a couple of goes. It may also be an idea to assemble the cup hilt before attaching the rapier tip, so that the grip can be completed, then the cup hilt slid on from the top.
I have seen at least one fencer (Viscountess Murghein ni Ghrainne) who prefers not to have any form of quillon or guard at all. It seems to work quite well for her.
Edmund the Lame
Elizabethan gentleman & adventurer